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Trip Report Trip Report Djuma/Londolozi/Lion Sands

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Well its taken over a month for me to get settled back in and pictures and videos up and time to think about the trip. I traveled in late August to mid September, my favorite time to be there.

This was my longest trip so far and there was lots of great and not so good events that occurred.

The total trip was 15 nights in the bush and 1 night at in Joberg in transit.

I can very highly recommend Bateleur Air if you decide to transfer by charter to Sabi Sands. They are incredibly professional. I even accidently left my Ipod on the plane and they managed to return it to me at Londolozi!

My first 3 nights of my adventure started at Djuma Vuyatela Lodge and it started well. My first drive, I was with Marc Weiner of Safari TV on camera for 3 hours ! Marc is wonderful and it was a very unique experience. If you want to exeperience game drives where you need a "fix", go to http://www.wildearth.tv/safari-tv where they have two game drives per day. Its not the same as being there, but it sure helps provide a "fix" while you are sitting at home.

The lodge was very clean and the rooms were nice, but I did have some minor and major disappointments when I arrived. The first, was I was promised room 2 by the lodge manager, however when I got there, I was told that someone else was there already. They did move me the following day, but it was a not my idea of a good time. I switched to a Djuma ranger, Henry who did a great job of finding wildlife. However as can be expected when sharing experiences with other guests, things may not go the way you want it. We were on a leopard kill and we decided to leave. While leaving the kill, a second leopard approached the kill. Now to me, that interaction would be exciting to watch, but Henry offered to see a lion kill that we had already seen. The other guests decided to see that instead. I think he could have easily talked them into staying to see something unique rather than to see lions eat the same thing we had already seen....oh well. Other than that, the game viewing experience was very good.

My biggest disappointment came on the 3rd and final night there. After we got back from the night drive, Henry offered to take me to my room because the porter was escorting other guests. This was great and at the room he asked me when I wanted to be picked up for dinner and I said 10 minutes. 35 minutes later I was still waiting in my room. I tried to call all the numbers I had and no one was answering. I was about to walk to dinner which is a big no no when finally there was a knock on the door. Henry was very apologetic and stated that all the guests were sitting for dinner and they finally noticed I was not there. As you can imagine, I was quite angry. To add to this, on the way to dinner, I, in my anger, was not paying attention and tripped and fell, badly bruising my knee. Of course there were the usual apologies, but I was still not happy. The following day I expected to hear from management about the event, but there was nothing. I ended up writing to the GM and I got a reply they were looking into it, and then...nothing!

One comment on the room design, is that while the rooms are large, comfortable and beautifully appointed, there is a major design flaw. There is no proper indoor shower. They have a bath tub with a shower handle. I found this to be very annoying. If you try to shower standing up, water splashes all over the place and if you try to do it sitting down it is very awkward. There is an outdoor shower which is fun, however if you do not want to do that, you either need to be into baths or the shower handle in the tub.

The food there was tasty, the desserts excellent. There were a couple of dishes I had to try to fight with. Personally I would not serve meat dishes on the bone where its not easy to get the meat off. I got tired of fighting with the bone publicly for meat and gave up. Again, thats me, so not everyone would have my problem.

I am sure most people will have a wonderful time there, however, for me I will not be returning. The lodge does provided a great value, their lack of appreciation for what happened to me will keep me away.

Shots taken at Djuma http://www.pbase.com/mytmoss/djuma_2010

I then transferred to Londolozi Granite Lodge and all I can say is WOW. The room was very large and beautiful. The cost here was about 60% higher than Djuma, so not everyone will see its value, but I sure did. There are only 3 rooms at Granite and there is a maximum of 6 people in the vehicle where Djuma can have up to 8. This is very important to me because of my interest in photography.

My ranger was David and Kate was the lodge manager. What impressed me almost immediately is that they asked me if I liked to eat by myself or I would like company. I have never been asked this before, and since I travel along I thought the question was great. I always prefer company and they always joined me at breakfast and dinner which made my trip most enjoyable. The food was excellent and the service top notch !

David is an excellent ranger and my experiences there were incredibly unique. During my 6 days there, we got to see 34 lions, 5 leopards, 3 cheetah and a host of other animals. I was fortunate to see a leopard and hyena eating together on the same kill, a leopard and giraffe next to each other and lions interacting in ways I have never seen.

Even David was in awe of the experiences we shared. My final day, I had the pleasure of being driven by Chris Goodman, the head ranger and a specially equipped photographic vehicle that only seats 2! The seats were extremely comfortable and they rotated so that you can take photos from many angles. This vehicle is very expensive, so it will not be for everyone, but it will provide you with an experience you cannot get from the normally equipped landrovers.

Londolozi is a very large piece of property, over 15,000 hectares. This means that often you get to be at sightings where you can sit for hours. I spent hours with lions, leopards, wild dog and hyena. This experience was a bit unique to me as often with the best sightings, you are pushed off because other visitors want to see the animals too. Quite often my experiences elsewhere were limited to about 20 minutes but not at Londolozi. Almost every sighting, I could sit there for as long as I wanted. This was
especially fun when viewing lion cubs playing and sitting at a hyena den.

I definitely plan to return to Londolozi on my next trip ! Photos taken at Londolozi http://www.pbase.com/mytmoss/londolozi_2010

I was transferred to Lion Sands by Londolozi for free! This also was unique for me and I appreciated it for it gave me some extra time to spend with David.

My stay at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge was again a wonderful experience. The rooms there are so incredible as is the food and safari experience. Because I have been there so many times, I felt I was staying with family. I had 3 rangers there Trevor, who was my very first ranger on my first 2 trips, drove me for the first 2 days before he went on leave.

If you get Trevor you will get probably the best ranger you will ever have. After he left, I then got to experience both Talley and Stanley. Both are friendly and have an incredible wealth of knowledge. It never ceased to amaze me some of the birds that Stanley located just based on their calls. I got to experience some bird sightings that I have never seen before. The leopard and lion sightings were OK, but the weather made some photography really tough as it was quite overcast for several days.

I did get to see the new rooms and room remodels at River Lodge. These rooms are so nice now, that I think on my next trip there, I will experience River Lodge to save some money. With the very poor exchange rate of dollar to rand at the moment, I think this maybe what I can do to afford it better. After seeing the rooms, especially the deluxe rooms, I will have no problem giving up the plunge pool to save serious money. Also I said before, I prefer to dine with others, so the privacy that Ivory Lodge provides for you is not that important to me. The food is equally wonderful at both lodges, so there will be no suffering there! I was delighted to see the viewing deck rebuilt so that I could sit over the Sabi River and watch the world flow by.

Oscar is the lodge manager and his assistant is Nicolene. They do a wonderful job managing the lodge. They do everything in their power to make the experience wonderful.

Nicolene even assisted in helping me back as my suitcase was so full, I had trouble getting everything in!

I would have no trouble recommending any of the LS rangers, but as I mentioned before, Trevor is the best. If you happen to get Alan, you will also be in for a great experience!

Since I have come back, there have been some great changes at Lion Sands as far as traversing rights. There is now an agreement with Kirkmans that will expand Lion Sands vehicles to traverse an additional 2500 hundred hectares. This will be great for game viewing and the slight additional of Kirkman vehicles on Lion Sands property will not have a major impact on "traffic". Lion Sands does have a strict policy of only 2 vehicles per sighting, so you will never feel that there are too many vehicles interfering with the lives of the game.

As with Londolozi, I definitely plan to return to Lion Sands, my 2nd home ! Photos can be seen at http://www.pbase.com/mytmoss/londolozi_2010

Videos of this trip as well as others can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mytmoss&aq=f. I am not a very good videographer. My photos are much better, but these provide snippets as to what I saw.

Mike

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