Saturday October 20, 2012
The knock on our door at 5:00 am came quickly and unfortunately it was still storming so our drive was cancelled until further notice. However, because we were the only ones young and stupid enough to get ready anyways when it did clear up it was only the four of us who went on the drive and thank god we did.... When we got in the jeep Antone, our driver, asked what we wanted to see. We replied the “Big Five”, which refers to the five animals (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and water buffalo) that are the most difficult in Africa to hunt on foot. It is very rare to see them, let alone ALL of them. Antone scoffed and replied “What else do you want to see?” But sure enough...
First, we spotted 4 female lions who had just fed on a zebra and actually caught scent of another herd and set up to attack while we were there, but the zebras caught scent of them and ran off.
Our trackers then noticed leopard prints in the road that was muddy from the rain. Then imagine the toughest iSpy game challenge ever, and our spotter Thomas reigned champion when he spotted the leopard through his binoculars. We drove up to the tree she was resting in and we then later followed her down the road. She came SO CLOSE when I was filming her stride by our car I could have extended my arm and touched her.
Elated by our luck, we all agreed that we could see nothing else and still go home happy. But apparently we all had lots of good karma in our banks because it doesn’t stop there, and at this moment we turn the corner to be greeted by two water buffalo. The last animal we needed to see to be able to say we saw the big five.
WE COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! This weekend was turning out to be everything we hoped for and more in spite of the poor weather. Ironically, we were instructed not to say anything at breakfast so as not to make the other guests jealous. Good thing I don’t suck at poker, but I’m still glad there wasn’t money on the table.
The afternoon was spent dozing in and out of consciousness by the pool and staring out into the bush in awe, with now a slightly better comprehension of what the term “wildlife” actually means.
Come four o’clock it was time for our evening game drive. My expectations were low- weather was rolling in and nothing could top this morning, I was okay with that. Well apparently lions are extremely lazy creatures sleeping 18-20 hours a day so sure enough the four females we had seen earlier were about 20m from where we saw them last. Knowing glances were exchanged between ourselves and the tracker, pretending we had seen them for the first time.
We then were radioed that a leopard was spotted not far from where we were... Huh, imagine that? What we didn’t know was that after plowing down some trees to get there, we would come upon our friend from earlier lunch tied in the tree as well. Apparently right after we left her she killed this impala to feed on for her and her cub. Amazing how something like an impala being tied in a tree by its intestines (sorry too much info?) could be so beautiful!
Anthon, our guide, could not believe our luck and we couldn’t either. We started joking that he had the power to find anything we wanted to see. Josh asked to see giraffes. Anthony says- we will try tomorrow they can actually be harder to find than lions. We turn the corner to have our sundowner (drinks and appetizers) and what do we see? Yep. We had our sundowner surrounded by giraffes.
“What else do you want to see?!” proclaimed Anthon.
“Male lions?” I asked.
Now that is a joke...it seemed like it as we drove through the pouring rain in the dark... But nope.
Driving down the road we see a female start to emerge from the bush, then 2...3..4, a male! 5..6, another male! 7... I was speechless. A pride of SEVEN lions just emerged from the bush, 2 of them males, and they were walking RIGHT NEXT TO OUR JEEP! Was this seriously happening to me?
Heads down the lions trudged through the rain and the mud as we followed them in disbelief... Until we had to go help another jeep who got stuck in the mud.
That evening was spent reminiscing, enjoying the wonderful South African food, and traditional African song and dance performed by some of the ladies at the lodge.
Sunday October 21,2012
The next morning our animal viewing luck finally ran out, but half the fun really is driving in an open vehicle in the fresh air and middle of nowhere with only nature surrounding you. We were sad to leave the lodge when we left, but we left humbled and thankful for the experience.
On the way back to Joburg we chose to take the panorama route where more beauty awaited, the Pinnacle outlook being my favorite. A canyon filled with white butterflies against a deep green and grey backdrop fluttering around. The view was majestic. To give you a slight idea, think the scenery of The Lord of the Rings, and no that is not an excessive analogy because this canyon actually was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagery.
This was our last stop before the airport. Overwhelmed by everything we each split off, to spend time alone in our own heads and this thought ran through my head. An amazing thought actually, to look off into the horizon (whether it be driving through the countryside, in bush having a cup of coffee, standing at the edge of a waterfall, or driving into a lightening storm) and observe what the world was like a thousand years ago. We all know the wild exists, but to experience just a fraction of it was a privilege. I’d be lying if I said that I now understand it, but my trip to Sabi Sands forced me to step back and acknowledge that the world will exist without us and no matter what... Mpumalanga, the sun always rises. And that is a wonderful thing.