Part 1: Deluxe Accommodation at Earth Lodge
Kruger National Park is easily South Africa’s most well-known safari destination. It’s a place where wildlife documentaries are filmed and viral videos are captured. I know many of you will remember “The Battle at Kruger”, a viral video with lions, buffalos and a crocodile in a fight for their lives near a waterhole. That extraordinary video was captured within the park, and extraordinary things happen there more often than you might think. I finally got to visit Kruger Park after many years and many safaris to other destinations. We have sent countless clients to camps in the Sabi Sand and Timbavati regions of Kruger Park, so they were the focus of this educational trip. So, in March I flew with my lovely wife to South Africa, hoping to capture our own ‘epic’ safari photograph or video.
After a very short stop in Pretoria to visit some of our family, we were off to Kruger. We boarded a small regional jet at OR Tambo International Airport and flew just under an hour to Skukuza Airport in Kruger. The airport itself is really quite pretty. Thatched roofs and modern Afro-chic décor set the tone for the trip in a great way.
We were met by our guide from Sabi Sabi, Conrad, who led us to our vehicle for the ‘game drive transfer’ to Earth Lodge. It was mid-day so we didn’t expect too much, but managed to see a small amount of general plains game including giraffe and zebra before arriving at camp.
Earth Lodge is Sabi Sabi’s premiere or deluxe camp. The entrance takes you through an earth tunnel into the main lobby area which surrounds a small pond with a waterfall coming from the roof. The entire camp is neatly camouflaged and integrated with the surrounding grass and brush. The décor is very modern but mixed with ‘earth’ themes. Pillars are made of tree trunks and dried grass is mixed into the concrete on the walls. We were shown an aerial view of Earth Lodge and you could hardly tell anything was there as most of the buildings literally have grass growing on their roofs. Quite unique.
The meals at Earth Lodge were delicious and very fresh. Certain parts of the menu changed on a daily basis and we thoroughly enjoyed each meal. During the green season it is a bit difficult to deal with bugs during evening meals. A romantically planned meal can quickly be ruined by a few dozen flying insects. This is just something to be ready for, particularly in the green season.
During March of 2017, Kruger Park and much of South Africa was in the middle of quite a long drought. Typically, the green season brings a good amount of rain and very green vegetation which brings life back into plains game. There had been a little bit of rain, but the grass and vegetation was not nearly as green as I have seen in past trips in February/March to other countries. Because of the drought some of the plains game was struggling, which meant predators were thriving.
On our first game drive we came across a large pride of lions including 3 black maned males, 4 fully grown females and about 10 cubs. The pride had taken down a kudu and were quite close to being finished eating, but the males were still trying to guard the remaining pieces of the carcass from each other. It was quite an amazing sight to see with lots of growling, snarling and a surprise visit from an elephant scaring both us and the lions as well. In the following days we would see this pride again, but without the 3 males. We would meet up with them further north at later camps as these 3 Majingilane males are well known for being the dominant males in the area. Subsequent game drives from Earth Lodge would get us good looks at a couple of leopards, elephants and even rhino.
I had the opportunity to visit the other Sabi Sabi properties for a quick inspection. All 4 camps are wonderful, high end properties. Selati is their historically themed camp with a great ‘Out of Africa’ feel. Bush and Little Bush camps being the camps of ‘Today’ getting a reputation as a ‘luxury home in the bush’. Any of the Sabi Sabi properties would make a fine addition to a Kruger Park itinerary.
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