Lions on safari south africa

South Africa Safari Sabi Sands Game Drive: The Circle of Life

Posted on Posted in Photography, Safari, South Africa

On safari, your daily schedule is set by the lodge with time to relax during the day.  If you are not a morning person (me) you will quickly learn to morph into one or you will miss out, and you don’t want to miss out!

Rhino in South Africa Big5
Rhino on safari

At Inyati, the daily schedule looked like this:

05h30    Wake-up by Ranger (no phones – the ranger would knock on the glass door and wait for you to answer)

06h00     Morning Safari game drive (coffee/tea, pastries before leaving)

10h30      Brunch

15h30       High tea in Main Area

16h00      Afternoon Safari Game Drive

19h30      Pre-dinner drinks at the Bar

20h00      Dinner

So each day, I had my alarm set for 4:30 am and had to resist hitting the snooze button as I needed to answer the wake up and be at the lodge by 6:00 am ready to go.  I was the last to arrive each day as I skipped morning coffee/tea electing my power bar and a bit of water for breakfast (i wasn’t in the mood to experience the “bathroom in the bush”).  As it is quite cool in the morning, layers are essential in addition to the blanket provided in the truck.  Don’t forget the sunscreen (the sun will come out and heat up) or the bug spray before you go.

Each game drive would be different as we relied on our guide/tracker and also listened to the radio for sightings.  On this morning, we were initially fruitless in our search for animals (i think they hit the snooze button!) so we drove toward a hot spot we had visited the night before – a dead buffalo (we didn’t see the kill) being guarded by lionesses under Richard Branson’s Ulusaba Private Game Reserve (looks amazing!).

Richard Branson's resort in Sabi Sands
Richard Branson’s resort in Sabi Sands

The circle of life was in clear focus this morning as we came upon two other vehicles watching the lions eating the buffalo while the lionesses rested and waited their turn (um, the cute Lion King scene this was not).  We parked with an unobstructed view but down wind of the buffalo being ripped apart and there was a slight breeze this morning (I was happy not to have any breakfast in me).  What you immediately notice (other than the awful smell) is that this is normal feeding – kill or be killed in the animal kingdom.   This viewing was unusual as all the guides pulled out their camera (which were as long as my arm!) to take their own personal photos .  We were told that it was quite rare to see this many lions feeding and being able to photograph it.

The circle of life on safari - lions eat buffalo for breakfast
The circle of life on safari – lions eat buffalo for breakfast
Tired after buffalo breakfast
Tired after buffalo breakfast
Lions on safari south africa
Lions on safari – not quite as cute & cuddly as Disney wants you to believe

After we had spent enough time watching the lions eating buffalo for breakfast, we moved on and luckily no one was sick but it was pretty close for a few people.  The day was heating up and we all started shedding layers of clothes and blankets opting for sunglasses and a bit more sunscreen. Our next sighting was a herd of buffalo, I wonder if they knew the fate of their friend but alas life goes on.  A different circle of life can be seen here as the bird sits atop the buffalo eating the bugs off his back as the buffalo grazes for breakfast.

Buffalo herd grazing safari south africa
Buffalo herd grazing for breakfast

The rest of the game drive was tame in comparison to the lion’s breakfast sighting but wonderful nonetheless as everyone seemed to be starting their day together.

Elephants at the river safari
Elephants at the river – drinking at breakfast


Monkeys South Africa safari
Monkeys along the river bank
Hippo yawning in South Africa
Hippos and birds in the water – I feel like yawning now – it’s contagious

We skipped our morning coffee break to stay out longer.  The morning drive was so different from the evening one, I can see why you need to do both to get a good feel for the animals and their schedules.  Making our way back to the lodge, we stopped to see a tree squirrel that seemed a bit out of place given the other animals we were seeing but it was a reminder of the smaller animals that reside in the park – not everyone is Big 5.

South African Tree Squirrel
I usually see this guy outside my house – weird to think he lives here too

As we neared the lodge, the river bank was deserted in the morning but we needed to look in the water…

Sand River
Along the Sand River
Nile Crocodile on safari South Africa
Nile Crocodile – he never moved – he looked like a frozen statue

Happy to be back at the lodge, I was ready for my full English breakfast and comparing notes with the other guests.  Nearing noon, I returned to my room to reflect on my morning as I reviewed my photos.  As I pondered what to do with the next 4-5 hours, my body quickly reminded me that I am not a morning person and that i was now going to morph into a person that naps….


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