It’s About the Hunt

Published: October 15th 2018
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Leopard on the lookoutLeopard on the lookoutLeopard on the lookout

He put his prey up in a tree to protect it.
“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy” – Ernest Hemingway

Somewhere we read the words below and it gave us pause about the life in South Africa, “On these grounds, the plains of Africa we come in search of animal sightings. We are not at the zoo and these animals are predators. The life in their clan or their pride is a life of survival, eat or be eaten.” Poignant……and very sobering.

We are writing to you from the Simbavati River Lodge which is located in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park. We are on “the hunt” for all animals big and small that inhabit this rustic and sparse part of the world. Most refer to it as “the bush.” No argument here. We feel a ways from nowhere…a part of the planet where man has not intruded much and the way of the wild rules.

Sounds adventurous, right? Out in the wild among nature’s predators….but the truth is we’ve gone glamping in luxury tents. We weren’t really expecting a proper bed, but good for us. Our “tent” was a
The Lion Sleeps TonightThe Lion Sleeps TonightThe Lion Sleeps Tonight

And during the day as well.
room about 15 by 20 feet with a proper en-suite, shower and bed. We also had an outdoor shower but it was too cold for us to use it while we were there. All the creature comforts were taken care of via the mini-bar, coffee pot and in rooms snacks. Our deck looked out on the river and all times of the day we had Impala and Kudo walking ten feet from our door. Making things even more enjoyable was that the winds were howling at 20 to 35 miles an hour while we were here so the walls of the tent were flapping constantly. It made for beautiful white noise that lulled us to sleep in our king size bed. Seems a cold front moved in when we arrived and one day it was 48 degrees and extremely breezy in the open-air Land Cruisers. Even with four or five layers of clothes and a blanket across our laps we were cold. Luckily, we had brought a sweater and jacket so we were well prepared…or just lucky.

We’ve learned the safari life in a private reserve is regimented yet incredibly relaxing. The 5am wakeup call comes and you are not upset because you’ve had plenty of sleep and you have the excitement of what awaits you on the game drive. As you may remember, we are nurses and have gotten up at 5am for 30 years so this time schedule was no problem for us. Wheels roll out of camp at 530am. The morning drive is from 530am to 830am and the evening drive from 4pm to 7pm. Breakfast is served at 830am, then it is time for a shower and nap before lunch at 130pm. They are very civilized and serve afternoon tea at 330pm before heading out on the next game drive. A relaxing dinner in the BOMA around the fire pit at 730pm. This creates a full day and you are rarely hungry. This glamping stuff is outstanding.

Toward the end of our morning drive each day our guide would stop at some scenic overlook and provide us coffee, tea or hot chocolate. MJ fell for the hot chocolate with Amarula, which is a cream liqueur from South Africa made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the Africa marula tree. She found that it dramatically increased the taste of the instant hot chocolate…..wonder why?On the evening drive our scenic stop in the bush is to provide adult beverages while watching the amazing African sunset. The safari life can spoil you! Gin and tonic were our beverage of choice. A fine beverage mixed with a gorgeous sunset is quite the pleasurable experience.

But back to the real reason for coming….the animals. Seems like all of them are searching for their next meal, whether it’s grazing, or killing a fellow animal. They need to eat to survive. The predators seem to garner a lot of attention in these parts. And one needs to remember that predators are in search of water and predators are in search of food. This must be respected. We’ve had some amazing experiences at the Simbavti River Lodge and we’d like to tell you what we have seen.


At this point in our trip the leopard has become our favorite animal with the giraffe a close second. We will reserve judgement as we have many more days in the bush.

Our first night drive, our guide Mbongeni, saw a fresh Impala in a tree and we went off-roading into the bush to get closer to the tree.
Curious KuduCurious KuduCurious Kudu

Huge ears give them a "goofy" look
Evidentially, once a leopard has killed its prey it drags it up into a tree for safe keeping as they don’t want to share. They are solitary creatures. The impala must weigh 80 pounds or more….. we can’t imagine how he pulls it up a tree. We would love to see that at some point. The noise from our vehicle caused him to scurry away from his kill. We followed for a while but only got a glimpse as he weaved in and out of the scrub brush. Mbongeni told us we would return on our morning drive.

The following morning, we headed out to the tree and found a satisfied looking Leopard lounging on the tree limb three feet from his kill. He was sleepy and we watched. Soon his eyes began to flicker and he woke up. We watched him, he watched us, we sat in silence and spoke in soft whispers. Slowly he stood up on the branch, looked around, sniffed his kill, walked to another tree branch and sat for a while. Another vehicle approached and we made room for them. A few minutes later our leopard stood up, came down the tree and away he went. He looked back at us and then slowly sauntered off. It was amazing. While in the tree the leopard was less than 25 feet from us. When he jumped down he was probably 15 to 18 feet away. Evidently, he is used to the vehicles and knew we had no interest in his kill and only wanted a few photographs.

A leopard in stunningly beautiful and very graceful in their movements…..and possess incredibly intense eyes.


We had a lion encounters all three days of our visit at Simbavati. Our first day we were thrilled to come along three brothers peacefully sleeping under a tree. The first time seeing a lion in the wild is an amazing experience. All the stories of them being king of the jungle and all but it was later afternoon and all these guys wanted to do was finish their nap. Slowly they began to awaken and wash their paws. They finally sat up but still looked tired.

The next morning, Mbongeni our guide and Thalbo our tracker said they had a surprise for us. The roads in camp are dirt and twisty through the trees and scrub brush.
Baby Hyena Baby Hyena Baby Hyena

Looking for mom
After about 15 minutes they turned right, left, right and stopped the vehicle… we looked and our mouths dropped open. The three sleepy brothers that we met the night before had killed a Cape Buffalo in early morning. It was laying under a tree, split open, stomach and other organs pulled out on the ground. Two of the brothers were sleeping in the sun with full bellies while the third one was shoulder deep into the Buffalo carcass. We watched in awe…. no words…. you come to Africa hearing the stories of “the kill” but you never really expect to see a lion eating a buffalo. At one point he backed out of the body cavity and from 25 feet away we could hear him chomping on a leg bone. We watched and watched. He seemed too busy and content to know we were there. Our last day at camp we went back to check on the lion and their buffalo-eating progress. Our guide tells us that generally the lions will work on their kill for four or five days, there is a pecking order to eating all of these animals. Our last day the hyenas and vultures were circling
Hyenas guarding babiesHyenas guarding babiesHyenas guarding babies

They had 4 babies and mom was nursing.
as they yearned to be next in line. We were told it would take about twenty hyenas to chase the three lions away. While we were there watching there were about six hyenas sitting and watching or circling. We were assured nothing was going to happen yet. There were three extremely large vultures and they were testing the waters. One got very close to the buffalo and one of our lions sprang to his feet and chased the bird away. That got everyone’s attention as they seemed so slow and docile up to that point.

That evening shortly after we started our 4pm drive we drove along the dry river bed and found a different pride of lions. We found 3 lions sleeping on a small hill. We watched them sleep. This is the time of day when they begin to wake up. A few minutes later another lion came up from the other side of the hill and sat down and soon two babies followed. The babies began licking the faces of two of the mature lions in an effort to wake them. Everyone was snapping photos and hoping they would wake up and become livelier. Ok, so
Not to be trifled with!Not to be trifled with!Not to be trifled with!

African Cape buffalos are unpredictable
as they say be careful what you ask for. One of the lions stood up, stretched and slowly sauntered down into the river bed and sat down about four feet behind our vehicle. These animals are used to the vehicles but you never want to take that for granted. We were seated in the back row of the vehicle and had the best view of this lion who was still trying to wake up. She sat there….very pretty just looking around. A minute or two later another mature lion stood up and walked down the hill in front of the vehicle. The lions move so slowly and gracefully. Our guide whispered, sit still and don’t talk. Holy crap, we were not sure any of us were breathing at this point…. This lion walked in front of our Landover and then walked along the side of the vehicle to join his friend sitting in back. This lion was three feet away from the side of the vehicle as he circled. Ok, now the problem is we have two lions sitting behind our vehicle. Mbongeni started the engine and pulled ahead. This gets more interesting because the lions are sitting in the
Sing with usSing with usSing with us

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh In the jungle, the mighty jungle The lion sleeps tonight In the jungle the quiet jungle The lion sleeps tonight
dry river bed in the direction that we need to drive. Mbogeni assessed the situation and asked us to sit quietly. He slowly drove to the left of the two lions as far over as he could get. The lions truly didn’t seem interested in us in the least. But—who knows what they are thinking? We left safely and happily and certainly will tell that story years from now.


Everyone has seen an elephant. Those crazy ears, long snout and tusk when they are lucky. They are a force to be reckoned with, they push trees over. They move with clumsy elegance. They are wonderful to see in person. We watched them walk along the river and take a sip of water. We watched them walk up and down some hills. This reserve didn’t have large herds of elephants… maybe at our next camp.

Cape Buffalo or African Buffalo

This member of the bovine family can be a force to be reckoned with due to its highly unpredictable nature. As a result, they have not been domesticated like their Asian cousins, the water buffalo. In other words, they are big and ornery. The males have
African eagleAfrican eagleAfrican eagle

On the lookout for prey up to 5 km away
this big helmet looking forehead that the horns come out of which is rather goofy looking. Our guide also told us that some of them have this look on their face when they look at you like you owe them money.


These are rather funny looking animals and they move slowly. We were warned they are not to be trusted. Truth is…..we don’t trust any of these animals in the wild, so we’ll pay special attention to these guys. They are big, husky looking and have amazing snouts. They appear rather prehistoric and sometimes appear to have on armor.


When you hop in the land cruiser for the first-time introductions take place and they ask you what you came to Africa to see. Most people were answering lions and leopard. Merry Jo answered that she wanted to see giraffes running. This caused laughter in the vehicle. She admitted she would be happy with them standing around but she had really come to Africa to see them running. MJ always has grand ideas and an optimistic attitude and when we travel we are generally lucky. As you can guess we saw several giraffes eating and

One of the big 5 (and for a good reason)
one standing by the river. It was our 3rdday at Simbavati and heading in from our last game drive when we heard a noise off in the distance. At the time we were driving by a rather flat field and we saw a giraffe running toward the field. Everyone in the car laughed with joy as MJ really wanted to see them run and kept reminding our guide and everyone had been on the lookout. Remember we said we are generally lucky? Out of the trees came six or seven more giraffes and they ran across the field and across the road in front of us. Wow, what a spectacle. Everyone cheered!

To be honest the day before we had seen one giraffe run about 4 feet… not what she was hoping for. Happiness comes in many forms.


On our first game drive we came upon a large termite mound that the hyenas were using for a house. After a few minutes a hyena came from behind the mound and laid down in front so we could see her. Within a few minutes four pups had come out of different holes in the mound and began
Waking up!Waking up!Waking up!

Evening comes and they get lively....mostly because they're hungry
nursing. It was great watching mother nature in action, especially when you consider the hyena’s reputation. It was almost a tender moment in the wild.

Termite Mounds

Providing you detailed information about the queen termite, her workers, her soldiers would take too long so we will tell you to check out a documentary. They are fascinating. The mounds are larger and taller than you would imagine. We’ve been told they also have underground tunnels that sometimes connect one mound to the next. The queen can live some 40 years.


We’re not birders, we kept chanting, we’re not birders… ok, maybe we should be birders. Africa is a great place to start if you want to become a birder. We saw many amazing birds. Our guides gave us all the names but we didn’t take paper and pen with us on the drives so you will now deal with our memories. Please forgive us if we marked any of these lovely birds incorrectly. Please send us a private message so we can correct the names. All birders should come to Africa…..they will not be disappointed in the vast variety and beautiful colors of the birds here.
Mbongeni and ThalboMbongeni and ThalboMbongeni and Thalbo

Our guide and tracker


We’ve put this portion last as we really don’t feel like we have seen hippos. We saw four small portions of their noses sticking out of the water. You come upon a pond and at first glance you think you are looking at a rock…but then it moves a little. Rhinos spend all day in the water as their skin can burn easily from the sun. As a result, not always easy to see them. Hopefully, we will see them at another camp….and out of the water.


We didn’t care a thing about these as we have seen them in Australia and we live in Florida where we can see Alligators often.

There are lots more animals to talk about…..but this is not our last blog from “the bush”…so stay tuned.

Birthday surprise

evidently Nadia and Ashley let the lodge know that this was a big “60” birthday trip. On our second evening when we went to the dining room Lucas asked us to come with him and lead us out to the pool area where they had set up a private dining room for us and had provided us a
Sunset Timbavati Nature ReserveSunset Timbavati Nature ReserveSunset Timbavati Nature Reserve

Sun setting on another great day
bottle of champagne! Yes, indeed, this birthday bash is shaping up. How thoughtful of the management at Simbavati. Thank you Ashley, for letting them know.

Where we stayed: Simbavati River Lodge, Timbavati Nature Reserve

We highly recommend this location. They provide excellent customer service. Our guide Mbongeni and our tracker Thalbo were excellent. Our server Lucas was the best and the front office staff very professional. This is a wonderful place to stay. Thank you Nadia!! Thank you Ashley!

We are on to our next safari camp in search of zebras and wildebeest.

Additional photos below
Photos: 63, Displayed: 33


Simbavati River LodgeSimbavati River Lodge
Simbavati River Lodge

Dinner in the Boma
Sunset drinksSunset drinks
Sunset drinks

Adult beverages out in the bush...yeah, we were roughing it!

Waiting outside our tent when we returned from Safari
Night SafariNight Safari
Night Safari

looking for those nocturnal animals
Game drive vehicleGame drive vehicle
Game drive vehicle

Sturdy vehicles on rough terrain

15th October 2018

Greetings from Maryland
Hi Merry Jo and Dave! I have read every word of your blog posts and couldn't let another one go by without telling you how impressed I am! Your South African trip is too amazing for words but somehow you have done exactly that! I know what a terrific nurse you are but I didn't know about your talent for writing! When reading your story, I feel like I'm right there watching the lions feast or see the giraffe running! We have two big trips planned and I would like to take you along to write about them! And now I think we need to plan a trip to South Africa! We have a family connection to South Africa so that may actually be a possibility! May God continue to bless you on this adventure! Carol Diachenko
15th October 2018

Greetings from Maryland
Carol, thrilled that you are following along. We’ll be more than happy to go along and do your writing. Our trip is amazing. Loving safari and loving Africa. You add this to your list. MJ
15th October 2018

You're in Africa and it is snowing in Minnesota
Sounds amazing. What a birthday celebration.
15th October 2018

Snowing in Minnesota
Dennis and Dan, I feel certain you are hunkered down in front of a fireplace with the appropriate beverage. Snow this time of year is expected. Yes, this is the grandest of birthday celebrations. My dear sweet husband told me to design what I wanted. Yippie. Chat soon, MJ
15th October 2018

The hunter and the hunted!
Hi Guys, It seems you're enjoying every single moment. There's can be nowhere quite like Africa for the great mammals of this little world of ours. Enjoy every moment!
15th October 2018

The hunter and the hunted
We have a few birds in this blog but the next one will have e more. Hopefully, you can help us identify them. We want to live in the moment on Safari and n to take notes. We think we will remember all the names but that does not happen. As you can see we have birds in this one that we didn't identify. These animals are amazing.
15th October 2018

What a treat!
Enjoyed reading and seeing your encounters in the bush. Brutus looks a bit scared.
16th October 2018

What a treat
The trip is amazing. All that I dreamed it would be. Thanks for following along. Brutus is not the tough guy that I imagine. I guess he’s worried he’ll become a snack. He’s looking forward to the beaches of Seychelles.
15th October 2018

Game drives
Its sad to think that when you go on a "game" drive, by definition you are searching for animals or birds that are hunted by humans to be killed. "Game" by definition are animals hunted for sport or food. I find it interesting that a game drive in the tourist world is more often "hunting" for non-domesticated (wild) animals to be observed and photographed, shifting the definition somewhat. Yet there are those tourists who wish to hunt with the object to kill purely for the thrill of the kill under the guise of sport. Fortunately attitudes seem to be changing. The beauty of game reserves is they are conservation areas with the determination the animals are within fenced areas, not hunted by humans to be killed but are there to be able to thrive and be admired. Yet the word "game" remains in the titles. Gotta say it is wonderful that you are embracing the concept of conservation of these animals and birds that are the ethos of Africa...having the time of your life hunting for them in the wild...for the sole purpose of observation and photographing them. Maybe over time the word "game" no longer is synonymous with "meat"! Great pics by the way!
16th October 2018

Game drives
Your point is well taken... but the verbiage has changed and now it is referring to a photo safari. I think that speaks to the work they have done and been successful to decrease but not end the poaching of animals. They are very animal centric these days and can speak to all of the things they are doing to keep them safe all our photography. MJ
16th October 2018

Game drives
Dangerous Dave are spot on in your observation regarding the use of "game." Before our trip, I would often let people know we were going on a "photo safari" because to me, the word "safari" indicated a hunt to kill. I am so very pleased that the game reserves are in place, so the animals can be safe and also so that we can enjoy them. Our voyage has been a blast to this point...never thought I would see so many wonderful creatures.
16th October 2018

“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy"
"True at First Light". Yes, he was Hemingway, my favourite author. But no, we are talking about your blog here. Simply brilliant! It reminds me the days I had in Kenya last February and I am looking forward for Tanzania in Nov. But you guys are lucky, saw the kills and the leopard. You know I spent two nights open in the game reserve, dark and alone in Tsavo waiting to see an elusive luck. And the termite mound...oh my God...aren't they something? Looking forward to reading more and more and more...please don't stop....the wild life never ends...Thank you for sharing (the blog I mean, not the champagne...hahaha)
16th October 2018

Happy in Africa
Certainly you will find the elusive Leopard in your next visit. If not, head to South Africa... more Leopard stories in the next blog. We never tire of looking for all of these amazing animals and they all have wonderful personalities... even those who do not have the Big 5 status. Ah,... no sharing of the champagne as sadly it went too quickly.
16th October 2018

Very well written
Hello: This is an excellent experience....and well documented too! May I ask which company you hired for your Safari? It seems they really took care of you. Thank you. Samuel
16th October 2018

Well written
Sam, yes we have been extremely well taken care of and that is what I wanted for this birthday celebration. We’ve had to do little for ourselves. At the bottom of the blog I included our agent’s name. Nadia Eckhardt She provided everything we were looking for and more. If you contact her let her know you read our blog. This is the trip of a lifetime.
16th October 2018

Great Stuff
Fall is just arriving here in the Po Valley of Italy. At our winery, the harvest has ended, the grapes crushed, and the fermentation has finished. To be able to sit down and read this blog is a wonderful respite from the stress of the last month. D and MJ have a unique ability to transport one thousands of miles into another part of the world, and make the reader part of their joyful adventure. Thank you.
16th October 2018

Great Stuff
Thank you for your kind words. We hope our readers feel like they are on the journey with us. We like to provide insights for those who have never done this type of trip. Please visit us in Florida. We keep telling people about your lovely winery and fantastic wines. Hopefully, they will visit. Thanks again for commenting.
3rd November 2018

Wow, what amazing photos! Well done on being able to spot so much - a leopard, a lion kill, and giraffes running - amazing! ?
3rd November 2018

It truly was an amazing experience. We saw far more than we could have expected. Our timing was very good. I loved the giraffes running.
1st December 2018

Out of Africa
Since I saw that movie Africa has been on my travel wish list. You’ve had an amazing experience and I love the style of travel ...that’s a a super “tent”. As I’ve been on the road these past months I haven’t really had time to read your blogs properly so am doing so now on a rainy NZ day !
1st December 2018

Out of Africa
No rush on reading the blogs. They will be there and we want you to relax and enjoy them. These were luxury tents. We've saved for this trip a long time. It was all I could have imagined and more.
7th December 2018

Great Trip!
I'm happy to see that you enjoyed your trip, and jealous that you saw a leopard!
7th December 2018

Great Trip!
It was a great trip. We saw several Leopards and they are amazing. Thank you for following along. Thank you for commenting.
27th December 2018

Ah yes, those lions...
Hello MJ and D! The lion encounters in the wild are adrenaline provoking to say the least! It’s because they saunter so slyly and you have no idea what’s going on in that head full of mane. One minute they are still, the next they are on a mission, and all you can do is hold your breath and pray it doesn’t take another step towards you... So much fun! Lol
28th December 2018

Those Lions
They do saunter so slyly and at times you don't fear them and that is a mistake. Loved our trip. Thank you for following along and commenting.

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