Normally, when thinking of something to write, I am nestled in the heart of Sabie Game Reserve surrounded by the sounds of nature but instead, I’m sitting outside surrounded by 4 walls in an urban jungle staring up at the stars which gently fade away through the neighbour’s garage light. How much more opposite could it be? Yet in these times of uncertainty and sadness, I get time to look back at a few of my favourite sightings during my “almost” 2 years at Sabi Sabi and WOW! What a time it has been, and I would like to invite you along on a trip down memory lane with me.
I’m going to start with one of the first images I ever took at Sabi Sabi. It was the morning of 22nd July 2018 and after safari got back, I headed out on the daunting task of getting to know the roads around the reserve. The first week of driving around was challenging; I mean, the maps never seem to match the surroundings and every turn you take looks the same as the one before, and I’m sure those who have been on safari can vouch for that, but what might lurk around these seemingly similar corners are never the same. It was around one of these corners that a large male leopard (Maxabeni) stood over the remains of his warthog kill. Being new to Sabi Sabi at the time and having only heard about the excellent game viewing, I could not believe that I was in the heart of it.
A month later and my road learning days were behind me and I was heading out on safari twice a day and getting to share my passion with my guests. It was an afternoon drive and I headed down to the southern part of the reserve to view some hippo. Nearing the waterhole we noticed a few hyena walking toward a large rhino bull and upon closer inspection, the rhino seemed to have been injured in a fight with another rhino bull. With fresh wounds, I’m sure it was the smell of the blood that attracted the hyenas. Hyena are extremely smart animals and will generally try to prey on old, sick or injured animals if the opportunity arises. The hyenas were taunting the rhino with one even trying to bite onto the rhino’s tail. Luckily for the rhino, he still had a bit of fight left in him and the hyenas lost interest and wandered off into the bush.
It does not always have to be the largest or scariest animals that gets someone excited. For me, something as ‘common’ as a Grey Duiker, but now… what about an ‘Albino’ Grey Duiker? It was a first for me and most certainly not something I had ever imagined seeing. Before seeing this, when a guest asked, ‘What is something you would love to see, Kevin?” An albino grey duiker isn’t the first answer that comes to mind.
We are all familiar with the saying ‘The early bird catches the worm’. When on safari that is definitely the case. Early one morning while waiting for guests to arrive for coffee, myself and Ronald heard a very distressed herd of elephants and a noisy clan of hyenas not too far from camp. We rushed to the suites to inform guests of what was happening and that we should head out as soon as possible before all the chaos is over and we are left wondering what might have happened. Two minutes later we were on the vehicles and headed out in the direction of the sounds. A few metres off the road a line of elephants were confronting some hyenas that were feeding from the remains of an impala carcass. There were a few calves in the herd which made the rest of the herd members act more aggressively and more protective over the young. It was an incredibly audible experience.
Why is it that hyenas are always in the middle of everything? They really do keep things interesting but sometimes they find themselves outnumbered and having messed with the wrong pack of wild dogs. It was real entertainment watching the roles reversed as the hyenas were the ones running with their tails between their legs and trying to keep their rear ends away from the jaws of the wild dogs. This all happened at the waterhole in front of Selati Camp, how much closer could the action be to home.
One of the more emotional sightings I had was when we were viewing lions in a semi-relaxed state, when the youngest female got up and walked off into the bush. Sydney and I looked at each other and decided to follow her. In an open clearing ahead, we saw a herd of impala and wildebeest grazing not knowing of the dangers lurking. We lost sight of the lioness but soon heard the impalas alarm calling on the fringe of the clearing. Next minute there was dust everywhere, the lioness caught a wildebeest calf, but in protective instinct a female wildebeest came to try and help but also succumbed to the power and grip of the hungry feline. It was not long before the rest of the pride made their way to help. To our horror, once the lions started feeding, we noticed that the wildebeest cow was pregnant and the lions walked away with 3 meals for the effort of one. A truly grim scene but a harsh reminder of survival in its rawest most natural form.
To end off with, I’m sharing two of my favourite landscape images which I have experienced while having sundowners with my guests. It must surely be one of the most breath-taking experiences that should not be missed and after an amazing day in Sabi Sabi, whether it be laying around by the pool or viewing animals in their natural habitat, stretching your legs with your favourite beverage in hand, Mother Nature provides the perfect backdrop.