Safari, Day 2


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Africa » South Africa » Mpumalanga » Sabi Sands
June 23rd 2012
Published: June 28th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

Andrew with ElephantsAndrew with ElephantsAndrew with Elephants

We hung out with a small herd in the beautiful early morning light.
Lots of photos from today - be sure to scroll down past the ads to see them all.



As expected, we were awoken at 6am, by a knock at our door pleasantly alerting us that it was time to get up for the game drive. We fumbled about for a bit, but eventually got ourselves dressed, cameras and binoculars packed, and out of the room in about thirty minutes. We had coffee and a few light snacks and were off for another drive. We chatted briefly with another American family and compared our lives in the US and our experiences in Africa. After we left for our game drive Lauren confided that she was pretty certain that she knew the daughter in the family from camp a few years back, and we later confirmed that she was correct (our first remarkable coincidence of the day). It was quite chilly in the morning but the Land Rover was outfitted with blankets and hot water bottles to keep us cozy! Shortly into the drive we came upon a group of elephants. Alfred turned off the road and parked the jeep in the brush just a short distance away from them.
Mom & Baby ElephantMom & Baby ElephantMom & Baby Elephant

We saw lots of baby elephants. They are only small relative to the adults.
We sat and snapped photos as we watched the elephants tear apart the area, ripping limbs off of trees and stripping the bark off of trunks as they munched and trampled their way along. There was much ooh-ing and aah-ing at the baby elephants. The drivers maintain contact with one another by radio and Alfred received directions to a leopard. We “spotted” him in a tree quite a ways from the road, but Alfred (an impressive driver) and the impressive Land Rover were able to cut through some low brush to get a closer look. Our whole safari experience would make a great ad for Land Rovers! We parked just about 30 feet from the tree that the leopard was sitting in. He looked calm and lazy sitting out on a tree limb, although he did periodically reposition himself to try to get comfortable on his narrow perch. After watching and shooting photos for a while it became clear that he had dragged a kill up into the tree (an impala according to Alfred, but to us unidentifiable). We could see the animal’s vertebrae quite clearly and found his hide slung over a branch lower down in the tree. Hyenas
Leopard in treeLeopard in treeLeopard in tree

We found this leopard protecting his impala prey in a tree while a hyena waited below for him to drop something delicious
will harass big cats and try to chase them off of their kills. A leopard’s best option is to drag the kill up into a tree to eat in peace, sometimes for several days. While we watched, a hyena meandered out of the bush. He had no chance of getting up the tree, but Alfred told us that he would wait patiently in the hope that the leopard would drop something. The hyena, in fact, lay down to wait right behind the jeep and was soon rewarded with a small morsel. We watched for a long time, trying for that perfect photograph and then moved on. We stopped at a wide spot in the road where we all got out and Bennett provided coffee and hot chocolate. The day was starting to warm up as we headed back off. We found a group of white rhinos and essentially parked the jeep right in the middle of them. It seemed each time we mentioned not having seen one sort of animal or another, we were shortly parked in a herd of them. As for the rhinos, there were several females and young ones grazing, completely ignoring our presence. After sitting a
Pumbaa!Pumbaa!Pumbaa!

Warthog, scurrying away. These guys were among the only animals that seemed to flee when we approached.
bit and learning about the rhinos, we were near the end of the morning drive. On the way home, we saw kudu, warthogs and hippos (in the water). Back at camp, we sat down for a delicious breakfast. We were all looking forward to some down time, but Sonia and John really wanted to go on the short tour of the staff village, and agreed with the kids that they would stay in the room and not let any animals in. Our guide, Linha, was an elder in the group, having worked for many years at Londolozi. The staff village is quite modern in some ways, but tribal in many other ways, keeping the traditions of the Shangaan, the tribe of most of the Londolozi staff. Most of the staff live in one-room cement houses with thatched roofs – a style of home extremely common in this area. Only the staff live on site, not their families, except children under five years of age. The staff live in the village for six weeks and then get two weeks of leave to see their families who live in the outlying towns. On our visit to the village, we learned about the
Water BuckWater BuckWater Buck

Another member of the antelope family but not nearly as omnipresent as the impala.
history and traditions of the Shangaan people, as well as some of the very modern ways that these rural people are working to build skills for the 21st century world. We visited a daycare center where the children sang to us and showed off their English skills and we visited the adult learning center where adults can build their computer skills. The adult learning center is also used to train Londolozi’s trackers and drivers, both to hone their knowledge and enable them to give superb answers to questions by visitors, and to instruct them in how to interact with visitors to this first class resort. Impressively, the learning center also does outreach into the broader community outside Londolozi to teach computer skills to the people (mostly Shangaan) who live nearby. In the center of the village there are a few traditional Shangaan huts used only to explain the customs of the Shangaan to visitors. Linha took us into one and told us about some of the history of the Shangaan people. Of particular interest was the story of the healers – how they “read the bones” to provide assistance and the process a healer must follow to inherit the spirit
Vervet MonkeysVervet MonkeysVervet Monkeys

Seems like maybe they should be named "varmint monkeys." These are tons of these near the lodge and they can be very pesky. Andrew found himself on the run from a few.
of a previous healer. Upon our return to Londolozi, we were pleased to find Andrew and Lauren safely in our room. John and Andrew enjoyed cooling off in our private “plunge pool” and we had no trouble relaxing through the middle of the day. Late afternoon “tea” offered a great variety of food. We have surely gained weight already during our short stay. After a quick snack, we were off on the afternoon game drive. We started off and found some giraffe, some nyala (a large antelope) and more rhinos. We again lingered a bit with the rhinos, observing their grazing habits. Our next sighting was the last of the “big five” for us: water buffalo (the others being lion, leopard, elephant and rhino). We spied a few and followed them off road until we found ourselves in the middle of the herd. The buffalo went on about their grazing, unperturbed by our presence. We sat quietly and listened to the sounds of their trampling and munching the grass all around us as hundreds of them slowly passed by. We stopped for sunset cocktails near a watering hole and as drinks were prepared Andrew wandered down towards the water. When
Plunge pool!Plunge pool!Plunge pool!

This small but deep pool was our private place to cool off. It is, of course, winter here and the water was exhilaratingly cold.
Bennett called after him to watch out for the crocodiles, he made a record-setting sprint back to the jeep. After only three drives, we have already seen so much and the list of things we are still hoping to see is starting to grow short: zebra, baboon, crocodile and hopefully the lion cubs are about all we can think of. On the return home, we stopped in the middle of the local airstrip, a wide clear area, to look at stars. Alfred had brought a bright laser pointer that helped him point out stars and constellations for us, including the southern cross and Scorpio. His knowledge of astronomy was impressive and we struggled to take in all of what he told us. Back at the lodge, dinner was once again fantastic food. This night we were treated to some traditional singing and dancing from the employees. The sounds and rhythms were similar to our sense of African music, but the passion and energy that went into the performance was something to behold. Also exciting to see was the enthusiastic (and skillful) participation of some of the white staff members in the dancing. After dinner there was marshmallow roasting by the
Village tourVillage tourVillage tour

Linha gave us a tour of the staff village and an introduction to Shangaan history and traditions.
fire, and Andrew came over to tell us that he was pretty sure that he knew one of the girls at the fire from camp in San Mateo. We went over with him to investigate and confirmed that this was indeed a friend of his from theater camp. We are about as far from home as possible while remaining on Earth and both of our children have now run into people that they know here, making it clear that it truly is a small world. Following dessert, we chatted more with the American family that includes Lauren’s old acquaintance (also named Lauren) and even played a few hands of hearts with them. Given the early start and busy days, staying up until 10pm was enough for all of us and we were ready for bed. Word had spread over dessert that a lion had been spotted on the grounds, so were all happy for the escort back to our rooms and were quickly asleep thereafter.


Additional photos below
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Lunch on the deckLunch on the deck
Lunch on the deck

The beautiful deck, shaded by a very high thatched roof was where we had breakfasts and lunches. You can see the river in the background.
BuffaloBuffalo
Buffalo

This cape buffalo was a member of a herd of several hundred that we watched graze by us.
Open top land roverOpen top land rover
Open top land rover

Andrew enjoying the cool afternoon air on the drive. What could be better than driving off-road in an open jeep looking for animals?
SunsetSunset
Sunset

The sunsets were not to be missed -- like the safari drive, different every night.


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