Rugby star’s in awe of big game
A former Wallaby introduces his family to the wonders of the Rainbow Nation, writes Mercedes Maguire
RUGBY union great George Gregan has lost count of the number of times he has travelled to South Africa. But he says a visit last year with wife, Erica, and children Max, 11, Charlie, 9, and Jazz, 8, was his most memorable. Savanna Lodge, at the Kruger National Park. The top of the kids’ checklist was to see the Big Five – lions, elephants, buffalo, rhinos and the elusive leopards. And they weren’t disappointed.
We spent about four days on safari at Savanna Lodge, which is located on the Sabi Sand Reserve within Kruger. Our mornings would start with a knock at the door about 5.30 in order to get a start before sunrise. We’d have a hot drink and a snack before heading out in an open-air 4WD vehicle with our spotter and guide.
Before our first safari, we were given a strict list of rules. They included obvious things like not getting out of the vehicles unless we are told it was safe and not making any sudden movements in the company of the animals.
I was pleased to see the kids didn’t really need telling – their natural instincts kicked in and they were quite respectful of the fact they were in the wild and essentially in the backyard of these beautiful animals.
The morning safari would go from sunrise until midmorning, around 10.30, when we would return to the main lodge for a big breakfast of eggs, fresh fruit, pastries and homemade muesli.
The middle of the day – the hottest part – was spent resting in preparation for the dusk safari that would leave from about 4pm. We quickly realised the evenings were the best time to spot the animals, which seem a lot more active in the hours following dusk.
Over the four days we saw the Big Five many times, sometimes close enough to even smell them. A highlight was seeing the aptly named George the Performing Hippo turn it on for our party with a back roll and a massive yawn.