Sunday, 28 November 2010

The African Adventure Continues, day 5

Up at 5am this morning after our amazing night in the Nkambeni Tented Lodge and started the day with an outdoor shower - I guess that's the closest I will ever get to nature! We arranged with Dwayne to have a bush walk in the National Park before we move on to Sabi Sabi private reserve. He arrived at 6am complete with hand gun and rifle and we set off through the electric fence which surrounds the lodge. It took about 30 seconds for it to sink in that we were now out amongst the wildlife with only Dwayne and his instincts and guns to protect us (quite a nice thought actually - uh oh, khaki fever is setting in!)

We were out for a little over 2 hours and the time absolutely flew by. We stopped to look at flowers (tiny splashes of colour in the bush), trees, plants, insects, more poo and tracks. We learned the history of the area and how conservation is now paramount, as well as employing local people and fighting poachers.

We climbed up a fire break in the woods and made our way down the other side, as we could see the park getting closer it was a strange feeling of disappointment that we didn't see any wildlife but also one of "phew" we have made it back safely. We crossed the electric fence back into the park and as Dwayne unloaded his guns we all breathed a sigh of relief and headed in for our well-earned breakfast. Another outdoor shower to get rid of the dust and check for ticks and we packed and made our way to the main lodge ready to meet our driver for the next part of our trip and as Dwayne and the other rangers came to wave us off we hit the road and headed south to Sabi Sabi.

Arriving at Sabi Sabi literally took everyone's breath away, it is an oasis full of wooden artifacts and stunning wildlife pictures and is built facing a watering hole where Elephants are regular visitors.

After we settled into our suites (squealing at the size of the bathroom and gasping at the view from our terrace across to the watering hole) we headed off to the main lodge for lunch and wow what a lunch it was! Such a variety of hot and cold food, meats, fruits, salads etc etc - definately just a taster of what was to come at dinner!

The afternoon game drive was with our new ranger Al and tracker Jack. The open top truck we had was something new and with Jack perched on his seat on the bonnet we made our way into the bush for some close encounters.

Our first sighting was a herd of Buffalo, we told Al we had seen one Buffalo on his own but not a herd and before we knew it he swung the truck off the road and we bounced our way through the bush right into the middle of the herd, much to everyones surprise and delight (I guess that's another perk of the 5* treatment!) a little further on and we pulled up next to a pair of Rhino who were also in the middle of the Buffalo herd. It was the strangest feeling to be sat in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by Buffalo and Rhino - listening to them, watching them eating etc. The off-roading continued as we moved in next to a group of Zebra (known as a "dazzle") - being so close up was amazing, to see the differences in detail on each animal hide was fab.

Our next up close was a Rhino and her calf and what a little cutie he was - trotting around his mother as she munched on the grass, he was like a little terrier puppy charging about :o)

Definately top of the cuties today was a Mongoose who we came across as he sat in the middle of the road chasing flying Ants. Al said it was quite rare to see them out in the open for any length of time as they're really shy but our little fella seemed unware of the truck full of people who were thoroughly entertained watching him as he jumped about.

We enjoyed sundowners (vodka and tonic for me) and snacks looking down from a viewpoint and got to know Al and Jack a bit more - they promised us Lions, Leopard and even a Chameleon before we left for Johannesburg so fingers crossed!

It was pitch dark as Al swung off the road once more, telling us we were going to see a rare white-tailed Mongoose. We headed across the scrub until we could see the lights of one of the other vehicles in the distance (the rangers keep in constant contact so that they can share sightings, but they keep the vehicles to a maximum of 3, any others have to wait a couple of miles away before being invited to join as another leaves) In the dim spotlight I could see a silhouette, but it was definately NOT a Mongoose of any kind, it was the unmistakeable profile of a male Lion!

Excitement and nerves all rolled into one as we approached quietly, so we didn't spook them (oh yes, there were 6 in all!!) Jack shone his torch on to their bodies. It was absolutely magical until the alpha male decided to go walkabout and then I suddenly felt very exposed but still the adrenaline was tingling! It was obvious they hadn't eaten as they were all looking a bit skinny and were prowling around, fingers crossed we see them again once they have been sated - it might be a bit more relaxed!

We got back to the lodge just in time for dinner, and as we settled into our seats at the boma (outdoor dining area), the chef came out to tell us what was on the menu. Our starters and soup were served at the table and then we went up to the cooking stands for our main course. In the end I settled for an Ostrich steak and a small Kudu steak with salad and some vegetables. We drank the lodges' own fabulous red wine and re-lived the days adventures with Al, who hosted our table.

After such an eventful day we were all shattered so Al escorted us to our suites (rangers must accompany guests back to their rooms after dark as the lodge is not fenced and you might bump into an animal or 2!). Up at 5am again tomorrow for a morning drive, night night all xxxx

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