Finding a lion after dinner at the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve in South Africa

A four-course dinner by lamplight
at Sabi Sabi’s Selati Lodge

We at Travelife Magazine join the rest of the world in wishing for the safe recovery of the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared enroute to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

One night at the very intimate and vintage-themed Selati Lodge of the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve in South Africa, living a TRAVELIFE, we were eight guests having dinner on the terrace, on a long and beautiful table set up just like a fancy dinner table in a swanky country home somewhere in the world.

The Travel Companion and I were seated across our ranger Neil — your ranger usually joins you for dinner, so there were about three or four rangers seated with us eight guests that night. 

We were having a wonderful meal of impala carpaccio and a beef steak when suddenly a lion roared in the distance.

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Neil immediately ssaid: “Ssshh. Can you hear the lion roar? That’s 300 meters away.”
What a sound it made. It also made our hearts beat faster as up till then, we were 36 hours into the Sabi Sabi safari experience and we’d already seen the Big 4 plus so much more.
This is very unusual, by the way, and we were extremely lucky. And Sabi Sabi, by the way, was voted the top safari experience in Africa last year.

However, it had been a dry spell for lions recently and two couples who had also stayed at Selati Lodge just before us had gone home that same day without seeing the lion.

One of the wives had stopped to talk to me as we arrived at the airstrip and I walked to our waiting jeep, and meanwhile they were waiting for a plane ride home.

She said: “Good luck. I hope you’re luckier than us and you get to see everything.

I hoped so too. We’d flown halfway around the world, and we definitely wanted to see the Big 5, including the lion.
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As soon as he heard the lion roar, Neil quietly got up from dinner.

Then, while we were still enjoying our food, he’d jumped on his jeep and headed straight out into the darkness and the cold to hunt down that lion.

A Boma dinner at Selati Lodge
We saw the headlights of his jeep in the distance, from the dining table.

So I said to the Travel Companion: “Look at Neil. He didn’t have to do this. He could have said, ‘Right. We’re having dinner, but let’s try and wake up early to see that lion tomorrow.”

That’s real dedication for you.

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Instead Neil came back, all flushed and excited.

He said to us: “If you’d like to see that lion, we can do so so now after the main course and you can have your dessert afterwards.”

We’re really big on dessert, and on that menu that night was Malva pudding, a local specialty.

This had been on the Travel Companion’s repeat wishlist ever since David Higgs, one of South Africa’s top chefs and right at the helm of the new restaurant Five Hundred in Johannesburg.

He had served us malva pudding topped with foie gras for dinner in Johannesburg a few days before our safari.

That’s David Higgs, on the day we visited him
at his restaurant Five Hundred in Johannesburg
The Travel Companion then said: “Let’s have our malva pudding before going out to see the lion.”

Yeah, right. Of course the lion would be willing to wait for us outside while we leisurely had dessert.

I replied: “Are we on safari to eat malva pudding or to see a lion?
That’s a photo of our tracker and Neil at the wheel,
and we’re seated at the back of the jeep.
And we’re racing after a lion in the dark!

That kind of put things into perspective for him.

So we jumped into the jeep, bundled up, and had a good half hour up close and personal with a beautiful lion.

If Neil hadn’t been so dedicated — I’m sure he’d had a very long day and was dead tired ––  we might not have seen the lion at all during our Sabi Sabi stay.

This is the wilderness, after all, and not some theme park where attractions are rigged. Everything is a matter of luck. And, in our case, a matter of the dedication of our ranger.

Needless to say, we returned to Selati Lodge feeling on top of the world.

We were so happy. What an exhilarating feeling it is to have completed seeing all the wild animals on your wish-listin their natural habitat.


The Travel Companion then said to me: “I can now understand why some people get addicted to the safari experience.” 
We certainly did. The following year, which was last year, we decided to do three safari experiences in Tanzania.

Indeed, no one travels quite like us. Or writes like us. And that’s why we’re always going to be #1.