I am more than lucky that this is my fourth trip to South Africa and each time we have visited at least one game reserve. To describe a 'safari' in a game reserve I would say it is wildlife in their natural setting, no fences, open vehicles (this may vary depending on the camp), and you would usually have a guide and maybe a guide and a tracker. In the Sabi Sands where our camp is situated along the sand river( it close to the Kruger national park), there is open land as far as the eye can see. The camps are usually small, I.e., it's not a Hilton and the guides are there to keep you safe, share information and with the tracker help find the animals to watch or photograph. I am married to a South African and have been watching animal planet and Nat Geo and have been hearing about 'the game reserve' for years. So it wasn't long into my first trip that I 'got it' and. fell in love with the whole concept of the game drives.
A typical day starts with a 5:00 AM wake up, meet for quick 'cupa' at 5:30 and then climb up onto the vehicle for the early morning game drive. Then you stop around 8 or so for a coffee or tea and a little treat then we finish up the morning ride around 9 or 9:30 depending on what you find or see. When you go back to camp there is a big breakfast spread and most meals we eaten on the patio overlooking the river. After breakfast, rest time and there is lunch if you like around 1:00 if you are hungry. We meet up again around 4 pm +/_ for the PM game drive and of course, my favorite, sundowners at sundown for photos and a drinky-poo and some biltong and snacks. It is a good time to talk to the guide and the tracker and ask questions, or take pictures of the landscape.
When you watch the wilderness shows the crew spends lots of time watching, waiting, filming and editing for the show. So knowing that, the things we saw on this trip are even more amazing. I think it was the second morning that we sat and watched a herd of buffalo grazing and crossing a big field. The grasses are tall, but we have a good view. At one point they are almost in single file, they keep on coming and we see a hyena sneaking around behind them. Hyenas have a distinctive walk, their head bobs up and down and they are very opportunistic, looking for someone else's kill or a baby animal, easy prey. In this case we see a very new baby buffalo trying to keep up with Mom. Michelle, looking with the binoculars and our trackers says the baby still has the umbilical cord trailing, so we all look with the binos (binoculars), too. Now the hyena is catching up and the mom buffalo turns around and goes after the hyena. Sadly the baby turns too, and tries to catch up with the mom. We can't believe it, we are freaking out and hoping the hyena doesn't get the baby. The mom is still in pursuit and all of a sudden the heard turns around to help, they try to go around the baby, but the baby is trying to keep up with the mom as she chases the hyena away. At first we were just watching buffalo grazing and moving across the field. We could have driven away at anytime to look for something else. But the key is to sit and watch and take it all in, the landscape, the clouds and maybe a hyena lurking in the distance. On game drives patience is a virtue.
Well the baby lives to see another hour, because that is how it is here, minute by minute, hour by hour. Survival of the fittest. The hyena is still around the outskirts, and will likely not give up. It will have to be faster than the mom and not alert the heard to catch the baby buffalo. It was amazing to watch.