So when the day came for us to check in to Sibuya Game Reserve in Kenton on Sea, we completely missed the boat. Literally, at 11:30am the boat chartered all the guests across from the reception to the reserve. Except for us. We arrived late from Hogsback and Ranger Chris came all the way this side of the river to collect us in time for lunch.
As we boated along the river, looking out for birds and even game beside the water’s edge I realised that so much of this game reserve’s beauty lies in the fact that you can only access it by water. We stopped to see a tiny malachite kingfisher perched above his nest on the bank. It wasn’t long before he took off, his bright blue and orange colours disappeared quickly…
‘Home’ for the next few nights was a luxurious safari tent with comfy chairs, bed, driftwood-decorated bathroom and best of all a bath to die for. We reached our tent by making our way along a wooden decked path which brought us all the way to our ‘stoep’ and a bench with a view over the river. This was a home I could easily live in, permanently- Immersed in the bush but with sleek touches of luxury and comfort.
It wasn’t long before it was time for our first evening and morning game drives. Ranger Chris expertly maneuvered us around the reserve pointing out everything from the Orange-breasted bush-shrike to the Old Man’s Beard lichen on healthy trees and how to distinguish elephant’s dung by the twigs in it.
An avid photographer, Chris’ telephoto lens (the length of my forearm) put all of our camera equipment to shame and I totally felt the need for more adequate lens whilst on safari. He took us close enough to a rhino family with a dad, mom and a baby. We were so close that the big rhino came right up the game vehicle and scraped his horn on the front of the bar. We all held our breath, hoping to still have a front tyre left and sure enough the big guy left it all intact.
We watched elephants bathing the mud and shooting water up high over the bodies and faces. We laughed as a giraffe began running away from us. True to its Afrikaans, Kameelperd (camel horse), Chris told us to watch how it walked like a camel and ran like a horse.
He stopped to pick up a gigantic land snail and pointed out the knobwood tree which the Khoi San used as toothpaste due to its anti-bacterial properties.
We had drinks and snacks on a lookout point over the river which looped its way through the green reserve. Unlike the Kruger and dryer bushveld in South Africa, there was no lack of water here and plants, trees and grass flourished here giving the animals the best choice of daily food.
Due to the river being a public one, lions were sadly not permitted to roam around near the riverbed and had their own habitat within a lion camp. The sign read “Beware Lions” as we drove through the gates of the Lion Camp. We then witnessed the strangest sight. Two lionesses and one male proceeded to walk out from behind the bushes.
They were following a noise and something in the bush. To our amusement, we realised that they were fascinated with a tracker inside their camp which was clearing a pathway through the bushes. They followed it around as it was a new sound and even chose to sit right beside it as it came to a halt.
The big Daddy yawned and smelt the urine of the two females to see if they were ready for mating. It seemed not, because both of them ignored his attempts and looked around nonchalantly.
Each drive through the reserve was fascinating. We saw ample impala and nyala, rhino middens which male rhino scraped to pass their scent around and all kinds of birds that I had never seen before.
We dined together with other guests in Forest Camp for all three meals in a cosy boma with its own bar, kitchen and fireplace. At night we sat around the crackling fire, each pondering on our own favourites from the day’s game drives. I couldn’t help thinking that I was able to experience a bit of magic here in the bush amongst all these wonderful creatures.
Contact Sibuya Game Reserve
Address: Sibuya Game Reserve, 39 Eastbourne Road, Kenton-On-Sea, Eastern Cape
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Photographs by and © Vaughan McShane