Africa, South Africa

Sunrise and Sunset Safari Game Drives

Before the crack of dawn and it was still dark out, we pulled out our flashlight and checked both windows of our room to make sure no dangerous visitor outside before opening the door. Our morning game drive started just before sunrise and it was cold! The lodge supplied thick blanket so it was put to good use but I wished we brought our Iceland hat; my head was extremely cold when the safari truck driving fastly through the open roads. It was a quiet morning and the first animal we saw was this Kudu jumped into the bushes when our truck was approaching.

It was getting brighter and brighter as the sun raised.

Good morning folks!

After driving around and around, we didn’t see much that morning as they were searching for leopards for the Indian couple, thankfully it was their last game drive! We drove to a small lake and there is a hippo inside. DeBeer said hippos are very territorial. They are carnivores but when someone (people or animal) step in the lake, the hippo viewed it as an invasion of their home so they will fight to defend it.  Don’t be fooled by the hippo’s fat and clumsy look, they can run up to 19 mph so don’t get too close and do not step into their territory! They are dangerous!

Next, we drove by a small rocky hill where a family of wild dogs was sleeping except for this fella who looked like guarding for its family:

Mommy and the baby:

It was watching us and we left after a few photos and tried not to disturb them.

As Jamie drove through bushes, we saw a group of zebras OMG finally the zebras! However, they were still blocked by the branches inside 🙁 Jamie could’ve gone to the other side for better viewing angle but he didn’t, instead, he continued on to try to look for the leopards GRRRR!

We kept driving around and around but no sign of the leopards, there was a brief moment when I was so cold that I fell asleep! Yikes! We reached a dried up river and as the truck was crossing it and driving up the sandy hill, we heard a loud sound that sounded like something broke. The truck drifted back down the hill and got STUCK! OMG now what? DeBeer and Jamie were very calm and said “well, then it’s good timing for our morning tea”! DeBeer went to the back of the truck, pulled out a foldable table and start setting up coffee and tea!!! Urg, is it safe to get out of the car??

We hesitated and DeBeer said “come down”….alright…we trusted him. We couldn’t believe how crazy it was lol we were stuck in the ditch out in the dangerous wild wild Africa ahhhh! Remember the animal viewed us a part of the car so in the worst case, we just run back into the car? LOL! We had some fun time taking photos with the stuck-safari truck!

DeBeer jumped in the photo too!

Finally, a group photo of us 4 adventurous travelers 🙂

The dried up river, now only sand left.

We waited for almost a good hour before another safari truck came to the rescue!

It pulled our truck out easier and the other ranger drove our truck in high speed and made it up the hill!

See the sandy dust he made?

Something definitely broke and we lost 4-wheel drive so we couldn’t go off-road anymore. We stayed on the road and made it back to our lodge safely. A condor?

We got back in time for breakfast, what a morning!

We had breakfast under the tree with our own table, it was nice!

After breakfast, we decided to have the bush walk with Jamie and he briefed us before we headed out. He carried a rifle with him and we followed him on a single line as instructed by him.

OMG OMG, are we crazy?

This used to be a waterhole but had dried up due to the drought 🙁

The landscape of Sabi Sands:

Jamie educated us on how they locate the animals….one common way was by tracking the footprints.

He was able to tell what animal footprints were those!

White poops! It belong to one kind of animal but I forgot the name 🙁

Despite being winter and the drought, some trees still have leaves.

See, we were in the wild, there was an impala nearby! Jamie saw footprints of a leopard, he said he’ll have DeBeer to check it out.

This tree looked different, it’s bark was flaky.

We didn’t know where we walked to but then we saw we were on the other side of the waterhole facing our lodge! Wow, we made it that far?

The most right room was our room!

We made it safely back to the lodge phew!!! We had a few hours before lunch and the afternoon game drive so we just relaxed at the pool area and watch the animals on the waterhole.

We thought it was winter there so we didn’t pack a swimsuit awwww!

Sokunna did pack her shorts so she was able to have a dip in the water..at least with her legs….refreshing missy? Brian, on the other hand, was enjoying his cold beer while working LOL!

We went around to take photos of this lovely lodge while the two hang out at the pool.

The viewing deck!

Look, a waterbuck or Kudu?

They found their way up to our lodge :O

This waterbuck was like 5 feet away from me, it was only interested in the leaves!

We kept a safe distance and continued to photograph it.

I like its “urg” and clueless look; it reminded me of someone LOL!

Hum…will this one come up too?

We walked back to the pool area and took more photos.

More fight going on down there?

We sat on the beach chair to relax and then birds came. The pair of brown birds landed on the edge of the infinity pool and start splashing water. They were so cute! Then the blue-purple bird came to have a sip and got annoyed by this bird splashing water on it LOL. It was entertaining to watch them!

We heard a drum sound as a signal time for lunch!

We walked to our lovely table.

I ordered the calamari salad, the calamari was delicious but not enough to fill me up 🙁 I wished they offered bigger portion! We ordered the peach iced tea, it was refreshing! It became our drink for all our meals!

Jason ordered the kebab, the meat was either waterbuck or Kudu! Jason and Brian definitely got to try out some unusual meat this trip.

Our safari truck was fixed yay (I am sure they have a backup truck)! Jamie and DeBeer checked out the leopard footprints we saw during the bush walk at the start of our afternoon game drive. The Indian couple was gone and another young couple from the US arrived and joined our group, they were super excited as it was their first game drive! They came straight to the private lodge, unlike us who did the self-drive first. When they saw the impala, they were like wow, haha, it reminded us our first time seeing the impala just as excited too!

We drove around and around to look for the leopard and then made a stop at this small pond again where we saw the hippo this morning. The hippo again….

DeBeer said here’s a challenge, can you see the leopard? What???? Leopard?? Where? We started to scan the area but couldn’t see it. DeBeer pointed, up on the hill, behind that bush! Where???? How he managed to see the leopard so far away??? Even he pointed the direction, we couldn’t see it at first. Then, Sokunna and Jason saw it…there there!

Can you see the leopard? It was hidden inside those tall grass!

Jamie drove around the edge of that small pond, it was scary at first because if our truck flip, we’ll become the hippo’s meal! Yikes! We got up to the hill and saw the leopard!

It was not hungry, instead, it was tired so it was just yawning LOL. This poor fella looked so tired and whenever he tried to sleep, the annoying flies keep waking it up!

Wake up again by the flies…..awww!

Jamie called the other rangers and when they came, we left to give them the spot. We felt DeBeer was always the one who found the leopards and lions so we were super lucky to have him as our tracker!

It was unbelievable on how DeBeer spotted the leopard from down here!

We continued our search and came across this open field and a buffalo’s skeleton was on the ground. This is the edge of Sabi Sands and we couldn’t drive into the field to reach the skeleton. Brian asked, can we walk there? Jamie said sure….OMG…crazy idea! DeBeer went with Brian…..

DeBeer scanned the area and determined it was safe to do so….still crazy…

We were in the car watching Brian who decided to lift up the head for a photo LOL!

It was almost sunset, we said, is there any place, an open area, where we can take photos of the beautiful sunset with animals? Jamie and DeBeer suggested a place and we went there. Another hippo!

This area is the commonplace to see this group of elephants, according to Jamie.

And more elephants:

Colorful sunset but too much trees blocked the elephant.

Aww how adorable is this little one?

Two on the back fighting, we wondered if they were fighting or playing?

We really didn’t get to see much today, unlike our incredible night last night. It totally set the bar yesterday so we were expecting more…knowing it was hard to beat!

After the sunset, we went back to our lodge where we saw a rabbit!

Dinner tonight was not at the restaurant, the staff kept it a surprise. They told us to wait at the bar and then our rangers will walk us there…..mysterious! When it was time, Jamie walked us to an area just outside our lodge, this fenced area with a bonfire, it was really nice!

The setup was definitely romantic with those solar powered lamps and under the stars!

It is a buffet style with grilled meats, fish, and vegetable, yay buffet, so I could go back for a second dish haha!!! I haven’t had a full meal on the past few meals, even though the food quality and taste were delicious in Arathusa, but their portions were so small; I was glad we had a buffet tonight. After a full dinner, we were escorted back to our room as a group! It was our last night at the lodge but we still have another morning drive to go before we head to Cape Town so not done yet….stay tuned 🙂

4 thoughts on “Sunrise and Sunset Safari Game Drives

  1. You did pretty well!I did not notice any cheetah, wild dogs or white rhino.Did you get the nocturnal glow from the lion or leopard?Any leopards in the tree with their kill?The New Arathusa units are much bigger as is the price tag.

    1. We didn’t see Cheetah as we were told they are rare in Sabi Sands. We did saw a family of wild dogs. No white rhinos. We didn’t witness any kill, our ranger said that is very rare, he only saw it a handful of times! I compared the prices of the lodges and Arathusa was the mid-range……I am planning a trip to Tanzania and the prices of similar quality lodges are much more expensive and not inclusive (game drives extra)!

  2. I had 20 leopard sightings in Sabi Sands,yet all but 3 of them were with the leopard in the tree either eating his kill or protecting it.The leopard in the tree pictures were my best.The leopard in the tree were always easy to find,because hyena were at the base of the tree waiting for scraps to drop.

    The Klaserie Reserve lodges (close to Hoedspruit)are the cheapest.In 2016 the us dollar was much stronger against the rand.I stayed in the smaller older Arathusa unit(pre enlargement) at a bargain rate.

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