Diana and David's visit to South Africa 2010 - Arathusa Safari Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Arathusa is one of several lodges in the Sabi Sand Reserve which borders the Kruger National Park. There are no boundaries between the areas so animals are free to roam wherever they want.

Arathusa Safari Lodge has 10 standard chalets and 4 luxury chalets - the 'standard' chalets seemed pretty luxurious to us though! There's also a bar area. pool and dining area.

The drives were in an open-topped vehicle with a maximum of 9 guests. We had the same ranger (Ryan) and tracker (Debeer) throughout our stay.

One of the best things about going out with Ryan was his vast knowledge about the animals, birds, bush etc and especially about the individual animals that he has come to know over the years that he's been working at Arathusa.




This male elephant had a tracking device around his neck which sends information to a group studying the movement of elephants with the Park.

A brown snake-eagle. Ryan was brilliant at naming birds. Once we saw 3 different raptors circling above and was able to identify all of them.

This black-backed jackal was asleep in the grass and seemed oblivious to us at first and then it noticed the truck, stood up, had a look around and then trotted off.


One of a pair of tree squirrels up high on a branch next to a huge orchid in bloom.

A bushbuck. Fortunately all the guests that we went out with were interested in all the birds and animals that we saw and not just the cats.

Just before the sunset we would stop, get out of the truck and have a drink while watching the sun go down.







There are 4 young male lions, called The Majingilanes, who have been in the area for several months. We were lucky enough to see them during the evening, following them as they walked through the bush, one after the other. . On a couple of occasions they lay down and then started roaring. One would start and then the others would join in - amazing.

There used to 5 lions in this group but one was killed by an older pair who have been around this area for some time - we saw them last year (Mr T and Kinky Tail). However a little while later 2 of the remaining 4 lions attacked and killed Kinky Tail so Mr T has rejoined the group that he and Kinky Tail left a couple of years ago.

We got back to camp just after 7pm and were soon seated outside around a campfire comparing what we'd seen with other guests.

There are 3 vehicles out on the drives. The rangers are in contact with each other and with rangers from some of the other lodges but they try to avoid having more than 2 vehicles in the same place at any time.

The food during our 2 days at Arathusa was excellent.

The next morning we were woken at 5.30am, had coffee and rusks and were away soon after 6am - well wrapped up with blankets and hats as it was still quite cold.


The highlight of the morning drive was seeing 4 cheetahs - Ryan told us that they were brothers and occasionally appeared in Sabi Sands. We said that we'd seen 4 cheetahs two days previously in Kruger and he said that it was almost certainly the same ones. When we looked on the map we could see that they must have traveled at least 30km.

Shelley's francolin - not seen that often.

This zebra had an ox-pecker on its hind leg.

After breakfast we arranged to meet Ryan for a walk. We were only out for an hour or so but it was very interesting looking at the smaller things, tracks, butterflies, trees etc.

A butterfly on a wild hibiscus.

A couple of terrapins sunning themselves.

Ryan inspecting a buffalo carcass that was killed by lions a few weeks ago.

We had the rest of the day to ourselves until our afternoon/evening drive. Some people spent the time sunbathing and swimming in the pool but we sat outside our chalet watching the animals coming down to drink at the waterhole.

These 3 elephants had a great time in the water.

A group of waterbuck.

2 male nyalas.

Our afternoon drive was another wonderful experience. We soon came across a group of 3 male elephants - possibly the ones that we'd seen at the waterhole earlier. Ryan knew these fellas and was quite happy to let them get VERY close to the vehicle - he just quietly reminded us not to stand up or make any sudden movements. At one point we were in the middle of the group - amazing - and one of the elephants at the back of the vehicle was almost touching it...

One of the group of 3 male elephants that surrounded the vehicle.

We saw several lilac breasted rollers - but none of us could get a shot of them flying, when you really see how colourful they are.

This leopard is called Salayexe, which means 'the lonely one' , she is 6 years old. Her first cubs were killed but she has just successfully raised a second litter - one male and one female. We watched her in the late afternoon as she was starting to hunt. One of the best things about the Arathusa game drives is that they are able to go off-road and into the bush to follow animals which doesn't happen if you go on game drives in the National Parks.

. You can see how close to the vehicle that she came - that's Kevin's hat in the bottom right hand corner.

Occasionally she would stop and lie down for a couple of minutes and then get up and walk off again.

Once again we stopped for a drink while we watched the sun set.

In the morning one of the other groups who went out for a walk came across a leopard with a kill. They quickly moved away as they didn't want to frighten the leopard off. In the afternoon the rangers found the carcass but no leopard and hoped that she would return in the evening.

On our way to see if she had returned to the kill we saw 3 hyenas making their way in the direction of the kill and when we got to the carcass could see that the leopard hadn't returned. The hyenas soon turned up and we watched while one of them crunched his way through the bones and muscle - no problem!! It wouldn't let the other hyenas have anything.

Sunrise on our last morning game drive - we never tire of African sunrises and sunsets.

This group of giraffe were browsing on trees and bushes.

Giraffes live in loose social groups and may leave one group and join a different one. A few days before we arrived Ryan's group had seen a giraffe giving birth.

Giraffes's don't eat grass so we were surprised to see this female bending her knees to reach the ground - there certainly wasn't any water there - but apparently they like to eat bonesas a source of calcium.

Debeer sitting at the front so that he can check the roads for spoor (tracks).

A rhino using a 'scratching post'. Ryan recognised this male rhino and was happy to get quite close to him.

The Majingilanes (the new coalition of four young males) are walking more confidently in our area now. We have seen them quite often with the Styx lionesses, although we have yet to see them mating. In fact it has been quite comical at times, as some of the boys are not yet sure what to make of these ladies who are throwing themselves at their feet.

Our final sighting of the drive were some lions. Some lioness from the Styx group had returned to the area and the 4 brothers had split up. We saw a male and female together.

One of the 4 young lions (only 1 has got a name so far - not this one).

This is an old female - a grandmother - from the Styx group.

When we first saw them they were lying several metres apart so we sat and watched and waited. Ryan said that if they were going to mate that the female would initiate the proceedings and so it proved.

She got up, walked over to the male and 'offered herself' to him.....

... but he didn't seem to know what was expected of him and wandered off!!

Unfortunately we couldn't stay any longer as we were expected back for breakfast, once again a superb buffet plus a cooked breakfast - we've all eaten too much over the past couple of days!!

1. Richmond.

2. Giant's Castle and Royal Natal Reserves, Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal.

3. Rorke's Drift, Isandlwana and Blood RIver battlefields, KwaZulu-Natal.

4. Hlane Royal National Park,, Swaziland.

5. Kruger National Park.

6. Arathusa Safari Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

7. Drakensberg Escarpment, Mpumalanga.

8. Johannesburg.


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