Sabi Sands Safari
Ben, September 30, 2010
So we've been home for about three weeks now, but I'm finally getting around to posting the final entry about our trip to South Africa. After almost two weeks in South Africa, we finally got to the portion of the trip that convinced me that I wanted to go in the first place -- the safari. After returning to Johannesburg from Victoria Falls, we had to spend a night in a hotel near the Joburg airport due to flight timing. The next morning, we got up and took a shuttle to the airport, where we waited for our flight in a private charter room and had drinks. We then boarded a small prop plane that fit about 10 people and took off for a 1 1/2 hour flight to the reserve. We made a few short stops before landing near our lodge on a dirt airstrip. We stayed at a place called the Arathusa Safari Lodge, which is located in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, adjacent to Kruger National Park. This place was recommended by Renee at Rhino Africa and it was an excellent recommendation.  One of my favorite parts was that, since we were on a private game reserve instead of the National Park, our rangers were allowed to drive off road. This allowed us to get extremely close to many of the animals and really made the experience amazing. Apparently in many of the national parks in Africa you are not allowed to leave the path. I'm pretty sure it would be very frustrating if you saw some lions from a couple hundred yards away, but weren't allowed to go get a better look.

When we arrived at the lodge, we got checked in, had some welcome drinks, and then had lunch. Lunch on safari was a very communal affair. The lodge houses up to 30 people I think (there were about 20 guests, give or take a few, while we were there), and everyone eats meals together. We enjoyed this and it was a great way to get to know numerous different people from all over the world. The food was good and they kept you very, very full with 3 course meals for both lunch and dinner. However, they typically only had one entree choice for lunch and a couple more for dinner which is not the greatest thing for a picky eater like me, but I survived.

After lunch, we went on our first game drive. For each of the drives, we would pile into a truck that had 3 rows of seats in the back and was completely open. The ranger drove the car and the tracker would sit on a seat mounted on the front of the truck. Only minutes after taking off for our first drive, we ran into 3 male elephants. It was incredible how close we got to the animals and even more incredible how big some of them were. However, most of them seemed used to seeing the trucks and would barely react to our presence. That night we also saw a giraffe and some buffalo, which were also very large. Once the sun went down, we drove for a bit longer looking for nocturnal animals before heading back to the lodge for dinner.

Wake up calls are early on safari. Many of the animals are active early in the morning while it is still cool, so we were up and going by 5:30am. The animals didn't disappoint, as we saw a pride of four lions on our first morning drive. Lions tend to lay around for something like 20 hours a day, so they were mostly just lounging around, but one of the males did get up and walk around our truck. At one point he was easily an arm's reach away, which will certainly get your heart pumping in a wide open jeep, but it was an amazing experience. On some of our subsequent drives, we also were able to see a leopard feasting on a dead buffalo, some rhinos grazing, more elephants playing in the mud, two hunting lions, and two mating leopards.

Overall, we had an awesome experience in South Africa. We saw a ton of great things and met a ton of awesome people. All of our accommodations were awesome and at no point did we feel unsafe. I would definitely recommend it as a vacation destination to anyone, especially if you're interested in going to Africa or on safari
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