OK, yes, I’ll admit a melodramatic blog post title sounds like click-bait. But these DO WORK. You should see the stats… when we title these posts with stuff like “Myanmar – 5, Belfiores – 0” or “This happened in Myanmar” … the clicks go through the roof. So of course you might ASSUME that my “when animals attack” tagline is a cheap shot, right? We would NEVER do that. We had an actual, bona-fide animal attack… and the victim (one of our kids) was saved by a lodge employee wielding a knife. I KID YOU NOT! I would NOT make up such a lie! You can see the photos and read the story below. So.. press-on my curious friend, press-on…
Let’s start with some photos.
I have a LOT of animal photos. I even rented an extra fancy lens (Canon 100-400mm) and an extra Canon body so we could have two SLRs going at once. Here’s some of my favorites.. you really should click the first one and flip through them in large size… but these are NOT all the best ones, so do keep reading!
Our arrival: Sabi Sands, northern South Africa. A lion family in the rain!
Sabi Sands is a well known game preserve area just outside the famed Kruger National Park in the north-eastern part of South Africa. From our past safari experience, you could assume you might see elephant-but-no-rhino … or ostritch-but-no-lions .. or some other confounding combination. Sabi Sabi defied that assumption!
When we arrived, we were totally psyched at the “villa” (aka, nicely appointed hut) that was held for us… and after a lunch which included monkeys roaming around the common areas, we started on our very first game drive in the rain. Our dismay at the weather was immediately forgotten when we saw not just a pair of lions—but a whole lion pride including some playful cubs. As Piper would say.. ADORABLY CUTE! And after the game drive, the staff was waiting with towels and a sumptuous dinner, proving that we humans (and Sydney in particular) are at the top of the food chain…
And, oh, the Leopards!
Three different sightings of leopard, including a parent/child pair with a kill and a parent/child squabble where dad chased daughter up a tree (I could relate)
Three and a Half Days… Seven more game drives
For the next three days, and the morning before leaving for the airstrip, we just had one amazing animal experience after another. This included:
- A total of 66 African animal species (our kids kept a log)
- A two-visit look at lions who had killed a cape buffalo, and had to chase-off hyenas who kept lurking about trying to steal from their cupboard
- Elephants! With babies
- Not just White Rhinos … or White Rhinos with babies… and a white rhino while we were on foot… but even an elusive Black Rhino on our last car ride to the airstrip.
- A herd of Cape Buffalo! A BIG herd.
- Zebra, giraffe, baboons, cool birds, a mongoose family… and even a PYTHON.
The Bush ain’t just animals. There’s people too.
In-between early morning (5am) and afternoon (4pm-7:30pm) game drives, there’s some time to spare.. and one of the cool things we did was to visit the local village of Huntington. We saw a child-care center for kids who lack full support from their parents, local farming and handicrafts – but the highlight for sure was a visit to the local elementary school. The African kids were VERY ENTHUSIASTIC about seeing us, and gave us hug after hug after hug, chased Alexander relentlessly around the playground, and INSISTED on touching Piper and Sydney’s hair. Our kids were great sports about this.. and the experience was as memorable as seeing the animals.
The Lodge was terrific for the whole family
I know after reading this, some of you will say “Gee, I might like to visit that Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge.. tell me more about it!” The amenities were great, including an “Elephun center” that could watch our kids while we did a grown-ups-only walking safari, terrific meals complete with interesting African food like Kudu, Impala, Ostrich … and even my favorite breakfast combo of DUCK EGG omelets with QUAIL EGG on the side. I swear we ate until we almost burst. Makes me wonder if the lodge management and the lions are somehow in cahoots…
It was 8:30pm or so… we were eating dinner outdoors under the sky and the trees. Every night our kids were so tired, sometimes they’d fall asleep at the table and sometimes they’d go lay down over on the couches where the lodge served tea.
Alexander had been laying down, but he came back to the table and joined us to start eat. You could tell he was tired when he complained..
Alexander: “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD! There’s a HUGE BUG ON ME!”
Dad: “Oh come on, there’s bugs everywhere. It’s fine.”
Thuli (our server): “NO! It is NOT OK!”
Thuli runs over over to Alexander and grabs the steak knife off his place setting, orders him to stand up and back away from the table, and then stretches out the front of his shirt to scrape the enormous hairy caterpillar off him, flicking it onto the ground and killing it.
Thuli: “TAKE OFF YOUR SHIRT, NOW!”
Alexander complies. He is now standing half-naked and dazed at the dinner table in the darkness under the stars and trees. We are all completely surprised at this turn of events. Two of the experienced safari guides have run over to the table to assist—they all concurred with Thuli’s orders.
Betheul (our guide): “Wow, that was a close one! Look at him!”
<another guide>: “You’re not kidding. I once had one of those just crawl on my pillow and I was red and itchy for days. These are serous! You have to really look out for them!”
So, Alexander narrowly escaped the horrors of an itchy, hairy caterpillar. We teased him for days, knowing this would be the best story topic for our safari blog post. (We almost went with “Alexander ordered to strip by an African female wielding a serrated knife!”)
And so our time on safari has come to an end… we flew onward to Johannesburg and then to Cape Town… and we’ll post again from Cape Town!