Checked out after breakfast at the hotel. Tydon Safari was early to pick us up, and we met the rep while we were just walking back to the room to get our luggages. Took our last visits to the loo before quickly moving out to the recept area for check out and the 4 hr drive to Sabi Sands, our very first safari!
Nothing fancy about the drive though, it was pretty boring for a good 2hrs as the land was plain boring brown, not much of a view. We were talking with the rep to understand more about the safari, our uneasiness about staying in the wild, our parent’s uneasiness about youtube’s video of people getting mauled by lions in safaris. He gave us some information of the area as we moved eastwards to the camp. We were also given a choice to stay at a bushcamp, where the tents were actually within the reserve. There was an electric fence to keep out the big animals but it was still possible for smaller animals like cats to enter. We welcomed that idea, albeit the uneasiness! From our conversation, we learnt that he was actually the owner of the camp!
2 hrs later we stopped at a rest station for some coffee and a quick pee break.Bought red cappuccino to try, apparently this was only available in SA as I don’t see it offered anywhere else. Then another 2 hrs. We were told the view would improve and it sure did. Landscape changed from flat to mountainous and brown to beautiful green. Trees also became taller and taller, and grew in neat rows.
As we turned in from the main road onto a sandy stretch, there was a perimeter electric fences that bordered the reserve. There we had the first glimpses of wild animals, but old Dagga boys. Buffalos that were too old and were left behind by the fast moving pack.
As we reached the camp, we were transferred to another 4WD to go deep into the reserve where we will be staying the night. We drove through the gate and as we moved along, we saw impalas and kudus in the foliage. The guide stopped the vehicle every now and then for us to snap some pictures and also gave us interesting info on those animals. Just before reaching the bush camp, we came up to a group of giraffes, our first close encounter of these gentle animals.
Our luggages were moved to the tent that we will be spending the night. From the outside, it looked like a normal tent. But on the inside, it felt luxurious! There was a queen size bed, a cosmetic table with mirror, aircon, toilet bowl and rain shower with hot water. The hot water was really important as it was still winter and really cold at night!
Light lunch was served briefly after we were introduced to our accommodation. After a short rest, we got ready for our first game drive. We were given a briefing on the dos and don’ts to ensure that our experience would be safe, fun and exciting. Climb onto the safari jeep with another father-daughter pair and we were off!
There were many different wildlife that we were seeing for the first time but we all had the same target in mind. The big five – Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Leopard and Lion, where the cats were the most elusive of the five. The guides within park had a agreement to keep each other informed on sightings of wildlife which were harder to see (the predators basically) and would comms each other through walkie talkies. We thought we were really in luck when around the corner we saw a leaopard lying by the roadside!
Immediately it hit me, my camera lens did not have the range to get a closer shot of the animal. I had to use digital zoom which ultimately compromise the quality of image. How I wish I could get the 75mm-300mm telephoto lens when I had the chance! Lesson well learnt. The other guests had big lens and they were surely having a wild time! Oh yes, not to mention, our binos were tiny too.
We spent a great deal of time with the leopard before moving away in search of the other 5. Not much luck though. The place looked pretty empty lest some common impalas. We proceeded to the rest point for a short break and a sunset lookout.
Ate some beef jerky looking snacks and had beer while waiting for the sun to set. It was awesome. But then the cold also comes really quickly and that was when we knew were are kinda under prepared. On the night drive, we really made good use of the blankets that were provided.
The night drive was similar to the day drive except that the guide now was equipped with a powerful light that he used to sweep the area to catch reflections off the eyes of hiding animals. We did not see much though, just for a moving Jackal which was just to dark for a camera to catch.
About 7pm-ish and we were back at the camp after driving around for an hour or so. Dinner was served shortly after, around a campfire. We were given native cuisine bobotie and other local food stuff and it was absolutely delicious! After eating and chatting, we all retired for the night.
Back in the tent, it was really cold. We turned on the aircon to keep us warm. The challenge was to bath actually. I tried turning on the hot water but it didn’t warmed up after running the water for a while. I went out to the gas cylinder and tried to turn it to the hottest and tried the water again. It did get from freezing to not so cold so I went in quickly and got out double quick time too. It was still unbearably cold! We boiled water and pour it into the sink where my wife then use towels to wipe herself clean, for fear of the cold shower. We were wondering if there was something wrong with the heater or was this the expected temperature.This might not turn out to be as ideal as we thought, and how were we to survive for the next few days in this wilderness? Since there were no other forms of entertainment (no wifi, no tv, no phone signal), we read books, organise photos and slept early. Day game walk would begin at 6am the next day anyways.