Leopard safari sabi sands

South Africa Safari Game Drive – My First Animal Sightings

Posted on Posted in Safari, South Africa
Zebra on safari in south africa sabi sands game reserve
Zebra in Sabi Sands on safari

Arriving at Inyati Safari Lodge at lunchtime meant that I would be able to join the afternoon safari game drive.  Not knowing what to expect, I prepared my backpack with all of the “safari essentials” I had relied on during the past week of safari trek/drives in Botswana. My essentials now included layers of clothes (light pullover, fleece jacket and a scarf), snacks (powerbar, cashews and swedish fish), bottle of water, bug spray and my cameras.  I changed into my “safari clothes” which were in drab colors as the guidebooks/research had suggested and brought my hat along.  I was the picture of “city girl goes on safari in new drab clothes” and would quickly learn that many guests didn’t get the “drab” memo and thought hot pink was a good color choice.

Inyati provides tea time prior to the evening game drive.  I was the only new person that day and was quickly adopted by Erleen of Texas. She told me I was assigned to her group as other guests checked out earlier in the day.  She caught me up on all the animals they had seen so far, explaining that it was mating season and that they spent alot of time watching the animals earlier (she had the pictures to prove it – a different circle of life).  We would walk out to the game vehicles.   They were equipped with blankets, bottled water and sundowner supplies if we had time to take a break.

Inyati Game Vehicle
Inyati Game Vehicle – max 10 guests

I sat with Erleen and her husband and off we went.  We drove over the river and though the sand in search of animals.  As the lodge works with the surrounding lodges to share information and land, we would get updates along the way of what was happening.  There is no paved road in the Sabi Sands area we could drive either in the dirt paths or forge our own way.  Khimbini, the guide/driver, was keen to make his own path much to the chagrin of a few trees in our way. He explained that the trees were ok to take down or drive over as they were not important in food or necessity to the animals (poor little trees!).

Driving through the water on safari
Driving through the water on safari
Sabi Sand safari landscape September
September landscape

He would then explain why the animals were not fearful of the trucks – when the babies are born, they park an empty truck nearby so that the animal doesn’t see the square truck as a threat.  This is the key to the drives – the animals are often unfazed by the truck full of people because they only see a square, however, if you stick your arm out or stand up for a photo, then the square is no longer a square it’s something unfamiliar and that’s when you could have a problem.  So keep your hands in the vehicle and stay in your seat please!

While everyone is keen to see the Big 5 animals (black rhino, lion, cape buffalo, leopard and elephant), the Sabi (and Kruger Park) are full of a variety of birds and little animals to view.  I’m not much of a bird person, i know city pigeon and all other birds fall in the “not city pigeon” category, but the safari opened my eyes to so many beautiful birds large and small.  My zoom lense got a workout to capture the birds but my timing wasn’t quite fast enough as they would fly away.

Safari bird
One of many birds on safari to look for
Safari find - nest of eggs
The guide showed us a nest of eggs in the grass

We would be reminded of the “circle of life” quickly, not seeing a kill but the aftermath.

Animal bone
This is not a prop but a reminder of the “circle of life”
Dead Impala in tree - Leopard dinner
What’s for dinner? Impala apparently

Seeing the Impala in a tree meant that a leopard was close by guarding her dinner.  We would find her hidden in the grass below the tree.  She didn’t even move when we drove up and parked next to her, I think she was a bit stuffed from Impala lunch.  We were so close you could use your smartphone for a photo depending on where you were sitting in the truck.

Leopard safari sabi sands
Truck was parked next to the leopard – you can see the guardrail next to me
Leopard safari sabi sands
Leopard having a rest after Impala lunch

We would drive a few minutes and happen upon this prehistoric guy….

Black Rhino South Africa safari Sabi Sands
Black Rhino
Black Rhino
Black Rhino

I had heard stories of people going on safari and never seeing a particular animal, here I was only two hours into my first drive and I had already seen two of the big 5 which I thought was pretty good and then we saw these guys in the bush…

Cape Buffalo pair on safari
Cape Buffalo

No more Big 5 animals to see after the buffalo but that didn’t mean there weren’t other animals such as:

Impala
Impala
Safari animal
You need to keep a keen eye some animals just blend into the landscape
Safari animal stroll
Out for a stroll in the bush

We would skip our sundowner stop as we were seeing so many animals before heading back for dinner.  For my first safari game drive, the number of animals we saw in such a short time was impressive.  Tomorrow would be a full day on property with two game drives – morning and afternoon, it would be easy to go to sleep with the alarm set for 4:30 am.

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