Last week I finally did something which I have had on my bucket list forever. That is, to sleep over in the Sable sleepover hide near Phalaborwa gate in the Kruger National Park. We went camping with friends in Kruger and they managed to secure a booking for a sleepover in the Sable Dam Hide. This is a recollection of the experience through my eyes. I apologize for the bad quality pictures that were mostly taken on my phone.
We booked for two families of three, so we were 4 adults and the two children both under 2 years old. I was a bit nervous about taking the kids there and I did not know exactly what to expect. Our day before we went there turned out to be a bit busy. What was supposed to be a flash shopping trip turned out to take a little longer and when we were finally at reception to pick up our bedding bags we heard that we needed to have a cash deposit of R300. After an elaborate treasure hunt in the car and bags for cash we managed to get the amount together. We were disappointed that there were no bedding bags provided for the little ones. Even though they are under the age of two they count very much in our lives and an extra blanket and a mozzie net for them would have been very welcome. Never-the-less we were finally on our way and arrived at the hide basically just before gate closing time. I would recommend planning your day better than we did and arriving at the hide a little earlier so that you have time to enjoy the sunset. We unpacked our bags and picnic bags and lighted some mosquito coils while the kids were running up and down and getting rid of some cooped up energy from sitting in the car.
Even though there is a lovely boma area to braai, we planned to have snack platters as dinner as we didn’t know how the evening was going to turn out and we were scared of missing any action from the hide. We did take wood to make a fire to enjoy if we wanted to but ended up not using it. We took the mattresses of the bunk beds that fold down from the wall and made our beds on the mattresses only. We didn’t want a child to fall off the bed in the middle of the night and we figured that whatever creepy crawlies there were would be able to crawl over us on the beds anyway. We made two giant Christmas beds on either side of the hide, so each family had their own area and own door.
We had a lovely snack platter for dinner and while we ate, we took turns to look out for animals and scan with the spotlight we brought. By now it was completely dark and an elephant or two has already visited the dam. It was wonderful to watch the gentle giants going about their business undisturbed. The calls of the Pearl Spotted Owlet and African Scops owl started sounding up, and here you can be sure it’s them and not a fellow camper’s bird app.
Suddenly we heard a different sound, it was the familiar sawing sound of a leopard. We immediately all jumped up to have a look, but even though it was quite loud it was still out of sight. Now we were all hyped up and excited, (and I was little more scared of taking the walk to the loo during the night on my own).
Soon another elephant came to drink water and the kids could have a good look at it before we settled them in for bed.
Once the kids were fast asleep all mozzie-netted, covered and repellent sprayed, the adults quietly relaxed while watching a big herd of elephants that came for a drink. A lone buffalo bull also pitched up and was walking towards the water in the moonlight. The leopard sounded up once more, but this time further away. We saw several bird eyes shining in our spotlight and a couple of nightjars flew around unidentified. While we sat there quietly whispering a mouse came to visit our picnic platter and we quickly packed up the remaining food. We roasted some marshmallows over candles and finally, all retreated to our mattress spots on the floor.
At around 11:45, I heard a growling sound come past the back of the hide and in my sleep I convinced myself that it was the leopard and I needed to get up, but the next second majestic roaring ripped through the hide as we all jumped up to get to the light as fast as possible. I tripped over our picnic basket nearly throwing everything over, someone got hold of the light and there he was, the king himself, a male lion. He was roaring and walking on the left side of the dam wall giving us a spectacular show. No one even thought of taking out a camera, we were all in awe. The lion went out of sight and we all retreated back to bed. Somewhere during the night, I was aware of the moon that moved over the hide and it was shining right inside, lighting up everything. Between 4 and 5 O’clock, the kids started moving a bit and we started scanning the area with our spotlight again. Waking up in the hide was freezing cold and I was glad I went to bed with my jacket on. A little later we brewed a cup of coffee and as soon as our friend’s son was up he wanted to know where the elephants from the previous night were, we were entertained by the little one’s perspective on things. I was also glad we did it with them and I had no reason to fear. The hide and boma area is completely enclosed and safe. We started packing to be out in time and after watching the sunrise while packing we departed for a lovely breakfast at Masorini Picnic spot.
What a lovely experience to share and what a great memory to keep. I want to do this again several more times and next time, be early and make a fire and hopefully, see that leopard.