Posted by: Anna | December 23, 2010

Lower Sabie

After the whirlwind first few days of safari, we moved on to our second camp within Kruger National Park. Although it is less than 50 miles away, the landscape and topography are very different, as was the experience.

Christmas holidays here are high season for visitors to Kruger National Park, as South Africans migrate like herds of wildebeest from the cities to the coast and to safari. For us, this meant that we did not have our choice of accommodations when we booked, but the booking agent was helpful and we figured out a plan. That plan includes four different camps and three different types of accommodation. Although we wanted to camp – less expensive – the whole time, campgrounds were full in most camps, and so we camped the first four nights, and we will camp the last one, but in between, we are staying in safari tents.

Lower Sabie was our first safari tent experience, and what a blessing. The two nights at Lower Sabie were the hottest, and the safari tent has a fan. Even better, it has beds! Private bath! Lovely shower! Deck with table and chairs! Private view of the water! Private kitchen with pots, pans, and even special customized Kruger National Park dishes, reminiscent of old-fashioned train travel. In summary, the safari tent is the cats pajamas.

After a bit of a snafu upon check-in (we can never travel snafu free), we got situated in our tent. The view was breathtaking – overlooking the river. We spent the first 20 minutes in awe, staring at the river, picking out a huge crocodile on the sand bar, hippos bobbing up and down in the water, and rainbows of birds flying and swooping down. We took naps. We admired the view again, this time over our *my* sundowner of gin and tonic.

Sidenote: Tonic contains quinine, which somehow adds to your malaria protection. We have a running joke that I have a G&T every day only for malaria prevention. The gin is just a flavor enhancer because tonic alone is not so great. 🙂 On safari, happy hour cocktails are called sundowners – because at sundown is when the dreaded mosquitos become active. Thanks to my tonic-protection, and mosquito spray, Tommy has six times as many mosquito bites as me. I credit the sundowners.

The other wonderful thing about Lower Sabie was the restaurant and bar. Not because the food or drinks – we never had any food, and drank only a few beers – but because it had an amazing view of the river, even better than the view from our safari tent. I loved the moments just watching the sunset over the river, soaking in the “Wow – I’m in Africa” feeling. Sitting overlooking the river, listening to snorting water buffalo, roaring lions in the distance, a symphony of birds – can a moment be more alive?

Safari is the first experience that I feel compelled to promote relentlessly. YOU should go on safari. It’s easy. It’s cheap, relatively. It’s awesome. Not just seeing the animals, but the beauty, the sounds, the experience as a whole. Thinking about the start of all life from the geology, then the soil, the small things, like bugs, the birds, the small mammals, the grazers, the predators…all together is a breath of alive-ness through me.

The first morning in Lower Sabie we had a game drive with a ranger. It started at 3:45 AM. As many of you may know, I do NOT like to get up that early. Tommy booked this drive. But booked it was, and so we went. Our guide took his time explaining, offering details I would not know to ask, and welcoming questions. I had a store of questions to ask about animals we had already seen; he patiently and interestingly answered every one. It was a small group of six on the drive, so I didn’t feel at all intimidated to ask away.

I’ll give a brief repeat of one of the most interesting discussions we had: Elephants mate once a year, if at all. The male enters must, and secretes a very smelly hormone as he walks around. He becomes aggressive (these are the elephants that charge cars and trumpet at you – a terrifying experience, let me tell you). In order to mate, he must:

1. Fight the head matriarch of the elephant herd. If he wins, he can then mate, perhaps. He must fight to prove he is strong. If rejected by the matriarch, he does not get to mate that year.
2. Race a short distance with his desired mate. If he loses, no mating.
3. Mate, quickly. Elephants have no patience for long mating.

All of these steps are designed to ensure the elephant herd stays strong – no weak males can mate with the females. I don’t know what happens to weak females.

Our sightings were not as good as when we stayed at Berg-en-Dal, but the experience was richer. Since the pressure of seeing the “Big Five” was lifted, we stopped during our self-drives to watch smaller animals, like mongoose and tortoises, and to admire beautiful birds, especially eagles.

The more we see each animal, the more it takes on a personality. Rather than thinking – “oh, an elephant. Gosh, he’s BIG,” I am more able to see the shape of each one’s personality. The elephant is the old money – the lord – of the bush. He’s big time, and he knows it. You never see any other animal near him. He commands his space and walks around like he owns the place. On the other hand, the impala (antelope) are a skittish, group-thinking bunch, rather like a bunch of pre-teens. They travel in big groups, all following all the others’ silly ideas. The giraffe is stately, graceful, and self-assured, like a grown-up redhead who has endured taunts and jokes, but come to love his awkward self and recognize his unique beauty.

We are moving on to our third camp, Letaba, today, staying in another safari tent. Cross your fingers for a cheetah sighting – Tommy’s most desired animal now.

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  1. Ok, I will go to Africa after all. I want to stay in a safari tent and have G & Ts by the river. I want to go now. I am recovering from oral surgery so I have an anywhere but here mentality.

    I have stayed in a safari tent — at Fossil Rim in Glen Rose, Texas for one of Jack’s birthdays. I liked that — they must have modeled it after Africa because so much sounds the same. Only this is not the real thing. But at least a fun Texas imitation. I will have to treasure that version for now.

    Soak it up!

    Love, Mom

  2. I am really enjoying your trip to Africa! What a nice treat, to stay in the Safari tent. I hope you both have a very Merry Christmas, I will be thinking about you!

  3. We perfectly understand your safari experience and agree that if at all possible everyone should try to experience at least one. I continue to relive our Kruger safari last May and revisit the experience through your photos and narrative. Thank you!

  4. Well, my computer seems to be up & running; for how long is anyone’s guess. I have been busy trying to catch-up with all of your posts. I am thrilled that you are having such an exciting safari. It sounds wonderful!!! I can’t wait to see all of the photographs. They must be spectacular if they match your beautifully written descriptions. Stay safe and remember how very much you are loved. God bless you, Anna & Tommy. XOXOOXOXOX, Kita

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