At 8 yrs: I loved going to the zoo in my hometown Delhi, India on weekends. The sheer excitement in the initial hours on seeing a herd of deer or monkeys swinging from tree branches would make me shriek with joy. Slowly the excitement would wane with exhaustion and afternoon heat yet the kid in me had to see more.
Walking towards the main cages and demarked areas my eyes would lighten up on seeing a roaring lion, an elephant swaying his trunk, a rhino in a swamp or a leopard looking through the cages. The fear inside an 8 year old got some consolation when I could see these beasts inside cages and not roaming free.
20yrs later: For our annual vacation, I and my hubby decided to go to South Africa and spend three nights at the Kruger National Park. The accommodation at the Kruger National Park is divided into 4 areas: The Kruger Park North, Kruger Park Central, Kruger Park South and Kruger Private Reserves. (More information@ www.africatravelresource.com/africa/southafrica/northeast/kruger/)
We decided to stay at the Sabi Sands Private Reserve and booked our three nights at the Idube Lodge located in the Sabi Sands West District. (www.sabi-sands.com). Soon after our booking, the reservation counter at the Lodge contacted us to enquire about our arrival and emailed us directions to the resort via the R536, Hazyview
After we landed at Johannesburg, we hired a car from the airport and started our journey towards Kruger. For others who are not driving fans, options to reach Kruger would be to fly to Nelspruit Airport and arrange for Pick-Up by the Lodge, or take a coach/car with driver from Johannesburg to Kruger. Since both I and my hubby enjoy driving, we decided to book our flights so as to make it before the Sabi Sands Gate Close.
The drive from Johannesburg to Kruger is scenic. It has different terrains, mountains, valleys, plains and farms. The Highway is good and directions are marked well. We took a brief stopped at Spur Steak & Grill and then continued our journey. As we approached Nelpsruit, our GPRS stopped working. Thankfully we had taken printouts of our Driving directions so it wasn’t too difficult
30 kms before we touched Kruger, the nice and smooth tar road gave way for a muddy gravel road. The road was surrounded by barren land with the exception of few huts and local villagers looking at an approaching sedan.
For our first road trip we wondered, where are we headed? We kept our doors locked, eyes on road, lowered the volume of the loud music and just kept looking for sign boards. After around 10 kilometers we saw a sign board that read National Park! We assumed we were close but who knew, our journey wasn’t over yet. We kept driving and alas, saw the R536 Entry gate for Sabi Sands Reserve and thanked our signs!
After paying an entry fees of Rand 160 at the gates, we delightfully entered thinking that now we aren’t far from our destination even though we had another 8.9 kilometers to cover on the gravel road. Our lodge staff had given instructions to not to stop or get out of the car even if we saw animals, so we kept driving after few sightings of few deers. Excited to reach we kept driving but soon had to stop our car. 30 meters ahead 3 elephants blocked our road. They ate leaves and without any other option, we just enjoyed the view for another 15 minutes. Soon another car came behind us and halted. Within seconds we had a Full Grown Elephant stand behind the second car and a couple more approached from the jungle surrounding both cars. Our excitement turned into fear. We had nowhere to go, nothing to do. So we just waited. Within 10 minutes fearing no danger from us, the family quietly passed clearing the way.
I went back in time and realized, I am at the zoo. Just this time, I am the one who is caged! In the midst of their home, their jungle, their rules. My safari had already begun!
We soon check-in and got ready for our evening Game Reserve. For the next three days we would have 2 safari’s everyday for 3 hours. One in the morning starting at 5 and the other in the afternoon starting at 4.
We got ready with our cameras and sat in the open top big jeep and headed with our guide right into the jungle.
A few pictures from our Sabi Sands, Idube Game Safari
The Lion Extravaganza: On the first evening itself we witnessed the Four brothers (top right) walking with élan justifying their tag of the Jungle King! We surely did skip beat a heartbeat when they were just about 1 meter distance(bottom left) from us. They following day we also witnessed the beautiful mating (bottom right) of one of the brother with the tigress and finding us invading their privacy the King kept a watchful eye (top left).
The open jeep was a delight especially in the cold pleasant morning breeze. We had sightings of not just a herd of impalas but also the beautifully striped zebras. The view of the baby rhino playing with its mother was a treat to the eye, while witnessing a hyena in the evening fetching food was as close as we could get into a real jungle.
The mother leopard teaching her 2 week old cub how to eat an impala she had killed earlier. On top a big herd or elephants close to our stop for mid day drinks break in the midst of jungle.