into the bush- part two

food detective

Categories: Eating Out, Posted on September 3, 2014 by Sandy Bergsten

On Wednesday our prop plane landed in the midst of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, the oldest privately owned reserve in South Africa. Rich and Lucky, who we discovered were to be our guide and tracker for the week, greeted us in an open jeep. We loaded our gear and drove through the savannah grass to our camp at Londolozi, which in Zulu means “the protector of all living things”.

As we approached Pioneer Camp, our home for the next five days, it became abundantly clear that there would be no roughing it. We stepped off the jeep and our bags were whisked away to one of the camp’s three freestanding suites. We were then escorted to our lodge where we would have our meals.  Here our food safari continued in the Ralph-Lauren-esque open air rooms with stunning views of the Sand River.

Our visual aperitif to our first meal was a family of hippos, a herd of nyala and the first of many vervet monkeys. When asked what we would like for lunch before heading out on our afternoon game drive- Coconut Crumbled Chicken with a Zanzibarian Coleslaw, a Salad Nicoise or a bowl of Mocambiquan Tiger Prawns, Graeme (our lodge manager) and Caven (our butler) soon discovered our mantra became “all of the above please!”

Satiated we climbed back in our jeep and Rich and Lucky took us deep into the bush. To our delight we were not simply going on a drive to look at wild animals but rather to learn how to track native animals in the wild.

We passed a herd of wildebeest another of impala, then a pack of warthogs.

Already thrilled we were blown away when we encountered our first pride of lions.

Rich explained the history of each lioness and how this blended family came to be.

We saw them not as a type of animal rather individual beings with unique characters and personal stories that would forever endear us to each and every one of them.

As the sun set Rich asked if we wanted to stop for “sun downers” (the medicinal term for gin and tonics used to ward off evening mosquitoes) or … he said we could keep in pursuit of an elusive leopard. As Rich (our guide) and Lucky (our tracker) soon discovered our mantra became “more animals please!”

We arrived back at camp late, quickly brushed off the dust then headed out to have our drinks and dinner under the stars. Our candle lit table served up Roasted Parsnip and Cumin Soup, Slow Cooked Leg of Lamb, Moroccan Duck Casserole, Creamy Parmesan Polenta, Baby Cabbages with Gorgonzola Walnuts and cream, Winter Ratatouille and Londolozi’s Signature Macadamia and White Chocolate Ice Cream.

We waived off after dinner drinks around the fireplace in our library, then slipped into our down filled beds and readied ourselves for our 5:30 AM wake up to set off for our first sunrise game drive.

Thursday was a brisk morning with predawn temperatures hovering near freezing. We layered on most what we owned, settled into the jeep and to our delight were greeted with blankets and hot water bottles as we headed out to find our leopard.

We crossed the river as the mist and sun began to rise.

Rich taught us how to track rhinoceros from the clues their footsteps left.

We caught sight of out our first giraffe.

We passed an algae filled pond of hippos.

We braked for coffee and hot chocolate at a rhino pond.

As we pulled away Lucky sprung from his tracker seat off the hood of the jeep and scrambled into the back with us three girls. We were confused until right before us we spotted our leopard, a twenty-month female!

Then it was back to camp for breakfast. This gave new meaning to the term buffet. Afterwards we took a much needed constitutional through the neighboring camps where my daughter, Hope, was delighted with vervet monkeys at each turn.

We sipped on an aperitif of biondi before our afternoon meal arrived- Vegetable Bobtie with Yellow Rice and Fruit Chutney, Red Wine and Beef Pie with Village Rocket, Fish and Sweet Potato Rosti and Greek Salad.

As we pulled out of camp we heard the alarm call from a monkey scout high in the trees. Rich taught us how animals alert one another to impending danger and how we could take their cues to track what the animals are trying to flee.

And there we discovered a three-year-old male leopard. Each leopard’s history was as different as the patterns of their spots. It was as if each wore an exceptional a mask. By the end of our stay we could recognize each of our new spotted friends by the distinctive markings on their face and neck.

Then we headed toward the river and saw a herd of elephants. The little babies were being trained how to strip and eat vegetation but were too small to actually eat the leaves. It was comical watching them spit the greens out of their mouths when their mothers’ backs were turned.

Molly took an “elphie”.

We headed out to watch the sunset and once again ran into our lion pride. Tonight the  lions and cubs came right up to our jeep. It was an incredible sight.

That night our guide, Rich, joined us for dinner. We had drinks around the fire. Then a sumptuous buffet of Carrot and Ginger Soup with Whipped Mint Feta, Impala Loin served with an Amarula Sauce, North African Chicken Casserole with Fennel Tomato and Garlic, Sweet Potato and Ginger Nut Mash, Baby Corn Leeks and Gems in Herbed Butter, Coconut Creamed Spinach and for dessert a Traditional South African Malva Pudding with Hot Caramel Sauce.

After dinner we were serenaded by the Londolozi Women’s Chorus.

Friday bright and early we met Rich and Lucky and headed out in search of a cheetah.

Just as we crossed the Sand River, right out of camp, we saw our pride of lions crossing the river the other way. We quickly turned the jeep around and spent a predawn hour with them.

As we continued on in pursuit of a cheetah I spotted another leopard. We trekked across the high vegetation in pursuit of this two-year-old female who was stalking a duiker, one of the smallest antelopes.

We stopped for a spot of coffee and reviewed the game reserve maps.

On our way out Hope caught a glimpse of a mature giraffe, his head just above the trees.

As we passed him on our left there was a pair of rhinoceroses. The hornbills on their backs picking the ticks off of their skin and ears.

On our way back to camp we spotted a group of zebras about to cross the road. This little guy lagging behind.

Camp greeted us with another unbelievable breakfast buffet. We showered then had massages on our private deck over the Sand River where we were serenaded by the hippos calling out to one another.

As we entered the lodge for lunch Graeme announced that he had something special planned for dinner that night. We wondered what it could be as we filled ourselves with Linguini Putanesca, Caesar Salad, South African Cheeseboard with Mulled Apricots and Rooibos Quince, Chipolte Rubbed Roasted Baby Chickens with Date and Apricot Chutney and a Zesty Sweet Corn and Bean Quinoa.

Stay tuned for the third and final part of our amazing safari adventure!


September 6, 2014

oh wow!! EACH perfect picture told a story of such enrichment and depth into the lives of these exquisite animals-what an experience your talented eyes and hands are sharing…thank you!…my heart stopped at the innocent beauty of that little zebra posing just for you in the high grass…I hope he caught up quickly!!! what a picture!….they all are…I feel I am there with you 3…with Rich and Lucky experiencing it all…and savoring all that perfectly prepared, beautifully presented food…oh wow!!!

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