Sunday, November 12, 2017

Honeymoon Day 19: Sabi Sands Wildlife

Honeymoon Day 19: Sabi Sands Wildlife

Wake up call was at 5:00am, as the goal on safari is to do one early morning drive before breakfast and one in the later afternoon before the sun goes down. So up and at 'em, we woke up and got dressed swiftly and headed for the common area for a tea and rusk before heading out on our morning game drive to find the animals. Brrr... it was chilly this morning... very windy! We had slept with the bug nets up around the bed but it wasn't necessary really, there were no mosquitoes and no spiders either.

Off we go!
Sun coming up and lighting up the morning sky

Right off the bat we saw lots of Impala together this time, and also a really awesome running Wildebeest.

Sipps said the other animals like to eat the Impala because they have little McDonald's logos on their butts.
Running Wildebeest

Sipps, our driver, turned out to be incredibly proficient with SLR Cameras and all details. At first I thought he was sharing things he'd learned from talking with other passengers over the years, but nope, it was all him.... he just knew EVERYTHING! We had googled to see if we should do a "Photo Safari" somewhere, because I really wanted to spend significant time taking photos and doing my best to perfectly capture a few moments... turns out this is basically a photo safari now as Sipps was so knowledgeable and also super keen to share his expertise: he shared tips for lighting, focus, ISO, f-stop etc. for all kinds of situations. He'd check in with me: "hey, make sure to change your white balance now" or "I would switch to the 100-400 lens for the next set of animals". His advice was always sound and very helpful. It became quite clear that he wasn't just an enthusiast but clearly a very knowledgable photographer himself... it came out a bit later than he owns a Canon 1DX... ahh... so he's a ACTUAL pro :) So this was all super wicked and really helped me "focus" (ha!) on the task of capturing the best possible shots.

It was odd to see the Wildebeest and the Impalas together, but sure enough they are in fact "friends". Sipps explained that they warn each other when there are lions coming. We saw the nice sunrise and I had the 70-200 on for that time as is has a wider possible aperture (it's f/2.8). Once the sun was up I switched to the 100-400 lens instead. I was finding in general that I preferred the 100-400 for this trip and was finding it more useful. It has never been so dark that I needed the f/2.8, but I was glad to have both lenses on the trip. Using the 100mm-400mm lens I was worried that I would need a winder angle than 100mm to fit everything in the frame.. but it was working out very well and allowing me to get amazingly close framing on the animals' faces. So awesome. That said... our next stop involved an elephant walking DIRECTLY towards us!

Getting closer to the elephant

Incredible!!!! Watching him eat the leaves by twisting the branches around his trunk was so cooool
We drove for a little longer and then spotted a rhino and a baby rhino through the bushes! That was suuuper super cool and they looked amazing and giant. Even the baby was huge. The rhino had white scratches all along their back -- this is because of how they move through the brush and trees, they get scratched up a bit. As we stopped the car to watch the Rhinos for a while, a GIANT Hyena was hanging out behind our car... a little concerning??!? (Apparently not to our fearless ranger and tracker!) We also saw the Male Rhino lose track of the Female and Baby Rhino, and then walk in concentric circles to re-trace his steps to find them, that was interesting to see.

Mom and Baby Rhino

Then we drove by and visited mt SWEET LEOPARD again!!!!!!!! Still up in her tree and chillin', and sooooo sweet, I managed to get some even more adorable photos of her this time. OH man what a sweet huge cat!! A few more interesting things this morning too -- she had 1/2 an Impala up there in the tree, saved to eat later. It was cool but a bit gross, and smart that she wasn't leaving that food on the ground for someone else to eat! I got some super fun photos of her all folded up on herself and sitting inside a "V" of a tree and sleeping. She was sleeping so funny, it almost looked like 2 leopards as her back and tail were folded around so flexibly.

We witnessed one of the other vehicles drive UNDER the leopard sitting in the tree to get a better viewing angle. I was shocked that this was safe. Sipps joked, "It's OK for another car to drive under her. If she jumps in, it's a very easy way to clear the car!" haha. That was a joke, but ultimately we did see her wake up eventually and pounce from one tree to another branch which was SO COOL. I was ready with my camera in burst mode and it was soooo cool. Just awesome. I messed up the super-complex Canon 5D Mark III focus mode, I needed multipoint AF + AI Servo mode to have the camera auto-track the leopard as she jumped from one tree to the other. I had forgotten to change one of the settings and so my "jumping" photos aren't as sharp focus as they could have been... darn. But super happy with the ones of her that I caught when she was sleeping in the "V" of the tree.

Up in the tree!

Lazy Leopard!

You can see her back feet here, sitting all folded up like a cat, chillin' in a tree
Having a good scratch
Getting ready to pounce... jumping to another branch...


And now, relaxing again

What an epic leopard.

We continued driving a bit longer and saw some more fun animals, a cool blue bird, and then headed back for brekkie at the lodge.

This little dude was funny


Breakfast time!! Mangoes and Passion Fruit...
We had the most awesome lemon poppyseed muffin possibly ever

Given the early-morning wake up, we spent the late morning and early afternoon relaxing. We went back to our room and did a very thorough baboon check this time before entering our place, and closed and locked the door VERY quickly this time!! We did see some baboons (3) walking near our front door again.... jerks!!!

After some relaxation, we headed back to the common area for lunch. I had Peri Peri Chicken which was HOT!! And something called "Self-Saucing Vanilla Pudding" which was delicious.

The common area deck
The watering hole, viewable from our room or the common area

Fun birds in the gift shop
Our room, this time baboon-free!
"Damn monkeys" -- we saw a family of them walking on the area outside our back window
Closeup of the monkeys
After a great lunch and getting changed into our safari clothes again, we headed back out for the evening game drive. First up were the buffalo, as Sipps said, "with a funny haircut"!! Soon after we also saw a Kudu up close, which was super cool.

"Hey, what are YOU lookin' at?"
Next up... we found Zebras... and TONS of them!! Sipps explained how they have unique triangle stripes ("like a fingerprint") and how their stripes go all the way up through their hair as well. Sooo coool. It was fun to see them hanging out together and they seemed pretty tame and calm animals compared to the other crazy stuff we've seen :) After the pack of Zebras, we saw a few small and interesting birds too.

See how the stripes go up to their hair on the back of their neck as well?! Crazy.

We continued driving for a bit and then came across some more Rhinos. This was particularly crazy as we got SO CLOSE to them. I was wondering if it was so close that they would charge?!? Our ranger and tracker were so professional and so chill so we took our cues from them. Sipps even took out his own phone at some point to take a close up of the Rhino right on the side of the vehicle. Crazy :) At some point, they were like,... NOPE... too close, and we turned on the car and moved away a little, but otherwise we were sitting there basically right beside a few giant rhinos. It was nuts.

Hey, can we get a Selfie!?

Large and in charge
We continued to drive after getting somewhat stuck in the bushes (as we were wedged between a few things to get a good look at the Rhinos from a safe distance)... haha good times. We came across some Impalas and Zebras together... it was a scene that felt very "Lion King"!! So very African right now! The Impalas were play-fighting and the Zebras were literally "horsing around". It was so fun to watch.

"Horsing around" -- I love the smile on the one Zebra's face!

Play-fighting and practicing their dueling

The sun started to set as we moved closer to a watering hole to see some Water Buck and some Hippos. The hippos were pretty crazy animals, they were shaking their tail while going to the bathroom to mark their territory (cool but gross). They also were doing what looked like yawning, but, as Sipps explained, was stretching their jaws or was showing aggression. They were really interesting to watch, you have this idea that hippos are this fat, jolly creature, but they are kinda crazy. They were in the water and you could see just their eyes and nostrils... just like alligators!! They have an incredibly thick hide, they need to be in water a lot to have their skin stay hydrated. Sipps explained how important it is never to get between a hippo and the water in the dark -- if they get spooked they will run back to the water they feel safe in, and they move at something insane like 30 km/h even though they are 2 TONNES IN WEIGHT. Totally nuts. You don't want to be in the way of that! Seriously, they can and would easily trample you, so you need to keep your distance.

We stopped for an evening break at the watering hole and took lots of photos of the hippos and the sunset. This time our snack was dried guava cut into circles, which Sipps referred to as "Vegetarian Salami" haha!!! We also had biltong which was, of course, awesome.

Sipps explaining that we can never get between the hippo and their water
In our Safari gear :)
Cool Water Bucks

Charging into the water
Hungry Hungry Hippo!!!

With a smile on his face!

Another vehicle in the sunset

That was an awesome little stretch break, seeing the hippos and taking lots of photos, and then eating all the dried fruit and biltong. What an awesome trip :)

We drove back to the lodge and saw a few more fun animals on the way back as it was getting dark, including some more lions rolling in the grass. That was intense, I was parked with my camera and then the lion was rolling around and I got a snap just as he opened up one eye to look us over. Awesome.

"Keep moving..."
Elephant with shadow (from the spotlight on our 4WD vehicle).
We headed back to the lodge and had a nice BBQ dinner, but inside instead of outside as it had become too windy to have an outdoor standard "Braai". As we drove back into the camp, Sipps excitedly (or excited-nervously?!) said something to the security guard... "...Ngala?!" (which means Lion)... ?!?! Apparently there were lions at the watering hole just directly across from our common area!! Crazy stuff! We didn't see them but that's probably all for the best. :) After a lovely dinner we headed to bed (and locked the door!!!!) early to bed and ready for another early wake-up for our last Simbambili game drive the next morning.

1 comment:

Dada Jutan said...

You guys obviously had a wonderful and exciting time and even made a few animal friends too
(Dada Jutan)