SOUTH AFRICA: BACK TO EARTH AT SABI SABI
For all creatures great and small, head to Sabi Sabi in South Africa.
Our safari vehicle sputters to a halt in the middle of a dry river bed and our guide, Ryan de Beer, instructs us to shut our eyes. Thinking we had broken down and there was a rampant lion on the loose, I was happy to oblige.
Peeking through fingers – my sense of curiosity always gets the better of me – I can’t see or hear any hungry big cats. In fact, I can hear a big, fat, nothing.
“You can open them now”, says Ryan, and we obey, gasping as we look up to a sky all aglitter with a zillion stars. It is quite a sight and just adds to that feeling that we are in a land that time forgot, shelved somewhere for another day.
The dry landscape with its cover of scrappy bush, marula and leadwood trees, is waiting for the spring rains to come to life, but while it might look brown and uninspiring, it makes it easier to spot the wildlife that lurks, slinks or flies beyond.
And in this corner of Kruger National Park, in the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, there is plenty of it. We bump off before the sun is truly up in the mornings and again before the sun sets over the savannah, when the animals are likely to be up and about to escape the heat of the day.
We linger under trees watching leopards snacking on kills they had dragged up into branches, and caught our breath at one sighting, as the leopard climbed down the trunk, defying gravity, before lying down mere metres away, licking his paws and cleaning himself like our Burmese cat at home. They are magnificent animals up close.
We stop on several occasions to watch the Southern Pride of lions going about their business. The first time, they are sleeping under a scraggly cluster of bushes trying to stay in the shade, one of the adult males showing a large – very large – tooth sticking out at an unseemly 90-degree angle. Ryan reads our minds and tells us that he had been kicked in the mouth by a giraffe.
The second time, there is much more action, with the Pride enjoying the fruits of a successful hunt. We watch as first the males, then the females and lastly the cubs take their turn at a buffet of a ‘duo of buffalo’ lunch, and find a third one, set aside for dessert, being guarded by another male a short distance away.
Another day we are so close to a pack of wild dogs, complete with hyperactive pups, playing boisterously with what looks suspiciously like a warthog tail. These endangered dogs are the marathon runners of the animal world, loping easily along, chasing their prey until the animal runs out of puff, making it an easy meal.
For all creatures great and small, head to Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa.