bacon, eggs, and a side of monkeys, please!
Thursday, 1/13/11 at 9:45am:
Greetings from Sabi Sands private game reserve and Djuma Vuyatela lodge. I will try to express in words just how amazing this place is, but it might not be possible...

We arrived here yesterday after a 2.5 hour flight from Cape Town to Kruger Airport and a 2.5 hour drive from the airport to Djuma Vuyatela lodge. First I'll explain that Kruger National Park is located in the Northeast corner of South Africa, and is ginormous. Sabi Sands private game reserve is a private reserve, sort of within Kruger, but not associated with Kruger. Vehicles from Kruger can't go inside Sabi Sands, and vice versa. But, there are no fences, so animals can roam throughout.

Anyway, when we pulled up to our lodge we were greeted with warm facecloths and delicious lychee juice. We are two of four guests staying here for the next few days, and the last night we will be on our own. But, there is a full staff at all time. We were given a tour... the grounds are beautiful, amazing, gorgeous. A thatched-roof building comprises most of the indoor space, with a beautiful bar, sitting area, huge fish tank with local fish, and a grand fireplace with seating around it. A large deck surrounds the building, and the deck looks across the watering hole, where a hippo has been camped out since we got here. There are two other smaller thatched roof huts, one with computers and a television and the other with a gym. Everything here is decorated fabulously, with beautiful Afican artwork, mosaic tiles, and many photos. Our host then brought us to our villa, #1.

There are 8 private villas. Our villa is made up of two buildings, connected by a large deck and situated right on the watering hole. We also have a private plunge pool and an outdoor shower. When we first got here there were water buck hanging out outside the shower... incredible! Anyway, the villa is incredible.

At 4pm we made our way to the main house for tea and biscuits before heading out on our first game drive. We hopped into our completely open land cruiser with our new friends (the other couple staying here), from Arizona. Taxon is our driver and expert game tracker, and we also have a tracker in training who sits on a seat perched on the front of the truck.

This game drive was unreal. We saw so, so many animals, starting with a PRIDE of lions! These lions were absolutely demolishing a buffalo they had killed the day before. There were two males, three females, and two cubs, and we were no more than 10 feet away from them. These animals are just incredibly beautiful, and seemed completely unphased by us being there, so close. They were just taking turns chomping on this buffalo and when not eating, they were lying around and digesting. Honestly I could see a bit of Winston in all of them, as they stretched out and lay on their backs! The cubs were especially adorable. Photos to come (hopefully!).

Half way through the 3 hour game drive we stopped for sundowners and snacks. The guides set up a little table that flips up from the hood of the truck and made a little bar for us. They stopped in the perfect spot, right next to a pond full of hippos, plus one crocodile. On the way back to the lodge we saw some more animals, including 2 giraffes, wildebeasts, rhinos, zebras, antelope and buffalo (Our guide accurately described the buffalo as looking at you as if you owe the money). It is insane how close we were able to get to all of these animals and that we get to see them in their natural environment.

After returning we sat down for an awesome 4 course dinner before some final drinks and bed. We are liking this place..... Wild animals and lots of delicious food...

Today is our first full day on safai and it started with one of the staff members knocking on our door at 5am. We got up, found coffee waiting for us outside by the deck and got ready for the morning game drive. Only 15 minutes after being on the trails Taxon somehow spotted a leapard in the distance off to one side of the path. He turned into the bush and headed toward the animal. This female leopard was gorgeous, and just slinking through the bush around us. We followed her for about 25 minutes and then took off. We also saw a ton of zebra, more buffalo, and then came upon two hippos who had been duking it out over a watering hole. One was completely bloody... poor guy (we ended up seeing him again later making his way to another watering hole). In the middle of the drive Taxon stopped and made us delicious coffee.

A BIG treat today was completing our veiwing of The Big 5 (leopard, buffalo, lion, rhino, and ELEPHANT!!!!) Yes, we saw an elephant, and were about 3 feet away from it! He was by himself and just eating (apparently they eat 24 hours a day) and he came right up to our vehicle. Incredible! We have lots and lots of photos of him.

Another exciting moment was seeing hyena, which are tough to spot since they scare easily. We went back to the place where the lions had been eating the buffalo, and now vultures were all over what was left of the carcass. All of a sudden we spot a hyena emerging from the bush. He came right up to the carcass, grabbed a HUGE bone, and ran off with it (I thought of Enzo!). Another hyena came and did the same thing. Pretty awesome.

Anyway, we came back to the lodge to an absolute feast: a beautiful buffet of fresh fruits, meats, and cheeses, along with eggs made any way. Here's where the monkeys come in. There are monkeys everywhere. Sam and I both had some toast, and sam had just finished buttering and jamming his when I spotted an adorable monkey on the deck. Of course I started snapping photos and before I knew it he was hurtling toward as at top speed. I continued to snap photos while laughing hysterically, and he must have thought we were idiots, because he jumped right onto the table and grabbed the entire piece of toast off Sam's plate. Before we knew what happened he was out of sight. It was hilarious and I have an awesome photo of him in action. Don't worry about Sam... he had all the toast he wanted!

Welp, that's it for now. We are in LOVE with this land, this reserve, and especially this lodge!!!!

lots of love to you all!

Hakuna matata
As we sit on the deck writing this we are watching a large warthog about 10 feet in front of us mowing on some grass. What a ridiculous animal! All we can think of is pumba from the lion king...

Since we last wrote Vuyatela has continued to treat us well. This place is out of this world incredible. The service is impeccable and we are completely spoiled. After writing yesterday we hung out on our deck and watched the hippos and swam in our private pool.we went to the "gym" which has 2 bikes and a treadmill and did our own spinning class... Ha. We then came to the main deck for a 4 course lunch. One of the best things is that everything is included (meaning all meals, drinks, etc are included in the nightly rate). We have a minibar that is stocked daily that we can have anything from, and if we want something more we can just come up to the main house bar and a bartender will be there ready to serve us. What's more ridiculous is that we are now the only people here! It's pretty amazing, we really lucked out.
After lunch Caitlin headed down to the "rubbing post" for a massage (yes it is actually called the rubbing post). We then Hung out by the pool and made our way to the main deck for yet another course... Tea and cake, before heading out for the evening game drive.

The evening drive got off to a good start with another leopard, we were sure we would not be lucky enough to see this animal again. Leopards are very hard to spot, particularly this time of year with the tall grass. We followed it for a half hour or so off road then got back on the trail to continue the game drive. Saw some more animals, thought nothing new, stopped for sundowners and snacks on a cool rock formation, then hit the trail once again in the direction of the lodge for dinner.

Last night's dinner was especially good, not only because of the delicious meal but they set up tables around an outdoor fire (called th boma) for us all to sit at. it was also the other guests last night so we enjoyed a final meal with them before saying our goodbyes. We should mention that dinners are also fun because our game tracker, Texon, eats with us, so it's another great opportunity to pick his brain about animals and other aspects of bush life.

This morning it started rain around 6, a half hour or so after the game drive began. This
one got off to a slow start since most of the animals were trying to take cover somewhere,
but we eventually came up to a herd of 8 elephants, three of which were babies, one just a
few days old. Adorable......

We also had a very very exciting find.... Caitlin spotted (and now she thinks she's an expert!) two cheetah. Apparently cheetah are rare here, but we had th opportunity to sit 8 feet away from these two for fifteen minutes. It was incredible.

Gotta go to tea... More later! This place is awesome!

Goodbye, SA!
Sadly, this is our final blog post from SA. Caitlin is hoping to continue blog updates once in a while after we return.

During yesterday's afternoon tea, the owner of the lodge named Pippa showed up and said she was going to join us on the evening game drive. We figured that this put a little extra pressure on the ranger and thus ensured a great evening of animal tracking. Before leaving Caitlin and I agreed that we hoped to see lions and a giraffe again, as those are the only large animals we have come across only once. Texan delivered. We saw a Giraffe along with a few Zebra early on in the drive, then just before we stopped for sundowners came across the same lion pride we watched eat the buffalo 2 days earlier. First we found the two males, looking much thinner than before as they have not since the buffalo. Only shortly after find these lions Texon started driving away without saying anything. Caitlin was momentarily disappointed as we didn't get to spend more than a few minutes watching the male lions. Just down the trail we found one of the female lions with two cubs. I think this was Cait's favorite sighting yet, they were some very cute killer cats. As we followed these cubs and their mother, we came upon three more lioness. Texon stopped the car and they walked out of the bush, one by one, right up to our car. We were getting nervous, but they slowly turned to keep walking down the road. There really is no feeling quite like having such powerful, dangerous animals three feet away.

After following the lions for 20 minutes or so we headed to Texon's favorite sundowners spot looking over a watering hole. We had some drinks as well as buffalo wings while chatting with Pippa and the others about the lodge and our fond memories of staying there.

When we drove off it was dark and Texon drove us right up to the lions new location. It was pitch black out but we were able to view the whole pride settled in for a night, with a spot light. What an incredible sight!

Back at the lodge, We were greeted By the staff with a "chameleon" a special drink of the night. They had set up a beautifully decorated table for two in front of the large fireplace, champagne and all! The evening followed with a wonderful dinner just for the two of us. Did we mention we LOVE this place?!

Sadly we missed our game drive this morning because it was pouring rain, the start of a 4 day floodwatch for Sabi Sands game reserve. We slept in and enjoyed our final breakfast and a relaxing morning. The time came to pack up and say our goodbyes. Cait was very tearful as we hugged all the staff, and of course Texon and Lots, our ranger and tracker. But, we assured them we would be back someday and we also promised them that our parents would be there in the next couple of years (that means YOU: Chris, sandy, Karen, and ford!) they are so excited to meet all of you! We quickly loaded in our car and started the first 2.5 hours (with cait crying) of our 30 hour trip home.

Now we are in Johannesburg about to board our flight to Alanta... 17 hours! Woof!

Lots of love to everyone... Can't wait to see you when we get home!

Caitlin and Sam
Posted by caitlin at 12:18 AM 1 comments
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