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Sabi Sands Trip Report for Dec 2005/Jan 2006

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With people returning from trips after me, I feel I should let no more time pass before I begin, so:
Part 1
Brisbane, Australia via Hong Kong to Johannesburg - Normally I go Qantas to Sydney then onto Johannesburg, but I get so sick of them not having a frequent flyer seat available, that I went Cathay Pacific this time, which meant a flight that was considerably longer, but I left Sunday at 1pm and I arrived at our 1st destination for lunch on Monday which I was thrilled about. We did a combo of business/first and the time always passes way too slowly, no matter how much I drug myself. I usually take a niece and this time it was Sarah who is 22 years old and has had a week in Tanzania in Feb 2001, when we did the Bahamas, New York and Tanzania. The gameviewing was particularly disappointing, so I was really hoping for great gameviewing on this trip.
So we flew directly to MalaMala, and were picked up for 1 night to Ivory Lodge at Lion Sands, knowing I would be back for another 2 nights after Xmas. We went to 4 places this time, which I don't like but because of certain restrictions, that is how it turned out and I would not do it again! Two is definitely my limit!
The accomodation at Ivory Lodge is fantastic and I loved the rooms. Having to go outside to get to the lounge is odd and the lounge can only be used during the day because of that. I am not a food person at all, so the food was fine. Sarah is a really fussy eater, and she certainly found enough to eat everywhere and neither eat what we can gameview, and that often really limits what is available. The location on the Sabie River is beautiful, Sarah often said the outlook looks fake as it was so lovely - not that we often saw any animals, and God knows I look! From the dining deck, we did see one or ele bulls and a beautiful bushbuck and her baby which were not tame, but certainly let you get quite close.
Gameviewing - we did see 3 leopards in our two gamedrives which was great. An older female called Magondzwane Female, one of her daughter's, Warthog Wallow Female and the territorial male, Tumbela. We saw two lions of the Roller Coaster Males (sorry these are MalaMala names)and a lioness and her 3 subadults of 3 years of age from the Hilda Rock Pride. We saw a mixture of antelope, some hippo and that was it. So for our 1st stop, we thought we had done pretty well.
Next up we had 7 days at MalaMala. We had Leon as our ranger and most gamedrives we shared the vehicle with other people. It was during this time, that I have had the worst people to share with. It was a child problem, and the boys involved were 19 & 21 and it was the family from hell and I really do not need to say anymore. I am always comfortable here as I have been here quite a few times and my stays are reasonably long, but I do love it!
Gameviewing - always fantastic and this time was no different. I love so many things, but we saw the male subadults of the Eyrefield Males, did not see the adult male which was a bit disappointing. We saw zebra, buffalo, monitor lizards, skinks, all sorts of birds, giraffe, kudus, impala, leopard tortoise - and I always need to get out and photograph these at ground level -hippo, the Styx Pride including the poor old female who died shortly after we left, and the poor thing did look dreadful so a blessing!,the two Split Rock Males, beautiful klipspringers, 2 types of snake, gennet, bushbuck, dwarf mongoose (Sarah's favourite), rhino, cheetah - a magnificent sighting of a female with 3 cubs about 10-12 months of age and we saw them two different gamedrives, waterbuck, crocodile, hippo, the beautiful saddle billed stork and probably a lot that I didn't photograph, as that is all I keep a list of. In this week, we saw 13 different leopard which included a kill. The Ngoboswan Female was lying down at night, then all of a sudden she was up stalking and sped of and we heard the scuffle and then the cry of a duiker, we were there within 60 seconds. Unfortunately she had the back of the neck, not the front and it would have taken her about 8 minutes to kill it. No sooner had she done that and rested for about a minute, she shot up a tree. No sooner had she done that, there were two hyena racing in, obviously hearing the distress call of the duiker. We also had a very special sighting with ele, the best our ranger says he has seen in the 15 odd years Leon has been a ranger. Going back to breakfast, we had stopped not far from camp to watch ele partaking in a mud bath. The young ele are just so funny to watch as the longer there are in the mud, the more they roll around and look to be having the best time. So after 30-40 minutes, they had started to move away, and so did we. Then as we were ready to cross the causeway, ele started coming from the opposite bank through the Sand River and headed east. It was easily over a hundred and as they blocked the causeway, we were stuck. Leon had to reposition the vehicle constantly as they seemed to be heading in all directions.
Unfortunately, this memory card was left behind in a safe and was never found, so for the first 6 days of our gameviewing, I only had a handful of shots that I had taken on film. I was not happy, but what can you do! The gameviewing here was great, with both leopard, lion and cheetah and I also love taking photos of many other things, and I have some great photos from the end of my 1st week at MalaMala.
We were also upgraded for the last 2 days of our stay to Rattrays - a magnificent room. This and Lion Sands are my favourites, though both very different, I loved them both - the gameviewing is way better at MalaMala.
From here we went to Singita Boulders.
This is my 3rd visit and we were only here for 2 nights. I really still come here to see someone that works here. The accomodation is lovely, but not my favourite. The gameviewing is OK. We did have a great sighting with another Cheetah and her 7 month old cub and we saw one male leopard. We also saw a lion pride, Otttawa Pride and 2 of the lionesses had 6 cubs of 12 months, and there were 3 older subadults of around 3 years of age, one of the males has only one eye and I was pleased to see him doing so well. Got great photos of a hinged tortoise here, as well as drinking buffalo. The food was good but up until now we had very unfortunate weather, and that actually happened for most of the trip. Over half the days would have been overcast or raining, and it was relatively cool on a lot of days, and bordering on cold in the early morning and at night. Not what I consider to be summer in South Africa!
Next chapter we head off to Londolozi!

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