Our trip to the Sabi Sand Wildtuin had started - we left home on Wednesday the 1st May on a public holiday, the weather was a lot cooler than our previous trips.
We headed on the N4 towards Nelspruit through the Schoemanskoof pass, this pass still has a few stop starts because they are still working on the roads, but if you leave early in the morning it should not a problem.
We then took the R40 towards White River and onto Hayzview, the road was fine and we had a very good run even though there was one stop due to road works.
From Hayzview we drove eastwards towards Paul Kruger Gate on the R536 and then turned left at the second turn off to enter at Shaw’s Gate and into the Sabi Sand Reserve.
We arrived at Umkumbe Lodge at 4pm - it took us nearly five hours travelling with a few stops along the way. Don’t make the mistake of taking the first left turn to Sabi Sand because this will take you to Newington Gate.
The roads in the Sabi Sand Reserve are in good condition considering all the rain they have had.
We did not know what to expect because it was our first time at Umkumbe Lodge and found a beautiful open landscape overlooking the Sand River.
We were warmly welcomed by the owners Celeste and Herman and then introduced to Jason our ranger and field guide, who would be our host through our 3 night stay at the lodge.
The Lodge is beautifully laid out and you can read more and see the lodge photographs on our Umkumbe Safari Lodge page.
After settling in we went to chat to Celeste and Herman on the veranda just off the lounge, where we were offered tea, which is always available from the tea and coffee station.
Our first sighting at the lodge was of a White tailed mongoose...thank goodness for the spot light that is mounted on a tree, or we may have missed the little critter...
On the first game drive we found a pack of Wild Dogs – but the photographs were not great because our lenses had misted up! This was the first time it had happened to us and it was so frustrating, we tried everything to get them to demist.
Only the warmth of the sun or Jason’s heater could demist them. For the next two morning drives I kept my camera and lens covered with my jacket which seemed to help.
Keep in mind that the morning drive starts out before the sun has risen and the afternoon drive carries on until dark for part of each game drive and photography can be challenging if you don’t have the right photo gear.
We saw three different leopards in just 16 hours. The last leopard sighting was from the lodge just after breakfast. It popped out from behind the reeds and crossed over the river through the water.
The moral of this story is that you don't need to go out on game drives every day as you can get good sightings from the lodge!
We did not see the rest of the big-five animals, we missed the lions by a day - the politics of Sabi Sand! Some of the lodges have traversing rights meaning vehicles from neighboring lodges can enter their property but some refuse and if once the lions crossed into their land that's it!
We also missed the elephants but did see white rhinos, hyena and wild dogs.
Our field guide, Jason, was very good – he communicated with his guests and made the drives interesting and he is also a photographer which helps a lot!
You can also capture some lovely landscape images from the lodge like we did with our chalet a small tree and star-points...
What else made our stay special? Well the Sabi Sand Reserve basically has three parts, the southern, western and northern areas. Umkumbe is situated in the south and only traverses on their property so we had all the sightings to ourselves!
Umkumbe borders Sabi Sabi Game Reserve and they have erected horrible white signs all along their border, every few hundred meters. So any lodge that is Sabi Sabi's immediate neighbour will have to endure looking at these ugly white signs on their game drives - what were Sabi Sabi thinking! What happened to 'pristine bush'?
What made this trip special was the friendliness of all the staff - nothing was too much trouble for them - plus the home cooked meals and the great sightings.
Mario and I also enjoyed just sitting round the Boma fire listening to the night life while everyone else was in bed.
"Having a passion for the region myself and having had to learn about all the dynamics, waterholes and ideal routes to drive over a period of 6 years - I wish I had this guide on my first trip already!" - Morkel Erasmus, Secunda, South Africa
"Mario and Jenny take you to spots that are not always visited, and their descriptions of the more remote camps will allow you to make an informed decision without wasting time and money" - Bob & Sherry Shepardson, DeBary, Florida, USA
"Your time and money are valuable and the information in this book will help you save both." - Don Stilton, Florida, USA
"I highly recommend the book to anyone visiting Etosha National Park to photograph the animals - or anyone considering an African photography safari in the future." - Anne Darling, Cognac, France
"As a photographer and someone who has visited and taken photographs in the Pilanesberg National Park, I can safely say that with the knowledge gained from this eBook, your experiences and photographs will be much more memorable." - Alastair Stewart, B C, Canada
"This work is so much more than an eBook, because it is also a guide, a tutorial, an inspiration and a must-have for anyone interested in wildlife photography" - Findtripinfo.com, USA