After catching up with an old friend, I had the chance to revisit a place that I had called home for a long time. I was over the moon with this news as I’d worked in the Western Sector of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve for many years and so it would be like visiting an old home, full of old friends and animals I watched for almost a decade but this time as a guest.
Our first stop was Dulini Moya Lodge and we arrived just in time for lunch. We were met with a warm welcome and had a quick chat and induction of the lodge before heading down to the lunch deck, overlooking the Mabrak drainage system. A herd of nyala browsing in the riverine thickets kept us entertained as we enjoyed a delicious lunch platter, perfect for two.
Once we were done with lunch, we were checked into our room. There are 6 suites stretched out along the banks of the Mabrak. What a beautiful and comfortable room it is. With a large lounge area, spacious bedroom, open planned bathroom, massive outside deck with a plunge pool and outside shower, there is a lot of space and great views again of the Mabrak. I recognized the deck, as it was one I’d seen a female leopard and cub on in the past.
We met our ranger and tracker in the main area for high tea. It is a beautiful area, extremely comfortable and making you feel relaxed and right at home. We enjoyed a piece of carrot cake, filled up our water bottles and headed out for our afternoon drive. We pretty much drove straight into a large herd of elephants and we sat with them for sometime as they were feeding in a large open area and the viewing was fantastic. Jem, our guide, then got a call that there were tracks for a young male leopard in an area we weren’t too far from.
We headed into the area to help, but didn’t need to do too much as Jem had his timing spot on and the leopard walked out into the road in front of us. Anika’s first leopard in the Sands and she was incredibly excited. I was also very happy, as it was a young male that I had found when he was only a few weeks old. His mother, Tlangisa, was a favorite of leopard of mine and so it was good seeing him going strong and well on the road in independence.
Our evening drinks break also happened to be at a special place, Constitution Rock, where I had spent many hours, before and during lockdown, enjoying the Sand River and clearing the mind.
Upon our return to the camp, the staff greeted us with warm towels to cleanse the dust and sunscreen, accompanied by a refreshing welcome drink. Without delay, we headed to our accommodations to store our belongings before proceeding to the dining area. A sumptuous dinner awaited us, boasting a meticulously curated five-course tasting menu. Every detail was flawlessly executed, and as we settled in for the night, a feeling of contentment surrounded us, much like lions after a satisfying buffalo feast.
The Lions of the Sands
Speak of lions, the two Ximungwe lionesses and the Nkuhuma male lion, killed a wildebeest right outside the camp during the night. If the bed hasn’t been so comfortable and brought about such a dead sleep, I may have heard it! Luckily they were still there when we headed out for morning safari and we watched as the two lionesses groomed one another in the morning light, while the male stay guarding the carcass he had dragged into the thicket. Not long after making space for some of the vehicles, we managed to find some more lions, the Nkuhuma lioness and her two youngsters, who are about 10 months old. The youngsters were full of beans and we watched as they tried to entice their mother to play.
She was having none of it though as she was more interested in avoiding a large elephant herd that was approaching them. She eventually led the youngsters towards the river and so we left them there to enjoy the peace and quiet. Just around the corner and another leopard! Miss a, another leopard I have known since a cub, crossed the road in front of us. Jem was doing us proud and Anika was starting to understand the magic a little bit more! We spent some time with him before we were treated to Amarula Hot Chocolates down by the river.
Breakfast was delicious as expected and after we had a quick swim and a pack up, we said goodbye to the awesome Moya team and headed across to have a quick look at Dulini Leadwood before they had a large exclusive use group checking in. Leadwood is a 8 bed lodge and perfect for a family or group traveling together.
Leadwood Lodge occupies a prime location at the convergence of the Sand River and the Mabrak drainage line. This unique positioning draws in abundant wildlife and a diverse array of birds. Where herbivores gather, carnivores follow suit. The lodge features a stunning deck where guests can savor breakfast and lunch while taking in the magnificent vista of the Sand River. With the soothing sound of the flowing river and the ever-changing wildlife scenes, one could easily find themselves lost in the tranquility of the surroundings for hours on end.
The rooms are beautiful and set along the Sand River. Each of the rooms have a great view and all nestled under large Ebony and Weeping Boer-bean trees. If you stay there, you may tempted to have your meals on the rooms deck, as the views of the river are that unique.
Dulini River Lodge
For our final stop headed across to Dulini River lodge. Smiling faces and warm hugs welcomed us, especially since we had good friends at River Lodge. After checking into our room, we had an hour to ourselves before lunch, allowing us to relax and unwind.. The room is very spacious, offering views of the Sand River from the bathroom and outside deck. While relaxing in the plunge pool on the deck, we observed a white rhino savoring a cool drink. However, the serene scene experienced a disruption as young and spirited elephant bulls entered the area, driven by their energy and determination to establish dominance, causing them to chase the rhino away.
Once again, we savored an amazing lunch as we happily devoured another platter for two. Just siting having lunch on the main deck, the game viewing and birding was phenomenal. Most of us sat with binoculars glued to our eyes for most of lunch. But before we knew it, it was time for afternoon safari.
At the beginning of the drive, we savored the presence of a massive elephant bull as he gracefully fed beneath a marula tree. His meticulous action of dropping the golf-ball sized fruits into his mouth was a mesmerizing sight.
Next, we observed a white rhino bull indulging in a mud bath to escape the afternoon heat and fend off pesky flies. While engrossed in his antics, a herd of impalas began sounding alarm calls, pointing us in their direction. Their conviction suggested the presence of a predator. As expected, we encountered the Nkhuma lioness emerging from the thickets with her two young companions.
We followed their movement and eventually found all three of them drinking side by side. This revitalizing riverfront experience took on a special meaning again as we embraced a breathtaking sunset, sipping on g&t’s.
Upon our return to the camp, the Dulini Choir, comprising local staff members keen on sharing their culture, welcomed us. In no time, most of the guests enthusiastically joined the dancing, creating a lively atmosphere filled with singing and laughter.
After settling into our accommodation, we gathered in the boma where the aroma of fire and barbecued meat enveloped us. Our guides joined the gathering, and we sat together, engaging in storytelling about the area. As always, the mesmerising dance of the flames captured everyone’s attention. We concluded the evening with an entrancing display on the “Bush television.”
We dedicated the following morning’s drive to tracking and locating another leopard. The Australian guests who had joined us the previous evening were eager to witness these magnificent big cats. During our tracking efforts, we also encountered elephants, giraffes, zebras, and a group of buffalo bulls. Eventually, the good news arrived – the guides and trackers had successfully found a young female leopard. At around a year old, she was a new addition to my sightings. Although I hadn’t seen her before, I knew her mother and father, who now produced a beautiful daughter.
As she transitions into her maturing phase, her companionship with her mother diminishes. While her mother occasionally calls upon her to join hunts, these instances are becoming less frequent. The young female starts to take on more independent hunting responsibilities. This transformation was evident during our encounter. As we observed the scene, a group of impalas emerged onto the clearing. Swift and unnoticed, the young leopard strategically positioned herself, ready for an opportune moment. The conditions seemed ideal, with favorable wind and effective concealment. However, just as the decisive instant approached, a substantial zebra stallion interposed itself between the young leopard and the impalas. The zebra’s size made it an impractical target for a small female like her to tackle. Recognizing the odds were against her, she gracefully retreated into the thicket as the morning progressed.
Our final breakfast was a hearty affair, accompanied by panoramic views of the Sand River. We bid adieu and reconnected with both familiar and newfound friends. The experience was undeniably exceptional, encompassing the very essence of the enchantment I had envisioned for Anika.
Dulini, we will certainly return for more!
To plan your safari to Dulini contact us and start planning the adventure of a lifetime