Have you ever heard about Nottens Bush Camp?
Not many have but Notten’s Bush Camp is one of the original private game lodges in South Africa and is situated in the heart of the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve.
This beautiful little camp with only 9 rooms offers a truly authentic African safari experience. It truly is a jewel! I now believe that is one of the finest family run lodges in Africa, and the best kept secret in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve & Greater Kruger National Park. The extremely high return cliental rate to the camp is due to its impeccable standard of service and warm hospitality. I personally cannot wait to get back!
Not only is the camp, its staff (who go out of their way to accommodate you) and all that falls in this category incredible, the game viewing is some of the best in the world!
Nottens has a traversing agreement with Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, which is situated next door to their west. This means that we got to travel onto Sabi Sabi’s property in search of animals, or if there are any active sightings on the neighboring property worth seeing. We had a total area of 6500 hectares to traverse and explore.
Over the 6 nights we were blessed with not only incredible game viewing but also incredible interspecific & intraspecific interactions.
existing or occurring between different species
produced, occurring, or existing within a species or between individuals of a single species
Three of my major highlights follow,
- Leopard vs Hyena / Hyena vs Leopard
On the very first evening safari we started off in a area where a young female leopard had been feeding on an impala ram earlier that morning.
This spotted, elusive cat was hiding in a dense thicket not too far from the carcass to escape the midday heat. We had no visual of the leopard, so we decided to respond to an update of a herd of elephant not too far off.
After enjoying watching this herd for a short while we made our way back to the area where the leopard was sleeping as it had cooled down quiet a bit, and we were hopeful that she was going to get active. As we arrived in the area we spotted her in the small open area grooming herself before a herd of impala behind us drew her attention.
She walked towards us and sat on a termite mound looking over our heads with her eyes locked on these impala.
She suddenly took off chasing these impala into a thicket. It was so sudden that non of us managed to capture this moment but we all had witnessed it and managed to secure it in our memory banks. With no more visual of her, we decided to move off to enjoy or first G&T as the African sun was setting.
Our plan was to stop for a “quick drink” and make our way straight back into the area to see what had unfolded. We were all shocked to see a large hyena taking advantage of what used to be the leopards impala.
The leopard was not too far off watching, and for some reason the hyena started dragging the carcass away, then just dropped it and kept walking on? At this point the leopard charged the hyena who at first started running away, before realizing that this small cat was no competition. This chase took a whole new turn and the hyena chased the leopard over the open area and straight up the tree next to our vehicle.
As the hyena moved off the leopard jumped out the tree and ran towards the area that the carcass was originally to see if she could find some scrap pieces laying around. There was some reassurance as she managed to find two big chunks of meat which she then hoisted into two different trees as the hyena ran off with the majority of what was left of the meal.
Not every safari starts off watching a leopard chase off a hyena, hyena then chasing off a leopard and a leopard jumping in and out of trees a few times.
- Lion vs Buffalo / Buffalo vs Lion
By the fifth evening we had a fair idea on what the general game movements were and so we knew that the Southern Pride were fast asleep in some shade in the far west of the reserve with a massive herd of buffalo to their east.
Nottens Bush Camp on the other hand, is far east and so we slowly bumbled across that way on this particular afternoon. As we arrived in the area we noticed that one lionesses was already keeping a close eye on the herd of buffalo the where slowly waking up and making their way south over a large open area. This lioness moved closer to the moving herd and seemed extremely focused and ready. With no support form the pride and no young or injured buffalo from what she (or we) could see, she moved back towards the pride.
She lay down for about 5 minutes when she suddenly gave a very soft call. That one call was enough because very soon after that the whole pride, including the cubs got up and started stalking the herd of buffalo. It was so special to witness the adults strategically getting into position, but what topped it was seeing the younger lions & cubs stand back, clearly watching and learning.
I got our local guide, Thulani, to drive all the way around the herd where we sat and waited for the chase to happen.
Before we saw any form of movement, without having the cats in sight; we heard the thudding of the buffalo hooves on the ground as the lions were chasing the stragglers towards the herd who then came running straight towards our vehicle and veered off to our left right in front of our vehicle.
As we watched the tail end of the herd run past with two lionesses hot on their heels we stared up and chased behind them.
A mad dash! We were racing over the plains and saw a lioness jumping onto the back of a large female buffalo. We quickly got into position and started photographing which was a challenge because it was already dark and looking & focusing through clouds of dust is not the easiest thing to do, but I must say all the guests did a SMASHING job capturing this incredible moment, well done!
As we watched this lion – buffalo tail tug of “war/survival “ the herd had turned back and chased the lions off. So yes it was a good ending if you look at it from the buffalo’s point of view.
It didn’t end there as the pride chased again, and again, and again!
Our vehicle running non stop, we chased after and watched the lions chase down the herd about 5 times & literally chased behind this herd in one massive circle over this huge open area until the lions just purely ran out of gas.
I must say that sitting in the sighting for an hour and forty minutes and to have witnessed action like that has made it one of my most adrenaline pumping sightings I’ve ever been a part of and I’m sure the guests that had been a part of it will say the same.
- Black Rhino In An Open Area
The way this sighting unfolded left me in disbelief to say the least.
It all started with a slight glimpse of an ear through very dense vegetation. Black rhino naturally inhabit very dense environments and knowing their behavior of suddenly turning and running off, not to be seen again, I wasn’t expecting to get a good view.
That exact thing happened!
He ran! A very long way! The image below will show this…
- The red triangle is where we first saw the rhino
- The yellow line is the path he took.
- The blue line is the road we took around keeping the rhino in sight all the time.
- The red square is where we were incredibly lucky to have met up and photograph this animal in an open area (first for me in my six years of guiding) with one or two aggressive charges in the mix before he ran off
Driving along the road slowly, watching every step the animal took and photographing from a distance to bank some form of reference shot was a great experience but could not help but think, will he calm down and will be get a closer look at him.
As we kept moving along, this wish of seeing him up close was starting to unfold. We knew he was moving towards a large open area and so we kept hoping.
We had already positioned ourselves in this open area with the rhino staring straight at us, but we all thought he would turn and just run again. We were all so surprised and very happy to see that his next step was towards us and into the open area.
So that is it for my highlights but there was so much more!
I hope this gallery of images will explain the rest to you:
An action packed safari indeed!
Everyone banked great images, and many good laughs, stories and moments were shared throughout.
Well done and a massive thanks to all that were a part of it!
I sure do look forward to the next one!
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