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SilverSpoon on Safari: Kruger Park Day 1

Have you ever had one of moments when travelling…when you think ‘I can’t believe this is actually happening’…Moments that are so incredible that you have to pinch yourself to make sure that they’re real?

That’s how I felt on our first day on safari when the guide stopped the car and pointed to a whole herd of elephants taking a bath…

 

I’ve stayed in an elephant sanctuary before and I’ve seen elephants bathing but to see them in the wild was a totally different experience all together.

Elephants are matriarchal animals and can often live in groups like this all led by the oldest female elephant who basically plans their daily program of events…a bit like my mother-in-law (only joking, she reads this…)

I don’t think that you can have any idea of the size of an elephant until they are up close to you. Actually, the African elephant is the largest land mammal on the planet; just the trunk can grow up to two metres and weigh 140 kilos!

But let’s go back to the beginning; Mr S and I arrived at Singita Lebombo at around 3pm and as the afternoon game drive is scheduled for 4.30pm; we quickly changed into our safari outfits and headed back to the lounge to meet our guide.

Our vehicle sat six of us and though it had sunshade it was completely open at the sides and vulnerable to all the elements and the animals. Our field guide and driver was Collen Sibuyi, who was ably assisted by tracker, Given, sitting on a seat at the front of car.

The Kruger National Park is one of the largest games reserves in Africa and at nearly 2 million hectares, Collen told us it was about the same size as Israel.

 

Singita’s concession in the Kruger Park spans around 15,000 hectares, and it was granted to them because of their commitment to conservation and the environment. The concession actually has the highest concentration of wildlife in the entire park so it’s a safe bet that you’ll see lots of animals including the big five.

Impalas are the most common mammal roaming the Kruger Park and we saw plenty of them! They’re quite vulnerable as they are one of the lion’s favourite nibbles but they decrease their chance of attack by living in large herds. They are also incredibly fast and nimble with an acute sense of hearing, sight and smell which make them very alert to danger. I found them to be very beautiful and graceful creatures.

 

Though there was a beautiful full moon in the sky, it started growing quite dark. But Collen and Given had a plan…they’d heard about a large pride of lions which had moved into the concession.

And then they came into sight…

Approximately fifteen female and baby lions…lyin’ on the ground, most of them asleep.

 

 

I could not believe that we were this close to sleeping lions.

I don’t mean to be reductive but I couldn’t help thinking of The Lion King, my favourite Disney movie and allocating the lions the personalities of the characters in the film, there was Sarabi, Nala and of course my favourite character of all time, Simba! Also check out the white one at the back, isn’t he beautiful.

Lions are nocturnal creatures, but as the sun was setting, they began to wake up….

 

 

Lions are actually rather lazy and sleep around twenty hours a day, hence the song line ‘the lion sleeps tonight’! The rest of the time is devoted to hunting, courting and protecting their territory.

 

Lions have developed a social system that is very much based on teamwork with usually around five to ten females and their young. There are typically around three male lions in the pride and Collen and Given were pretty sure that they would be close by…

The guide and tracker seemed to know exactly where to look and they found Mufasa lying not too far away…Collen explained the lions were one of the easiest animals to differentiate between the sexes because of the male lion’s beautiful mane. Was I scared? Not really… they were just lying there…

Eeep!! The three brother lions soon rose and started heading down the road, in search of the pride. Was I scared? Ummm…a bit!

Mufasa, Scar and their buddy stopped at a tree…eeep I was getting quite scared…they were so close!

 

Argh….now I really was scared as the mighty king of the jungle bared his enormous razor sharp teeth. Collen reassured us, we’re not food for them they’re looking for impalas or zebras to eat and if we didn’t pose a threat, the lion wouldn’t attack a human.

I also had a huge amount of trust in our guides, their knowledge of the wilderness was truly exceptional. Collen knew the signs that a lion would strike and he had a gun ready to protect us.

I found our first day on Safari absolutely thrilling and I woke up bright and early the next day hungry for more…