Once-In-A-Lifetime Moment

Once-In-A-Lifetime Moment

The first Big Five safari I ever took happened at Sausage Tree Safari Camp. It may well be my last, because I don’t think it could get any better than the four days I spent viewing lions, leopards, elephants, alligators, hippos, rhino, giraffe, zebra… I saw more exotic animals than I thought possible in such a short span of time. And no need for binoculars; we were so close to a pride of lions eating a kill, that I could see shreds of meat clinging to their fangs. Later, a rhino and her calf came to investigate the safari vehicle, a once-in-a-lifetime moment. A baby giraffe stopped us in the middle of the road, curious as to what kind of odd, rubber-footed creature we were. And despite their surprising calmness, I knew that these were very much wild animals, some of them unpredictable and savage. Balancing on that fine line between close proximity and keeping a safe distance was thrilling, and a testament to our guides who kept us safe by honoring the animals’ boundaries.

One evening, James made haste to the Olifants River. In one of the rare occasions we were allowed out of the vehicle, he escorted us along the riverbank to watch in amazement as hippos rose out of the water. When dusk descended, the river turned pink and orange, reflecting the blazing sky, and the hippos – their bodies made black by the water – began to blend into the darkness. Magical. It was the perfect way to end a safari; and once back at the vehicle, the perfect way to salute the setting of the sun — with a gin and tonic and newly made friends.

I’d wondered how truly comfortable “glamping” could be, but it was an exquisite way to be in the outdoors without the vulnerability and the bugs and the hard ground! Our tent was spacious and bright, the attached bathroom with a soaker tub was a luxury, but the outside shower was an unexpected treat, giving us a chance to wash away the safari dust under a starry sky. Standing out there at midnight, beneath the clearly visible Milky Way, listening to the animal sounds all around, feeling both the hot water and the cold air — all those sensations collided and I felt fully alive; a small creature in immense Africa.

The culinary adventures began with breakfast, which was a made-to-order omelette, fresh fruit and a selection of pastries and bread. It more than fueled me through the morning safari ride until lunch time, which was always ample, delicious and plentiful. Dinners in the boma, with the fire blazing and lanterns illuminating the towering, bamboo grass walls, were expertly prepared and exquisite.

As in any vacation, what makes or breaks the experience is the people, and Sausage Tree’s small but very fine staff is dedicated to making your safari memories indelible. It was, for me, part of the trip of a lifetime; four glorious days I’ll never forget.

Janice Holly Booth, National Geographic author & international Adventurista