It's my first stay at the exclusive Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, an area I've taken the liberty of calling the premium wild bush lands of Southern Africa. And as a first-time guest at Chitwa Chitwa, I'm excited to hear everything their wildlife experts know about the animal kingdom we're about to venture into.
On arrival, the Chitwa Chitwa team greets us with a refreshing drink and snack and introduces us to our tracker Betuel and guide Daniel. While enjoying our welcome drinks, Daniel goes over what we should expect on our drive and asks if we have specific wildlife we'd love to see. I hope we see an abundance of giraffes, the very same animal that inspired the lodge's name.
Wizards of the Bush – Guides and Trackers
We start slow and easy. Our tracker, Betuel, leads us from the front, allowing his instincts and keen eye to – hopefully – lead us to our first sighting. This is a phenomenon I have come to respect more and more as I watch them work closely on our animal expeditions. It seems the wind itself snuggles up to their ears to whisper where the wild things are. Fascinating.
We don't wait long before my untrained eye sees a shiver of leaves against tree bark. Our tracker has spotted a rhino. Cautiously, we approach the grazing beast, and that's when we discover there are two of them! We sit in silent awe, admiring the magnificence of their armour-like skin.
Chitwa Chitwa has incredibly engaging wildlife encounters that are a credit to the wildlife guides' excellent correlative style. Our guide is a qualified nature conservationist who reveals some fascinating rhino facts, and it's no wonder, as his extensive experience includes raising a three-year-old orphaned baby rhino. Reluctantly we move on from our rhinos. There's something special waiting for us elsewhere.
An Abundance of Birds
On our way to the unique find, gently jiggling and swaying in our game vehicle, I notice how active the sky is. Bird lovers are never bored in the Sabi Sand. Towering trees with striking nests expose a colourful array of feathers among their branches. Daniel hands us binoculars for a closer look at the feathered rainbow colours. Various eagles dot the sky, but few allow us enough time to gaze at them as they swiftly dip and dive against the bluest of skies.
Our experts' keen eyes ensures we rarely miss a feather in movement or identifying a specific species. At last, hearts all aflutter, we arrive at our exciting destination. It's a leopard!
A Leopard's Fortunate Find
The abundant rainfall is a pleasant surprise for this time of year. The grass is thicker and unusually long but still predictably golden. We spot our beautiful leopard lying in the long grass. Simultaneously, Daniel and Betuel point to a nearby tree. An unfortunate fate for the impala, a fortunate one for the leopard and an adventurous novelty for us nature's spectators.
Our leopard's – still steaming – lunch hangs from a high tree branch in an impossible yoga-like position. Our wildlife experts explain that this could indicate that there are hyenas nearby. Therefore, the only way for the leopard to keep its lunch from the pack is by putting it in the highest tree. Hyenas have the audacity of a four-year-old in a Spiderman suit when they're out on a hunt, so we don't blame our leopard.
Everything in Nature is Good Timing
Life in the bush goes slow and still or fast and furious. It's unpredictable and moves on its own timeline. We are, once again, content to admire our find, each of us fascinated by how it seems to melt and vanish in the grass. The leopard, undisturbed by our presence, relishes in the bliss of that first fresh bite.
Our eyes become accustomed to its shape in the golden grass. I observe how stillness takes a different form in the bush, even when watching the inertia of a leopard in the wake of a good meal – contentment in its pure form. We decide to head back to Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge. Tomorrow will be a crisp early start, full of even bigger adventures.
Lasting Impressions, Memorable Encounters
One of the many remarkable aspects of Chitwa Chitwa is the dam visible throughout the property. It feels like an appropriate turning-in of the evening to welcome the night with hippos vocalising, geese honking and crocodiles bellowing nearby. I take a deep breath and ask Daniel if he ever tires of it all. But, his answer is, of course, "never". He shares an incredible story with his response.
"One of my favourite moments was witnessing a guest walk to the front deck and be brought to tears as she watched an elephant (an animal she had never seen before) drink from the dam. It gave me goosebumps and confirmed why I enjoy my job so much, witnessing the unbridled joy that nature brings to people," he says.
Inspiring Life Through Travel
Branded in our hearts here at Rhino Africa is the saying, "Inspiring life through travel". And this is what we aspire to achieve in all travellers who visit Africa.
So, experience your inspired moments in Africa by contacting one of our Travel Experts today. And soon, you, too, will feel the rhythms of South Africa's nature.
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