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A sojourn at the Savanna Lodge, near the Kruger

We've just been staying at the Savanna Lodge. I had been sceptical of its website claim "the ultimate safari experience", but I was wrong, it's all true. The Savanna Lodge staff are passionate, dedicated and skilful, and the whole day is geared to maximising your chances of game viewing in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve (which borders the Kruger). The morning game drive leaves at 0530, with breakfast served on return. Lunch is at 1530 followed by the evening game drive. (Between the two you can sleep, swim, chill or whatever.) Guests are assigned to a 2-man team which takes you on game drives in vehicles with no sides or canopy. Sitting thus exposed, within a few yards of elephant, lion or leopard, really does feel like the ultimate safari experience.

Keir and I were assigned to ranger Shaune and tracker Nordic - a long-term partnership in which communication was mainly wordless. They had an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time, each depending on each other's skills not only for successful sightings, but also for safety. They read the animal's body language, approach only when the animals are calm, often positioning the vehicle (engine always switched off) so that the animals approach it. Thus we found ourselves amidst a herd of 40-50 elephants, including very young ones and the matriarch, calmly feeding and walking past us, at one point only inches away. Here is one of the many photos I took (telephoto lens unnecessary:):

elephantsSS.jpg

Elephant, rhino and lion were plentiful and most drives gave us close sightings of these and more. Rhino were even grazing quietly outside our cabin on the day we arrived, although I captured the one below at a water-hole, late afternoon. Shortly after, we saw these two lions near a kill, and they were so relaxed that they resumed mating. Apparently they do this every 15-30 minutes for as long as the lioness is in oestrus - only yards from the vehicle. I felt slightly voyeuristic at first, then just awe-struck.

RhinoS.jpg

LionPairs.jpg

But the most thrilling sight of all was leopard. Solitary, stealthy and secretive, it's the most elusive of all carnivores. We followed this female as she stalked and killed a baby kudu. The chase was literally breath-taking and the experience utterly unforgettable.

MegarryLeopardS.jpg

We really enjoyed the excellent Savanna Lodge food and drink: game drives always stop for a sundowner, and unlike many "inclusive" resorts, this one charges nothing for extras, whether drinks, laundry or bathtime luxuries (e.g. lavender oil in a quail's egg). They even give you a blank CD on which to burn your photographs!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 14, 2008 5:35 PM.

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