Safari So Good

I recently wrote about my memorable travel experiences of 2015. You can read all about that by clicking here. But there’s one trip that I omitted, mainly because I wanted to tell you all about it separately. So here goes.

Last December I flew from Cape Town to Durban and headed for the nearby Phinda Game Reserve. We stayed in a beautiful lodge set on a hill overlooking the far-ranging bush with mountains in shades of blue in the distance. And the sky, so huge and so filled with stars. Seriously, I live in London (which I love) and can’t believe how big the African sky looks.

Every morning we awoke to the dawn and piled into our open landrover to search for those elusive wild animals. As soon as we emerged from the lodge sleepy eyed, a sense of anticipation hit. What would we see today? Early mornings are wonderful in Phinda. It’s cool and fresh and everything is just coming to life, including us and the wild life we were seeking.

Phinda teems with game. There are impala around every corner, including babies at that time of year. Beautiful, elegant and delicate, they bound through the bush with such grace. Plenty of warthogs run with their tails aloft – the comedians of the bush. Zebra bark, giraffe gaze at you suspiciously from on high and the sound of birdsong fills the air. We spotted two giraffe getting friendly, a rare and entertaining sight.

giraffe

Giraffe kisses to start the day

Even as you’re absorbing all this, you’re waiting, waiting for a sighting of one of the Big Five. Lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino – the term Big Five was coined by big-game hunters as they’re the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. And we were hunting them down, too, not on foot and certainly not to shoot them but to watch and marvel.

And they’re there waiting for you. First up the magnificently gentle elephants with their lumbering grace.

elephant

We got up close to this beautiful bull elephant

My favourites are the Big Cats. And boy did we see our share of these magnificent beasts. These lions were small cubs on our visit here last year and we were happy to see them thriving.

lions

Our little lions all grown up

Another litter had just been born. Our knowledgable ranger spotted their Mum but search as we could we couldn’t find the babies. She keeps them well hidden out of the way of predators until they are older. Just knowing they were there hidden somewhere safe made us happy.

mother lion

Mummy relaxes with one ear on her babies hidden nearby

And then there were the cheetah. Two families of them. We named them the models of the bush and we sat peacefully watching them pose and even witnessing a failed attempt at a kill. It was fast! Did you know they can run at 110 t0 120km an hour (in short bursts)?

cheetahfam

One cheetah family strikes a pose

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Another family checks us out

Leopards are the most elusive of all so we felt highly privileged to spend time with two young cubs. This is the little girl, who we all fell in love with and wanted to take home with us.

babyleopard

The little leopard girl that stole our hearts

And then there were the rhino. Not the prettiest or friendliest of the animal kingdom but still amazing in their power and strength. Just don’t make one angry! Even the babies are huge with the average one weighing between 80 and 125 pounds at birth. Standing about 2 feet tall, babies are up and walking about within an hour of being born. Now that’s impressive!

rhino

Mother rhino stands guard over her not-so-baby baby

It’s impossible not to get excited, emotional and even overcome by such awe-inspiring sightings of wild animals in their natural habitat. I often found myself with tears in my eyes. Tears of happiness and wonder. Now that’s got to be a good thing. We’re unbelievably fortunate to be sharing our planet with these creatures, let’s appreciate them and do everything we can to keep them safe and with us. There’s no doubt the world would be a worse place without them. Phinda’s animal families never cease to amaze me.

And there’s more on this wonderful safari. The food! Let’s face it, there’d have to be food for me to write about, wouldn’t there? A feast for the eyes – and the stomach – served up at our  luxury lodge. Here’s a taster of some of the dishes our amazingly talented chef created.

Thai beef salad

The zesty Thai beef salad with the tenderest of rare steak

Late afternoon before the evening’s game drive we tucked into High Tea. So totally indulgent with delights like these amazing individual mushroom pasta bowls.

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Creamy, earthy pasta to savour

For lunch one day, a deconstructed Caesar salad. How clever is that?

caesar salad

Caesar salad like you haven’t seen it before

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A salmon tart packed with goodness

Afternoon drinks with tea – today fresh lemonade and Pimms. Beautifully summery.

drinks

High Tea was pretty as a picture

Another clever take – this time on Surf ‘n’ Turf. Crunchy and sweet tempura prawns served on top of perfectly cooked rare roast beef.

surfandturf

A dish for kings to feast on

Heavenly mini Yorkshire puddings stuffed with rare roast beef and horseradish. And for dessert, the creamiest of mousses with berries.

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Irresistible Yorkshires and sweet treats for after

I need to remind myself to be thankful every day for the places I’m lucky enough to visit. And I hope you’re getting a feel for them all as I share my experiences with you.

What’s the best travel experience you’ve ever had? What do you dream of doing? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

21 comments

  1. thetravelpockets says:

    The safari is definitely on my bucket list. And the food you ate looks delicious!!!!

  2. Live Learn Venture says:

    Wow — how cool is this?! One of my favorite parts about travel is exploring local wildlife. I would LOVE to do a safari like this.

  3. Florence says:

    I would love to find out more about this safari! Where did you stay? Which tour company did you use? I’m hoping to go on a safari next year and would love any contacts!

  4. Sandy Cadiz-Smith says:

    Thanks Natasha. It was a wonderful experience. When you do decide to go on a safari get in touch and I can give you some recommendations.

  5. Sandy Cadiz-Smith says:

    Thanks Jessica. I loved it – and yes, the food was spectacular, one of the best things about it. We had our own chef!

  6. Sandy Cadiz-Smith says:

    Thank you. It was incredible getting so close to so many big cats. If you do decide to go, get in touch and I can give you some recommendations.

  7. BeeWanderlust says:

    I haven’t been to Africa yet but am soo excited to go! My dream is to be able to see an elephant up close, my favourite animal! Love the pictures and all that food makes me hungry!

  8. Sandy Cadiz-Smith says:

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. You will love Africa, definitely make a plan to visit. If you need any advice from me please do get in touch.

  9. Sandy Cadiz-Smith says:

    It is an amazing experience, Joanna. I hope you get to visit Africa one day.

  10. Sandy Cadiz-Smith says:

    You definitely have to go on safari, you will love it. If you need any advice on where to go do get in touch.

  11. Sandy Cadiz-Smith says:

    Thanks Jessica. You would really love it, such an amazing experience. If you need any advice on where to go, do get in touch.

  12. Sandy Cadiz-Smith says:

    Hi Florence, we stayed in a place called Phinda which is in Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa. There are only a few lodges which is fantastic as you don’t see many people. You can look at their website http://www.andbeyond.com There are lots of other places to go, if you need any more advice, do get in touch and I will see if I can help.

  13. @NomadVivien says:

    Such an extraordinary experience! The little cheetah is just too adorable:) It must be breath-taking to have such close-up to the nature and observe the wild animals yourself. The food looks so delicious and fresh too! Great travel experience that shall be remembered for a long time I bet, thank you for sharing!

  14. Sandy Cadiz-Smith says:

    It really was amazing, certainly an experience that will stay in my mind forever. I love all the big cats. If you need any advice on going on safari, do get in touch and I will see if I can help.

  15. Sandy Cadiz-Smith says:

    We did see a lot, Courtney. I did love the giraffes too, love was definitely in the air.

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