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A day in the life of an Ulusaba guest

What is it really like to go on safari?

Heather

Heather

Travel Writer
Published on

13 Nov 2017

Read time

5 Minutes

Leopard Stalking

There aren't many occasions where getting up at 5 a.m. on holiday is a good thing. Yet the prospect of seeing my first leopard out in the African bush had me leaping out of bed and scuttling down to the lodge before I'd even remembered to brush my hair. What are safari hats for anyway?!

Ulusaba Game Drive
Ulusaba Game Drive

Sabi Sand Game Reserve is one of the best places in South Africa to see the elusive leopard, which was why my husband Peter and I decided to spend a few days at Ulusaba luxury lodge.

Ulusaba Lounge
Ulusaba Lounge

Safari life inevitably revolves around the animals, which means being out and about at both dawn and dusk. However the bush breakfasts and blood red African sunsets more than make up for the lack of sleep.

Here's what a typical day at Ulusaba is like:

05.15 After an early morning wake-up call we head down to the main lodge for coffee and freshly baked goodies, and our ranger Sean asks us what we'd like to see today. A leopard. It's the one word on everyone’s lips.

On Safari
Ulusaba Safari

05.30 We huddle together under a blanket at the back of the safari vehicle, wondering what we're going to see today. It’s surprisingly cool and I'm trying not to think of my enormous warm bed back at the lodge. Or what could be watching us from the inky darkness

Safari Lodge Bedroom
Ulusaba Bedroom

05.45 Sean pulls over on a bluff so we can watch the sun rise over the plains whilst sipping on hot drinks laced with our choice of poison. I think it’s a bit early for vodka so I stick to the biltong and sausages. As the rays of the sun slowly creep across the reserve the bush comes alive with birdsong, cracking branches and distant roars.

Elephant
Ulusaba Elephant

06.30 We've already seen a pride of lions, a few elephants and the ever present impala, but our tracker James has spotted something far more exciting. Leopard tracks. The thrill of the chase really gets the blood pumping, and we realise the excitement of safaris is as much in the anticipation as it is in the sighting.

Leopard Tracking
Ulusaba Leopard Tracking

07.00 And there he is. A magnificent male leopard, so intent on following the scent of his potential breakfast that he ignores us completely. Which is fine by me. The hairs on the back of my arms are standing on end remembering this moment. It’s moments like this that stay with you forever.

 Leopard Stalking
Ulusaba Leopard

08.00 Sean says he has a surprise for us, and moments later we arrive at Kings Rock where a chef in dazzling whites is rustling up some pancakes complete with chocolate sauce and strawberries. I think there is fizz too, but I’m too busy taking in the view to notice.

Kings Rock Breakfast
Ulusaba Kings Rock Breakfast

09.00 Back at the lodge we tuck into our fourth breakfast. After the pancakes we're not hungry, but it all looks so tempting we figure it would be rude to resist.

10.00 It's time for our bush walk, and I can't decide whether to be nervous or excited. We tread stealthily in Sean's footsteps, eyes darting all around to make sure we don't inadvertently trip over a sleeping lion. As we relax we begin to enjoy the feeling of freedom that comes from being on foot, and we start learning more about life in the bush. There's the toothbrush twig tree, giant termite mounds and a lot of time spent examining dung.

Bush Walk
Ulusaba Bush Walk

13.30 After a bit of a snooze back at the lodge (who am I kidding, we spent the entire time watching monkeys from our veranda) it’s time for lunch. Ulusaba is all about indulging, and since food is included we want to make the most of our experience. The duck salad and chocolate cheesecake slips down with surprising ease.

Rope Bridge
Ulusaba Rope Bridge

14.30 Afternoons are for sleeping, swimming or getting stuck into that book you've been meaning to read for ages. We're not good at staying still for long, so we head out across the rope bridges to watch the hippos.

Hippo Pool
Ulusaba Hippo Pool

16.30 After a spot of afternoon tea we’re back out on safari and find several grumpy buffalo and a kingfisher. Peter gets a ride on the ‘jump seat’ and is put in charge of finding some tracks to follow. We encounter little more than a thorny bush and some marching ants, but he’s buzzing with excitement.

Safari Jump Seat
Ulusaba Safari

18.00 We take a whirlwind Ferrari safari through the bush and soon arrive at a watering hole. It's surrounded by a pack of wild dogs, which are pretty rare to see. Elated, we snap away with our cameras, and follow them as they play, wash and even attempt to hunt a giraffe

Wild Dogs
Ulusaba Wild Dogs

19.30 It's time for sundowners and a night drive. The bush looks different and slightly eerie in the moonlight, especially with the hyenas we have for company. We are welcomed back to the lodge by a roaring campfire, tribal dancers and BBQ. Over dinner we swap stories with other guests, everyone feeling secretly smug that their days sightings had been the best. Which is just how it should be.

21.00 After drinks at the bar with some of the guides, we sleepily stumble back to our villa. It won't be long before the alarm goes off and we do it all over again. I can't wait!


Follow in Heather's footsteps and stay at Ulusaba, Kruger, South Africa.

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