Sabi Sand is a privately owned game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park, in South Africa. The unfenced border between the reserve and the park allows wildlife to roam freely. The benefit of visiting Sabi Sand instead of Kruger is that it's not as protected and you are allowed to off-road, getting you even closer to the animals.
We stayed at Nkorho Bush Lodge, which was lovely and offered us a true safari experience. I would certainly recommend it. With the accommodation came all meals and two guided, 4x4, open vehicle game drives per day. To get there, we flew into Nelspruit and had a car service come collect us. It's a three hour journey from the airport.
We arrived in the afternoon, in time for our first game drive. On this excursion, we were lucky enough to see all of the "Big Five" (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros). Additionally, we saw giraffes, hippos, zebras, warthogs and millions of antelope.
As the sun began to set, we pulled over for a "sundowner." While enjoying a glass of wine, we had some visitors. A parade of elephants (including some babies) decided to migrate past us, stopping for a drink along the way. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I used to think that elephants used their trunks like straws, sucking up water. I'm certain that you smart people already know this, but they don't. They scoop the water into their mouths, using their trunk. Seems like a lot more work, if you ask me. Someone should tell them.
Suddenly, our guide feverishly started packing up all of our belongings. He said, "I hear a leopard. Let's go find him." My friend and I looked at each other, with doubtful expressions. “I hear a leopard?” Is this guy for real? What is he, the safari whisperer? Turns out he was. We drove for a few minutes, only to come across a magnificent male leopard. We watched him meander around for a while, until it started to get dark.
As we began our drive back to the lodge, we happened to run into our elephant friends once again. Only they were not as friendly this time around. It turns out that elephants have poor night vision, and because they had their young with them, they became very protective. They surrounded our open-top Jeep and began trumpeting and hitting their trunks on the ground. They were literally only about a foot away from us. The guide instructed us not to take photos, as the flash would agitate them. My friend jumped on my lap and, although I was also terrified, I couldn't help but laugh, nervously. The leader of the herd was getting more and more aggressive. Luckily we had a tracker and a guide who knew what they were doing. They yelled at the elephant a few times and then finally flashed a light quickly into its eyes. All the while, they had a rifle aimed directly at it. After what seemed like an eternity, the elephants started to retreat. They gave us just enough room to squeeze our Jeep through. We zoomed off and spent the remainder of the drive trying not to eat about a billion bugs. Since there were no windows on our vehicle, we were essentially a human windshield. We were covered in bug guts. Eventually, we arrived safely back at Nkorho, but not without a great story!