Our First African Safari

Leopard in Sabi Sands KrugerWe made it to Africa! As the greatest rewards for our 23-hours of travel, we went straight on safari in the Sabi Sands region of Kruger National Park. The South African bushveld is so spectacular that any old camp would have been more than enough, but to take this mind-blowing safari expedition up a notch, we experienced it with Sabi Sabi. Rated among the top 15 hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure, Sabi Sabi has four top-notch camps on their 5,000-hectare game reserve and we got to stay in the most prestigious of them all, Earth Lodge. This lodge knows luxury but, most importantly, they know the bush. Bringing us closer to the Big Five then we ever thought possible in three days, our South African safari experience was the grandest welcome to the continent.


Sabi Sands luxury hotelsWhen we opened the doors to our suite, we swooned. Not only was it as big as our Hoboken, NJ apartment, it was decorated to perfection. From the dramatic wood wall sculpture that stretched the length of the room to the plush texture of the embossed velvet pillows, it may have been the most exquisite hotel room we’ve ever seen. The goodies in and out of the room were so thoughtful and totally decadent. Taking our complimentary decanter of sherry out to the lounge chairs beside our private plunge pool (yes, you read that correctly), we started our animal sightings from the comfort of our patio. Talk about luxury!


Sabi Sands safari tipsEach morning with French-press coffee and blueberry rusks in hand, we went out to watch the African sun cast its golden rays over the grasslands. Shortly after, our safari vehicle would greet us around 6:30am with a wool blanket, hot water bottle, and binoculars to help us fully appreciate the ride through the open-air Land Rover.


Sabi Sands Safari tipsThanks to the incredible skill of our safari leader Mike and our fearless tracker Patrick we were able to get within a few meters of every single one of the Big Five (lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards and cape buffalo).


Sabi Sands Safari adviceOne of the best parts of safari is parking the vehicle and allowing nature to run its course all around you. Preoccupied with their cape buffalo kill, this pride of 12 adults and six lion cubs barely noticed us watching them feast, nap, play and go about their evening.


Sabi Sands safari sightingsWith all the big cats busy digesting, this lion cub got his chance at the meat. Putting his new incisors to the test on a rib cage five times his size, this cute cub would make even a vegetarian say awwwwwww.


Kruger National park buffaloCape Buffalo are one of the fiercest animals in South Africa, constantly honing their battle techniques fighting off lions and rival herds. If this old codger could talk we’re certain his war stories would fill volumes.


leopard kill in treeWith four game drives and one walking safari under our belt we had seen four of the Big Five, only missing the elusive leopard. Patrick and Mike were not going to let us leave Sabi Sabi with an 80% on our report card. On our last game drive we rounded the corner to find this incredible cat protecting his dinner from the hyenas below. At one point the leopard dropped the 75kg kudu from the tree, forcing him to leap down 15 feet to clutch it in his jaws and scamper back up the tree as two hyenas literally leaped for the carcass. It was straight out of a National Geographic (view this rapid-fire photo sequence here).


Lilac Breasted Roller bird Sabi SandsWhile many people go to Africa in search of the Big Five, we think the bird life is often times just as majestic as the mammals. Here, a Lilac Breasted Roller (or “troupant” in Afrikaans) perched on a tree branch, dancing around and fluffing his feathers with each snap of the shutter. Fun Fact: In Afrikaans culture, it is said that the man used to propose by wrapping a feather from the troupant (which translates to wedding ring) around his wife-to-be’s finger.


elephants on safariThe shapes you find in the African wild are like nothing you will find anywhere on earth. This elephant ear was calling my name and the texture of his skin created a wonderful juxtaposition to the sun’s shadows.


safari sundownersAn evening drive isn’t complete without a “sundowner.” We had never heard of such a thing until Africa but now we’re in love with the concept: When the sun goes down, stop what your doing, have drink, and toast the day! To take this idea to the next level, Earth Lodge sets their sundowners up with a full bar and appetizers served on a magical cocktail table hooked to the hood of the car.


As the sunlight bled from the sky over the Sabi Sands and most would assume the day has come to a close, our tracker Patrick fired up his spotlight for the night game drive. We spotted a slew of nocturnal critters as we wound our way back to camp for a delicious dinner and a night of unforgettable story swapping.

We couldn’t believe just a few days prior we were in America then scrambling between international airports (good thing we had flight insurance) to arrive a world away and in a world apart. Africa had quickly stolen our hearts and filled us with hope for an amazing three months across the continent.




40 thoughts on “Our First African Safari

    • August 18, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      thanks for the great comment Mahendra, glad you liked the photos so much! Yeah we were so close!

  • August 19, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Looks like an incredible adventure. Going to look at photos on laptop. Can’t wait. I remember going to Serengeti and Engora Engora crater. Can’t remember how you spell it

  • August 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Wow, amazing pictures!! love the animal/bird pictures.

    • August 25, 2012 at 6:56 pm

      thanks so much lee. Yeah the birds have honestly been so amazing here. huge ones, small ones, colorful ones, flamingos, amazing nests, courting rituals….Africa is off the hook amazing!

  • August 19, 2012 at 10:00 am

    BEYOND incredible!!!!!! I want to take my husband on an African safari so badly. I went to Kruger about 6 years ago. Now I want to experience it with him. These shots are killer!

  • August 19, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    your photo coverage reminds me of the best footage from THE WILD KINGDOM TV show. The leopard-kudu in the tree sequence was terrific as were the single frame stills of the kudu drop. What did NOT remind me of those WK days was the Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge. Obviously a fabulous place and worthy of reader recommendation; not so sure about the flower petals strewn on the bed but it does make a statement.


  • August 19, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Gorgeous pix. Love the animals. The hotel. The food. What an adventure the 2 of you are having.

    • August 25, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      Thanks Val, Sabi Sabi really was a fantastic way to get our 100-day African honeymoon started. Can’t wait to share the rest of it with you guys….NOTE: You guys might want to shut your eyes when you get to the part of the honeymoon where we slept on a dirt floor, or rode for 150k on top of an 18-wheeler hauling bananas to the Mozambique/Tanzania border. 🙂

  • August 20, 2012 at 6:19 am

    They sure get you close to the animals for this stuff! I’m curious about your telephoto. Is that a 300 with an extension tube?

    Several of these shots (and those of past posts) have microstock value. I can’t tell without seeing them at original res if they are sharp and noise-free, but you guys are certainly getting some subject matter on this journey that has less competition from other photographers. I sell stock photos for income on the side, so if you’re ever interested in trying your hand at it I’d be happy to answer any questions.

    • August 22, 2012 at 7:53 pm

      David, for a lens we have a Canon 18-135, and a Sigma 120-400. No extension tubes used ever. Some of the shots are just so close, because we are literally a few meters from the lions face.

      with regards to the microstock value, that is amazing. I have been researching this and looking at the various services and options, so i would very much like to discus this route with you. Can you shoot me an email asking me whatever questions you might have, and i can send you a few samples to see the clarity and noise-less photos. Mike@HoneyTrek.com

      • August 22, 2012 at 9:27 pm

        Ah 400, nice. I think I considered that Sigma lens at one time in the past. I’m a bit surprised that the animals would be so mild mannered at such close range, but I suppose they are used to safaris on a daily basis. I will shoot you an email soon. 🙂

        • August 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm

          Yeah, our guides told us that they have learned through the years that safari vehicles dont have food or guns, the two reasons they would be interested in them. so they just go about their day, hunting, nursing, sleeping, etc. it was really quite amazing.

  • August 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Wow – simply amazing. So many fantastic photos (many I wanted to comment on, but there were too many spectacular shots). Can you tell me the background to the one with the 3 stones and rolled up mud (at least that’s what it looks like). The photo of the bird (with the horned yellow beak) w/ while background is postcard worthy – just lovely. Although Africa is on my “list” – you have just moved it upward. Simply amazing. Thanks.

    • August 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      thanks so much Kim. Of course we can give you the background. Ask about any others you like, WHENEVER you want. you guys are what keeps us posting! the 3 stones, if you are referring to the photo i think, there is a big pile of dried leaves on my forearm right? if that is the one, the three small ones are different droppings from impala, and other antelopes, and the big one if from an elephant!

      thanks for the compliment on the hornbilled bird, he is zazu from the lion king :). get africa high on your list it was FANTASTIC.

      • August 22, 2012 at 9:36 pm

        Wow – elephant dung – who knew!! :). Thanks for giving the perspective.


        • August 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm

          after that shot, i really wanted to add in more dung samples, as there were at least 20 different sizes….but Anne nixed that idea. 🙂

    • August 22, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      thanks Theo, glad you like the shots and the words (if you read them :). Sabi Sands region was so amazing. Off-roading and no paved roads. oh and no tourists! Woohoo!

  • August 21, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Your Uncle Mike has been sharing your site with us here in Knoxville. Love it! Have fun! (I’m the artist who painted an oil of Mike and Chris’s car, Frida,the 36 Ford).

  • August 21, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    @Carol, yeah we still have a hard time spelling Ngoro. lol. Hope you like the photos from our first safari! Bobbie Crews thanks for taking the time to say hello here on FB, and thanks for following along on the journey. if you wish you can add your own email address here for updates http://HoneyTrek.com/Subscribe – re: painting, that is great (are you and Mike painting buddies?)! i heard he sold the old beauty true story?

  • August 23, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Wow. Incredible. I like that you still know how to appreciate the beauty of everything, even after seeing so much. I know, how overwhelming travel can get and I have not been to places that are close to what you guys are experiencing!

    I wonder if you ever think about the time after your honeymoon. I’m sure life will be so dull and ordinary all of the sudden after seeing those beautiful places.

    Keep posting, I’m addicted!

    • August 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm

      wow Nicole, thanks for the kind words. yeah it is all about appreciating the beauty around you, and that is something that we loved doing even back in the concrete jungle of NYC…that attitude will take you far. we do think about after the honeymoon (but not that often), now we think about which way the wind is blowing, and where our travels will take us. Right now we are debating Rwanda vs. Uganda vs. Madagascar 🙂

      re: keeping you posted, have you subscribed to our updates list yet? if not, add your email here http://HoneyTrek.com/Subscribe

  • August 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Guys, this sounds absolutely incredible! I just booked in for my first African safari next year (I’ll be off to South Luangwa in Zambia) and this has made me super-duper excited! Those lion cubs – I just want to snuggle with them! The shot of that leopard is absolutely incredible, too. I can’t wait to get out there and explore!

    By the way, that room looks fantastic. Talk about fancy!

    • August 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      Tom, thanks for the love on the photos. You are going to love it. This was our first safari, and it blew our mind. Have you been on safari before? I just wrote you on Twitter as well. South Luangua is such a fantastic park. Are you staying with Robin Pope there?

  • August 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    I am telling you it was such an amazing experience…and to share it with Anne made it that much more special. And Sabi Sabi did such an amazing job of combining luxury with the wilds of Africa. Highly recommended!

  • September 2, 2012 at 2:02 am

    All I have to say is…WOW…Yudi and I are amazed and these pics took our breath away.

    • September 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

      thanks so much bro. have you guys been on Safari yet? your WOW is an understatement. just look at those photos, and imagine those animals walking right next to your car, all around you. crushing bones, slurping water, baking in the sun….it was an experience that will change your life. i promise you that. hope we touched on that feeling ever so slightly with my photos.

  • September 3, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I am dying to go to Africa. To have the car parked and see nature run its course sounds wicked. Incredible photos, guys!

    • September 3, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Thanks so much Kieu (is this you or Gerard?). Africa was more amazing than we ever thought…..and the cool part is the animals are only about 50% of what is so amazing. the people here are so SO nice. the food is great (not super fancy or amazing) but good street food all over, public transport is unique and can get you anywhere. and the culture here is so rich. add to that the fact that we see on average 5 or less tourists per day….#HEAVEN.
      ps. I FB messaged Gerard a bunch of tips on South America, let me know if they reached him. internet is a bit touch and go here in Lamu Island 🙂

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  • December 4, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Really great pictures! I haven’t been to South Africa so far, but it seems that you find there some of the best options for Wildlife viewing… Especially the pictures of the big cats (and the young ones) are amazing!
    Well, another destination to check…
    Cheers, Gilles

    • December 5, 2014 at 1:11 am

      Thank you! We loved our South Africa safaris. Sabi sands because we felt like we had the place to ourselves and Kruger because it was such a rush to drive yourself through a truly wild place. ​———————–

      • December 5, 2014 at 2:09 am

        Yes, selfdrive is amazing… Did it in Zimbabwe 2 years ago, it was a unique experience!

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  • September 15, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I read that you guys kept your budget under $40 per person per day – how’d you do that in Africa staying in a luxury lodge on safari? We’re currently 6 months in to our honeymoon adventure and we’ve spent way more than that, despite my best efforts!

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