The boundary walk at Sabi Sabi is seen as a “rite of passage” to guides that have the privilege to work in this remarkable piece of Africa. On arriving at Sabi Sabi as a new member of the team one would always hear about the experiences had on the extreme walk which drains you both physically and mentally, as a high level of awareness is needed in the African bush.
After an evening of chatting, myself and one of the other guides Steve, decided that we needed to embark on the boundary walk after discovering that we both had a full day with no guests together. It was decided that that will be the day that we will take the challenge.
So the organization then began for our journey. The neighboring reserves as well as the park warden were notified that we would be on foot all day along the boundaries of the reserves. We then needed to arrange a few meals for ourselves; the chefs came to the party preparing a breakfast for us to carry in our backpacks as well as some lunch for later on in the day.
Everything was now prepared, backpacks filled with water as well as food for our journey. An early night was had that evening and the conversation between Steve and myself were solely on the events of the following day.
An early start – 5am comes around with my alarm clock ringing. Shooting out of bed with ease (compared to other mornings) to start preparing myself for the day. My excitement was at an all-time high as I jumped into the shower.
Meeting Steve at the lodge, the usual greetings were made and we both went to collect our rifles for before we set off on the walk. We set off from Bush Lodge just before 6am, turning east in order to get to the eastern boundary before the sun lifts itself over the horizon for the first time to signal the start of the day.
Excitement was still at an all-time high, with the walking pace at just as much of a high as we knew the great distance that needed to be covered that day. The stories of the previous night’s activities started to appear in the sands. The tracks of a massive herd of buffalo appeared in front of us. As we continued along the boundary, signs of three male lions appeared in the sand, clearly trailing the buffalo. Luckily for us the tracks were heading the same direction as we were so we could follow up on the story as we went along.
After following the tracks for a good 30 minutes, they veered off our path and the will to keep following was great but we knew we could not as we would not finish the walk if we did.
Twenty minutes after leaving the tracks of the lion and buffalo, we came across very fresh male leopard tracks. After establishing the direction of the tracks we simultaneously lifted our heads in that direction, only to see the Mahlathini male leopard lying flat in the grasses looking at in our direction only 10 meters away. After backing up slowly to a respectable distance we had the privilege of viewing this amazing animal for a few minutes before he moved off.
The next few hours flew by as we powered on reaching the Sabie River an hour before we expected to. We decided to explore the banks of the Sabie River as we waited for some of the other guides, as they wanted to meet us for lunch on the banks of the river.
After finding a suitable spot we settled down, took our boots off and waited for the guys to arrive and join us. After a good lunch and conversation (mostly on the experience so far) we decided it was time to continue. This stretch of the walk is notoriously difficult as it is mostly uphill away from the river. The next few hours flew by with some beautiful encounters with elephant bulls, as well as the fierce Cape buffalo. After spending time viewing these animals (as we could not resist) the pace needed to be picked up dramatically. We powered on to a point where we knew we had 4 kilometers to go.
At this stage, the rest of the guides were leaving on afternoon safari. It was quite an amusing sight to see the expressions on some of the guest’s faces that had already seen us that morning, still walking. With our legs taking a beating, the last few kilometers took like what seemed forever. But by pushing through the pain, we made it back to Bush Lodge at 5pm, marking the 11-hour mark. It was an amazing experience to be out on foot for that amount of time, as well as a true test of character to push us to the finish under tough conditions. Definitely a memory I will never forget.
BY: JOSH LEE (BUSH LODGE RANGER)
IMAGES BY: CHARLES FERROW