Upscale Living Magazine - - Front Page - | By Heléne Ra­mack­ers

My two fa­vorite words are clearly au­di­ble over the two-way ra­dio – ‘Mdoda Ingwe’ fol­lowed by ‘May I be on standby?’. My heart races faster than the speed our ranger An­gelique Bor­ling­haus has picked up to get us to the sight­ing. A male leop­ard! Yes! ‘He is on the move’ is the up­date and I can­not hide my dis­ap­point­ment. “Has he left the area?” I ask in my small­est voice, try­ing very hard to mask my dis­may. “We will take a look any­way,” she as­sures me.

Our fam­ily trip started two days ear­lier with an Air­link flight, fly­ing us from Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port di­rect to the iconic Skukuza Air­port in 2 hours and 30 min­utes. The Air­link Em­braer 135 flight is the most con­ve­nient way to get you from city to bush in true style, cut­ting down sub­stan­tially on driv­ing time to your desti­na­tion, thus af­ford­ing you more spe­cial mo­ments on sa­fari.

The de­ci­sion to stay at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge was sim­pli­fied by the fact that they of­fer a com­plete pack­age of lux­u­ri­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion in a fam­ily-friendly at­mos­phere. The four Sabi Sabi lodges form part of Na­tional Geo­graphic’s Unique Lodges of the World, mak­ing them dis­tinc­tive in their own right, claim­ing their eq­ui­table place through sus­tain­abil­ity, au­then­tic­ity and ex­cel­lence. Sec­ond to my ex­cite­ment of hav­ing my hus­band and daugh­ter along with me was the trep­i­da­tion of see­ing wild an­i­mals in their nat­u­ral habi­tat.

We ar­rive at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge in time for a late lunch, fol­lowed closely by the most scrump­tious af­ter­noon tea. The table on the view­ing deck is laden with the most ex­quis­ite of­fer­ings of cakes, sweet & savoury things and which­ever drink tick­les your fancy and mine is a Ne­spresso cap­puc­cino made to per­fec­tion by An­gelique.

“Meet me at the ve­hi­cle, I’m just get­ting my ri­fle”, An­gelique an­nounces. At the Sabi Sabi sa­fari ve­hi­cle, we meet

Voster Matab­ula, tracker ex­traor­di­naire, who makes a for­mi­da­ble team with An­gelique. An­gelique starts the ve­hi­cle and off we go, criss­cross­ing through the Sabi Sand Re­serve. Along the way, An­gelique and Voster com­mu­ni­cate in fana­galo, a pid­gin mix­ture of Zulu, English and a small Afrikaans in­put. The in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the two is very re­spect­ful and their in­cred­i­ble part­ner­ship yields the per­fect cul­mi­na­tion of ex­change and re­sults.

Our first sight­ing is of a wilde­beest spend­ing time with a herd of im­palas. The ele­phants and rhi­nos are rev­el­ling in the lush fo­liage that comes with the sum­mer rains, mak­ing it easy pick­ings for the her­bi­vores. With new life abound­ing, the car­ni­vores plun­der at whim and any ret­i­cent be­hav­iour is fu­elled by their de­sire to eat un­til they can­not move any­more. A fam­ily of dwarf mon­goose are play­ing hide-and-seek on the side of the road and af­ter sun­set, we stop the ve­hi­cle to spend time ob­serv­ing the South­ern Pride of lions rous­ing from their slum­ber and stretch­ing their jaws. There are six young­sters and five li­onesses and their early evening an­tics make for spec­tac­u­lar view­ing.

We de­cide to go straight to din­ner af­ter our game drive as we are famished. The buf­fet style food caters to a va­ri­ety of palates and whether you are veg­e­tar­ian or car­niv­o­rous, there will be some­thing for you to feast on. Our wait­ress, Pe­tu­nia Mkansi, takes our or­der for soup and starters, af­ter which we are free to help our­selves to food. The chefs are at hand to grill your meat or­der to per­fec­tion and if you are still hun­gry, you can go back as many times are you wish. You will never go hun­gry at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge.

De­spite be­ing ac­com­mo­dated very close to the main lodge, we are escorted to our room as the re­serve isn’t fenced so an­i­mals can stroll around at their leisure. We are stay­ing in suite 15, and the lay­out of rooms at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge is so wide­spread that you would never know that there are 25 rooms in to­tal. The suite is more than ad­e­quate in size for the three of us and my daugh­ter is con­tent to have her own ‘wing’ with a bed, air con­di­tioner and en-suite bath­room with shower. We re­cline in the lounge area be­fore mak­ing use of the pris­tine bath­room fa­cil­i­ties – I lux­u­ri­ate in a bub­ble bath with the mag­nif­i­cently fra­grant Char­lotte Rhys bath and shower prod­ucts. The ex­tra-large king sized bed is so enor­mous that I can al­most po­si­tion my­self di­ag­o­nally across it with­out dis­turb­ing my hus­band.

Af­ter a good night’s sleep with the only dis­rup­tion be­ing the sound of rain on our sky­light, we cover up with pon­chos on the game drive ve­hi­cle as the dark clouds look threat­en­ing enough for us to hud­dle to­gether. With no roof on the ve­hi­cle, we are at the mercy of the el­e­ments and when the first drops start to fall we hope the game drive will not get washed away. An­gelique and Voster spot a herd of ele­phants and we start fol­low­ing them through the bush. The herd is sub­stan­tial in size and we all grab our cam­eras to pho­to­graph the cutest ‘baby baby’ ele­phant as we name him. He is so tiny he is com­pletely ob­structed by the other ele­phants in the herd. Three ele­phant bulls put on a show while hav­ing a spar­ring match and much to ev­ery­one’s amuse­ment, the one has a ‘face-plant’.

An ag­i­tated male leop­ard is seek­ing refuge in the dry riverbed, show­ing his dis­plea­sure with a snarly gri­mace. He is breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful but so swift that we aban­don fol­low­ing him. Back at the lodge, break­fast is served and again, you can eat to your heart’s con­tent. A lovely fea­ture at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge is the fo­cus on chil­dren - with their own Kid’s table at break­fast, of­fer­ing ce­re­als, yo­ghurt, smooth­ies, pan­cakes and Oreos. To ward off any bore­dom kids could ex­pe­ri­ence, there is the EleFun cen­tre, cater­ing to chil­dren of all ages with a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties – from arts & crafts, ob­sta­cle cour­ses, a mini zip-line, slip & slide to sport games. My daugh­ter has a lot of fun do­ing sand art and mak­ing a bracelet. The day­time tem­per­a­ture has warmed up enough for the kids to en­joy a swim while I sit watch­ing the pass­ing game at the wa­ter­ing hole. A buf­falo lies im­mersed in a pan, much to the de­light of two ox­peck­ers who try to clean the in­side of the buf­falo’s ear. He shakes his head in an­noy­ance while con­tin­u­ing his re­prieve from the hot day sun. Af­ter our drinks stop, the search lights come out to look for the noc­tur­nal an­i­mals. We see him lurk­ing in the shad­ows, ex­pe­dit­ing his pace – a gor­geous leop­ard search­ing for prey. He loses us in the shrub­bery and ap­pears bran­dish­ing a scrub hare that has met his fate and will serve as a snack.

Tonight, we dine in the Bush

Lodge out­door grill, din­ing on an ar­ray of del­i­ca­cies with a South African twist. The next morn­ing, af­ter a rest­ful night, we em­bark on our last game drive. A gi­ant land snail slith­ers across the road, but my in­ces­sant silent ca­jol­ing for a leop­ard to make its ap­pear­ance has paid off – he is found at Earth Lodge, Room 6. Since the ra­dio mes­sage came through, he has man­aged to kill a com­mon duiker.

The el­derly leop­ard is seem­ingly float­ing on a tree branch, en­joy­ing every sin­gle morsel he is ingest­ing. Two hye­nas are anx­iously wait­ing

for any scraps to land their way and this sight is not for the faint-hearted – the leop­ard is savour­ing the en­tire an­i­mal and the sound of break­ing bones is al­most too much to bear. We wait for him to fin­ish his meal and de­scend the tree, which he does very un­grace­fully, al­most los­ing his bal­ance on a lower branch. Just an­other in­cred­i­ble day at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge. | PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF HE­LENE RA­MACK­ERS, JODIE RA­MACK­ERS AND SABI SABI BUSH LODGE.

Photo cour­tesy of Jodie Ra­mack­ers

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