After a peaceful night sleep we were up early and roaring to go for the next leg of our adventure.. Safari Time! Our 4-hour drive to the Safari Lodge was definitely an interesting one. Once we got to a certain location we were told not to follow the GPS maps anymore and to solely follow the directions from the Lodge which consisted of directions like “at the main intersection with lights turn right for 37km and then at the big tree take a right on the dirt road”. Needless to say, it took all 4 of us reading over the directions multiple times to try and decipher when and where exactly we were turning. To make matters a little more interesting, because we drove in on a Saturday we ended up going through multiple sections of towns that had their Saturday market on which meant crazy traffic and people everywhere, not to mention the numerous “hair salons” (which were no more than some metal siding slung together with a hair dresser inside) that were on every corner.
We were beyond excited for the home stretch as we pulled up to the gates of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. We were greeted by a couple friendly security guards who quickly searched our vehicle for weapons, took our entrance fees, and gave us directions to our home for the next couple days. Poaching is still a very big problem in South Africa so we were happy to allow them to search us on the way in for weapons and also were more then happy to pay to enter because the fees go towards the fight against poaching.
We drove about 5km down a dirt road to Arathusa Safari Lodge while each of us had our eyes peeled, eagerly wanting to be the first one to spot one of the ''BIG 5" on our drive in. The big 5 consist of elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions and leopards. Although we looked carefully we never got a glimpse of any which was fine because we knew we had 4 game drives ahead of us!
We pulled into the lodge and were blown away by what was in the middle of the reserve. The lodge was spectacular and we were greeted by the host, Sean, who was happier to see us than I think we were to see him! Our bags were taken to our “hut” while Sean gave us the tour. From the main lobby, past the gift shop, into the dining area, past the bar, around the pool, and finally into our huts it was all beyond 5 star!
Our huts were equipped with a king bed with mosquito net, a seating area, and a huge bathroom with a tub and shower. Outside the back of our hut was our own private outdoor shower which ranked up there as our favourite part of the hut aside from the view of the wildlife from the massive windows as we woke up each morning. There were many different lodges when we looked at booking and we decided this was one of those 'you only live once experiences' and splurged so we were quite happy with what we paid for! At this point we knew we were going to be spoiled for the next few days and we were not disappointed!
Each day we had a set schedule as you can see below:
The meals at the lodge were outstanding! At each meal we had 3 choices which never left us hungry or disappointed. It’s amazing the quality of food and selection in the middle of nowhere. We will spare you from all the details, as we have much more to talk about, but trust us it added to the 5 star experience!
If anyone has ever been on a Safari before it’s one thing to talk or write about it but a completely other experience to see it with your own eyes! We definitely have a new-found respect for the wild and what it is like to see animals in their natural habitat instead of in a zoo or on tv. We saw plenty of different animals on our 4 game drives with the main animals being Elephants, Giraffes, Leopards, Lions, Koodos, Zebras, Rhinos, and Hippos. Now as our guide Roy would say... "Let's Rock and Roy"
We had 2 specific experiences that stuck to us and we will never forget! In both these experiences our jeep got within feet of the animals which of course made us a little nervous but getting the blood pumping added to the full experience!
On our 2nd game drive early in the morning we were lucky enough to drive up on a pride of lions including baby lions feasting right after a kill. Our guides Roy and Chris were even excited as this is a rare thing to see in the wild as kills usually happen at night and there is no sign of them come morning. We got to watch the lions devour their kill and then we watched them lazily walk around until they found a spot they liked enough to snooze at. The cubs were pretty playful and it was such a cool experience watching them interact with each other and then when they were done playing they laid on their backs and revealed these huge swollen bellies from all the food they had eaten. This really put things in to reality just to experience how dangerous the wild actually is being able to see it first-hand like that. (Check out the video below!!)
On our 3rd game drive just before dark we came across a pack of 14 Elephants of all sizes marching their way through the reserve. Seeing Elephants in their natural habitat is absolutely breath taking. We were actually parked in our open air jeep in the middle of a pathway and had them walking around all sides of us- it was incredible! There was one huge male elephant that was marching our way that felt as if he was looking directly into our eyes as he got closer and closer. Elephants have such a calm and reserved demeanour to them that they ended up being our favourite animal we got to see. (Check out the video below as we thought this was the best way to showcase these amazing animals!)
On our 2nd day we also had the option to do a walking tour which involved our guide, a gun, and us in the middle of the wild with no jeep. Of course, we took our better judgement and jumped at the opportunity! Talk about getting our hearts pumping. We can’t quite explain the experience for anyone to understand but it was nerve wracking and we were always looking around waiting to be attacked like prey in the middle of the reserve. We learned on the walk that spotting animals and your safety doesn’t come down to your eyes but more importantly your ears! This gave us a whole new respect for our guide and the training they take to protect not only us but them out in the wild.
After 3 days and 2 nights it was time for us to go! We started driving the 5km to the reserve gates. As we checked off yet another bucket list item we found ourselves sad but also beyond grateful for having the means to be able to indulge in such an amazing experience that not too many get to see in their lives.