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17-03-2014 | 14:42:38
South Africa

It would be worth going to South Africa just to be in the wilderness, to see animals from big to small, meat eater to ant eater, primate to reptile. It was on one of the game drives that I began to realize just how much life is teeming under this big canopy of the national park – both seen and unseen by my untrained eyes.

Upon arrival at my game lodge - Sabi Little Bush, I was greeted with a traditional welcome drink, but it was a refreshing glass of mango juice that helped cool me down from the sun’s intense rays.

Hugo, the lodge manager, walked me through a narrow windy path that led to an open air lobby. A brief overview of the lodge was given and then I was escorted to my room. As we followed Hugo, a sequestered world unfolded right before my eyes. Tiny deer-like creatures called duiker scampered inches from our feet, stoic Nyala grazed at every turn, playful monkeys swung from treetops overhead, and brilliantly colored birds sang boisterously from the swaying canopy. There was something about the warmth meshing with the gentle breeze and the fresh air in the wilderness so invigorating. I felt as though I was in another universe — one that was perfectly molded – its beauty untouched and life unscathed. Hugo brought me to my villa which was elevated on stilts for privacy and optimal game viewing. I entered and once again was completely taken aback by the tasteful glass wall bedroom and Jacuzzi tub on the viewing deck, dual sinks, and the outdoor rain-shower. The room was almost enticing enough for me to lie down for a nap but I could not resist the urge to explore the surroundings and prepare for the game drive. And so I wandered and discussed my plans to search for a variety of animals and pondered over which animals we would meet on our game drives.

My first “close up” encounter with wild animals was a big Nyala- a spiral-horned South Africana antelope. It came strolling right into the lobby from out of nowhere, oblivious of the surrounding people with their cameras busy shooting away. By now I was already getting excited.

On my off road wildlife viewing in an open-air vehicle, my first wild sight was a sounder of warthogs, big and small. And they look funny when they run in single file, all with their tail sticking straight right up like an antenna and its tuft waving like a tiny flag. I was told by my ranger that the tail position served as a signal to keep the group together. We drove on for some time when my tracker showed me an indent in the gravel. It looked like some BIG animal just came by this way and had just rested on this spot. My ranger then pointed to some “still fresh” imprints on the path and explained an elephant was resting here earlier. We drove on and discovered some springy impalas, springboks, giraffe, black and white rhinos and a hippo too!

As the evening began to set in, we enjoyed a drink with some finger food, nicely set up in the wilderness. The big break came when we were driving back to the lodge. At the turn, we saw two lions lying on the path at close range enjoying their “warm bed” in the cold evening. Our ranger turned off the engine. Our tracker cum light man then shines the spot light at the napping brothers. Then suddenly the lion woke up, yawned, and in a flash, he was up on his fours. It came towards our vehicle and continued on, obliviously to the crowd all on board the open vehicle. I broke out in a cold sweat as it whisked passed me. I have never seen a lion at such a close range in my life. I remembered that I closed my eyes when I saw it coming and prayed that it would go the other way or if he needs to pass me, to do it quickly. But now, I feel glad that I was on this game drive and it was really one of those moments in life which you will remember for life. Andy Nicolas Chan is a Tour Consultant at Country Holidays Travel’s Singapore branch. To find out more about travel around South Africa and the world, visit www.countryholidays.com.cn

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