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“Circle of Life”

Our final game drive 😭

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Tuesday, February 5

This morning started out pretty rough, but by the end of the day I was literally dancing and squealing, having had an absolutely amazing time. I may have spoken too soon yesterday when I said the Nottens game drive probably wouldn’t live up to Kwa Mbili 🙊 Different sights, different sounds, different crew and different guests, but both top notch and phenomenal experiences.

Monday night’s deluge provided a lovely pitter patter for sleeping. However come Tuesday morning when the rain continued as a fairly steady drizzle, it was not so lovely. But when you’ve traveled all this way, you’re not about to let a little rain keep you from what you came for. So 5am wake up and off to the Jeep by 5:30. Once Veronique joined us, everyone was on board looking oh so chic in our ponchos, and we were off.

I don’t even recall a lot of that morning drive as it was so rainy and I was getting increasingly chillier and chillier. Sandals and short sleeves under my poncho may not have been the smartest option. And by the end, I was shivering under what felt like a wet blanket thankful when Riaan would blast the heater for a minute or two. I didn’t even bring my camera out the entire first half and really wouldn’t have minded just cutting the whole thing short.

But thankfully we didn’t cut it short, but actually stayed out longer than anyone else, bonding our crazy little group and getting some phenomenal shots in the process. The first thing to warrant a wet camera was the zebras and giraffes (those giraffes get me every time). Eventually we took off hot on the trail of a leopard tip. There was a large male hanging out on a rock just chilling. It was pretty cool, but I was having issues seeing him and getting the camera to work right. So mental photos it was. But not to worry as there was yet another leopard waiting for us.


Thankfully by this point the rain had pretty much ended and we got an ideal parking spot to observe this leopard, with his kill, up in the crook of this fabulous tree. I have no idea how they are able to get the kill up there with them, but it was mind blowing to see (even if all we could see of the other animal were his poor little limp, dangly legs). Sometimes the light worked just right to perfectly spot the leopard in all his spotted glory, and other times he’s just this perfect silhouette against the sky. Riaan figures he may have had another kill on the ground as he leapt down from the tree at one point and was hidden in the long grass feverishly doing something. But that’s when we realized we were the last Jeep out and still a decent distance from Nottens. So time to hightail it back.


Upon our return we trudged to breakfast. It was yet another over the top display of anything and everything you could ever want, and that was just the stuff sitting on the buffet. Each table had a hot breakfast menu for you to order from too. I really think I’m going to need bigger pants before I leave this place 🙊🤣


Brenda and I opted to forego the bush walk (along with pretty much everyone else it turns out). Having spent several hours already cold and wet, plus the fact that we did two heart stopping bush walks out at Kwa Mbili, we didn’t feel the need for another. Turns out that was a good decision as Julia and Zack said they didn’t see a whole lot anyway. And possibly most important of all, Brenda and I still had our bottle of Muratie’s Amber Forever dessert wine to drink. There was no way we were packing that thing for another flight, so drink it we must.

Back at the room we dried out and set up our wine drinking photo shot before cracking that baby open. Then Brenda lounged and napped inside while I sat on the deck typing. Once we reconvened and realized there were snacks to be had right in our room, we polished off the rest of that bottle along with salt & vinegar Pringles. It may sound like an odd combo, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it 😀


By the time our pre-lunch snack was over, the sun was out again so we went down by the pool and chatted with Sue and Simon for a bit. Ya gotta love a good discussion about the royals (well we do at least) 😝 And even better is one with people with more first hand accounts straight from England. Or maybe as Simon suspected, I was loopy from too much dessert wine and Pringles 🤣


In no time at all they were setting up for afternoon tea and yet another grazing session for the humans. Seriously, I don’t know where all this food comes from or what they do with all of it that doesn’t get eaten, but I’m starting to feel a bit guilty. We had time to pop back to the room and grab our things before the afternoon (ie our final 😭) game drive. It was at that point that from the bathroom, Brenda spotted a little deer looking animal hiding in our shrubs by the outdoor shower just nibbling away on the grass and leaves. We left him to his dinner and headed back to the Jeep.

This time we were the last to arrive, taking our seats in the middle row. Like I mentioned earlier, by this point we were one big, happy, international family, ready to tell Riaan exactly what we wanted to see: lions and rhinos and a big orange sky for me. And from there it was a lot of talk and laughter and so many animals and trees and sky and stars that it just makes me smile to think about it.

I kinda wish I had a go pro documentation of the whole night just to fully capture and remember it all. There’d be numerous episodes of laughter from Surge, causing the rest of us to laugh and try to shush him. Then we’d hear Simon doing all zee accents from French to Australian, with a bit of American thrown in for good measure. There would be political and animal discussions, and of course me being mocked for my tree and sky fascination. All the while I’m not sure if Riaan knew quite what to make of all of us.

I can’t name everything we saw that drive, but I do know the prize for cutest spotting goes to the 4 little mongoose we saw right off the bat. I actually had Riaan stop the vehicle more than once for a tree photo op 🤷🏽‍♀️ But hey, hopefully he will always think of Jackie’s Jackalberry every time he passes it. There were also quite a few rare and beautiful birds he pointed out (Neil did warn us we may become bird watchers as a result of this trip). Then we came around a corner and there was one of our requests: 3 white rhinos just lumbering toward us. They really do look like some kind of prehistoric animal that doesn’t quite fit in. But oh my gosh...so cool!!


Next up was the watering hole excitement (we really have had a lot of luck around these watering holes). Anyhoo, this time it was the cute elephant grabbing a drink in the corner. And then a big old hippo decided to get in on the action, doing one of his dislocated jaw, full on mouth open moves so Surge could get a look at his teeth. Then from the elephant corner there were suddenly two teenagers fighting and going at each other, before the adults chased them away. And that left us to hang out with the not one, but two hippos who continued to put on their mouth open show.


The request list was moving on to lions. Riaan already had us pointed out toward their usual stomping ground, having warned us that it was quite a ways out. I was sitting back soaking in the scenery mentally belting out “The Circle of Life,” lest I sing it out loud and have them think me a complete nut job. In the midst of my rousing rendition, Brenda says, “look, there’s Prides Rock.” Guess we both had the same vibe going on. More fun trees, even some flowering ones...and you know those warranted a stop request. Then we found what we’d been looking for: three female and one male lion, just lounging by the side of the road. We admired them for a while, until the male finally opted to wander off.


Hmmm...this afternoon is going so well, what else should we request?! 🙈 Well there is still the matter of that red African sky, but I keep being told to be patient (not one of my strong suits). Then Riaan gets this strange look on his face and stops the Jeep. He says something to AB who shakes his head yes and proceeds to pull his feet way up on to his seat. That’s when we noticed the Cape Buffalo like a foot or two from my side of the jeep, just laying in the muddy ditch. Please don’t laugh now Surge, please don’t laugh 🙊


To celebrate surviving that, it was time for our drink stop. Riaan found thee perfect little clearing to park it with a long view of the big, open sky behind the most bee-you-tee-full line of trees. Cue the angels singing as I was at long last going to get the red African sky moment I have been hoping for for months 😍😍 The only way it could’ve gotten better is if a stray giraffe or elephant had wandered into the shot. But let’s not get greedy. Riaan did proceed to show me a bunch of shots just like that which he has had the opportunity to take (show off 😝).


But back to my sky moment. I took well over 50 photos from almost the same spot. But you know, some of them were zoomed in and some of them were more wide shots, and with the sky continually changing colors, they’re all very different and necessary (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). I guess someone asked Brenda at one point if I was for real and she was like oh yeah, just let her be. Simon mocked me...until he realized I was the perfect height to use as a camera bipod and decided to join me. After the orange came these glorious colored cloud striations and Sue joined me for that portion. I was a bit sad to miss out on the drinks and conversation, but this is thee thing I was obsessed with seeing, so I didn’t have much time to be distracted.


Day made (let’s be real, trip made), I was even giddier and more squirrelly on the ride back. And then I laid my head back and saw all those bright, beautiful stars doing their thing without any light pollution. Ok, time for Riaan to dazzle us with an astronomy lesson. When we finally arrived back at Nottens, the last Jeep yet again, we burst into applause. The perma grin was still squarely on my face, and would be for the rest of the night 😊 I was one very happy tree lady.

After a quick break, we all reconvened for dinner. Tonight the table was even longer, and just as packed with food and drink. Our Jeep crew sat together, continuing the laughter and good times, handing out travel advice and sharing stories. We were the last to leave, finally saying our goodbyes with hugs and talk of future visits (and Simon insisting they’d make sure to come wake us up early the next morning). Sue & Simon and Veronique & Surge had another day at the lodge, while Brenda & I were pretty jealous of that fact. More than once that next day we commented about wishing we could be in the Jeep too...but alas Victoria Falls was calling.


Posted by JackiesJourneys 22:08 Archived in South Africa Tagged sunset africa safari sabi_sands nottens

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