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Anyone who’s been on safari before knows that no two game drives are ever the same! There are two daily game drives at Ulusaba, one leaving early in the morning and one leaving late afternoon, each lasting around three hours. Times will vary depending on the season, but you should always keep your eyes peeled for the Big 5!
You’ll traverse over 13,500 hectares of private reserve with your dedicated Ranger and Tracker who will tailor your game drive just for you!
Here are some hints and tips for making the most of your time in the bush on game drive. Your game drive will leave you with some vivid memories, so make sure you don’t forget the following:
Game Drives at Ulusaba
Morning drives: You might not be a morning person but it’s certainly worth getting out of bed for this. Your morning starts with freshly baked goodies and tea and coffee to help get started. Your Ranger and Tracker will meet you and your morning adventure begins. As sun light dawns over the Sabi Sand you’ll be treated to the beauty of the majestic African bush.
This is generally the best time to spot the wildlife, as the temperature is cool and the animals are still very active, including the big cats, which will be returning from a night of hunting. We don’t want to give too much away, so just remember to set your alarm.
Afternoon drives: There’s something special about the bush as the late afternoon light starts to fade. The animals start to stir from their day time slumber and predatory animals will start stalking their prey. It's common to stop for sundowners as the sun sets - it's a magical experience!
The Big Five are lions, buffalos, leopards, elephants and rhinos – is an old term originally referring to the five most dangerous animals to hunt, and not to the biggest or strongest animals as commonly thought. Hunting is of course not permitted at Ulusaba, or in the protected Reserves and National Parks of South Africa!
The Little Five are more difficult to spot but your Ranger and Tracker can help. They'll be looking out for rhino beetles, elephant shrews, leopard tortoises, buffalo weavers and ant lions.
Depending on the weather there is usually a safari walk directly after breakfast if you fancy it. Your Ranger and Tracker will guide you and will point out various birds and animals – this is a great opportunity to see smaller creatures that are often missed when you’re on the game vehicles. We’ll also teach you some fascinating facts about the medicinal use of trees and plants along the way.
Conserving and protecting the natural environment is high on our agenda! We have the ultimate respect for the bush and our team of Rangers and Trackers are committed to operating with minimal impact.
We’re committed to protecting the environment around us and we focus on a number of initiatives to protect our beautiful South African bush for future generations.
A Guest Conservation Contribution of R138 per person, per night will be added to the rates for your stay at Ulusaba (this also applies to all lodges in the reserve and includes 15% VAT). This charge goes directly to the Sabi Sand Conservation Trust and will assist in the funding of our anti-poaching and conservation efforts to secure the long term survival of endangered and compromised animal species.
Sustainability is high on our agenda at Ulusaba. We're committed to working with suppliers who believe in fair trade, and source partners locally where possible. In the Aroma Boma spa our therapists use the Africology brand, which is made from natural products such as Marula Oil, African Potato, and Rooibos. And it's not just limited to the spa. Our highly skilled chefs in the kitchen source their fish from sustainable varieties as per the World Wildlife Foundation standards.
We pride ourselves on recycling, and here's a taste of our green-friendly initiatives:
Images from the bush
To really capture those once in a lifetime moments whilst out on a game drive, make sure to have the best photographic equipment to hand. We have partnered with Africa Photographic Rentals in order to take the hassle out of hiring any camera equipment. Visit their website to place your order and your equipment will be ready for you on arrival at Ulusaba.
(Please be aware you will be leaving our website to make this booking)
Choose your equipment
Meet our Rangers and Trackers
Nothing gets past our experienced Rangers and Trackers on the twice daily game drives (well, mostly!). Traversing over 13,500 hectares in open Land Rovers, they will share their vast knowledge of the surrounding wildlife as they track the Big 5 and much more.
Brandon has been a guide at Ulusaba for seven years and has over 13 years’ experience, the majority of which has been in the Sabi Sand.
His favourite part of the job is that every day is different, no two game drives are the same and he loves sharing the exciting experiences with the guests.
His favourite animal is leopard. He saw one when he was a child and fell in love instantly. He says that "the beauty and the ruthlessness combined never gets old because the more you think you know about them the more surprised you are when they change their behaviour."
His most memorable sighting was with a saddle billed stork and a cape clawless otter that were cooperatively fishing, pushing a school of bream, trapped in a large pool in the river back and forth between each other and sharing the spoils. For 40 minutes they went on until the activity attracted the attention of a big male lion who came and watched the show from a high bank over the pool. Unforgettably beautiful.
David is one of our most enthusiastic members of the tracking team. He is always happy and smiling and his bubbly personality shines through with our guests. He has been tracking for nine years and has become a solid member of the guiding and tracking team. Tracking is in David’s blood as he was born and raised in the bush, learning everything he knows from his father. He also has a very strong commitment in our local community where he is passionately involved in coaching young boys & girls to become better soccer players.
Donald is known for never giving up until he has found the animal he is tracking, which always makes for an interesting game drive experience.
Donald says: "The teamwork and communication between the Ranger Tracker team make for a game experience like no other!”
Magical moments: "A rare sighting just south of Rock Lodge. I was watching a female leopard in a tree with two impalas and all of a sudden the lions showed up. One female lioness started climbing the tree to get to the meat (books will tell you lions cannot climb trees!) – the female leopard jumped up to the top as high as possible to get away! With one lioness already up the tree, the rest of the pride soon followed by the lure of meat – so very rare to see lions in a tree! All fun and games until the carcasses fell out of the tree with all the commotion and the lions were all stuck up there!"
I have been a part of the team at Ulusaba for the past 22 years. The favourite part of my job is finding fresh tracks, jumping off the vehicle and following them. The excitement of finding the animal from tracking is indescribable and is such fun the guests to witness first hand. But, nothing is more disappointing that not finding an animal after tracking for hours! Out of all the animals I am lucky to see in the bush my favourite has to be the leopard. They are a great challenge for a tracker because of their elusive nature.
“Over the past 30 years, tracking not only has become my livelihood, but also my passion. This dedication to mastering the art of tracking is a skill that was passed down to me by my father. There is no better feeling than heading out on a morning drive and finding a fresh set of tracks. Following tracks on foot is my passion and I take great pride in being able to find animals for guests. My favourite animal to spot during a game drive is the honey badger. It is a really tough animal that has no fear. It is also quite rare so I know we have been lucky when we get to see one!"
Born in Cape Town, Kyle has been guiding for 5 years ever since discovering his passion for wildlife and conservation. His latest interest and talent is wildlife photography.
"I developed my passion for the African bush at a early age when visiting my Grandfather’s lodge at Ingwelala in 1996, I was fascinated with the wildlife and nature and could not get enough and knew this is where I belong. My favourite sighting must have been when a female leopard had taken down an impala and taken it up a tree and began to feed when a male lion approached and began to climb the tree to steal her well-deserved meal, the male lion was able to grab the leg of the impala and hook it out from the branches when suddenly the dead impala hit the ground below and was grabbed by a hyena and taken deep into the bush before the lion even had time to react. To witness the interaction of three different species and the sound generated from them during this whole episode was truly incredible and I will remember that day forever.
No two days in the African bush are the same and they will test you all the time which makes it so exciting and to be able to share these memories/moments with guests is the ultimate reward not to mention the amazingly strong team we have here at Ulusaba, we all look out for one another and push each other to reach our full potential and for that I am forever thankful."
Previous Ulusaba guests may know Eric as one of our trackers. He retrained as a ranger and has now been part of the guiding team since 2019. He has taken his bush knowledge to the next level and enjoys being able to share this in a more complete and holistic way with guests. He has a strong motivation to keep developing and training towards attaining further guiding qualifications. He loves the challenge of satisfying guests' expectations and particularly enjoys learning about our guests' different cultures and backgrounds.
Ryan is a Guide at Ulusaba and has been guiding in the Sabi Sand Reserve since 2006 and at Ulusaba since June 2013. Ryan tells us...
My claim to fame is that I always manage to find myself in the right place at the right time, a lot of the time. I don't mind as it often means I get to see some of the craziest sightings. I've been nicknamed 'Madness' because of it. I have a lot of favourite parts of Ulusaba, it is a difficult question. I really enjoy the people we work with, the strong family bond that we all share. But then the location and animals in the area are magic as well. My best memory so far would have to be the wild dog den site we were fortunate enough to have on our property last year, it was magic watching the puppies been raised, a first for me after so many years in the bush.
My name is Sipho Zitha, but my team call me Sipho Z for short. I have been tracking for 12 years and I joined the Ulusaba team in 2018.
Since I was a child I have always love the South African bush and my father was a tracker in this reserve so while I was young I got to visit him and see what tracking was about.
My favourite animal to track is a leopard as it is very challenging as they are elusive animals.
Stuart, Conservation Manager tells us: "I'm now in my 14th year of guiding and still nature fascinates me just as much as when I was a young boy growing up in the Zimbabwean bushveld. Being on foot exploring the bush with guests really opens up our senses and instills in us a respect for the beauty of nature. It is also the best way to follow my passion for birding. The Black Rhino is an iconic animal that has always captured my imagination. Their feisty temperament and no nonsense attitude are strong qualities that I admire. The experience of rediscovering our connection with the natural world is an everyday privilege I feel very blessed to be able to share with our guests."
Assistant Head Guide Tom has been in the wildlife and guiding scene for the past eight years, working and living in various natural environments.
I have always been intrigued by Africa’s magnificent wilderness and I am immensely proud to share it with anyone who sets foot in our beloved homeland.
His passion lies in the realm of animal behaviour as he is fascinated by an animal’s ability to survive, adapt and be constantly versatile no matter the circumstance or pressure applied.
I have a holistic approach to guiding and sharing the exceptional beauty this environment holds in all of its diversity.
"I started as a tracker in 2008 and just love being out in the bush spending time with the wild animals. My favourite animal of all is the elephant. They can amuse me for hours at a time and the way they behave with each other reminds me of us as humans too. The most challenging animals to track, however, are the big cats. They can really test your skills in being able to follow the spoor, especially on different surfaces in different conditions. You have to have all your senses about you when walking on their tracks. My most memorable moment involved tracking a pride of 8 lions on foot for over 3 hours. When we eventually found them one lioness was not too impressed. She charged me twice and came to about 25 metres from me. I shouted and clapped my hands and she walked away to rejoin the pride. My heart was racing but I was not nervous. I could see by her behaviour and body language that she was just warning me to give the pride their space. I listened!!!"
l have always wanted to be a tracker for as long as I can remember. Since joining the team at Ulusaba I have learnt so much.
I love my job because I enjoy working as a team and spending time tracking animals for the guests to see.
My favourite animal to track is a male leopard as they are a real challenge seek out.
Steve is one of our rangers here at Ulusaba. He works alongside tracker James and enjoys that every day and every game drive is different in the Sabi Sand.
His favourite animal is the African Elephant.
Orange is one of our trackers at Ulusaba who pairs with Ryan Johnson on game drives. A funny story he shared with us recently was when a couple of our repeat guests made a deal with Orange, that whenever he found an animal (impala not included), he would get a sweet! With the abundance of wildlife in the reserve as well as Orange's expert skills, let's just say that he had plenty of sweets that week!
Since the age of eleven I envisioned being a Field Guide. I was born in Joburg and grew up in the Northern suburbs. After school I decided to set foot into the 'working world'. The following two years were extremely boring and painful to say the least, but that experience gave me direction and really cemented my childhood vision of becoming a Field Guide in stone! So with my vast 'TV' knowledge of Africa and all the support from my family, off I went to study and pursue a career in a completely different environment. I absolutely loved every second of my training and was eager to start guiding, absorbing the bush like a sponge. I knew I had found my calling. My combined love for working with people and love for the bush paved the way and strengthened my confidence and ambition. I have been guiding for about 13 years now in several provinces around South Africa, and have taken a keen interest in wildlife photography. I have a special affinity towards the insect world as well as plants and their medicinal and cultural uses, but really just enjoy everything the bush has to offer. I will always strive to surround myself with nature, because nature reminds me of what's real.