The Ultimate African Safari: Ulusaba
Ulusaba is a beautiful game preserve owned by Richard Branson, and seeing such an unspoiled place was a great reminder that the true lover of nature will “Take only pictures and leave only footprints.” If you want to see the “Big Five” animals of Africa (leopards, elephants, buffalo, rhinos, and lions), you have to go very early in the morning or in the evening, because animals in South Africa have figured out that it’s way too hot to do anything during the day.
Ulusaba has two distinctively different lodges, including the Rock Lodge, which is perched high on a mountain that overlooks the vast landscape.
And the Safari Lodge, which is built along the banks of a dry river. Connected by long wooden bridges, the rooms are built like tree houses so you can really get a sense that you are in the hub of the bush.
My boyfriend and I decided to stay in the Safari Lodge for four nights and three days, which for a junior Safaris like myself was just perfect. It was also perfect because we had fresh orange juice for our morning rides and champagne for our evening trips—I like the outdoors, but there’s no reason we can’t have some fun while we’re there, right? Meals were served at a long table, family style, so people from all over the world got to swap stories as we all ate together.
It was an adventure every time we go into our open-air jeeps and headed out into the savannah. I liked having a checklist of the five top animals to spot; it felt like a scavenger hunt! Being on a whole other continent, especially one as so different as South Africa, is amazing because it lets you see just how truly different everything is. The trees are different, the bugs are different (and bigger!), even the air feels like it has a different quality.
The guides and animals trackers at the Safari Lodge were really fantastic as well. They answered any questions we had, and ensured our safety at all times, which is pretty important when you’re dealing with lions and leopards. Lions are a lot bigger when they are 15 feet away… and there’s no cage in between you and the king of the jungle!
Our tracker was a total badass—he seemed to be one with the landscape and the animals. He barely talked to us, but he could read the landscape like it was a book. Thanks to him and our driver we got to see all of the “Big Five.”
I felt very connected to the landscape and the animals. You hear about poaching and other problems that animals in Africa face, and it doesn’t seem real, but when you have been there and you get to see how mysterious and unique these animals are up close, you realize how important it is that they are preserved and respected. I love forming a deep connection with new places, and South Africa was magical and transformative for me—I cannot wait to go back!
During my trip I took over 1,400 photos… Here are some of my favorites:
A giant 6 inch snail cruising on by
The king of the jungle and his girlfriend going for a stroll
Trying not to get drenched by the rain
A baby rhino walking with his mom (Save The Rhino)
A baby baboon hanging outside of our room
Walking back to our lodge on wooden bridges