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July/Aug 2023 Return to Sabi Sand


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Just another Sabi Sand trip.  It was quickly planned late last year when I realize I had blown several opportunities to go on safari during long breaks from teaching at my new school.  More of a "gosh, darn it, book a trip for next summer already". We booked everything ourselves, using Danielle at Londolozi's reservations. She was outstanding with explanations, answering questions, and handling our requests. And so, here it is.


Apologies in advance, the trip will have to be documented slowly because I am back at work.  But if I don’t start soon, I’m liable to forget to do it at all.  (Shame on me for not completing the Zambia trip report).  I find when I start looking at pictures, I stop writing and uploading and just go off and plan the next trip, so I will try to stick this one out.


We flew Ethiopian IAD ADD JNB.  We spent the night at the Intercontinental, grabbed dinner at the nearby Braza at the Emperor’s Palace very close to the airport. Considering the load-shedding we did not want to take our chances with traffic lights being out and getting stuck in traffic for the evening.  Normally we used to go to Sandton for dinner, but we tried Braza in 2021 and thought it was great - and it still is!


Next morning, we took the short hop on Federal Air to the Londolozi airstrip.  Slight rant here, but Federal Air does whatever the heck it wants with your schedule. Supposedly they had expanded their schedule to 2 flights a day to the camps but on the day we flew, they decided to make it just one flight.  Instead of leaving at 11:30 we left at 12:30. Now I know, they were combining everyone together and putting us on a slightly larger plane so they could operate just one, but had I known, I could have lingered over breakfast at the hotel in the morning a bit longer. A similar situation was encountered on the return.  Thankfully, their waiting area is very comfortable with coffee and many types of snacks, and we are always sociable with all the other passengers, so the time passed quickly.  Ok, rant over.


Barry, our ranger and Tshepo our tracker welcomed us at the airstrip. They whisked us off to camp for lunch and the usual briefing and took care of everything bag related while we relaxed.  The Founders camp family suite (we like lots of room) was AWESOME.  Sorry no pictures, they are truly accurate on the website.  But I will drop this:  the plunge pools are Heated!  Most days, I would walk the length of the camps after lunch then take a 45-minute nap in the pool.  Heaven.  There are many things that make Londolozi truly stand out on the hospitality side but I’m not going to elaborate here.  Just trust me.  If you are ever considering this camp, I don’t think you would be disappointed. 


 Barry and Tshepo did a great job for us, and we hope to be fortunate enough to have them again.  Since we had a nice long stay, we asked for longer, quality sightings rather than high quantities.  As a result, we often spent 20 – 30 minutes at many of the sights, unless we thought the animals were going take a nice long siesta.  Our priorities were cats and dogs. If a cheetah were available, we would drop everything and go.  Next up leopards and lions and of course if dogs happened to charge in – abandon everything for dogs. I asked for hippos if possible, animals with a reflection in the water, male lions roaring.  Fortunately, nature cooperated.  Spoiler alert:  we saw cheetah three times!


July 23rd. First evening drive: (later I’m just going to list these as a drive.  I’m not sure I can keep up with the numbers).


First up, barely out of camp and came across some warthogs having a mud bath.  Ahh the spa of it.  Considering they usually run away, I took a quick snap and off we went.



A majestic fish eagle was scanning for prey.  Too bad the sun was on his back.  I tried to wait him out, willing him to turn his head, but it was not to be. I tend to not do too much lightroom unless I want to print something.




And then, my wishes came true!  A leopard!  Actually, there were two, mating and resting deep in the bush.  The female was too deep in the bush I could only get decent shots of the male – but decent shots they were.







We stayed with them a long time, hoping they would once again mate, but it didn’t seem as if it would happen.  We moved on, but soon after got a call that they were on the move. Luck was with us as they were coming our way.



One finally moved into better light.



Wanting a little privacy here.




And yet, came right past the vehicle. The leopard was moving, we were stopping/starting/stopping – you know the drill.  So apologies for the movement blur, but it’s still a delightful image.



One last shot up on the termite mound, then they moved off into brush again so we carried on.




So far, a fantastic first evening.  However, just when you thought the drive couldn’t be better, we came along this in the distance.  I confess I lightened it up a bit because it was starting to get dark.




We came closer and the cheetah was totally nonplused by our existence.




It climbed down from the termite mound and we tracked him at a distance.




When he cleared the trees and brush, I was able to zoom in again.  Bear in mind it was getting dark, but I was still able to catch some light in his eyes. I could seriously photo the same cheetah for hours on end.




After spending more than a bit of time here, we let him be and called it a night.  I’m not big on driving around in the darkness with a spotlight.  I can do it for a bit, but I’d rather hit a sundowner or early cocktails at the lodge.  On this first drive, I’m sure it was a sundowner as Barry and Tshepo were the perfect hosts but how can a sundowner hold a candle to two major, spend a much time as we want, cat sightings during one drive? Most of the time with the cheetah we were the only vehicle.  We had him all to ourselves.





Edited by TravelMore
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~ @TravelMore:


What terrific Sabi Sands wildlife images!


Thank you so much for posting them here.


You've made my week!


         Tom K.

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Thank @Tom Kellie!  It was such a great trip I couldn't write about it without being transported back to the reserve!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Finally, another installment.

July 24. After coffee, rusks, and muffins on deck we embarked on our first morning drive. After seeing both leopards and a cheetah on our first night drive I was hoping for some lions. 


 I’ll start with a quick snap of the sunrise.  I always say I’m going to spend more time on sunrise photos but am always too eager to find the game we had traveled so far and long to see.  Mornings were on the chilly side, usually low 50’s Fahrenheit. I was thankful for my beanie, duff (aka gaitor in the US), and layers. Although I had scored some really great and flexible gloves from REI, I didn’t really need them until the last day.




As cold as it was, we could often spot a predator high up in a tree.  I’m not really good on identifying birds (brown snake eagle, thx @michael-ibk).


 I confess, I did a quick lightening of the picture as it was still rather dark, and I wanted all of you to be able to see its coloring and texture.



We saw several storks throughout the reserve.  I was surprised when we found this guy, as I’m more used to seeing them around a larger body of water.  There were a few very small puddles as the reserve had rain in the prior week. 



We came across a hyena, with quite a full belly. 




A second hyena showed up and they acknowledged each other.




A final picture before we left, and then we were off to round off our Big Cat Search!




Lions!!! We found a male, two lionesses and six cubs.  This little cub potentially wanted to climb but decided it was too much effort.





 Closeup for cuteness.




Five fur balls in a pile, snuggled up against mom.





Love seeing these tender grooming moments.





The mama is quite a beauty.




A second female, eyelids are heavy, she appeared to be fighting off dozing until we left.



While the females were gorgeous, the male looked like he had a rough night and needed his beauty sleep.  Fortunately, the cubs let him be.





Really nice shots of wildebeest this trip.  They allowed me to get shots of their faces. Sorry, I know I need to work on these to get rid of the shadow but I need to get better at lightroom.






Moving on to our coffee stop, bee eaters made homes along the sand river’s banks.  Silly me, I spent a long time trying to get these two in a decent shot, only to miss many more if I had snuck up a few more steps.  When I finally moved dozens of them flew off.







We came upon another waterhole with hippos, crocs, and elephants.  Unfortunately, I spent too much time on the hippo and the elephants turned and walked off.  I was determined to catch a hippo with a bit of a splash.  We played peek a boo for about 10 minutes and this was the best I could do. 





This guy was a Monster!







The elephants, tired of waiting for me to take the picture, left the water hole.




End of the morning drive, but what a drive it was!  We dropped our gear at the room and went to breakfast.  

Edited by TravelMore
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On 9/17/2023 at 4:37 AM, TravelMore said:

I’m not really good on identifying birds so if someone chimes in, I’ll edit this post with its name.


Looks like a Brown Snake Eagle. Beautiful photos.:)

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On 9/18/2023 at 6:09 AM, michael-ibk said:


Looks like a Brown Snake Eagle. Beautiful photos.:)

Thx  I'll update !:D

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