Where the big cats prowl...

Idube Game Re­serve has the high­est den­sity of preda­tors in the world coun­try­breaks

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2013 - PENNY KEARNS

THERE is a great deal of sub­stance to the claim that the Sabi Sands Game Re­serve is the best cat coun­try in the world. When you go for a game drive you ex­pect to see lion and leop­ard. You may even catch a glimpse the elu­sive wild dog, among many other crea­tures.

There is such an abun­dance of wildlife that it al­most seems there is no canned hunt­ing, but canned view­ing.

There are no fences be­tween the Idube (Ze­bra) Game Re­serve, part of Sabi Sands Re­serve, one of the largest pri­vately owned re­serves in South Africa, and the Kruger Na­tional Park, which means wild an­i­mals are free to roam at will. And they do, to the de­light of visi­tors, many of whom are over­seas tourists.

An­drew Gay­lord, who runs the four-star Idube with his part­ner, Lauren Grif­fiths, boasts that their re­serve has the high­est den­sity of preda­tors in the world.

“If you come here for two nights, you will see li­ons or leop­ards,” said Gay­lord. “There are no guar­an­tees, but the chances are very high.”

We were de­lighted to be able to re­in­force Gay­lord’s claim with pos­i­tive vis­ual ev­i­dence. On suc­ces­sive game drives we wit­nessed leop­ards perched high in trees as they bravely de­fended their kills of im­pala and nyala against hun­gry hyena and wild dogs. It was an awe­some spec­ta­cle as nine wild dogs leapt high in their at­tempt to drag the nyala to the ground. You can­not get bet­ter than that.

We also en­coun­tered a big pride of li­ons with eight cubs and three li­onesses. Three large males, look­ing suit­ably bored while won­der­ing where the next meal was com­ing from, watched pro­ceed­ings.

To­gether with other Big Five sight­ings, it all added up to some of the most ex­cit­ing mo­ments we have seen in 38 years of watch­ing game.

Idube was bought by Louis and Mar­i­lyn Marais in 1983 when there were no build­ings and few an­i­mals. Since then, they have de­vel­oped a suc­cess­ful com­mer­cial lodge. There are nine stan­dard sa­fari suites and two lux­ury Makubela suites, built three years ago.

Visi­tors are never far from the ex­cite­ment that per­me­ates the camp.

A hyena vis­ited the kitchen while din­ner was be­ing pre­pared by Rosey the chef. She screamed and drove the an­i­mal away with a roll of tin foil.

A fe­male leop­ard called Hlaba n Kunzi, who lives up a tree out­side room No 4, has also vis­ited the kitchen and of­ten leaves her cub in the camp while she goes hunt­ing.

The amaz­ing staff take it all in their stride. They are, ac­cord­ing to Lauren, the key to the lodge’s suc­cess. “The staff are un­real,” she said. “There is an abun­dance of home-grown tal­ent who have huge re­spect for the lodge.”

Fur­ther to the south in the Kruger Na­tional Park, mid­way be­tween the Male­lane and Croc­o­dile Bridge gates, Idube’s five-star sis­ter, Lukimbi Sa­fari Lodge, of­fers as much beauty in its 15 000 hectare wilder­ness con­ces­sion.

Raised walk­ways lead to 16 lux­ury suites that have ex­cel­lent views of the Lwakahle River and the plains be­yond.

Th­ese abound with game, in­clud­ing ele­phant and buf­falo. Chee­tah are pop­u­lar visi­tors to the area.

Mam­moth en suite bath­rooms of­fer panoramic views and one won­ders who is watch­ing whom as one peers out at an in­quis­i­tive pass­ing vervet mon­key.

The ex­cel­lent cui­sine and the African boma make this lodge a big hit with tourists from as far afield as Ar­gentina, France, the US and Great Bri­tain.

Guests who find time or the en­ergy af­ter game drives and bush walks can work out in a gym­na­sium with a prime view of the bush. Con­fer­ence fa­cil­i­ties are avail­able.

For a ro­man­tic au­then­tic bush wed­ding, there is a chapel on site.

A great fam­ily feel is ex­pe­ri­enced at Lukimbi and with a brand-new baby in the lodge, the spe­cial chil­dren’s pro­gramme will also come in handy for par­ents.

Say­ing our farewells, we get the easy of­fer of “pop in when­ever you are in the area”. One is sorely tempted to re­turn in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture.

● Kearns’s stay was hosted by Idube Lodge. Call 011 431 1120, fax 011 431 3597 or e- mail: idu­beres@global.co.za or info@lukimbi.com.

ON GUARD: Leop­ards perched high in trees as they de­fended their kills of im­pala and nyala from hun­gry hyena and wild dogs at Idube.

A PLACE TO CHILL: Re­laxed liv­ing at Idube Game Re­serve.

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