Lying right next to the Kruger Park, Sabi Sands is the oldest private reserve in South Africa and the birthplace of sustainable wildlife tourism. I mentioned in my Kruger Park post that leopards were notoriously difficult to find but Sabi Sands is known for having a high concentration of big game animals and frequent leopard sightings.
We were lucky as the leopard was the very first animal that we saw… can you ‘spot’ him behind these grasses? The camouflage is excellent isn’t it?
One of the big five that we didn’t see at Kruger Park was the African Buffalo, but we spotted a few in Sabi Sands. We were warned that the bovine animals are very dangerous as they are very unpredictable and have been known to charge at people. Along with the hippo, the buffalo is responsible for more human deaths than any other animal. Clearly, we were remaining firmly in the car while he was around!
The wildebeest is a funny old animal, it kind of looks cow-like, but it’s actually a member of the antelope family.
In Sabi Sands we had a new field guide and a tracker and this time, we were ably led by the highly knowledgeable, Andreas.
Andreas certainly wasn’t afraid to go off road, through grasses, branches and rivers in search of rare animals.
Andreas came across a pack of wild dogs, one of the rarest sighting and one of the most endangered species in Africa. There is only an estimated 4000 wild dogs left in Africa, and only 450 in South Africa. The major threats to the dogs are killings by humans, diseases such as rabies and distemper plus loss of habitat.
With their long necks and mottled or ‘painted’ coats, the Cape hunting dog looked at lot like the hyena, but actually they are completely unrelated. However, they are related to the domestic dog, a bit like a cousins, but they are characterised by their large pointy ears and they have four toes, where the domestic dogs has five.
The dogs are highly sociable animals and gather in packs between 10 and 30, actually they do everything as a group including hunting, sharing food and raising their young. We were very lucky to see this pack as they are such a rarity.
A great thing about being on a luxury safari is that it’s always possible to stop for cocktails!
And on that note, I want to tell you a little more about Sabi Sands itself, the reserve is 153, 000 acres of which Singita Sabi Sands spans 45,000 acres. There are around twenty other lodges in Sabi Sands including Ulusaba, Richard Branson’s private reserve and an area owned by the Londolozi Lodge which we also explored due to it’s high concentration of lions. Luke Bailes’ family have owned their area of Sabi Sands since 1926 and from the opening of Ebony lodge in 1994 their key philosophy has been to protect and conserve the wildlife and wilderness.
Warthogs! It’s Pumba! They were kinda of cute, but also ugly at the same time 🙂
My favourite animals that we saw on safari were the elephants, they were so big, yet they had so much grace as they walked slowly across the tall grass.
While in the Londolozi reserve, Andreas led us to three sleeping lions…
But when the elephants came down the hills…
And ran away! I guess Mufasa is scared of Dumbo after all. It’s very rare that a lion takes down a elephant, the pachyderm has no fear of the big cat as they are vastly bigger and stronger than the lion.
Check out that adorable baby elephant.
Now we had seen four of the big five, there was still one left to see.
The rhino…and I gasped as we spotted a mother and her baby.
Rhinos are one of the most endangered species in Africa as poachers value them for their horns. The horn isn’t actually made of bone but of keratin, the same material found in our nails and hair and many cultures believe it has healing properties. The birds that you see on the rhino are actually very helpful, both eating ticks off it’s back and causing a commotion at any sign of danger.
As we were watching the mother and baby rhino calmly nibble on the grasses a big male rhino walked on to the scene. There was a big commotion and the male rhino tried to spear the baby rhino…
Sat at a safe distance in our car, we were all rooting for the poor baby rhino. Fortunately, he got away and seemed relatively unscathed but it quite a heart-pounding moment.
The sun had begun to set on the savanna…when another herd of elephants came into view, fighting playfully…
…and looking after their young.
With the sky growing even darker it was time to go back to the lodge, but I was so happy to see elephants for the final time. I loved those gentle giants with their quiet but commanding presence, elegant trunks and loyalty to each other.
It was the final safari of the trip, but they had all been truly unforgettable. We had seen all of the big five plus many more interesting and beautiful animals. If anyone were to ask what’s the best thing I’ve done whilst travelling, it would definitely be this.