Milkberry Lodge: A sanctuary in Sabi Sands🦒

We’re gently swaying along the dusty track in the back of an open Landrover when the on-board radio cackles to life, breaking the peaceful solitude: “Ngala yi famba yi ya ka qivi“. Our game ranger, Robert mutters back in Shangaan and accelerates deep into the bush. Our hearts begin to race. Ngala…Lion on the move…

There is a piece of heaven on earth, known as the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Sabi Sands is a 65,000 hectare reserve, that shares a 50km unfenced border with the world-renowned Kruger National Park. It is one of the most prestigious wildlife areas in the world because it has one of the highest densities of big game. 

Our friend Meg Unite has a share in one of the private game lodges and she and her husband Ian would frequently invite us and some of their other closest friends to join them for a blissful week to enjoy all that the lodge and the area has to offer

We met Meg and Ian through our mutual love for sailing and Hobie Cat racing. We shared an interest in travel, good food and German Shepherd dogs among other things.

Their dog Raz was part of the sailing crowd, happy to mill about on the shore, chewing on rocks that he uncovered, much to the detriment of his teeth. Our GSD Loupe, was more inclined to participate in the actual sailing!

To the left is an image of the Sabi Sands game reserve in relation to the Kruger National Park. Buffelshoek farm is on the very top. Milkberry is located in this territory. Note the red ring above for the location of the lodge itself.

Milberry Lodge was acquired by Meg and her two sisters along with a few other shareholders in 2000. Meg and Ian were excited to share it with us, as well as their other friends Jenny and Chris Neethling, Jan and Gisela Tukker, Minouche and Michel Piedallu and also mom and dad who had become good friends with Meg and Ian too. Between the years of 2002 and 2009 we were privileged to enjoy a glorious restorative week there most years.

The drive from Johannesburg to Sabi Sands is approximately six and half hours. Part of the adventure is to depart early in the morning and stop for a full breakfast at “Tonteldoos” (Afrikaans for Tinderbox) in the charming trout farming town of Dullstroom, which also serves as the gateway to the Lowveld and thrives on tourists buying last minute safari items. South Africans don’t go “on safari”, we go “to the bush”, but we still enjoy buying bush hats and other cool gear for game drives.

After a lengthy journey northwards passing the towns of Sabie, Hazyview and Acornshoek, we turn due East and reach the Gowrie Gate which is the most northern access point into Sabi Sands.

Milkberry Lodge emerges out of nowhere behind dense bush and trees. An electric fence surrounds the camp keeping the predators at bay. The lodge consists of a main building comprising a comfortable formal lounge and a more casual entertainment lounge, kitchen and curved bar style dining area and a huge walk-in cold room. Then there are four elegantly designed free-standing bedroom suites, African rondawel-style. The smell of thatch is always so welcoming. It keeps the room warm in winter and cool in summer.

Extensive decking surrounds the anchor building and cleverly constructed walkways link all the suites together. In addition there is a boma for evening fires and atmospheric braais, and comfortable outdoor dining areas for lazy summer brunches. The swimming pool is beautifully appointed so that you can gaze over the dam and keep an eye out for game. A little patch of lawn fights bravely to hold its own through the winter. (Minouche had us doing yoga on the grass to keep fit and Chris organised brisk walking circuit around all the buildings. It’s a tough life when you do nothing but sit in the game viewing vehicle, eat and sleep!)

Construction of the lodge was initiated in the year 2000. The camp is cleverly constructed over a small water course, a tributary of the Mahewini River that feeds into the small Hyena Dam. The deck is ideally situated so that guests can watch the animals wander across to drink from time to time.

Although the seeds of creation of Sabi Sands can be traced back to the late 1800’s, history records the pioneering of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve as 1934. Today, six of the original founding families (a number of whom are 3rd or 4th generation owners), still own all the land that comprises the game reserve. Some of the names of these families are wildlife royalty in South Africa – Varty, Campbell, Kirkman and Rattray.

The entire reserve is made up of roughly 23 smaller private unfenced reserves. These privately owned and managed game reserves all belong to an association of freehold landowners, who work together and share a common philosophy surrounding wildlife and land management. They are committed to developing best practices in conservation and preservation of the rich bio-diversity.“It’s the oldest game reserve in South Africa which means the animals grew up with people and vehicles. They are relaxed and comfortable being viewed. The area is truly pristine as it has always been a conservation area – no previous farming occurred on these lands.” explains one of the rangers.

Even though there is a 50 kilometre, unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park, wildlife in the Sabi Sands Reserve is well habituated resulting in extraordinary close encounters and prolific sightings, particularly of the elusive leopard. The Sabi and the Sand Rivers run through the reserve, which add further dimension to the bio-diversity of this area. Sabi Sands is undoubtedly the best place in the world to see leopard.

Phyllis and Jan Meyer
Ian and Meg Unite
Minouche and Michel Piedallu
Jenny and Chris Neethling
Jan and Gisela Tukker
Nikki and Geoff Twomey

The Milkberry routine never gets dull. We’re woken by a rap on the door by resident ranger, Robert, at 5am. Shortly afterwards an exuberant Meg, rhythmically banging an African drum, checks that the occupants of each room haven’t rolled over and fallen asleep again. We stumble out of bed and head for the boma where Robert has prepared a fire and set out coffee and rusks. We sip our steaming beverages watching mist rise off the surface of the dam. Occasionally, we are treated to the sight of an early morning visitor stopping by for a drink. Shortly before sunrise we head out for a morning game drive. 

In winter we hunker down under thick blankets and snuggle against each other to keep out the icy bushveld dawn as we sway through the winding tracks.

Morning drives are my favourite. There is something pristine and fresh about the landscape. Newly constructed spider webs glisten with dew drops. The golden light begins to warm the earth and the animals gradually start to stir. Robert scans the ground for big-game spoor and tell tale droppings.

Drinks breaks are an important part of game drive ritual, both morning and evening. In the morning that mug of coffee with rusks goes down a treat, preferably while overlooking a watering hole. In the afternoon, Robert finds a quiet spot that meets the following criteria: It’s in a clearing allowing us to get out of the vehicle well out of the way of any lurking game; it has a spectacular view of the sunset; it’s well away from any other game vehicles with a similar plan. If Ian elected not to drive the landrover, he would make sure that he was seated in the very back of the vehicle. There was method in his madness. The cooler box was stored directly beneath his feet and he was able to sneak a few beers before Meg noticed and gave him a hard time! Biltong and crisps are the go-to snack, meaning that I often ruin my dinner by over grazing…

The reserve’s lush vegetation is renowned as a haven for the Big Five. Despite having been lucky enough to see the Big Five on a few occasions, it is always exciting to come across one of these magnificent animals. Lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard came to be called the Big Five originally because it was a hunting term used by the so-called ‘great white hunters’ in the hunting heyday of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when professional hunters bagged as many trophies in as short a time as possible. It was considered a rite of passage for seasoned travellers, everybody from American presidents to European royalty and heads of state to come to Africa to shoot a large, dangerous animal.

The Big Five quickly became known as the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot, and the name stuck – although fortunately now, ‘shooting’ is done through a camera. At Milkberry we have been fortunate to see the Big Five pretty much on every visit, sometimes even in a single day! 

African lions can grow to measure about 3 meters from head to tail. Lions tend to hunt large animals such as buck, zebras, warthogs, wildebeest and even rhino or young elephants. Females are the main hunters of the pride, and work cooperatively in hunting parties to surround and take down prey. To do this, they jump onto the backs of larger animals but will “ankle-tap” smaller animals, reaching out a paw to swipe the preys’ legs and trip them up. To kill their prey, lions use their powerful jaws to snap the animal’s neck or to strangle it to death. The main job of the male is to protect the pride. African males who live alone are required to hunt by themselves, and tend to hide in dense vegetation to engage in ambush-style hunting.

Lions are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. About 75% of African lion populations are in decline; their current global population is estimated at 20,000 in the wild, according to the WWF. Powerful and majestic, the king of the beasts has no natural predators. Yet the population has been reduced by nearly 50% over the past two decades because of retaliatory killings by farmers whose livestock were eaten by lions, as well as from trophy hunting and habitat loss. 

African lions used to be spread across most of the continent, but now are only found in sub-Saharan Africa. Three of the five largest populations are in Tanzania. Lions have disappeared from 12 sub-Saharan countries in recent decades.

At Milkberry we have been able to see magnificently large herds of the African or Cape buffalo. These beasts weigh anywhere between 425 to 870 kg. 

The buffalo is never far from water. They can live in grasslands, savannahs, swamps, lowland floodplains, mixed forests and glades, but they never roam farther than 20 kilometres from a pan or dam.

Perhaps the most unmistakable feature of the buffalo is its majestic set of horns. Known as the “boss”, the bases of a male buffalo’s horns grow together to form a shield. At age five or six, the horns might be fully formed, however, it is only after a couple more years that the boss becomes completely hard and perfect for sparring. The male with the thickest horns is recognisable as the dominant bull.

African buffalo function within a democracy. When they are ready to travel, they will stand and turn in the direction they want to go. The majority of “votes” wins and the head female will lead the herd in the winning direction.

Buffalo are very aggressive and have a tendency to attack humans. Yet they are very protective of each other and take care of sick and old members of the herd, shielding them from predators. Given its unpredictable temper, the buffalo is particularly difficult to tame and has never been domesticated like its relative, the Asian water buffalo.

Buffalo are herbivores, and so eat only vegetation. Their favourite foods are grass and herbs. They live for about 25 years.

The African buffalo is not endangered and has a population of 900,000, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. 

Once we were watching a herd of buffalo and in particular a pair of jousting males chasing each other. One of them headed at full speed towards the vehicle. Robert moved us out of harm’s way with seconds to spare.

Coming across the watchful eyes of a herd of buffalo at night makes you grateful for the robust safety of the Landie, but it is still a bit intimidating! 

Elephants are the largest land animals on Earth, and they’re one of the most unique-looking too. With their characteristic long trunks; large, floppy ears; and dashingly long eyelashes – a sighting is always delightful.

Ellies grow up to 4 meters tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 6,350 kilograms, according to National Geographic.

Both male and female African elephants have large tusks. They eat all types of vegetation, including a variety of grasses, fruits, leaves, bark and roots. Locating a herd of elephants isn’t as easy as it would seem. Clues to their location are freshly torn down trees and branches. They can be amazingly destructive. Just as suddenly as you spot a herd, they can disappear with equal stealth. They spend about about 16 hours eating, consuming anywhere from 75 to 150 kg of food per day. Groups of elephants, or herds, have a matriarchal structure with the eldest female in charge.

The matriarch relies on her experience and memory to recall where the best spots for food, water are, and where to find protection from the elements. The matriarch is also responsible for teaching the younger members of her family how to socialise with other elephants.

Elephants are amazing in their ability to communicate with one another and identify other elephants from distances of up to 2 miles.They’re considered an extremely intelligent species, able to show advanced problem-solving skills and demonstrating empathy, deep mourning and self-awareness.

There are five species and 11 subspecies of rhino; some have two horns, while others have one. The largest rhino species is the white rhino. It grows around 3.7 to 4 meters long and up to 1.8 m from hoof to shoulder. It weighs around 2,300 kilograms.

Rhinos spend their days and nights grazing and only sleep during the hottest parts of the day. During the rare times when they aren’t eating, they can be found enjoying a cooling mud soak. These soaks also help to protect the animals from bugs, and the mud is a natural sunblock, according to National Geographic. 

Though rhinos don’t often hang out with each other, they do hang out with birds. The oxpecker will sit on a rhino’s back and eat any ticks that crawl on the rhino’s skin. That’s not the only thing this bird is good for. When danger approaches, the bird will call out, warning the rhino.

Because the animals’ horns are used in folk medicine for their supposed healing properties, rhinos have been hunted nearly to extinction. Their horns are sometimes sold as trophies or decorations, but more often they are ground up and used in traditional Eastern medicines. The powder is often added to food or brewed in a tea in the belief that the horns are a powerful aphrodisiac, a hangover cure and treatment for a number of disorders, according to the International Rhino Foundation.

Save the Rhino estimates that there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the group says, there are 29,000 rhinos in the wild. Poaching and loss of habitat have put all rhino species in danger of extinction.

Unusual enough to see a crash of Rhino, but even more special to see them sneaking up on this lion!

Leopard sightings have to be the most exciting. They are not always that easy to spot as their markings camouflage them so effectively. We’ve been lucky to see them dart up a tree, together with their kill. We even saw two leopards tussling with a hyena over a baboon carcass. There was lots of to-ing and fro-ing and ugly arguing. Suddenly an elephant that was grazing nearby, simply had enough, and chased the pair apart, restoring the jungle to peace once again.

Leopards are the smallest members of the big cat category. They grow to only a maximum of 6 feet long. Their tail adds another 64 to 99 cm to their length. Males and females vary in weight. Females typically weigh between 21 to 60 kg and males usually weigh around 36 to 75 kg. The leopard is very adaptable and can live in many different places across the globe.

Leopards are solitary creatures that only spend time with others when they are mating or raising young. They are also nocturnal and spend their nights hunting instead of sleeping. Ambush predators, a leopard will kill its prey with one swift bite to the neck.

Leopards are classified as near threatened by the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. This listing is due to their declining population, which is caused by habitat loss and hunting.

Cheetah are the fastest land animals and can sprint at speeds of 96 to 112 km/h, Cheetahs have been known to accelerate from 0 to 72 km/h in just 2.5 seconds, according to the Smithsonian. For comparison, the fastest cars in the world can accelerate from 0 to 97 km/h in 3.5 seconds. 

The signature black “tear stains” on the face of the cheetah — one trailing from the inner corner of each eye, down to the mouth, also differentiates them from other cats.

Cheetahs don’t have one home location where they seek shelter day in and day out. Instead, these nomadic cats have home territories or ranges — expanses of grasslands, savannah, forest land and mountainous terrain, ranging up to 1000 square kilometres. While female cheetahs tend to live alone or with their cubs, males typically live in small groups called “coalitions,” which are made up of male cheetah siblings. Females socialise with males only when mating, and they raise their offspring on their own

Cheetahs are sadly also endangered. As of June 2021, there were an estimated 7,000 or so cheetahs left in the wild.

The Burchell’s Zebra (known for a few funny nicknames like the Pajama Horse), is an icon of the Sabi Sands area. The Zebra is a member of the horse family, sharing similar traits such as the whip like tail, long skinny legs, long face and the mane on its neck. Where the Zebra and Domestic/Wild Horses differ, is that the Zebra is slightly smaller than horses and it has the iconic black and white stripes covering its entire body. No two Zebra have the same striping, as in fingerprints in humans the stripes of Zebra are unique to an individual. 

Giraffe are the tallest land animals on earth thanks in part to their distinctive necks which alone can reach almost two meters in height. A male giraffe can weigh as much as 1400 kilograms. Although a giraffe’s neck is 1.5 – 1.8 metres, it contains the same number of vertebrae as a human neck.

Drinking is one of the most dangerous times for a giraffe. While it is getting a drink it cannot keep a look out for predators and is vulnerable to attack

Male giraffes sometimes fight using their necks, over female giraffes. This is called “necking”. The two giraffes stand side by side and one giraffe swings his head and neck, hitting his head against the other giraffe. Sometimes one giraffe is hit to the ground during a combat. Interestingly, a female giraffe gives birth while standing up. The calf drops approximately six feet to the ground, but it is not hurt from the fall!

The hyena is a shaggy, untidy and opportunistic carnivore with a distinctive, sloping back. It is a member of the dog family, weighing around 60kg . Despite their negative reputation, I can’t help feeling sorry for them and find them particularly cute. We spent many hours at at hyena den watching their pups play and watching the teenagers cavort.

Almost all hyenas in the area of Sabi Sands are the spotted hyena. Hyenas are mostly social, living in clans of between 10 and 40 animals, led by a dominant female. Social structures can be quite loose, however, with clan members shifting allegiances, breaking up and reforming. They are territorial.

Although hyenas sometimes hunt alone, they mostly hunt in packs. They have an almost uncanny ability to seek out the most vulnerable animal in a herd and isolate it from the others. They are known for their cunning. They reputedly watch the skies for circling vultures to help them locate kills. They follow the path of least resistance in getting food and, as a result, have become quite ingenious – they’ve been seen trying to scoop out fish at drying water holes during times of drought!

Spotted hyenas have the reputation of being scavengers, but studies have shown that, in Kruger area, they tend to hunt more than they steal. Indeed, they are the second major group of predators in the Park after lion, probably accounting for more animal kills than leopard and cheetah combined.

Hyena have tremendously powerful jaws, capable of crushing the thigh bone of a buffalo in one movement. If they are hungry, they will gorge themselves, eating up to a third of their own weight (15kg) at a single sitting!

The Waterbuck is a very beautiful antelope with a thick, brown furry coat, big doe eyes and a heart shaped nose. It is my favourite of the buck found in this region.

Waterbuck are often found near a water source and will try and evade predators by rushing into the body of water for protection – hence the name and they are notoriously good swimmers. The long hair around the Waterbuck’s neck is in fact hollow which is perfect for adding buoyancy to this rather large antelope when it enters the water and making sure it keeps its head above water.

Waterbuck have another special trick which helps them in the water, they are able to release an oil over their hair repelling water and keeping its coat dry.

The males are defined by their beautiful, long rimmed horns which can reach up to 90cm! Waterbuck have an easily identifiable “follow-me” sign which is a perfect white circle around their rump. Rangers often joke that it looks like a “toilet seat”.



The variety of buck in the reserve is amazing.
Nyala are spectacular antelope. Striking vertical stripes run white down shimmering chestnut fur. Double twisted horns rise majestic and proud. A shabby and furry undercoat is painted in shocks of white.They are also very bashful. It’s rare that they come out into the open and you must search patiently to see one in the wild – which only makes the sighting even more special

The handsome Kudu is noted for its spectacular spiral horns – the longest of any antelope. They weigh over 250kg, but despite their large size, they are relatively lightly built, and famed for their leaping prowess. Kudu are highly alert and notoriously hard to approach. When they detect danger – often using their large, radar-like ears – they give a hoarse alarm bark, then flee with a distinctive, rocking-horse running motion, the male laying back his horns to avoid overhead obstructions.

The wildebeest, also known as the Antelope of the African plains, is a mammal that lives all over the eastern, southern, and central parts of Africa. They are also called the gnu, which is sometimes referred to as the “fool of the veld” or the “poor man’s buffalo.” 

There are two species of these magnificent animals — the black wildebeest, and the more common blue wildebeest. The most striking differences between the black and blue wildebeest are the shape of their horns and the colour of their coats.

Jackals are a type of canine, animals that are related to dogs, coyotes, foxes and wolves. They look like a cross between a German shepherd and a fox. They have the fox’s small face, delicate legs and fluffy tail, with the German shepherd’s long, alert ears. The black-backed jackal stays mostly in savannah and woodlands. 

Jackal pairs do everything together, including eating and sleeping. They are also very territorial and defend their territory as a team. They also hunt together.

Crocodiles are strange prehistoric looking creatures. They are carnivores, which means they generally eat only meat. Fascinatingly crocodiles have between 60-110 teeth. When a crocodile loses a tooth, there is a small replacement already on standby! They are able to replace each of their 80 teeth up to 50 times over their lifespan.Crocs also have the strongest bite of any animal in the world.

They don’t sweat and are not displaying aggression when you see them with their mouths wide open. They often sleep with their mouths open to release heat. Crocodiles are extremely fast in the water, swimming up to speeds of 35 kilometers per hour. Crocs can hold their breath underwater for more than an hour.

Hippos are the third largest living land mammals, after elephants and the white rhino

The average female weighs around 1,400 kilograms, while males can weigh up to 4,500 kg 

Hippos are aggressive and are considered very dangerous. They have large teeth and tusks that they use for fighting off threats, including humans

They live in areas with abundant water, as they spend most of their time submerged to keep their skin cool and moist. Considered amphibious animals, hippos spend up to 16 hours per day in the water

Though hippos move easily through the water, they can’t actually swim. they can stay underwater for up to 5 minutes without coming up for air

The hippopotamus is considered the world’s deadliest large land mammal. These semiaquatic giants kill an estimated 500 people per year in Africa. Hippos can run at speeds of between 30 – 40 kilometres per hour. Over short distances, they can keep up with a sprinting human being.

Dad and I were off the vehicle watching a hippo wallowing safely in the middle of a small dam. We approached closer and closer, trying to get that perfect shot. Suddenly he began to charge us. we were in disbelief. Trying to drag that body through the muddy water and up the slippery bank would take ages. But it didn’t. We didn’t stick around and retreated to the safety of the vehicle just in case. He gave up with a sigh and harrumphed himself back into the water.

Being in the bush is all all about the photography. We spent ages training Robert to ensure that he arranged the vehicle so that we wouldn’t be shooting into the sun, that our shadows wouldn’t interfere with the sighting. He would oblige by taking exciting detours through the bush, yelling “duck” as we swept under acacias and other spikey branches. 

The advantages of staying in Sabi Sands are that only guests are allowed in the reserve all the rangers are in radio contact with each other, sharing information about sightings on their game drives. So, if one of the rangers from a different lodge spots something interesting, they will let all the other vehicles know and between them, co-ordinate an impromptu viewing schedule.

It’s not just every man for themselves, the rangers limit how many vehicles are at each particular viewing. This careful approach minimises the impact on the animals and allows them to gradually become accustomed to the vehicles, to such an extent that they will use them as cover to stalk their prey.

Secondly, unlike in Kruger, the vehicles in Sabi Sands can go off-road. This often involves a hair-raising dash into the bush to get much closer to the action and is particularly important for leopards, who are often found tucked behind river banks and in deep shrub.

Another advantage is that the ranger usually takes time to share his knowledge, so you can get a far greater understanding of the area, the animals and their behaviour. So its not just a lion – you learn a little bit about the individual’s story and journey.

We never got tired of photographing an elephant or one of the cats, the birds or even the squirrels and terrapins. Yes even spiders. Once we were stalking a leopard which involved off-roading through dense bush. The landrover simply drove right over the young trees. Turning back you would see them slowly pop up again despite the heavy load of the vehicle. We brushed past a tree and it knocked a spider into my lap. Without thinking I leapt out of the vehicle which was travelling very slowly. Obviously I got yelled at by everyone. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? There is a leopard just ahead!”

How to explain that I really feel I’d rather take my chances with a leopard than a spider?

Spending Christmas at Milkberry was a special treat. Although it was the hottest time of the year, because it was also the rainy season, the bush was greener than usual and everything was lush and damp. Although it is harder to find animals, Sabi Sands never disappoints.

We feasted well with Meg managing to roast a turkey and Geoff treating us to his signature gammon boiled in Coke as is fitting for the Unites, a Coca Cola family.

Meg chats to some of the local children from a nearby village.

How to speak like a game ranger:

Ngala: Male lion
Xinkankanka: Cheetah
Mpfuvu: Hippo
Yingwe: Leopard
Mahlolwa: Wild dog
Nyama ya swi vandanza: Predator’s kill
Ngwenya: Crocodile
Ndlopfu: Elephant
Nyathi: Buffalo
Qivi: Drinking hole
Koti: Vulture
Wansati: Female
Nhutlwa: Giraffe
Mhisi: Hyena
Famba: Animal moving

The delight of collective nouns:

Birds: A flight
Buffalo: An obstinacy 
Cheetahs: a coalition
Elephants: a parade
Giraffes: a journey
Hyenas: a cackle
Leopards: a leap
Lions: a pride
Hippos: a bloat
Wild dogs: a pack 
Wildebeest: an improbability 
Crocodiles: a bask 
Rhinoceroses: a crash
Vultures: a wake
Zebras: a dazzle

So… you’ll casually be traversing about in great circles, seeing very little and thinking to yourself – oh well we can’t always be lucky. And then you come across a scene like this. A lovely young lioness simply sitting on the dam wall waiting for some impala to drink…

Returning from a game drive involves dumping your gear and heading off to the deck to enjoy a breakfast with all the trimmings. Bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, toast, eggs to order. Delicious coffee and toast with Nutella. And then…well there is nothing to do but stagger off to your room, have a delightful alfresco shower, download and review your photographs, then pretend to read for a bit before sleeping till the early afternoon. When the adventure begins again.

With more than 300 bird species on its list, Sabi Sands is a great birding destination.

We’ve been luck to see the Bataleur eagle, the fish eagle, the brown snake eagle and the Martial eagle 

Some of our favourite birds are the colourful lilac breasted roller, the cheeky fork tailed drongo (one of whom we saw relentlessly chasing, swooping on and annoying an eagle) Prolific are also the barbets, shrikes, wood peckers, wood hoepoe, lourie and francolin. We even saw a nightjar. 

Sometimes we sweltered from the heat and sometimes we got caught in a shower and ended up like drowned rats. But boy did we laugh a lot and have the best of times.

Bushfires are an ever present threat in the National Parks, particularly during the dry winter months. Although the bush benefits from a periodic cleansing blaze, if it gets out of control it can be devastating to the game and lodges. Sadly there are many stories of people and animals becoming trapped as winds change directions and they realise that you can’t out-run or even out-drive a raging bushfire. 

One evening we received a warning from a local lodge that a fire was approaching and that although Milkberry was not in the direct path, any slight change of wind could change things in an instant. Ian kept in radio contact with the other men who were monitoring the situation. (Dirk-Dirk-Dirk🤣). 

We had to have our bags packed, ready to jump into the vehicle at short notice. We watched the smoke in the distance until bed time and were fortunate that we didn’t have to face a hair-raising or life-threatening escape.

Shockingly, Ian died suddenly of a heart attack in 2010. The impact on Meg was devastating and she seemed to go into a decline without him. They had always had a tumultous relationship, but despite being polar opposites, cared for each other dearly. Meg moved to Port Elizabeth to be close to her sister, Dorothea. Unfortunately attempts made to contact her telephonically became impossible as she no longer recognised my name or the sound of my voice.

We are grateful to have had Meg and Ian in our lives. They shared their friendship,  generosity and their passion for the bush and we will forever think of them whenever we visit the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.



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