“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”
Hans Christian Andersen
(I give full credit to my sister Rebecca for finding this quote. I opened my birthday card and she had written it inside, it was perfect.)
It was a clear, cool morning for our last game drive at Savanna. The usual wakeup call at 5 am found us already dressed and nearly ready to head out. The air was heavy with dew, and the clear skies promised a very warm day. We agreed that it was the most beautiful morning yet, and we hadn’t even seen any animals yet.
We passed the resident herds of impala and zebra, a side-striped jackal, and a lone wildebeest beating a small bush into submission. We stopped the Land Rover as three Hyenas came trotting down the road towards us. Good photo ops! Zebra grazed in the morning light, a giraffe plucked breakfast from the trees, and a yellow-billed hornbill posed as the sun came up.
Sabi Sand is a true paradise for these wild creatures. We felt lucky to be there as observers, even if just for a few days. The morning was to become even more amazing as the radio calls began to come in. The lionesses with their cubs had been spotted by a nearby dry river bed reclining on boulders in a setting so beautiful it looked staged. Even more exciting was the news that the third lioness, whom Patrick had earlier told us had stashed her cubs somewhere, was also spotted.
She was making her way towards the small pride with her three tiny cubs. We found them crossing a grassy area moving in the direction of the river bed nearly in the shadow of Sir Richard Branson’s Ulusaba game lodge sitting on the highest rocks with a stunning view of the area.
Patrick estimated the cubs to be about 8 weeks old. They were obviously tired and having a hard time keeping up with mom, but she would stop and let them catch up then continue on her way. As they disappeared into the bushes, Patrick announced we would not follow them as the cubs were too little and scared of the Rover. So we turned around and drove towards the river bed to watch the other lionesses on the rocks with their cubs. We had caught up with this little pride every day during our stay and this last morning was a photo op worthy of National Geographic.
After sharing some quiet time with the lions we left in search of a coffee break spot, finally being able to check vervet monkeys off our animal sighting list as we made our way through a cool green wooded area by the river. Our coffee break was enjoyed down by the river, the air rapidly warming as the sun rose higher in the sky.
Elephants played in the river while I took the opportunity at this last stop to take photos of our wonderful guide Patrick and tracker Julius.
On our final drive back to the lodge, our luck continued with the unexpected encounter of the leopard Hlabakuzi and her cub playing the in dusty road. We stopped and watched the very playful cub dash across the road, displaying typical kitten antics. When Hlabakuzi’s patience with her kitten’s playfulness ran out, she stood and called for the cub to follow, passing our Rover as she continued down the road in the direction from which we had come.
Back at the lodge we indulged in the lodge’s sumptuous breakfast and bid farewell to our favorite butler Pumi, a gracious and sweet man just as worthy of his title as Mr. Carson on Downton Abbey. We reluctantly climbed into our transport now on to our next stop, Cybele Forest Lodge.