South Africa: Lion Sands Safari Days 1 & 2

Our accommodation at Lion Sands Private Game Reserve included all meals as well as two game drives a day each lasting three hours. On our first day we arrived late and had lunch, rested a bit then went on our first game drive at 4:00 pm.

Before the trip we were told to bring binoculars and long zoom cameras. I didn’t have a long zoom lens and I couldn’t borrow from anyone so I bought a relatively inexpensive 30x zoom Sony camera (Sony DSC-HX90v) and it was so worth it. Although the picture quality was far from the sharpness from a dslr it was acceptable for my blog and memories.

Riding an open air truck in rough natural land and tracking for animals in their local habitat is a million times better than seeing animals in the zoo or in places like Singapore’s night safari. We had to drive long distances and rely on the sharp eyes of our tracker Joe to find animals. Other field guides also help out by notifying the other guides if they see an animal and sharing the location. Sometimes we would see one animal after another while other times we would be driving for almost an hour without seeing anything. 

One of the first animals we saw in hiding were three hyenas snoozing in a dry river bed. It was a good shot of a hyena since they usually move fast it’s hard to capture them still. Thank you zoom lens indeed. 

Lion Sands Safari Day 1 Afternoon Drive
Hyena

Male nyalas are spiral horned antelopes. These two below were females.

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Lion Sands Safari Day 1 Afternoon Drive- Female Nyala
Female Nyala

The weather was nice! 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 1 Afternoon Drive-002

The objective of everyone who goes on a safari is to see The Big Five – Lion, Rhinoceros, African Elephant, African Buffalo and the Leopard. 

This was a very, very lucky shot. It was turning dark when we saw the sleeping male lion hidden in the grass. As our truck stopped a few meters in front of him he opened his eyes and lifted his head and I got this single good shot.
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Lion Sands Safari Day 1 Afternoon Drive- Lion
Lion

After that it was sunset. We still drove around in the dark with Joe, our tracker, holding a really strong spot light. I couldn’t take any pictures at night and it was harder to find and see animals. 

Lion Sands Safari Day 1 Afternoon Drive- Sunset Safari

Day 2, 6:00 am

The next morning we woke up at 5:30 am and had the option to take some coffee and light snacks before departure at 6:00 am but we never did since we were scared of peeing in the bushes. Yes you have to if you need to. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- African:Cape Buffalo
African Buffalo

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Warthog
Warthog

We stopped to enjoy the sunrise. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2 - Sunrise

Everyone respects the surroundings and animals. Nobody interferes with nature and the cycle of life. The skull of the buffalo has been on the same spot for at least three years. Nobody feeds the animals either. All humans are just guests who view the animals in their habitat.

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Skull of an African Buffalo

Our guides also pointed out birds, plants and amazing trees like these. As beautiful as the Tree Euphorbia or Candelabra Tree was no birds or animals go near it since the whole tree contains a milky latex that can cause blindness if it comes into contact with the eyes.

Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Tree Euphorbia or Candelabra Tree
Tree Euphorbia or Candelabra Tre

I was also fascinated with the sharp thorns of the Umbrella Thorn Acacia tree. This tree had relatively low branches that would hit our truck when we passed too near it. That’s why our driver, Michael would always warn us to move in. The thorns were like hard and sharp toothpicks. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2 - Umbrella Thorn Acacia
Umbrella Thorn Acacia

I seem to have luck taking good pictures of the African/Cape Buffalo. I was specially lucky to capture one crossing right in front of our truck. I always sat in the row behind the driver. 

Lion Sands Safari Day 2- African Buffalo
African Buffalo

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- African Buffalo-001

We would often drive through really deep or high patches of road some with tall branches but it was easy for the Range Rover trucks. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2-005

One of my favorite sights was this herd of elephants led by the mommy. Herds are usually led by the females. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Elephants

The cute 8 month old baby stuck close to mama. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Mama elephant with her 8 months old baby-001

I was really patient waiting to get this shot of mama with her 2 1/2 and 8 months old babies. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Mama elephant with her 2.5 yr. old and 8 months old babies

Baby deserved solo shots. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Baby Elephant

The best part of the drive was stopping for some coffee, tea, hot chocolate, juice or milk and some snacks. But before we could drink anything we had to relieve ourselves in the bushes since it was quite cold that morning. Can you see auntie sleeping in the truck? 😀

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Morning Snacks with Michael and Joe

It’s imperative to find a bush with enough coverage since most of the bushes were quite sparse. Be sure to bring your own toilet paper and a plastic bag to dispose of all your trash. Also bring plenty of wet wipes. This was the only time we had to do ‘it’ outdoors. It wasn’t cold the other days that’s why we were able to hold it. 😀

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- our "bush"
our “bush”

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2-012

Day 2, 5:00 pm afternoon drive 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Bones of a Giraffe
Bones of a Giraffe

We went to the Sabie River which was dry that season and we saw a few lions sleeping. A female lion doesn’t have a thick mane of hair. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Female Lion at the Sabie River//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Sleeping Lions

This lion reminded me of my dogs who sleep the same way.

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Male Lion

Some trucks carried only two people. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2-019

Towards the end of the drive we came across a single leopard. It was dark already and this is an enhanced picture. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Leopard
Leopard

We also stop for cocktails during the afternoon drive. There was wine, sparkling non-alcoholic wine and an assortment of liquors. I had a gin and tonic. The snacks were biltong (local beef jerky), samosas, mixed nuts and fried jalapeño and cheese. The next night we had different snacks. 

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Lion Sands Safari Day 2- Cocktails at Safari Drive

One day we visited the Henna pre-school which was a community project of Lion Sands. Guests who wished to visit were brought there free of charge. The school was about thirty minutes from our hotel. Many celebrities who visited also donated buildings or greenhouse. There were four classrooms with kids from 4-7 years old. These kids pays a nominal amount each month and they get fed and taught by the school. A couple of classes had a presentation for us. They sang and showed us what they’ve learnt. 

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Henna Pre-School, Lion Sands Community Project//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Henna Pre-School, Lion Sands Community Project-001

Come back for my next post with even more animals!

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