A spectacular morning drive at Lion Sands, by guest John Fairlie

One of our regular guests, John Fairlie, recently spent some time with us Lion Sands Ivory Lodge.  On the blog today, he shares just one of his morning game drives with us, and what an extraordinary drive it transpired to be….

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“As is our habit when we are here, we started the day about 45 minutes before the game drive and sat out by the pool and watched the sun come up.  Funny thing is, you could not get me to do that at home even if you paid me, but life at Lion Sands is just different!
While we were sitting there watching the sun rise, a herd of elephants – complete with gorgeous babies – crossed the river in front of us.



Having started the day well, it just kept getting better.  We left on our game drive with Darren and Noal. They were aware of a buffalo kill that took place the previous afternoon, and asked if we would like to make our way there to see if the lions may still be on the kill. Naturally enough we were keen to go.


Before I talk about the game drive, I should make a brief comment on Darren and Noal, who were absolutely first class the whole time we were there.  Noal deserves a special mention from a particular conversation I had with him where I asked him how many children he had. Very straight-faced he said, ’52’. I said ‘WHAT!’, and again very straight-faced he said. ‘I have 15 wives’. Given that I have had a few wives myself, and we have eight children and 15 grand-children, I was beginning to wonder… It was then that we all started to laugh.   By the way, in case you are wondering about Noal, it wasn’t true!


Enough of that, and back to the game drive. As it happened, we were only about five minutes from Ivory Lodge when Noal saw some leopard tracks. We took a detour and tracked out into the bush, where we came across the leopard Scotia and her cub on a kill. It was a great sighting, and soon time to go on to the lions.

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When we arrived on the river bank there was no sign of the lions so we decided to sit quietly and enjoy the sights and the sounds of the river – the sounds of Africa are unique.  After ten or fifteen minutes, a male lion wandered out of the bush down to the river bank. It wasn’t long before there were four of them.  At this point we still thought that they would go to yesterday’s kill, but then it got very interesting….

We noticed a dust cloud approaching, caused by about forty buffalo. It was already hot and they were thirsty, so they wanted to get to the water. The lions attacked, and failed.  Not really all that surprising, as when you look at the photos or the videos you will see that these lions were very full already!

Their failed attempt was sufficient to scare the buffaloes away, and they decided that discretion was the better part of valor and that it would be better to seek their water elsewhere.  If it is possible for lions to smile, that is what these lions certainly did. As they walked and sat down near the water, I don’t think I have ever seen a more satisfied look on a lion’s face.


We again thought that we might sit by the river for a while longer and see what happened. Well, those buffaloes had seen enough and were gone for good, but just as we were thinking about leaving, an even bigger dust cloud appeared – this time from the hooves of three or four hundred buffalo!


Again there was another attack by the lions. And again no success – but not for the lack of trying.

The buffaloes approached the water from a different angle. Another attack, this time successful, and we that would be the end of it. The buffaloes must have thought so to, given that the lions had just brought one of theirs down, so in their infinite wisdom they decided it just might be safe to now drink at the river.

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I think to everybody’s surprise (including the buffaloes), one very large lion once again attacked the buffaloes – this while the other three lions were in the process of killing the buffalo that they had just caught.

While the last attack was not successful, the buffaloes had seen enough. They were out of there, and after a few minutes so were we. At this point Darren thought it might be nice to follow the river down to a magnificent Sycamore Fig tree, which is hundreds of years old, and have our morning tea. We’ve done this before, and it is wonderful.

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As luck would have it, on our way we came across a breeding herd of elephants in the river bed with a number of very young elephants, and again we decided to sit and watch.  It was all very pleasant before ANOTHER cloud of dust appeared. What did we see running up the river bed towards the elephants? None other than the very same big buffalo herd that had just been attacked four times by the lions. Something had obviously spooked them again, because they were barreling straight up the river bed to where the lions still were.


Needless to say, they ran into the lions and promptly turned around and came back down the river bed.  By this time the elephants were not happy, and were trying to protect their babies, so there was a fair bit of trumpeting as they ran up into the reeds where we were sitting.  Anyway, it all settled down and we continued to watch the elephants before finally heading off to the Sycamore tree.

We thought, ‘What a day!’, but it hadn’t ended just yet.  When we arrived at the Sycamore tree, it was full of monkeys – typically very entertaining.  But we had no sooner poured the coffee, complete with Amarula, and were standing there watching the primates when a very large male leopard came out of the reeds and walked straight past us without a care in the world (the same could not be said for some of us at the time!)

It should end there, but it didn’t! After the leopard had departed, a troop of baboons came and took over the Sycamore tree, and there were soon monkeys literally flying everywhere.

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On the way back to the lodge we saw rhino, zebra and warthogs.


Every day is different and you never know what you will see, but it is why we keep coming back pretty much every year since 2000 – and the stays just keep on getting longer.

We hope you enjoyed our account of a morning game drive at our favorite lodge.

John Fairlie.

What a spectacular experience John, and thank you so much for sharing! 


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