On Safari with Singita: 'Don't Get Out of the Truck'
It’s 8:30 am and we’re driving in open-air Land Rovers through the South African bush. Less than two hours since leaving Singita Ebony Lodge, I'm wondering if I flew all this way just to see a few gazelles.
Then our guide Samuel spots a family of elephants about a 1/4 mile away, so he pulls ahead to a muddy watering hole and positions the truck with the sun at our backs. Slowly, the beasts lumber toward us one by one into the pond.
There’s a baby who leaves first and sees us. It raises its trunk to test our scent and starts to move closer. When the little guy is about 40 feet away, mom catches sight of what’s going down. She gets up out of the pool, with commitment, and everyone stops taking photos.
The rest of the family moves toward us, including dad who’s the size of a cement truck. Samuel shifts the Landy into drive and says, "Don't get out of the truck," as if we’re under the impression this is a petting zoo.
The family lines up side by side facing us 15 feet away. That feels really, really close in Africa. Mom is doing the thing with her ears, spreading them in a show of force. Sam asks if everyone’s okay. I’m thinking we’re sort of relying on him to tell us if we’re okay. Two people in the truck are looking at their feet, and my body is literally vibrating being so close to so much elephant tonnage with no fence in sight.
This goes on for about three minutes or so. Feeling secure, the animals move on and we get out for a break of tea and fresh crumpets.
Seeing the "Magnificent 7" in the first 1.5hrs of a game drive at Mala Mala private safari lodge
"The Bushveld is not a zoo, animals are not on display!" many a game ranger will tell expectant Safari guests, especially first timers...in an effort to manage expectation. We had the rare fortune of seeing the Magnificent 7 (The Big 5 +Wild Dog & Chhetah) in the first 90mins of our game drive which made those words seem hollow: Mala Mala must have consistently the best game viewing in Southern Africa....