My biggest fear when I booked this trip and when I got on the small aircraft that took us to Sabi Sands from Nelspruit, was that I wouldn’t see The Big Five. When our small plane landed on a narrow airstrip in the bush and it came to a stop, we were met by our future companions for the four days that we would be at Singhita Boulders, Sepho our guide, and Louis the tracker.
sitting behind pilot in tiny plane
view of Singhita outdoor casual dining , our pool, the main pool too, and the vehicle
It was hot and sunny when we disembarked and got into the large open-air land rover vehicle with another couple who were staying at the same resort. No sooner did we start on our short ride then we spotted some hippos bathing in a water hole. My delight was palpable.
mom and babe
Singhita Bolders is a gorgeous resort in the middle of the bush. We were greeted with wet towels and met one of the staff that gave us a tour of the property. We headed to the large outdoor eating area and looked down to see a herd of elephants wandering around. One baby elephant was trying to learn how to drink from a pool of water in the Sand River. It was still using the side of its mouth rather than its trunk, incredible to watch mama trying to teach her babe.
elephants on our arrival just below us
We walked on a beautiful path to our villa. Everywhere there were Nyala, beautiful animals like antelope with striped markings. They are a blonde colour, but best to visit the link above. They watched us carefully as we went down into our rooms. The wrap around windows offered a view of the river and we could still see some elephants. There was a small infinity pool, an outdoor shower that I used every morning, lots of snacks in the large comfortable living room, a king bed inside mosquito netting, although I didn’t see a single mosquito during our stay in January.
Wisely, we took our meds every day and followed the instructions of our tropical disease doctor. There are travel clinics that specialize in knowing the important meds for trips to countries with different diseases from our own, and it is crucial to access these in advance of any travel. Our tour company Roar Africa provided much of this important information. Neither Charles nor I had any side effects from the anti malaria drug, Malarone. Doxycycline is also effective.
We didn’t see any mosquitos as the weather was not humid. In fact it was beautifully warm, clear air with lots of sun. It should have been the rainy season, (good old climate change) but alas it was perfect for us. As well it drew all the animals to the small pools of water everywhere we went.
croc below us at breakfast one day
We had a light lunch that first day on the open terrace, of gazpacho and Caesar salad, and watched the little thieving monkeys try to fool us into leaving our food for them. If we turned to watch one, then the other would jump on our table and grab some food. After this piece of animal theatre we returned to our villa and changed into our safari clothes, and rushed to meet everyone at 4:30 for our first morning game drive. There were three couples including us, one from New York and one from Sydney. The vehicle is built on three tiers with the driver on the lowest and the tracker in a separate seat on the outside in the front. Good viewing for all. The driver had earphones and this was to connect to the other drivers of the vehicles owned by the property, to advise what game was where.
up close and personal
Almost immediately we saw a lion pride, young cubs, but no male. We took lots of photos and I was deliriously excited to be so close within about 10 yards. Then as dusk fell we headed back to the lodge and to their exquisite wine cellar for a tasting of champagnes, chenin blancs, and some yummy reds. This lasted until 9:00pm and then dinner outside on the candle lit terrace. I ate salmon tartare, and Charles, Springbok, ( how could he?) and then we crashed in our wonderful bed after our long day of travel and adventure.
Our morning call was for 5:00am in order to be ready for the first morning game drive. We were asked not to walk from our villa to the lodge, as animals were still roving around. A young man came and accompanied us. Coffee, tea and some juice awaited us as did our guide, Sipho, and when the six of us were ready we headed out, I think it was 5:15 or 5:30, and got into our vehicle.
It wasn’t long before we spotted giraffe up close and very elegant, leopard mom with her cubs in a tree, ugly hyenas with jaws of steel, elephant, hippos out of water, water buffalo in water, impalas, wildebeest. And we saw some real action in the bush; a standoff between a hyena and a young leopard over a freshly killed impala carcass. The hyena won, but did throw away some scraps for the leopard. The crunching sound of the meal was one I will never forget. At some point on the morning drive we were served refreshments and biscuits. A little fold out table was attached to the range rover and it was filled with refreshments.
mom on alert
baby in the tree, another behind it
By about 9:00am we returned to the lodge for breakfast. A nice laden buffet table with all kinds of goodies and we could also order eggs or breakfast items. We were not going to go hungry. We napped, swam in the large pool near the outdoor terrace and relaxed. Another game drive for the evening was scheduled and we tracked more animals. The evening game drive also included a sundowner again from the truck, but this time there were wines, champagne, spirits and little nibbles. Everyone chatted with each other and watched wildebeest from a distance. Lovely.
monkey on alert
Dinner included artichokes, calamari, quail and kudu. Delicious South African wines, cognac and then to bed to rest up for our next early morning drive. Almost immediately on the easy drive a very large giraffe approached. I had been asking Sipho if we would see the male lion, the king of the jungle. He spent time communicating with the other guides because one had been spotted at an adjacent property. He was very secretive about where we were heading, but then we saw the male in all his splendor surrounded by females, one of whom was pregnant.
mom and babe
which way do the stripes go
getting a good look
We guessed what was happening because Louis, our tracker got out of his seat forward and joined us in the elevated seats. We were extremely close and I could even look deeply into the eyes of the male. It was definitely love at first sight for me. Charles was busy taking pictures so I could flirt all I wanted. When you meet the animals in the vehicle, you park, and many times during our game drives you just sit still and watch, sometimes for 30 minutes.
Later that drive we spotted wild dogs, which apparently is rare, and huge vultures circling overhead as the dogs were sparring over a kill. Then we met a lone ostrich walking down the road. She approached very very close to us, and we had to move. She was searching for a mate, and I think she rather fancied Charles.
unusual looking vultures
That morning and evening game drives we saw, rhinos, warthogs, the ugliest creature, more elephants, giraffe fighting with their necks, more female lions, a leopard guarding her babies, and hippos bathing in a large pond. Dinner once again was splendid and Charles and I marveled at what we had seen during our drives, and how much we enjoyed everything.
Our final morning we did a bush walk with Sipho, who carried a rifle just in case, but he told us he had never had to use it. He walked and he listened. We went in single file. We discovered a termite mound, dung beetles underfoot and learned about bush life. We tapped on it with a stick and the mound became fiercely hot and some termite soldiers appeared at the top.
The termite queen
Charles and Sipho
On our evening drive we saw many more lions right near our property, which is fenced off to keep the animals from coming close to the lodge. After dusk fell we headed back and found ourselves near the airstrip that we had landed on when we arrived a few days previously. It was getting dark and I started to wonder why we weren’t returning to our villa, and then I saw the torches that were lit and surrounded long tables covered with white linen cloths, silver, crystal, and menus. We sat at our places and ordered dinner, which was being prepared on large barbecues, and an outdoor kitchen. It was a four-course meal that included, crayfish, beef tenderloin, aubergine soup, wines, and our waiter, Ernest, who served us all the time we were at Singhita, was with us at this dinner.
Ernest and the dinner
The music started and traditional African dancers performed and some of us got up and danced along. Most amazing was that over our shoulders, lining the runway were herds of impala watching us like young children at their parent’s party. It was magical and the night air was warm and I felt as though we were in some wonderful movie.
This all took place in January and it must be the time for baby animals because everywhere we went on our drives there were babies. Even the ugly wart hogs and hyenas had their adorable young, as well as the hippos and rhinos. The best is that all babies are beautiful even if they grow up to be ugly and mean.
The next morning we packed our duffle, then flights in two planes back to Johannesburg where we eventually departed for London, and one more night at our hotel there, and finally back to Orlando with tons of photos some of which I hope you will enjoy.
Charles was skeptical about South Africa, but he was won over and agreed it was one of our favorite trips. I was moved spiritually by seeing the animals in their pristine habitat, and looking them in the eye. I couldn’t wait to download my pictures and re-enjoy the moments.
We learned so much about the bush. Things like watching elephants break down a tree with their feet and eating the branches and leaves. I didn’t know that elephants in their hugeness were herbivores. In fact so many of the animals were, except of course the lions, leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs. It was fascinating to inspect a termite mound and learn about that scary creature. I didn’t know there were crocodiles in South Africa. I loved the art in the boutique store. The food was a delight and the wines. But most importantly the people of South Africa that we met were welcoming and I felt at home. I would return to in a heartbeat.
If this is the first blog that you read, please click on previous page and follow our wonderful trip from its beginning.