African Safari. An expedition of unparalleled proportions. A journey into the raw, untamed predatory life of the wild beasts of the bush. An investigation that transcends the civilized, mundane, often mediocre world we morph into and out of...
Out there is another universe, life takes on another meaning...
The basic fundamentals of humanity and our relationship with nature are tested with one simple inquiry:
Are you the hunted or the hunter?
(For your sake and ours, let's hope you always remain the latter;)
We ended our amazing African adventure with the pièce de résistance, unequivocally the most unforgettable and exponentially educational experience of our visit to this exotic continent, African Safari.
We arrived at The Elephant Plains Lodge for our stay at Sabi Sands in Kruger's Park, arguably one of the most unique and deliciously remote and romantic places we've ever had the pleasure of sleeping in. This lodge is submerged into the African Bush and built in a way that does not compete with the natural habitat of the surroundings. When there, you are in essence just a few thatched roofs and sliding doors away from facing one of the Big five themselves. A place where TV, radios, internet, satellites and any other medium of technology is very limited and even completely non-existent. A place where dinner was announced by drum-beat and served around a camp-fire every night. A place where walking back to your cabin required a guide, flashlight and "emergency procedure" in the event we encountered a big cat or two on our way back to our door . They tell you the place is surrounded by an electric fence, however, upon arrival you realize that "electric fence" is only a few feet high enough to keep out those extra large mammals like Elephants and Rhinos who have the ability to stampede through and destroy an entire village; but does not keep away any and all wild animal that can jump over fences easily (i.e. Lions, Leopards, Hyenas, Baboons...etc.) We watched carefully every morning as the one of the ground keepers would sweep away Hyena footprints that just the night before had crossed right outside our door. Yes, to say the experience was not a bit frightening would be to fib. It was frighteningly fantastic!!!!
During our stay here we adhered to a very interesting schedule of rising at 5.am - the time the animals go out to hunt and feed - and asleep by no later than 10 p.m. Two game drives a day, the early dawn one and one at dusk (when the animals would once again go out to feed and the powerful African sun would begin to fade), pretty much dominated our days. Those game drives were the highlights of all highlights, never knowing what or who we would encounter, never knowing if we would finally get a glimpse of the Big Five, in all their stupendous and coveted glory!!!!
We were fortunate. Our Ranger - who by the way must graduate from an intense four-year college curriculum before ever dreaming of becoming an African Safari Guide - was a walking Encyclopedia of knowledge and factoids about the animals, Africa, and nature as whole. From the moment he introduced himself he candidly expressed there were no guarantees we would spot all the animals we dreamed of seeing for there is no way of knowing where they could be from day to day. These animals are nomads, they roam the Bush looking for food, and it just so happens that the size of the area they roam is geographically equal in size to the Middle-Eastern country of Israel!!! Consequently, our ranger told us that the Big Cats - the elusive lions and leopards - could disappear for up to 30 days without a single spotting! Same could be said for the anti-social Rhino. It was with bated breath then, that we began our first game drives, hoping and praying we could get but a mere glimpse of these beautiful beasts of the wild!
Fortunately, we did not have to hold our breaths for long. Within two full days of Safari and 4 game drives, we had spotted all of the Big Five and even witnessed a fresh hunt and kill, something that is very rare indeed. Words could not express our excitement. Just know that the hubs was "this close" to turning in his office profession for a ranger gig out in the African Bush. I don't blame him; the whole safari experience is intoxicating. Mesmerizing and highly seductive.
For those wondering, the rules of Safari can be the difference between your life and death - no joke. We were told that under no circumstance could we stand up, shout out, or ever, ever get out of the vehicle to touch or pet the animals. The army-green colored roofless Landover becomes your save haven and protection and the element that prevents you from becoming the "hunted." These predators believe the vehicle and those of us in it as one unit, one animal. A noisy animal that follows them and smells of diesel but is harmless. They have learned with time that the vehicle does not steal or compete for their food or mates, and therefore they "tolerate" its presence. They are motion-activated however, and if one of the safari-goers were to make a false move, the animals would instinctively attack! Needless to say no rules were broken, especially when we encountered the big cats and Simba the King Lion himself. A mere glance at his regal stance commands respect! It is also important to mention that our ranger carried a large, well-equipped rifle at bay for our protection; he doesn't leave home without it!
But enough of my long-winded narrative. Let me share the pictures worth a million words:
(we spotted male and female, a very rare site!)
In Africa, we found paradise....
For more visual imagery, please see below.
(warning, there are many pictures, please be patient while they load.)
Our outdoor shower was fabulous, however we opted out of using it at night, never knowing which one of our wild neighbors would feel motivated to join us. ha!
the reason our lodge was called 'Elephant Plains', this was the view from our deck to the watering hole
Krugers back to JNB and then back to JFK, our amazing African Holiday reaches its end...
I hope you have enjoyed reading and viewing as much as I have sincerely enjoyed sharing.
Till next adventure...