THE CIRCLE OF LIFE
We depart Mozambique the following morning via Manguzi Airstrip (add taking off in a private plane from a grassy knoll in the middle of nowhere to your bucket list) and arrive an hour later at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa. We’re whisked away to Bush Lodge, one of four distinct properties on site that welcome visitors from around the world to experience five-star service and Big five sightings. Afternoon tea reveals exquisite attention to detail that has been the reserve’s benchmark since its founding in 1979. After nibbling on scones and clotted cream, we pile into a jeep for the first of three game drives with our ranger Kevan. Sightings appear around every corner, from elephants and rhinos to dozens of the 300 bird species known to exist in Kruger National Park. In addition to his in-depth wildlife knowledge, Kevan offers easy-to-follow camera advice, quickly adjusting his suggestions for the range of novice and pros among the group. The results, after a few quick technical adjustments, are astounding. Back at Bush Lodge, we settle in for a traditional braai (barbecue) prepared in an outdoor boma under the African sky. The culinary cornucopia is a sight to behold, and includes traditional dishes such as warthog and putu pap (a cornmeal porridge). A meal like this wouldn’t be complete without a deep dive into South African wine, and Sabi Sabi doesn’t disappoint with an award-winning collection. But sourcing coveted wines and transporting them into the bush is no easy feat, says Sabi Sabi’s Marketing Director Jacques Smit. “It’s very important to know what our guests are drinking and balance with what we’d like to see them drinking,” says Smit of Sabi Sabi’s efforts to expose guests to up-andcoming winemakers. This includes exploring emerging regions like Saronsberg (known for its shiraz) or encouraging guests to sample, Pinotage, South Africa’s signature red varietal.
To further immerse myself in the full Sabi Sabi experience, I bid a fond farewell to Bush Lodge the following day and transfer to Earth Lodge for an entirely different yet equally spectacular backdrop. Built into the landscape, the main lodge looks out over an open vista, where elephants and rhinos soak in a waterhole under the hot afternoon sun. Award-winning artist Geoffrey Armstrong’s organic wooden sculptures appear throughout the common areas, while my sprawling suite offers an intimate recluse to appreciate the surroundings, including a private plunge pool (which I’m irrationally afraid to use for fear of becoming an afternoon snack for my Big Five neighbors).
Behind the scenes, Sabi Sabi’s commitment to conservation ensures that all of these natural wonders will exist for generations to come. A dedicated habitat management team oversees initiatives including controlled burning on a four-year cycle, which promotes grass regrowth; waterhole rotation to reduce grazing pressures; road maintenance to minimize environmental impact; and a dedicated anti-poaching unit. Rhinos are particularly susceptible, and with their numbers slowly decreasing from 2014’s peak of 1,245, there is much work to be done to save this endangered species.
By our third game drive, we’ve seen lions, elephants, leopards and rhinos. The Cape buffalo still elude us, but Kevan and our guide kick into high gear when another vehicle radios that they’ve seen a pack of African dogs. The quick-moving pack darts across the rolling landscape as we spin off the well-worn road to follow them into the bush. Eventually, we come to a clearing where a dozen or so dogs have chased a young impala into a watering hole. It is the moment of truth. The dogs won’t dare to go deep into the water, but the frightened prey has no other choice but to wait it out, sinking deeper by the minute as it treads water and hoping that its attackers might find a distraction or another food source.
I watch with bated breath as the minutes pass and the impala’s head sinks below the water line. Bubbles of air burst on the surface. The animal has vanished, its life lost in vain. It is the most profound moment of this epic journey, and the experience is a powerful one that I will never forget. It’s a reminder that life is fleeting, precious, and can be taken away at any time.
As we head back to the lodge, I think about all the incredible people and adventures I have had on this trip and I feel encourage to open myself up to more opportunties. Africa is a wild, beautiful place that has rekindled my appreciation for travel and new experiences.