The second day sees us moving from the Sabi Sabi region of Sabi Sands, to the Lion Sands area and the stunning Lion Sands Ivory Lodge. With only 6 beautifully designed rooms (each with their own living room, private deck and plunge pool), this intimate property affords views over the Sabi River providing the potential of game on your doorstep every minute of the day. We enjoy a relaxing lunch on the main deck overlooking the river looked after by our own butler Solly, who is attentive to such an extent that I am never even allowed to finish my glass of water. This afternoon we set out on our first game drive, we’ll see what that has to offer.
South Africa once again delivers. A small female leopard stalking through the bushes is a welcome treat but not quite as amusing as our second rhino sighting. We round the corner (by now it is pitch black) and here the splish splashing of a rather large creature wallowing in a handy mud pool. Our tracker shines his light in the direction of the noise and we see to our delight a hefty white rhino having the time of his life in a shallow pool of mud. This old fellow is enjoying himself so much he lets out possibly the longest rhino fart ever as he rolls onto his back whilst kicking his stumpy legs in the air like the proverbial tortoise.
The following morning we set out bright and early hitting the bush at 06:00. We explore what is a much more scenic area with little rivulets and perfect trees with leopard perches for branches. No joy for leopard this morning but we are graced with a small pride of 9 healthy young lions as they laze around in the grassy clearing occasionally moving around to check on a nearby herd of impala. As these lions groom each other, roll around and yawn, trying to summon up the energy to maybe set off on a hunt, we leave them be to see what else we can find. Again we are in luck. Only 30 minutes later we round the corner to see not one, not two, not three, but four white rhino grazing in a clearing! The larger individual is clearly the mother with one or two of her young calves and they seem to have picked up a straggler along the way as well. This is a real treat as these frumpy beasts are not often seen in such numbers together so we spend a while just watching them as they go about their business.
Our final game drive takes place in the evening and once again South Africa delivers, maybe my cynicism is waning. This time we are treated to a smaller pride of lions lazing around however they are not up to much so we continue on our way, only to find, a black rhino! These beasts are still fairly rare within the reserve and even more shy; as he hears us approach he trots off into the bush so we navigate our way round to a clearing where we suspect he may appear. We are in luck – within a few minutes we hear the snapping of branches as our young grumpy friend rumbles out of the bushes – slightly startled by our presence (thinking he had shaken us off is tail), he casts a few glances in our direction and then trots off along the treeline and back into the bush. I have to say, this is a real treat and one what I will always remember, a fantastic sighting, out in the open and not another car in sight.
To conclude our time in only a few of the many private concessions bordering the Kruger National Park, I have to say that my cynicism has been remedied somewhat. Yes, these parks do not stem from the rolling plains of Kenya and Tanzania or the exclusive Okavango Delta, however they provide something totally different. The parks of South Africa provide an easily accessible world class product with world class game viewing whilst staying in the lap of luxury. There are too many properties to choose from, but you can rest assured that there is something for everyone, from those honeymooners looking for some privacy and a bit of romance (Lion Sands Ivory Lodge), to families looking for their first taste of safari (Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge – equipped with its own kids classroom and playground tucked away from the rest of the lodge).
So we end our game drives for this trip and prepare ourselves for the next leg of our journey to the white sand beaches of White Pearl Resorts on the coastline of Mozambique. Not quite as fast paced as game drives but I have to say, after a busy start to the year, I could do with a few days sunning myself!