Nsala Private Game Reserve : Into the wild

Nsala Private Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger is wilder than most. No fences, very few camps and almost no traffic mean game and birds flourish here and, if you’re as lucky as we were, you might even see a spectacular kill or two…

I’m sitting on Nsala Safari Camp’s beautiful deck having a coffee and a chat with proprietor Andrew De Luca when a commotion of squeals and chirrups breaks loose. Countless banded mongoose are haring down the dry river bank in front of the lodge, squirming to get to the food first. Every afternoon, like clockwork, this cute yet feisty mob of banded bandits storm the lodge in anticipation of the previous evening’s food waste being put outside, proceed to wolf it down in a show of teeth and growls, and then disappear into the undergrowth as suddenly as they appeared.

We’re waiting for the mercury to drop a little before we head out on our afternoon game drive. The little splash infinity pool right in front of my room is heaven in this searing heat, and I use it liberally. From the pool, I keep an eye on the surrounding foliage to see how many birds I can identify. So far, my tally is composed of a blue waxbill, a big bateleur, several shrikes including a beautiful bokmakierie, a few yellow-billed hornbills, and a far off thermal-surfing jackal buzzard. The abundance of birds flitting about the lodge is incredible, but our game drive would prove even more fruitful…

With Andrew behind the wheel, the bush comes alive to the untrained eye. He’s a font of bush knowledge and he takes visible pleasure in pointing out and expounding on intricacies and peculiarities of the veld and various wildlife. We’ve barely left the lodge when a lone hyena slinks across the road, clearly in a hurry, perhaps having caught wind of a snack. And it’s not long before we also see signs of a potential nearby kill… Several hooded vultures are circling an area not far ahead, taking turns to land on branches, perching patiently like angels of death.

We hear them before we see them. Crunching bones and territorial growls betray what we expect to be a grizzly scene – and we’re not disappointed. We round a mopane thicket and find the Western Pride, a well-known and ferocious pride of lions in the area, feasting on a massive Cape buffalo carcass. Having missed the hunt by probably a few minutes, we stare in grim fascination as the lions tear ribbons of scarlet meat from the hapless buffalo, while the gantry of vultures look on hungrily.

Nsala Western Pride of Lions Nsala Lions on a Buffalo Kill Western Pride of Lions on Kill

It’s a feast that will continue well into the night and, before long, the lions will probably be tested by a few brave hyenas and jackals. But our own dinner back at the lodge is getting cold and we leave the gorging pride well after sunset, returning to camp exhilarated by the riveting sighting. On the way back Andrew’s spotlight illuminates the skulking figure of the ever elusive civet – another treat to round off a truly spectacular drive.

I can’t wait to see what this wildest of wildernesses will serve up on tomorrow’s dawn drive…

Nsala Civets Nsala Elephants Nsala Sunsets in Greater Kruger

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