This morning I watched a leopard stalk and attack an impala. The leopard was spotted before she could strike, so there was no kill (fortunate or unfortunate, depending on who you’re cheering for). After that we sat in the Land Rover surrounded by a herd of massive cape buffalo, some close enough that you could touch them. Later, we watched an elephant suck nine litres of water into its trunk and dump it into its mouth.
This is the Londolozi private lodge. It’s part of the Sabi Sand (those are two rivers), a game reserve home to a group of private camps. The reserve borders Kruger park, and shares a border with its much larger public cousin.
I’ve never stayed in a more luxurious place–it’s like Martha Stewart’s Ewok village. There are 160 staff to care for 60 guests, and everyone of them knows your name from the moment you arrive. The setting is extraordinary–the main lodge stretches out from a cliff face, with an exceptional view over the jungle. The lodge itself has 30 exceptionally-appointed rooms, mostly standalone houses above the Sand River.
Each day we go for two three-to-four hour safari drives, one at 5:30 AM and another at 3:30 PM. One day we also did a walk through the bush, an hour-and-a-half back to camp. We saw everything–you name a southern African animal and we watched it. Plus, we saw a vast range of birds and plants. We were assigned a game ranger and a tracker for the entire visit, and they were exceptionally knowledgable. We learned a tremendous amount, not only about flora and fauna, but also about conservation efforts and wildlife management. The tracker–oddly named Exxon–seemed able to pick up tracks out of seemless dirt.
After Kruger, with its massive space and intermittant sitings, I was skeptical about Londolozi. Were we just going to see pop-up animals? Londolozi is still big–we saw new terrain and portions of the reserve each day. But I feared that the private park would feel artifical.
In truth, it seemed pretty natural. Our sitings were vastly improved over the private game park, but I put that down to four factors. One, we rode in Land Rovers, which aren’t required to stay on the rode. These amazing vehicles can go pretty much anywhere–they regularly drove over small trees. Two, the skill and experience of the rangers and trackers. Three, the communication between the staff. Though we rarely saw another group, the rangers were in constant contact by radio, discussing the position and behaviour of the animals. This meant that if another group spotted and followed a leopard for a while, we could pick up the pursuit after they left. Lastly, the reserve has been there for at least 60 years, so there are plenty of animals who are natural residents.