Rugby star’s in awe of big game

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - CELEBRITY ESCAPE -

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.

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