From the moment you’re collected from the delightful Skukuza Airport to that last cup of tea before your flight home, your stay at Lion Sands Game Reserve is the perfect way to experience a safari holiday.
We were greeted by the most warm and genuine welcome, as if we were among friends. The natural, yet stylish Narina Lodge is luxurious, situated respectfully in the landscape so that it blends in with the trees. Things are so natural here — you’ll even have inquisitive monkeys trying to join you for breakfast. Your morning meals are safe though, thanks to the skilful staff keeping them at bay with the aid of water pistols. You really are sharing the space with the locals. (Leave your flip-flops unattended at your own peril!)
Naturally, you can’t be too expectant on your game drives — you may only see elephant-shaped ‘blobs’ on the horizon or a tail disappearing swiftly into a bush. Then again, you might just stumble upon an elephant having her breakfast a few steps away, or even join a whole herd on their morning stroll to the local watering hole. They’re perfectly content to let you join them!
Of course, it’s the big cats that ‘wow’ everyone on any given game drive and our trip didn’t fail to deliver. We came within feet of a leopard and her tiny cub, found a whole pride of sleeping lions, and spotted another leopard with a freshly caught kill.
The rangers and trackers who accompany you are extremely skilled. Ours (Ben and Collence) were fantastic and even found out if there were any particular animals we wanted to see. Ours was the elusive honey badger, which even some locals have never seen before! Their ability to find even the slightest trail in the wilderness resulted in all our sightings, even catching us a glimpse of our honey badger. All of this is done with no radio noise, and the drives are also exclusive. You won’t be ‘badgered’ by other trucks around you, jostling for position to snap away at the wildlife. It’s just you, your group, and nature all around.
We were also fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to take part in a bush walk with our guides. Under their careful stewardship, our party of four guests we taken on a walk into the bush, to learn about the local flora and fauna. It was fascinating to get a different perspective of this countryside… and quite exhilarating to always keep your head on a swivel for any large predators!
Back at the lodge, we were treated to an incredible selection of food and drink. As one of us is vegetarian, we were even given a personal menu to choose from, which was a nice touch and very much appreciated. Our ranger even joined us for a meal one evening and regaled us with stories from the bush and local life. It’s wonderful to hear about the preservation of the land and caring for the animals’ futures.
And to see us off, we were treated to that iconic moment in the light of a full moon — a herd of giraffe silently meandered among the trees, silhouetted in the light. It was breathtaking to see these almost prehistoric creatures move in the eerie half-light. Magic.
Helen's safari holiday tips:
- Beg, borrow or treat yourself to a decent camera. We bought a new camera for the trip — you’ll appreciate not being limited by a camera phone.
- That said, do make some time to take it all in without concentrating on taking photos the whole time.
- Do some research and have a think about what you’d like to see before you go. Are you just on the lookout for the Big Five, or is there something a little more obscure you’d like to keep an eye out for? Of course, there are no guarantees, but your expert ranger and tracker will try their best.