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09 January 2020

Client review: Witnessing the circle of life on safari in South Africa

Michelle O'Dea and her husband travelled to South Africa for their two-week honeymoon, and witnessed the circle of life whilst staying at &Beyond Ngala Safari Lodge in the Greater Kruger’s Timbavati Game Reserve.

Going on safari is an amazing experience in any national park. I had been on safari in quite a few parks before, but it was the first safari for my husband David. Our time spent at &Beyond’s Ngala Safari Lodge was spectacular to say the least.

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Watching a herd of elephants drinking from the pool at the same time every day was a highlight on its own. The service, accommodation and food were nothing short of five star.

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However, the highlights were the game drives. The best I have ever been on. We saw the Big Five without too much trouble, as well as a plethora of other wild animals.

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The lodge is situated in the Timbavati, which borders Kruger National Park. The animals roam freely through this private game reserve, since there are no fences. This means that the calibre and quantity of wildlife is first class. As the area is private, the vehicles can go off road and therefore get even closer to the animals.

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This certainly does not mean that animal welfare is not taken into consideration. In fact, it is the opposite. No vehicle is allowed close enough for its passengers to view babies younger than three months old. After that, vehicles are slowly introduced and no more than three vehicles are allowed to view the wildlife at any one time. 

Members of the area’s management team are constantly trying to find new and improved ways to prevent poachers, in particular with the aim of preserving the rhino population. Conservation is without a doubt a priority at Ngala.

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On every game drive we went on, there was a “wow factor”, but by far our favorite experience was seeing the circle of life unravel before our eyes. Two days before we arrived at Ngala, two male giraffes had been fighting and one had broken his leg. In the wild, any vulnerable animal is doomed. It was inevitable that the giraffe was attacked by a hungry pride of lions.

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When we arrived, the family of lions, including some very cute cubs, had already been feasting for two days on the aforementioned giraffe. They were gorging themselves like it was their last meal. A giraffe is a damn big animal and when we arrived half of the giraffe was already gone.

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The following day we went back to the same site, as word was out that there was a ravenous lone male leopard trying to satisfy his hunger. As we drove up to the site of the carcass, we passed the meat-drunk family of lions lazing in the sun with full bellies. There was barely any meat left on the remains, but the young male was desperate and clearly very hungry.

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He was seeking even the smallest amount of meat to help him get through the next day. This juvenile had clearly been fighting for his life, as was evidenced by the open wounds on his young muscular body. After a mesmerizing amount of time watching this beautiful creature, we heard roars in the not too far distance.

As predicted by our incredibly skilled and knowledgeable guide Marna, the lions were protecting their territory. Before we knew it, a strong athletic young male lion appeared and quickly scared off the young leopard. It was not that he was hungry, it was purely about exerting his dominance and protecting his domain. He was so unfazed by our vehicle that he walked within a mere metre of it, while our hearts were pounding a hundred miles an hour.

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On our third day, we returned to the remains of the giraffe. By now the smell was pungent and seeped into our nostrils. However, the sight we encountered was well worth putting up with the stench of decay. 

Before us were a clan of hyenas and a few vultures scavenging for the remains. By this stage the giraffe was barely recognizable, the skeleton was almost non-existent. The crunching of the bones as the hyenas sucked the marrow out was a little cringeworthy.

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It was like a car wreck, we couldn’t look away as the circle of life was complete. In the meantime, the vultures hovered on the periphery waiting their turn to scavenge whatever was left. Partway through this spectacle a lone jackal made an appearance, hoping for some lunch. Unfortunately for him, the hyenas are higher up in the food chain and chased him away.

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In the wilderness, nothing is wasted, everything is used by someone. Even though this experience sounds a little gory or macabre, it is a fact of life. It is how the natural world works. It is life. To be able to witness it first hand was fascinating, movie-like, and an experience we will never forget. 

We are Michelle and David. We work full time but spend as much time as possible travelling this fascinating world. You can read more about our travels at http://www.2cameras1bucketlist.comWe booked a two-week trip with Yellow Zebra to South Africa for our honeymoon and had an amazing time. If you would like to read more about the trip, please go to https://www.2cameras1bucketlist.com/beautiful-south-africa/ 

If you’d like to stay at &Beyond Ngala Safari Lodge or go on a safari in South Africa, why not contact the YZ experts here? Alternatively, do take a look below for more inspiration: