Friday, January 4, 2019

The Elusive Lions! Day 6 11/2/18

I got a bit sidetracked with the holidays the past couple of weeks, but I'm back and ready to continue along with the adventures from my trip to South Africa back in November! And boy, day 6 was quite the adventure!  Today was our last day at Lion Sands, as we would be moving to another lodge this afternoon. But we had one more game drive this morning. We were up bright an early and ready to go.... almost right away our tracker spotted something in the dirt. Lion paw prints! Well, this was exciting! Remember the only lions we had seen so far were far across the river and were pretty difficult to see without binoculars!  With the spotting of the tracks, a coordinated effort began between our guide, our other group and another vehicle from our lodge to try to figure out just where these lions may be. As I mentioned before, this reserve was fairly dense when it came to brush and didn't have a huge road structure. This means that the animals could travel into the brush without being seen pretty well.

Next thing we knew, Rector and Morne asked us if we would be ok if they both left us while they went off and looked for the lion on and we waited. Um...sure? He told us to absolutely not get out of the vehicle and to stay put!  We did.  They came back in a few minutes and off we went. They had an idea of where the lion was and it was off into the bush we went! This was exciting!

Next thing we know, we're heading into that dry river bed.  They think this may be the best way to reach the area where the lions are.

All the while the three vehicles are communicating with one another to see if anyone has spotted new tracks. 

After quite some time, our two groups met up at the treehouse to come up with a plan. Our trackers went off into the bush and the two vehicles split off, hoping that we would meet up with the lions and then the trackers.

We did, we eventually picked up Rector again.  The trackers found the lions! You can see just how deep into the bush we are. They knew just where we were going though and exactly where the lions were. We were pretty sure that because this was our last drive, they didn't want us to miss out on seeing this pride. We moved forward, through the trees and branches and slowly we caught sight of them!

And they caught sight of us too. Kind of a look like, what took you so long! We've been here all this time! 

We were just in awe. Such beautiful, and majestic animals! They didn't seem to care one bit that we were so close to them. They went about their business of relaxing. Both of our vehicles caught up with one another at about the same time and we just sat there for about thirty minutes or so, taking pictures and taking it all in.  This was what it was all about. 

He may even have gotten a little bored with us watching him.  Such a big yawn!

After our time with the lions felt complete, we left. Leaving a little mark in the dirt, at the entrance to where we left the road so the third vehicle that was working to track them could find them. We went back to the lodge to pack up and say our goodbyes to the wonderful staff. We'd miss our time there, but were also looking forward to our next destination! How could it even compare to what we'd experienced this morning? Would it?

On our way to the airport we stopped at one of the other Lion Sands lodges, the Ivory Lodge, to get a quick overview and comparison to the River Lodge. We didn't get a chance to see a room since they were booked and all full, but we saw some public areas. It too was a very nice lodge!

On the way out of the reserve, to the airport we saw these giraffes.  They were two males and across the road was a female.  They were definitely working on impressing her!

She's watching them to see who is the most impressive!

We reached the airport and boarded our charter flight to take us to the next lodge.  There is an option to drive, but the flight is definitely faster. This would get us there in time for lunch and then an afternoon/evening game drive! 

It was a tight squeeze! But we all fit! 

It was a super smooth flight, and the views below were just beautiful!

Next up, another lodge, and more safari time!  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

First full day on Safari! Day 5, 11/1/18

We found out quickly that life in the bush meant getting up early, very early!  Continental breakfast was from 5:30 am to 6:00 am and we had to be on our vehicles by 6:00 am. I was very lucky to have a roommate that was quick to get ready in the morning. The two of us worked very well that way. We could get a 5:30 am wake up call, be up and dressed and to our meeting point by 5:50 am.  Of course when the promise of seeing the amazing animals was why we were getting up so early, it was pretty easy to get out of bed!  

We set out and our first sighting was of this hyena family. There were some young hyenas in the den and a mother watching close by. We were told that one "mom" usually stays back and will watch over several of the young hyena while the rest are out for the day. She is sort of the babysitter, taking care of all other mom's babies!

We watched them for a bit and then moved along. Our tracker spotted this nice little Leopard Tortoise along the side of the road. We were so excited when he said "stop, a leopard!.....tortoise!" HA!

But shortly after that things got quite interesting, as Rector actually did spot a leopard! 

We were truly "wowed" at this moment! 

It turns out this leopard was actually hunting, and we would not only going to watch, but follow along, off road!  Into the bush behind him!

Just look at how close he was to us!  

In the picture above you can see the leopard waiting for his chance to pounce on the unsuspecting nyala. 

But he waited too long, and the nyala just walked away, unharmed. We were actually glad. The thrill of watching him hunt was enough for us. We really didn't want to witness the actual kill.  I'm sure he'll find another meal, without us as his audience! 

Next we came across a herd of elephants! 

And then more giraffes!

We drove along further and Rector and Morne spotted a white rhino. This day was so amazing to us! The rhino was pretty far into the bush and we couldn't really see it. So Morne asked us if we wanted to do a bush walk so we could get a closer look. The six of us gave an enthusiastic, but at the same time, if you say it's safe "um yes!' answer! So we got out of the vehicle and got very, very specific instructions on mostly what not to do while walking in the bush.  We had to stay in a single line, not speak, don't stop to take a picture unless he stopped.  Safety things like that.  We were ready for this!

So the rifle.... in all of his years of being a guide, he's never had to fire it. And he said it's not really to fire at an animal. It would be more to fire in the air to scare the animal.  Shooting an animal would be an absolute last resort. We set out, walking, ever so quietly, and got close enough to take a fairly decent picture of this amazing white rhino!

While we were out there, we even had to be sure that our locations services were off when taking pictures. This was so that any poachers couldn't track the location of these animals. 

After our bush hike, we went back to our vehicle and had our morning coffee, hot chocolate and snacks.  Wow - just wow, what a morning we have had! 

After our morning drive, we got back to the lodge and had a "proper" breakfast! And then we would have a couple of hours to relax until, well....lunch!  It seems that being on safari is very much about animals, relaxing and eating! After lunch, we had more time to enjoy the lodge, which could be spent at the pool, if it was warmer, or maybe at the spa!  And then it would be afternoon tea and time to go out on our afternoon game drive!

I spent my time sitting on the deck outside of my room. It was so relaxing sitting there by the river, watching the animals! 

There was even a couple of cape buffalo by the river today!

The view from my deck looking out towards the river

These two guys weren't camera shy at all! They came right up to the deck!

After tea time, we set out again for the afternoon drive, and first thing we came upon this family of giraffe! See the baby!

They would look right at us, as if they were just as interested in us as we were in them!

Next we made a quick stop to look at one of the Tree Houses that the Lion Sands Lodge has!  For an extra special night, you can enjoy a romantic sleep-out under the African sky! This tree house above, is open to the sky! 

We then stopped at the second tree house which is a bit more enclosed. We had our sundowner, cocktails and snacks here.  I could definitely imagine spending the night here!

 After our time at the tree house, we drove back to the lodge, looking for any night critters on the way.

It looked so beautiful all lit up by candlelight at night!

Tonight was our last night at Lion Sands, but we still had one more game drive in the morning before heading to our next safari lodge. We had a nice Goodbye note in our rooms tonight.

While every day so far had been amazing in Africa, I think today was definitely the most exciting so far! Seeing the leopard up close, and then walking out to get closer to the white rhino were experiences to never forget! We couldn't wait to see what tomorrow would bring!