We left off with us arriving at the Tydon Safari Camp in Sabi Sands Reserve at 2pm and chillin’ until the game drive at 4pm
There were 3 other tents in camp. It consisted of a newly married couple from NY and a group of 20 somethings from South America who were complete idiots. They constantly annoyed me as they spent the game drives on their cell phones or watching meaningless youtube videos while we were trying to observe wildlife.
Anyway, we all met at the truck to get the crash course
Jacques, or guide/driver/tracker, told us to stay in the vehicle, not to stand up, showing the animal you are some kind of potential prey, and also not to make those little noises we make to squirrels or animals back home to try and get them to come closer.
After an hour of seeing nothing we finally came across a hyena.
You always here about how crocodiles and alligators have this ridiculous PSI closing strength with their jaw, but I guess the hyena is also in that extreme class. They scavenge everything from a kill until there is nothing left. Chewing up bones like Gobstoppers.
I believe the Hyena was in my top 3 favorite animals on this trip. Probably also cause I kinda liked them in Lion King. It is hard to not think of these animals as they were portrayed in some animated movie. As they walk around you envision them taking on the attitude and personality of their Hollywood cousin.
Next we came across some zebras
Each time we saw an animal Jacques did a great job of describing their mating, feeding and overall mannerisms. The Zebra’s health can be judged on how upright their mane stands up. You can also determine the sex based on the thickness of the thong that runs down their butt.
Soon after we saw an elephant. It was kinda like we were in this open zoo where people would release an animal in front of us and we would interact with it a bit and then drive on and Jacques would radio, “ok, release the elephant”. When we were in the zone we would just hop from one animal to the next, but there were also long stretches of just searching, making the sightings all the more appreciated
In the below shot is a vehicle from Tydon’s sister property
I mentioned earlier that you can’t go over these invisible property lines and just have to hope the animals are in your sector that day. Some properties do allow each other to ride across lines. Our small camp was at one disadvantage. If you owned a larger property with more trucks then you could each cover different areas and as soon as one spotted an animal it could radio to everyone else. Our guide had to cover the whole area on his own, but I liked that better because on the instances where we did have a couple vehicles all huddled around a predator it seemed a bit contrived and zoo-like. 15 people all within 5 feet of a leopard snapping pictures while the cat just sat there like a model sprawled across a couch sporting the new Maybelline bombshell lip gloss.
These were young males. Jacques would always call that out by screaming, "Look at that pistol! he has his pistol out!"
These animals really paid no attention to us. Since this was a reserve with no hunting, they had no reason to fear humans. Also these were elephants and had no natural predators. Jacques told us how occasionally desperate lions would try to take down a lion but usually just hung off them until being knocked off. The elephants eat for 22 hours each day. I was amazed to watch them just start ripping up dead shrubs and branches. They were eating everything, even though it obviously had little to no nutritional value, which is why they had to eat so much.
Next up were the Giraffes
The giraffes were a little easier to take down than elephants so they can be a bit more skittish. You could see them from way off as there was not much foliage and they just appeared to be moving trees off in the distance.
Warthogs were cute
We saw the same family many times of the drives. The father would look at us with this funny looking moustache, and point his tail straight up in the air to signal the family that it was time to move on.
Wildebeests. Jacques says there are no animals out here that are dumber than these guys
We stopped at sunset for some snacks and drinks
We then spent the next hour in the dark searching by spotlight for predators that came out in the cool evening to hunt. Jacques would try and locate them by catching the glint in their eye as the spotlight panned across them
We did not have much luck that night besides some small Bushbabies and various cat-like tree dwellers. called Genets. I wanted to ask Jacques about Black Tigers. When we drove in yesterday Amy pulled out the binoculars and told me she thinks she located a very rare Black Tiger. I was not familiar with that animal and it turns out it was an Ostrich. A common mistake.
Back at camp the ladies cooked a meal of sausage and corn mash and chicken. Jacques told us of the difficulties of his job (Trying to teach clients to have realistic expectations on a safari where you might not get a lion every time out. Also what it is like when he goes back to JoBerg and tries to adjust to normal life on his week off.)
The next morning Jacques tapped on our tent at 5am for the early game drive, “Mornin’ Mornin’ Mornin’.” It became the long running joke with Amy and I every day since. I thought it was just Jacques, but other places we went around South Africa they would also say good morning in this fashion. Similar to when I am in Latin America, people there instead of just saying si (yes) they seem to always say, “si, si ,si”
We did not have time for coffee. Our goal is to try and get some of the predators before they go into hibernation mode for the day. We were also just trying to avoid the heat of the afternoon ourselves as it was unbearable after 11 am.
A lot of people come to Africa looking for the “Big 5” (Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino). There are other impressive large animals (hippo, giraffe, zebra, etc) but this all stems from game hunting days when those 5 were the sought after trophies. The big 5 idea has spawned other gang of 5 monikers like the dirty or ugly 5 (hyena, warthog, vulture, wildebeest, and Maribou Stork)
One of the first things we saw was the African Hornbill. Also made famous in the Lion King
It was pretty quiet that morning and were unsure if we were gunna see anything. A few more zebras and a giraffe
Sabi Sands is known for their Leopards. Our guide heard some monkeys screaming in some trees and went offroad to investigate. We drove around for an hour looking for an elusive cat in the bush. Amy and I were hoping Jacques would just drop it and move on but he was determined and I respected that. We eventually gave up and were heading back to camp for breakfast when right outside the gate he heard a Waterbuck (deer like creature) call out. He drove over and spotted a leopard. Jacques was pumped!
I must admit this large cat was beautiful and intimidating. At any time it could jump into our car and kill us all. He was not in hunting mode but that did not stop all the prey from clearing out of that area. Alarm calls left and right and then an eerie silence as he settled in for a nap.
Much like when I was in the Amazon, I was stressed on these animals behalf. You think your day is hard. Just imagine if every second of everyday you could be eaten by something around you. Your head is constantly on a swivel and mind is always racing, “What was that? Hey Fred, did you hear that? There it was again, what the fuck was that?!.” There are Impala, Springbok, Kudu, Nyala, waterbuck, etc. They are everywhere, but you don’t see any octogenarians around here. No one dies of old age out here. No cute albino Bushbuck with a Laissez-faire attitude and can never remember where he left his car keys.
Back to camp for breakfast
We had lunch around 2pm and another game drive at 4pm. Besides that, I was doing whatever I could to keep cool. The pseudo- AC in the tent was actually worse than being outside. I pretty much just sat in the small pool until It was time for feeding or driving. I could not do another day of this. Fortunately we were heading out tomorrow after the morning drive.
A majestic Kudu in our camp.
We had a wire around our camp but I think that was just for show because Jacques had plenty of stories of Hippos and large cats coming into the camp at night. On our first day I found a large half eaten bird. Surprisingly I slept well, but Amy did make me sleep by the door so she had time to run while the leopard was dragging me up a nearby tree.
We drove on the drive river bed of the Sabi river to check out some elephants and impala
Another sunset stop
It was kinda funny. When Jacques could not find any animals he would kind of play up the smaller stuff. “here is the Pigmy Mongoose. Very rare to find indeed. And look at that Starling over there!” Another running joke for Amy and I since we got back from safari was when we saw any kind of common tree sparrow, “Oh look at that Starling!”
Jacques got out the spotlight and we were not seeing much but he got a call that someone spotted a leopard and we took off. It was the best bart of the Safari. Going 40 mph through the darkness through all this brush with only a spotlight to guide us
We all huddled around this leopard for a bit
It then got up and started movie slowly away. Eventually the other cars disappeared and the leopard went into hunting mode. It spotted a baby impala and started creeping up on it.
We tried not to influence the hunt by avoiding shining our light on the leopard or the impala, but rather off to the side. Occasionally he would flash the light quickly and the leopard would be 10 feet closer, then 5, then right next to it. All the while the impala is just looking around wondering what is going on as the theme to Jaws played in the background. The Impala actually got away, which Jacques said happens about 70% of the time. I am sure it had nothing to do with this huge diesel truck with a spotlight next to it. I bet the leopard was just looking at us like, “Thanks guys, can you take your pics and move on before I decide to eat one of you just to show my displeasure in your presence.”
We went back for dinner
One more game drive in the mornin’ mornin’ mornin’ and they we would be heading off on our own self-driving safari through Kruger NP.