Goodbye Leopard Hills, Hello Tanda Tula

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This morning we went on out last game drive at Leopard Hills before setting off for our tented Safari Camp. We had our regular gang and were joined by the Honeymooners, an Italian and half Brit half Brazilian who had just married on Saturday and arrived at camp yesterday afternoon without their luggage.

Our drive was incredible. We set out to find rhino which involved following fresh tracks that circled and crossed and eventually led us into the bush where we found two adults and a three year old. Before we found the rhino we happened upon a fresh kill. Skip to the next paragraph if you can’t handle this section. Yesterday we saw two female lions who had blood on them. Hugo, our guide said that he heard on the radio that the lions had wounded a zebra, but had lost it before they could bring it down. That left the zebra vulnerable to the hyenas it met this morning. When we found them two female hyenas were making short work of their new meal while a young male skulked around trying to get a bite. Hyenas have the most powerful jaws and were incredibly efficient butchers.

This paragraph is about sex so if you are under 18 close your eyes. After the rhino find we tracked a male a male leopard where the female was busy trying to get the male to give her what she wanted. In the leopard world the female has to bug the male into taking care of business. After a few failed amorous attempts the male leopard finally jumped on top gave a half a second push, bit her neck and fell off. Uneventful would be my best description. We learned that the female works at him multiple times to try and have a baby and have no need for him for a few months.

After have our morning coffee in the bush we were back to camp for another fabulous breakfast over looking the Savannah. A quick shower and we had to leave our glamourous oasis for our trip to our new camp.

We moved from the Sabi Sands preserve to the Timbavati. Instead of the Ritz Carlton like accommodations we are staying in a tented camp. that means we have a permanent tent with a real bathroom. We got here just in time for a delicious lunch of salads and fruit and the kind of things I need to eat. We have half an hour before we are out on our first game drive here. I am looking forward to seeing the difference. So far one thing is similar, it is the friendliness of all the South African people we have met. You need to come to this country to see the animals, but you will come back because of the people.


Animals At Last

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After flying to Kruger we were met by Simon our driver to bring us the last three hours to finally get to our destination. The land leading up to Hazyview, a town along the route, was lush with farms. Macadamia nut trees, banana palms, lemons, avocado. Forests of trees that grow tall and straight were planted in lines awaiting their futures as telephone poles. My mother would be in paradise to buy a huge bag of the green globes of avocados on the side of the well paved road for not much money.

Once we passed Hazyview the topography changed and there were no lush farms. The trees were more scrubby,small houses made of cinder block with groups of people sitting out front. We turned off the paved road onto one of sand at Belfast. Simon showed us the house he grew up I as we drove through the hamlet. I thought that even with cheep avocados my mother would not like this drive.

Eventually we turned off the dirt road onto a dirt driveway leading us to the gate of Sabi Sands. Two days of traveling and we have almost reached Leopard Hills our first home for this trip. After being let into the reserve we saw two elephants, then a number of Kudu. At last animals.

We pulled into The portico of the lodge and were greeted by four or five staff who welcomed us warmly with drinks and cool wet towels. They asked if we had eaten lunch and offered to feed us, but we said we could wait the hour until tea before our first game drive. Instead they took us to our room. Our room is really our house, with a thatched roof, and big deck with a plunge pool and and an outdoor shower and a bathroom that belongs in architectural digest. Richmond, our valet explained that elephants liked to drink from our plunge pool. As we lay on the chaise lounges Russ heard and elephant trumpet and we could hear him strolling nearby, but it was just a walk by and he did not come and have a drink with us. Instead two bucks of some kind came up and visited.

Then it was time for tea and our game drive. Our guide’s name is Hugo and our tracker Abraham. We were joined by one other couple from Kent, UK. They had been here for a few days. Hugo asked if there was something we wanted to see and I requested leopards since I did not see any last time I was in Kruger. Donna from Kent said they still had not seen giraffes so off we went.

This certainly is not Disney world, but amazingly Hugo found us a mother leopard with one cub who we followed for a good 20 minutes (photos will have to wait until I get home since they are on my big girl camera). Then he came upon a grouping of seven giraffe which is unusual since they do not stay in packs or travel with the same crowd all the time. We went to a watering hole for a sundowner and visit with the hippos hanging there.

Back to the lodge to have dinner in the boma – safari for fancy outdoor meal with bonfire protected from the animals surround by a wall made of sticks. Eating here is way too good. At dinner they served us a yummy soup and a smoked fish before we got to go to the buffet and pick out things for our own stir frys, plus beer chicken, beef stew, kudu kabob, and about five other vegetables. Thank god I don’t drink because when Abraham set up the bar at the watering hole and asked if I wanted a gin & tonic, wine, beer or any other civilized proper British drink I had to ask for water, yet he still poured it into a real glass.

We are not allowed to walk anywhere alone after dark. We have to have an escort because the animals live here and we are just visiting. The good news is that Russ and I have the house that is farthest from the main area so I am getting at least 300 more steps than the people at the closest house. Somehow I know that is not going to be enough to counteract this good living.

We’ve got to go back to our house now to sleep because we are being woken up at 5:30 for our morning drive. Just a few more animals to see.