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Postcards From a Lion Sands’ Safari

Third- (soon to be fourth-) time guest, Lyn Mitchell was born and raised in the UK, now lives in San Francisco, but admits that Lion Sands, South Africa has an allure unlike any other place. She shares some of her special memories and photos with us.

“I enjoy travelling, delicious food, and meeting new people. When I flew to Johannesburg on my way to Lion Sands in 2016, I met a lovely South African gentleman who I told that it was my first time in Africa. He said: ‘You will be back again – Africa gets into your blood.’ And I keep returning…

I love the Lion Sands lodges, the thrill of the game drives – it’s always a new adventure; you never know what you’re going to see – and most of all, I love that it feels like going to visit old friends. I’m welcomed with genuine warmth each time I go back, and I look forward to seeing everyone.”

Sunup: Mark, my field guide, the amazing Lucas, my tracker, and me at the Hippo Pools bright and early. This is a must do when you stay at the lodges – its so beautiful, and to just watch the hippos and hear only the sounds of their snorting is utterly peaceful.

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Kings and queens: I’m a huge fan of lions, and these are two of my favourite meetings. We heard there was an elephant carcass in the riverbed, and arrived to find the three Tsala males on it. During a separate sighting, trackers found four females of the Sand River pride.

This female was completely relaxed as she watched us watching her. It was epic to have the privilege of being so close to these magnificent animals. This is what a safari is all about.

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Hide and seek: A visit to the hide at the waterhole allows you to quietly observe animals coming for a drink. More vulnerable to predators here, they are skittish. But from this position, I got some amazing photos of three giraffes bending down to the water. It’s one of the most incredible things to witness!

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Dining out: Having breakfast on the deck at River Lodge and – this was a lovely surprise – in the middle of the bush! One morning, we suddenly came to a stop on our game drive and were told there was a treat for us… Of course the food was delicious and you can’t beat these views.

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Lodge life: I always love to see the welcoming messages upon my arrival. And if there wasn’t so much to explore, I might be tempted not to leave my suite. Seriously, it’s hard to beat the view from your own plunge pool. This was at Tinga Lodge, from where I watched elephants resting in the shade and Nyala grazing right in front of me.

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Spa time: On my most recent trip to Lion Sands, I treated myself to some pampering ­– both at Tinga and Ivory Lodges. Between eventful game drives, there’s nothing more relaxing than a facial and a full-body massage – do try the Soul of Africa. Using marula and neroli essential oils, it’s divine!

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Back to school: This was taken at the Henna Preschool, supported by More Community Trust, with Thembi, then Community Development Manager. We had a tour of this lovely little school, and the children showed us what they had learned and sang for us.

Before my visit, a group of my co-workers collected for Henna baseball caps and school supplies, which I brought with me – the kids were thrilled!

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Teamwork: These guys – field guide and tracker – with their skills and amazing eyesight, are who make a safari so special. A hand raised signaling to stop, sudden exited chatter on the radio, you know something is about to happen… African wild dogs!

We were incredibly lucky to be at this sighting of nine adults and nine youngsters from this rare and endangered species. They are highly social and it was such fun watching them interact with each other.

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Spotted! The awesome River Rock male leopard – I saw him last year, too – and a pregnant spotted hyena. Contrary to popular belief, this animal is not just a sneaky scavenger, but also an accomplished hunter. In fact, this species is the most successful large carnivore in Africa, even more so than the lion – yes, you heard right.

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Golden hour: Here is my field guide, Mark with my favourite sundowner drink – Amarula (a South African cream liqueur) on the rocks.

During the game drive drinks stops, there’re always plenty of beverages and delicious snacks to choose from. I especially love the chili snap sticks – a spicy type of jerky, or ‘biltong’ as its known in SA.

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So sweet! This was taken on our way back to the entrance of the lodge: a mother elephant with her baby suckling.

The other, on the last morning drive with Mark, who suddenly stopped the vehicle when he saw a mother warthog running. We followed and caught a glimpse of her tiny, day-old piglets.

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