Sunday, 28 November 2010

Right in the thick of it, day 6

Up at 5am again and after the resident monkeys had made off to the roof with the warm muffins we ate homemade pastries, biscuits and tea before meeting up with Al and Jack for our morning game drive - it was absolutely phenomenal! First we had Wildebeast, then more Elephant and to put the cherry on the top of the cake, a Leopard!!!

There's a bit of rivalry among the rangers and trackers as to who spots what and spotting something first is always a talking point over dinner. As the Leopard was the only one of the "Big 5" we were yet to see, the pressure was wasn't long before Jack was jumping down from his seat to point out her tracks, we followed as best we could on the road as just as we turned off into the bush we knew he had found her - there was Jack punching his arms in the air with the biggest smile on his face, and there she was, our long-awaited Leopard lying on a branch high up a tree watching us...

We were the first people to see her in almost a week....

We shared our discovery with the other rangers and it wasn't long before we were joined by another truck. Our gorgeous lady decided to be a show off and came down from the tree and had a good wander between the two vehicles, marking her territory and sniffing us all out, then as graceful as a ballerina she climbed into another tree to rest on a branch. Jack and Al would definately be the toast of the dinner table this evening!

We continued to our coffee / hot chocolate stop and had to wait while a Giraffe wandered through before we got out to stretch our legs and after a quick sighting of Wildebeast on the hillside we were heading back to the lodge for breakfast.

Late morning was taken up by a tour of the other lodges in the Sabi Sabi group: Selati, Little Bush and Earth Lodge. We left Jack behind and Al took us through the bush to the lodges where we were met by the relevant manager, given refreshing drinks and a tour of each site. My favourite without doubt was Selati Lodge, with it's old world decor and traditional feel - I've definately found the ultimate wedding destination (if ever I need it!) and the honeymoon suite is to die for!

On our way from Selati to Little Bush Lodge we came across a little Warthog (a bit unnerving as Warthog is on the menu for tonights dinner!) but bless her she stood still and let us take pictures of her...
Little Bush Lodge is very much like the main bush lodge where we are staying but just on a smaller scale and more modern than Selati.

Al heard on the radio about another group spotting the Lions we saw last night so we made our way across to a grassy hill. We could smell the kill from a long way off (an unfortunate Buffalo) and there was the alpha male looking very well fed indeed ....

We then made our way to Earth Lodge, I expected to love it from the pictures I had seen but on arrival I changed my mind - it's just a bit too modern for me, I'm obviously a traditionalist! It's literally built into the landscape and you can't see it until you walk down into it. The architecture and furnishings are absolutely stunning but I much prefered the other lodges (not that I'd refuse a stay here though!)

We made our way back to our main lodge for lunch and some free time for spa treatments before afternoon tea and our afternoon game drive. We hadn't gone far on our drive when we rounded a corner and almost bumped into a massive herd of Elephant who were heading to our watering hole at the main lodge.

One very curious adolescent male came right up to the front of our truck and literally stared us down, poor Jack sat up on the front of the bonnet - I'm glad I wasn't up there with him or I would have been absolutely terrified!

Just before sundowners we came across another mother Rhino and her calf and again we were off-roading to get a closer look. We then set off in search of more Lions, a group of adolescent males had been spotted relaxing after a kill not far from our rest spot. I don't think any of us was prepared for 7 of them! They were all lolling around, swatting flies off with their tails and generally just lazing but to see them so close up and interacting with each other was yet another unforgettable sight.

On our way back to the main lodge for dinner, we called in on our alpha male Lion as he was still up at the grassy hill. We found him having his dinner too - what was left of the Buffalo head. He sat with it between his front paws and chewed on the nose, we could hear him scraping his teeth against the bone - urgh, but fascinating all at the same time!

It was almost a full moon as we headed back to the lodge and all of a sudden we found ourselves in a herd of Elephant. During the day Elephant are spectacular and I must admit a little scary - but seeing them in the moonlight was just incredible. We immediately pulled over, turned the lights out and the engine off, even Jack turned his spotlight out. Elephant don't have very good eyesight and any bright lights in the dark can really spook them so it's best to stop and let them amble on by. Both Jack and al said it was unusual to see them wandering about at night as they tend to settle down in one spot, they all seemed so much bigger but oh so silent - all you could hear was them munching and pushing through the tall grasses and quietly grunting to each other it was absolutely amazing - and yes, I cried!!

We were back in time to shower and change for dinner and ordered more Sabi Sabi wine to go with our Warthog and Impala. The Warthog was absolutely gorgeous, complete with crispy crackling on the outside, I wasn't overly keen on the Imapala though - it was way too rich and a bit stringy for my liking but you can't say I didn't try!

The boys went off to bed and the girls stayed up with the rangers for a last night drink (khaki fever seeems to have spread to all of us!) it was still an early night by all accounts as we had to be up again at 5am!

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