A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand

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““I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy.” * Ernest Hemingway (American author and journalist)

A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru
A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru

Freshly returned from a 10-day expedition to South Africa’s Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, generously provided by WanderingThru, the aforementioned quote undeniably encapsulates my journey from beginning to end. Across three distinct lodges, spanning 10 days, and filled with indelible memories, my unbounded excitement and delight remained constant throughout.

Recalling what I fondly termed my “Dream Trip 2023,” the context is essential. Initially scheduled for a South African and Sabi Sand adventure in June 2020, coinciding with my birthday, the plan was derailed by the onset of the global pandemic. After two years of simmering impatience, I resolved that 2023 would be the year to fulfill my long-standing fascination with the destination.

While I could delve into our experiences with WanderingThru, this blog entry centers on encapsulating our stays at Arathusa Safari Lodge, Elephant Plains Game Lodge, and Jaci’s Sabi House. Ultimately, a comprehensive comparison will conclude this entry.

Although our intended stay at Elephant Plains was initially planned for two days and three nights, a minor booking discrepancy led us to spend a night at the exquisite Arathusa Safari Lodge. There, under the guidance of De Beer and the expertise of tracker Eugene, we relished exhilarating game drives. Our group of six, accompanied by four other guests, shared camaraderie during the two drives conducted during our Arathusa stay.

A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru
A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru

Arathusa provided us with some amazing sightings, with Xidulu the female leopard and her male cub making the first leopard sighting in the Sabi Sand one I will not soon forget. While Xidulu lay a short distance from a marula tree in which her son was perched, the cub was having quite a time of it, unnerved by the presence of a hyena several feet from the tree, although it was far from concerned about the cub, who tried every which way to descend to his mother, eventually settling down as we departed the sighting. We also enjoyed a sighting of Maribye male leopard and Langa female leopard together in the same tree along with a number of general game.

A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru
A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru

What became quite clear early on at Arathusa was that the friendliness of staff. With a common interest in what you witness on game drives, and the intimate experience moved even the newest faces into longtime friends. We developed a rapport with our guests and De Beer and Eugene as well. It was hard to leave after just a day and a half.

Elephant Plains, although located not far from Arathusa and just as beautiful in its setup and placement in the bush, gave us a different feel, with a more secluded, yet welcoming atmosphere. Like at Arathusa, it didn’t take long for us to feel at home with not only the staff, including Doctor and Dumi, our guide and tracker, respectively, during our stay, but with the other guests with whom we would be exploring the bush for the following two days and three nights. You quickly learn that while there is a lot that may be different among all of you, the common interests lead to a camaraderie among a diverse group of people, something you just won’t find anywhere else.

A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru
A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru

Elephant Plains continued to deliver some amazing sightings. These included time spent with the Avoca Male lion as he hunted a herd of buffalo. He subsequently grabbed one on the neighboring property and was chased away by the herd. All of this was much to the frustration of poor Doctor, who was hoping that our prolonged patience following and waiting with the male lion would have led to an actual “pounce”.  We did hear this during our sundowners. We also enjoyed time with the Talamati Breakaway lion pride. Added to that, the Xinzele female leopard, and the Makhomsava female with her 15-month old cub. A beautiful   herd of buffalo was also among other notable sightings.

A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru
A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru

The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” certainly rang true during our journey with WanderingThru. On June 5, we transitioned to Jaci’s Sabi House, where we had the pleasure of meeting Tristan, our guide.  We also met the three other guests who would be joining our adventure. Diverging from our prior accommodations, Jaci’s Sabi House caters to a maximum of six guests. It offers an exclusive and intimate experience with a private guide (Tristan as our driver and Chris as our tracker). As my previous recollections of ARA and EP, forging friendships with fellow guests at commercial lodges was straightforward. What distinguishes our 10-day adventure, is the opportunity to share unexpected game drive encounters with a small group of safari enthusiasts. Bonding over drinks, meals, and leisure time in a more intimate setting offered a unique dimension to our journey

Tristan stands out as an excellent private guide. With our small group of five, he gave ample time for personalized interactions, discussions, and nature listening. We explored tracks, insects, and wildlife more deeply and searched for specific animals with dedication.

We were able to take the time to switch off our vehicle and listen to what the bush was telling us at any given time. It was exceptional.

A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru
A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru

During our 5-day, 4-night stay, captivating leopards kept us engaged. Equally exciting were encounters within the camp and on excursions. A vivid memory: a newborn elephant trailing its mother at sunset on Cheetah Plains. Engaging with zebras, curious hippos, serene Spotted Eagle Owl sightings, and rescuing a tomb bat added unexpected treasures.

A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru
A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru

Our stay at the lodges left us thoroughly impressed. Every location was splendid, and the welcoming atmosphere enhanced our experience. Yet, the real charm came with having a private guide at Jaci’s Sabi House. From early wake-up calls to shared sunset drives, the close-knit environment fostered connections with fellow travelers. My mother and I, both on this journey, made meaningful bonds we hope to rekindle in the wild again.

A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru
A trip across the Northern Sabi Sand with Wandering Thru

After COVID setback, 2 weeks in Africa with Ale, Tristan, and WanderingThru surpassed dreams. I’ll return to Sabi Sand, South Africa; recommend this unforgettable experience. I plan on returning to the Sabi Sand and South Africa soon.  I highly recommend anyone reading this to inquire about the possibility of a similar experience. It is something you will not regret.

To secure your best African Safari, contact Wandering Thru without delay. 

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