Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari

Trip Report: Thornybush and Sabi Sands

Trevor McCall-Peat All Authors, Trevor 3 Comments

I have just returned from what I can only describe as an unforgettable few days. Later in the year I am hosting the Thornybush and Sabi Sands Photo Safari, so having never been to either lodge, I wanted to go and check out the two lodges for myself. Although I have heard of both Lodges and worked in the Sabi Sands for a number of years, each lodge is different and each has its own unique feel. For this safari, I wanted to create an authentic and holistic experience, focusing on everything big and small, hence the combination of the Thornybush and Sabi Sands reserves.

Although the reserves are not far from each other as the crow flies, it was amazing to see how different the two properties were. Both of which very unique reserves, which creates a huge diversity of landscape and associated photographic opportunities. The Sabi Sands has a number of big clearings and crests full of beautiful marula trees, whilst Thornybush is more densely vegetated and full of long intertwined drainage lines.

Lets begin with Thornybush

Tangala Safari Lodge

The drive from the closest town which is Hoedspruit takes a mere 45minutes, 20minutes of which is through the reserve. I must say that it is a pleasant drive through the reserve and you feel like you are driving into the middle of nowhere when suddenly you come around the corner and are greeted by the beautiful lodge and met by your ranger who then continues to check you in and give you a tour of the camp. The camp is situated in the heart of Thornybush. The lodge itself has a very nice entertainment area, which has a bar, dining area and pool, all of which overlooks a waterhole.

Wild Eye - Tangala Lodge - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Tangala Lodge - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Tangala Lodge - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Tangala Lodge - Wildlife Photography

There is two types of accommodation, one being chalets and the other being beautiful luxurious tents. For the trip later in the year, we are going to be using the tents and after experiencing them first hand I can honestly say that they are fantastic.

They are spacious, modern and comfortable. The rooms/tents all look over the clearing in front of camp and the waterhole which is the perfect spot to sit back, relax and enjoy the view.

Wild Eye - Tangala Lodge - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Tangala Lodge - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Tangala Lodge - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Tangala Lodge - Wildlife Photography

On arrival back from game drives in the evenings there is a fire lit in the small boma where guests can enjoy a pre-dinner drink and have a chat about the days happenings before heading to the deck to have dinner under the stars and alongside the pool – it really is a magical setting.

The Reserve

Thornybush is roughly 13 000Ha in size and up until very recently was a fenced reserve. However, in March 2017 the process of removing the fence began. Thornybush is now an unfenced reserve and part of the Greater Kruger National Park.   This is a huge advantage to Thornybush as there is now a constant flow of animals back and forth between the two reserves.

Tangala has traversing throughout the reserve, and on our first afternoon we headed out with the intention of finding lions that had been seen earlier that day. This soon changed when a mother cheetah and her three 6 month old cubs were found. It was a phenomenal experience as we watched the cubs chase and play with each other, jumping on their mother in the process.

We had many encounters with buffalo, elephant and general game over the two days and on our last afternoon decided to try our luck at finding a leopard. Deciding to leave camp early, we headed out to see what we could find. After about 45 minutes we came across some male leopard tracks, and on closer inspection we noticed that they were not all that fresh and so we decided to continue, only to come across another set of leopard tracks. We followed the tracks for about two and a half hours but to no avail.

Although we didn’t find him, it was great to see our ranger and tracker communicating and working together trying to find the leopard. The most important thing to remember is that – sometimes you win and other times you lose. I know it is a bit cliche but when it comes to the bush, it is the truth. What would a safari experience be if you found what you were looking for every time you went out?

All in all my experience and time spent at Tangala was extremely enjoyable and I loved every minute of it. I am really looking forward to bringing guests here later in the year and to have them experience this truly beautiful reserve.

Nkorho Bush Camp

Having worked in the Sabi Sands for just over four years I had heard of Nkorho and passed the lodge on some occasions but never really knew what it was like until my visit. On arrival at the lodge you are greeted by the front of house, your ranger and your tracker – all with big smiles on their faces which instantly makes you feel part of the Nkorho family. The lodge is situated in a massive clearing and also looks over a busy waterhole. The rooms are all evenly spaced out, each of which with a view over the waterhole.

Trevor McCall-Peat - Photo Safari - Wild Eye
Trevor McCall-Peat - Photo Safari - Wild Eye

Trevor McCall-Peat - Photo Safari - Wild Eye

The main area of the lodge offered an indoor and outdoor lounge area with a bar and beautiful swimming pool. I was fortunate enough to spend two nights here and during both lunches had elephants splashing in the water and drinking at the waterhole which was great entertainment while enjoying lunch. Dinner is set up either on the deck next to the pool or in a beautiful boma setting where you feel like you are in the middle of Africa. The rooms are nice and comfortable with a beautiful bath as well as showers both inside and outside. If you opt for the outdoor shower (which I would recommend) you have a view over the clearing and waterhole. The general feel of the lodge is relaxed and certainly very family orientated.

The Reserve

The Sabi Sands Reserve is roughly 65 000Ha in size and to is part of the Kruger National Park. In 1964 there was a fence that was erected between the Kruger and the Sabi Sands to stop the spreading of foot and mouth disease in the area. The fence was later taken down in 1993/4 to allow for animals to once again, move freely between the Reserves.

Nkorho is situated in the North Eastern Section of the Sabi Sands and sits on the boundary with the Kruger National Park. It truly is a hidden gem of the Sands. With its positioning, it is a good area for game viewing as animals move through the Reserve and through Nkorho. Anyone who has heard of the Sabi Sands will tell you that it is a prolific area for big cats and this trip was no different. In my two nights at Nkorho I managed to see 7 different Leopards and 2 different prides of lions, proving once again why the Reserve is such a prestigious and prolific game viewing area.

Some highlights and special moments had while on safari over the last few days…

Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari

Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari

Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari

Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari

Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari
Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari

Trevor McCall-Peat - Wild Eye - Photo Safari

I hope that reading this post and seeing the images gives you a feel for what this Safari is all about. It really is going to be an incredible experience and I cannot wait for it to begin. It is a Safari YOU don’t want to miss.

Until next time,

Trevor

About the Author

Trevor McCall-Peat

Having Grown up in White River which then was a small town in the Lowveld, I have had an inner burning desire to pursue my passion and love for wildlife. From a young age I was guided by my family who shares the same passion for the natural world as I do. Frequently visiting wilderness areas from a young age instilled a deep craving to explore and learn more about the bush. Once I left school I began my journey to becoming a guide and following my dream. I have been a field guide for the past 9 years, starting out in the Western Cape and then returning to the lowveld where I spent my last 4 years spend at Londolozi Game Reserve where I gained invaluable experience and had the opportunity to learn about myself as an individual. Through my love for wildlife it has kick started my passion for photography and has allowed me to grow and pursue it as a career. Combining an array of different elements such as safaris, photography, being one with nature and sharing experiences with others is something I have really enjoyed doing and looking forward to continuing it on this new and exciting chapter.

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Comments 3

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      Trevor McCall-Peat

      It was a really incredible few days in the bush and I was extremely fortunate to see what I did. The lodges were both very nice and comfortable. I am really looking forward to heading back there later in the year.

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