Lion Sands and Phinda

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Jan 23rd, 2006, 01:00 PM
  #1
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Lion Sands and Phinda

Recently, last September, I went back to South Africa to visit both Phinda (Forrest Lodge) and Lion Sands (Ivory Lodge). This was my 4th trip and I went back to both of those lodges because of both comfort and animal life viewing. I recommend September because its the end of the dry season, usually not too hot and there is lots of animal live to see.

Phinda is run by CCAfrica and my ranger there was Walter. I would highly recommend Walter for both his knowledge and his understanding of how to make his guests happy. All intra South Africa air travel was arranged by CCAfrica. Since I wasn't there to see any cities, I was able to spend 12 nights in the reserves with no intermediate stops.

Phinda has an abundance of wildlife, however the main reason I went there mainly for their Cheetah sightings. They have lions and leopards too, however the leopards are rarely sighted. I spent 5 wonderful days at Phinda.

I then flew to Lion Sands which is a privately owned lodge on the border of Kroeger National Park. There are two lodges there, Ivory and River. The Ivory Lodge is very pricey, however its worth it if you can afford it. The vehicles there sit a maximum of 6 people and on every seat, there are complimentary field guides and binoculars. Leopard and lion sightings are VERY common. On more than 1 day there, we saw all big 5 animrals. The ranger I had was Trevor (he usually works River Lodge) and he is outstanding as his his tracker Juice.I have been to Londolozzi also and by far, I feel that Lion Sands is superior. Lion Sands is family owned and it doesn't seem to suffer from the corporate mentality some other reserves have.

Both reserves do night/evening drives also. The vehicles are Landrovers with no windows or doors. They also both do off road when required for best animal viewing and access.

I have put up some links as to photos I took at these parks.

http://www.pbase.com/mytmoss/lion_sands_2005

http://www.pbase.com/mytmoss/phonda_2005

http://www.pbase.com/mytmoss/lions_playing

Michael Moss
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Jan 23rd, 2006, 01:45 PM
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Can you describe the cheetah sightings that you had at Phinda? Thanks.
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Jan 23rd, 2006, 01:48 PM
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Just checked out the photos. Lovely shots, especially of lions. The baby ele at Lion Sands must have been very young.

Thanks for you Phinda comments and any others would be appreciated.
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Jan 23rd, 2006, 02:01 PM
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How teriffic that you had such a nice time! We had Walter as our ranger when we were at Phinda in 2004. It's nice to know that he's still there. He's a wonderful man indeed, and such a fine guide.
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Jan 23rd, 2006, 02:07 PM
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Walater has been there for 12 years. He was my ranger in 2004 also. The babt elephant was estimated to be a week old. Right after I took that shot, the mother got concerned that the baby was too close to the Landrover and reached out with her trunk and "reeled" the baby closer to her.
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Jan 23rd, 2006, 02:13 PM
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Oops, forgot to reply the question on the cheetah sightings.

The sightings were very common. We saw a lone female, a female with 4 cubs and a female with 5 cubs.

The female with the 4 cubs was the most common too see. I saw her on several occasions in my 5 days there. Her cubs were very healthy and active. The female with 5 cubs was only seen once and her cubs were not doing as well. The rangers thought at least one of them had mange. One's face looked more like a hyena then a cheetah because of the hair loss. On my previous trip to Phinda there was a coalition of 3 males there also. However one died and the coalition split up. At Phinda, it was very easy for the rangers to find cheetah as they tend not to wander too much from their favorite locations. I did see Cheetah in Lion Sands in 2004 but not 2005.
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Jan 23rd, 2006, 07:32 PM
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Was in lionsands in 2003. Spent two nights there. Saw a cheetah two evenings in a row and had a fantastic sighting of her trying to find a meal.

Lots of relaxed leopards in the reserve. However, it seems like lions are a hit or miss there. We just saw parts of a pride during a night drive and the pride disappeared into neighboring sabi sabi. Yes, we liked our time at River Lodge. I have been to Mala Mala in the sabi sands and would definitely rate the lion sands very high.
 
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Jan 24th, 2006, 08:08 AM
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My husband and I spent 2 days at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge in Sept. 2005 and our experience there was mixed. We loved the accomodations and food, but due to the lack of a guard rail along side the pool, I fell off, suffering a severe concussion at 10:00 the first night. During our first game drive earlier that night(which by the way was magnificent, seeing all Big 5 and much more) we told our ranger that we did not want to see a lion kill and he acknowledged that. The next morning considering the tremendous headache and nausea I was feeling, we reiterated that desire again the next morning. To our dismay, there was a very long and drawn out stalking of a buffalo herd (which the Sabi Sabi game rangers tried to block the Lion Sands guests view of) and the eventual killing of one on Lion Sands property. Our ranger told us this was very rare and he wasn't going to miss it as he drove us to within 10 feet of the killing. I became extremely ill, as did numerous other guests and we asked to leave, our ranger ignored us. Thank God, our tracker, (Raymond) forced him to do something and they moved me to another vehicle that was filled with horrified guests all wanting to leave. It took aver 45 minutes before that happened though and the effects of head injury had by then seriously compounded. I spent the rest of my visit (1 1/2 days) in bed and left SSGR not getting to see a leopard or get that horrible image out of my memory. When I told the managers about the fall, they just seemed oblivious and wished us a good trip. Subsequesntly, my travel agent at Rhino Africa in Cape Town, called the management and filed a complaint. They sent me a letter saying they were sorry, have addressed the safari staff and "are considering spending additional monies" of creating a "barrier" to prohibit direct access to the area surrounding the pool." I certainly hope they do, since I spent the rest of my vacation with an unbelievable headache and nausea.
As beautiful as the resort is, the negative experiences would keep us from going back.
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Jan 24th, 2006, 08:35 AM
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It is a shame you had both the fall and the failure of the rangers to abide by your wishes. If everyone in your vehicle wanted to leave the lion kill site, it should have been automatic for the ranger to leave. However if some guests want to see it and others don't, they do have a dilemna. Personally if I was in your vehicle forced to leave what I wanted to see, I would have been just as annoyed as you were for being forced to stay. In my 4 trips to Africa, I have yet to be in a vehicle with the folks didn't want to see hunting lions.

Unfortunately there is some bad blood between Sabi Sabi and Lion Sands. I wish they could resolve this. It would be better for the guests. We are not interested in their politics or bickering.

Its not easy to please everyone in the same vehicle. One solution to the problem is hiring your own vehicle there, which is very pricey, but then you can see exactly want you want to see.

I agree a railing would be nice to help prohibit a fall. I suspect they didnt put one up to make the "view" better with no interference. The ideas of safety in countries outside of the US, epsecially 3rd world countries can be quite different.
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Jan 24th, 2006, 07:53 PM
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santharamhari
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Jeez! I agree to the above post......the ranger will move away only if all members of the party want to leave. Believe me, most people on safari would love to share that moment of lions killing anything!!! (even a warthog!!!) but a buffallo???

I have been on 6 trips to Africa and woould love a moment like that.........one of these days!!!
 
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Jan 25th, 2006, 06:49 PM
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Just witnessed a Buffalo kill, working on a web site to post video, if anyone has any bright ideas I'd love to hear them.

When we realised what we were seeing, I was a little concerned that my wife would ahve a problem with it. We all did in that is was very visceral, very intense, physically and emotionally draining, but at the end of it, my wife said she would feel hypocritical if she wanted to be in the bush and just see the nice things. In 8 days on Mala Mala I saw over 600 Buffalo and 26 Lion, and Lion have to eat.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 05:42 AM
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I used to watch the wild animal shows on TV and I would always change the channel when I thought a "kill" might be coming up. I just couldn't stand to watch it. Now that I've been to Africa and realize what it takes for the animals to survive it doesn't bother me as much. I would feel very fortunate to see a successful lion hunt. However, in October we drove up on huge a pride of lions feeding on a baby elephant (we estimated 2 years old) and I was really glad we didn't see or hear the kill. I do sympathize with anyone having to watch that when they don't want to.

Michael, you have some wonderful images! I loved the playing lions and all the playing cheetah from 2004. I've only seen cheetah twice now, once briefly at MalaMala (watched a short unsuccessful stalk) and then 2 brothers in Botswana in October. I may have to check out Phinda! It sounds like you had a excellent trip and outstanding images.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 07:59 AM
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Thanks Sundowner about your picture comments. Phinda does indeed have frequent and great cheetah viewing. If you do go there, make sure you ask for Walter to be your guide. He is by far and away one of the best rangers I have had.
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