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Trip Report 3 nights Idube Sabi Sands

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I split up my trip report because I have been really busy since returning and I was unsure how long it might take me to finish. I've got some free time, so I will put down my thoughts on our second reserve safari, though they may be disorganized. I'll come back later if I remember more. So... our 3 nights at Idube in SS. After our 2 nights in Timbavati, we were now veteran truck safari passengers and knew what to expect.

We did see the difference in the two reserves as discussed on this board and among fellow guests at Timbavati. We were told there was a better probability of seeing leopards, closer encounters and more frequent sightings in SS. We were also told how the different lodges shared traversing rights, which explains a lot - more trucks over the same size area means more eyes with radios and animals that endure more trucks each day, so more accustomed to them. We did have the closest encounter with the buffalo in Timbavati. Thanks to whoever posted the link to the Sabi Sands map. /www.sabisand.co.za/ssw-map.html It really helped me understand the idea of traversing areas. We were in the western area. There was a wildfire in the northern area that created some beautiful sunsets, but I never got details about how large it was or if any of the lodges were affected.

The schedule was the same as all other lodges--up at 5:30am, coffee/tea, ride (hot water bottles provided in truck here), food (trying brunch here), 4 hour break (optional .5-1 hr nature walk), food (called it high tea), ride, dinner, bed. Our ranger was excellent, but he is leaving for Singita. All the staff were customer service oriented and extremely attentive. The Toyota trucks had more bounce in the back seat than the Land Rovers we had ridden in before. A truck broke down at this reserve too. The number of people on a truck ranged from 2 to 7.

The brick cottages were large, nicely furnished, with wall a/c for summer, large porches. Photos on website accurate. The lawn was manicured grass instead of natural sand/scrub. An electric fence kept out large animals (not the monkeys, warthogs, and nyala. If you leave a door open to your room for 2 minutes, the monkeys will be in the room searching for food. We heard, but didn't see the baboon and hyena. There was a pool for summer. The main building lounge had TV, wifi. Dinner (choice of two entrees) cooked by a chef was served on tablecloth covered tray tables in a semicircle in the sand around a fire. Try to scoot your blanket covered chair up under a tray table set with wine glasses in the sand. Not graceful. Staff gets to eat what the guests do not choose. I had images of them thinking "take the fish, take the fish" when they wanted the chicken for their dinner. The utility company turned off the electricity one day for repairs and the generator didn't work. The poor kitchen staff had to cook by lantern and if they didn't get the electricity back on that night I am unsure what we would have done for water (no pump). Thankfully, it came on during dinner, so we had water to flush toilets.

It is probably easier to list what we did not see than what we saw on the 6 drives. We did see cheetah, leopard, lions, rhino, hippo, giraffe, elephants, monitor lizards, crocodile, wildebeest, hyena, stork, vultures, zebras.buffalo. We also saw other trucks at almost every sighting. They do call each other to coordinate tracking and "schedule" viewings so that no more than 3 trucks are following an animal at close range at a given time. We got lucky one trip. We took the place of another truck that gave up on some leopard cubs (it was the third time in 3 days that we were there). We agreed to wait and were rewarded with the mother bringing the cubs out to nurse and play. She did come over to the truck and that was the only time we were told to freeze until she returned to the cubs. We heard that the guides from another lodge had been scratched when (I think) a leopard jumped into their truck recently. It was one of the trucks with no doors by the driver and front seat. It was amazing how close and how long we followed animals like cheetah and how close we sat watching lions eat. It is hard to believe they tolerate the trucks. I know they are acclimated, but still they do get irritated. When he started the truck by relaxed lions, one would raise its head and snarl much like I do when someone disturbs my sleep.

We tried the nature walk because we knew one person wanted to go, but didn't want to ask. It was short and as expected with explanation of tracks and a stop at the water hole. Nice to stretch the legs. We are used to sitting all day working, but we also get in 1-2 hours of walking each day and missed it while in the reserves.

Going into SS, the gate guards had the rhino sniffing dog check our van, but not on the way out. While there, we heard the dog had escaped and was lose in the reserve. We had mental images of the poor hound, nose to the ground, eagerly tracking live rhino rather than the smuggled horn it was trained to find. Luckily, they found the dog before it found a rhino. Because of the poaching problem, rangers are not allowed to tell of rhino sightings on the radio. We were lucky then to spot rhinos three times in three nights.

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    Photographers--
    We had heard both good and bad about serious photographers.

    Good--they would be patient companions, willing to wait to see an animal rather than speed dating to check names off a list.

    Bad--they take up the entire row of seats behind the ranger with their equipment, want the truck positioned so they get the best shot, and want to wait for just that perfect shot when everyone else is ready to move on.

    We saw both.

    The first time a serious one was going out with us, he tried to place his gear across the entire first row before joining everyone else at tea, but the ranger had put something in one of the seats. I think he was trying to save it for someone else to use. When another serious team joined us and put their equipment across the first row, I thought a fight might break out, but they settled it amicably with one insisting the back row was better for video. The first photographer seemed to become more accommodating to rest of us when the others joined. Maybe he didn't recognize his own behavior until he saw it in others.

    We also had a photographer who was not adept at changing lenses. So, everyone else would be finished looking at something, finished taking photos and videos, and when the guide asked "Ready?", she would say "just a minute" while she struggled to change the lens one more time. This eventually led to a discussion of lenses with more range. Some of my point and shoot photos do have telephoto lenses in them. I can see them despite the camouflage.

    Food--
    At both lodges we ate too much. We were hungry at mealtime and we didn't snack in between, but it was still more food than we are used to when compared to our oatmeal breakfast, salad based lunch, etc. The food at Idube was fancier than at our tented camp, but not much better. Simple food seemed to fit a safari anyway in my mind.

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    Photographers can be a pain. Especially if it is there first safari. A very serious photographer will have their own game drive vehicle.

    But if photographers are "bad", you haven't been with "twitchers" (birders).

    Three nights in one camp and two in another. That is truly the "luck of the draw", i.e. one draw, high card wins. Not bragging but I've been on over 200 game drives and everyone is different. Not all have been fantastic, or awesome, or great, but all have been good. I miss Africa.

    regards - tom
    ps - nature/game walks are known as "plant and poop" walks. The ranger purposely avoids any of the big 5.

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    One of the rangers we talked with said he thought all serious photographers should hire a private vehicle, but they don't. He was the one who suggested we watch for the territorial behavior.

    I have been on birdwatching walks, but not entire trips. We even hired a private guide and driver to go birdwatching in Thailand and had a great time in the forest though I don't know many birds. I also find serious birders a mixed bag. Some are eager to share their binoculars and help novices see the target. Others think their spotting or photo the most important in the world. I tend to like to sit quietly in the bush, so waiting for either a bird or photo doesn't usually bother me. I may be looking at something totally different though.

    We enjoyed our short nature walk, but we knew what it would be. We stopped and watched the hippos for a long time at the water hole.

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