The South African National Parks system offers accommodations across the range of financial options; today we’re going to explore a budget-minded option: the Satara Rest Camp, which “has a rustic charm, with the bulk of the accommodation set out in a series of circles. Satara is well wooded and the bird-life is prolific. At night the clink of fruit bats is fused with the chirping of cicadas and crickets. The calls of owls and nightjars add to the symphony that is punctuated intermittently by the whoop of hyena, the screech of jackal, and the roars of lion.”

I’m loving the native-inspired architecture, and today I’m appreciating even the prosaic auto arrival bays, with their thatched roofs.

As we’ve come to expect, there’s a mapboard with reported wildlife positions. If we were in charge of our own safari today I’d pay more attention, but Carmella has booked us a night-time tour, so someone else will be driving…

I’m excited to have arrived at the campground proper to find our room. As described, it is all a bunch of circles, with common picnic space in the middle of each (for the maximal family time). Very nice design.

It’s time for our nighttime safari tour. It’s in an open-air vehicle specially designed to ferry around about twenty visitors while providing the best views and a covered top (for protection against the sun, things dropping from trees, and to keep monkeys out of the tourists’ hair).

Carmella & Michael
Carmella & Michael
Elephant
Elephant
Hyena
Hyena
Lioness
Lioness
Rock python
Rock python
Lioness
Lioness
Leopard
Leopard
Praying mantis
Praying mantis

Obviously, we used flashlights (“torches”) to light up our quarry. Here’s what it was like:

New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos

Our accommodations are again in randoval style, which I find just perfect. While Satara is targeted to the family crowd, and there are a lot of kids running around, there’s a good representation of singles, couples, and backpacking groups. The rest camp has a very friendly, welcoming feel to it.

This is the common family space, abandoned at this early hour. You can see the units placed around the circle at regular intervals; the open kitchens face the common space, so the one that cooks can also watch all the kids and talk to the neighbors. This is a much better arrangement than the typical American layout (of, say, Yosemite village) where each unit is a fiefdom unto itself, without the communal thoughtfulness. We’re told that this design is a recreation of traditional African village structure for use of migrant visitors.

There’s a moderately-priced restaurant on the property, with a pretty reasonable menu. I was happy to have it handy.

Here’s Carmella, in the unit’s outdoor kitchen, which is protected from the elements by an awning built into the randoval. I see ingredients on the counter, and a pot on the stove, but I’m unclear why she’s both smiling and brandishing a knife. I’d better stay away :-)

Oh, she’s waving me closer. She’s found a scorpion in the stainless street sink. Rather than kill it, I pick it up with my multi-tool and place it into the bushes on the other side of the randoval. Then I pack our things into the car and Carmella searches around to ensure we’ve not left anything; our check-out tradition.

On the way to the car, I spot a summary of the things we spotted last night:

Because our next lodgings are near, we don’t need to spend hours driving across Africa, so we have the time to do a day safari just outside the Satara walls. So here we are, in the same vehicle, checking out a family of hippos. Despite being large and slow, hippos are in fact quite a danger to hunters, being underestimated and very territorial. They’re just not very photogenic.

New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos

Female leopard, scoping out prey. When she’s still, she’s very still. The next moment, she was  gone, racing down her dinner.

New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos

Today we’re doing another bush walk, but this time in an area with active predators, not just big insects. We have two bush guides to shepherd us today.

Single-file, we’re instructed, and don’t stray far from the guides. I take rear.

You can see from Carmella’s layers that it’s a chilly morning.

Tracks. Lots of tracks. If memory serves this was a big cat, stalking.

What would a day in the bush be without a really big insect? This spider is huge, and it’s web stretches between the trees at our eye-level; better to be mindful and to duck than to deal with a big ol’ bite.

Here’s that spider, a thorn tree, and Carmella’s “I could’ve walked into that?!! face.

It’s very quiet, and serene. The animals’ senses are way more sensitive than our own, so we rarely see anything unless it’s around a watering hole or the guides know where a family has staked out a territory.

Another landscape, with rocky crevices, thorn trees, and the occasional acacia tree.

The bush walk over, with all returned, we thank the guides and point the car towards our next stop.

Here are some videos taken from the car.

New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos
New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos
New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos

Next, Needles Lodge.

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