Set within the Greater Kruger National Park, the renowned Thornybush Game Reserve, also known as Thornybush Nature Reserve, is a pristine 14,000-hectare private game reserve. Beyond being one of the most sought-after game reserves in Africa, it is every bit as wild and untamed as its famous neighboring national park, the Kruger National Park, with the added bonus of sharing an unfenced border with Timbavati Nature Reserve and the Kruger Park.
Regarded as one of the best safari destinations and premier private game reserve in South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve should be on every wildlife and nature enthusiast’s African safari bucket-list. Boasting 65,000 hectares of vast untamed wilderness, the notorious Sabi Sand Game Reserve shares an unfenced border with the world-renowned Kruger National Park, allowing animals to roam freely between the reserves.
When we were approached by one of our guests to help him book and plan a romantic proposal in the heart of the African bushveld, we jumped at the opportunity to make it a memorable and magical experience neither of them will forget.
As South Africa is in the midst of a Nationwide Lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, all travel has been placed on hold for the foreseeable future. Just because we can’t physically travel to some of our top African safari destinations, doesn’t mean we can’t experience all the natural beauty, amazing wildlife, birdlife and endemic fauna and flora virtually. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can now embark on a virtual journey to Africa’s most beautiful wildlife destinations from the comfort of your home. Making it possible for nature and wildlife lovers to experience the sights and sounds of the African bush by means of live streams, interactive game drives, and live Q&As hosted by expert field guides, game rangers and wildlife experts on the ground. On top of that, several game reserves offer round-the-clock live footage of key wildlife hotspots through webcams connected to Africam.com and Explore.org.
While me might not be able to hop into an open safari vehicle and go on a safari adventure right this moment, here are some of the best virtual safaris to enjoy online during the Corona Virus Lockdown.
WildEarth SafariLIVE is an award winning, expertly hosted LIVE safari experience, broadcasted directly from the African bush into your home. Available on both the internet and television, WildEarth’s SafariLIVE gives you the opportunity to enjoy a virtual safari and interact with a knowledgeable game ranger in real time. In partnership with a range of Africa’s top game reserves, lodges, and safari companies, WildEarth will be broadcasting twice-daily, 3-hour long game drives as they explore the heart of the African wilderness. Currently their SafariLIVE virtual safari experiences are broadcasted live from Djuma Private Game Reserve, Chitwa Chitwa in The Sabi Sands, &Beyond Ngala Private Game Reserve, and Tswalu Kalahari. All these reserves are found in South Africa and offer a vast expanse of wilderness within which Africa’s magnificent wildlife can freely roam.
By making use of safari vehicles, guides on foot, drones, balloons, rovers, and remote cams, they give you the opportunity to explore the glorious African wilderness and its magnificent wildlife in their natural habitat. From incredible sightings of the renowned Big 5 to other prolific wildlife and birdlife sightings, you will be right at the edge of your seat enjoying every second of the adventure. The WildEarth SafariLIVE broadcasts are entirely unscripted, unpredictable, and happening in real time. You never know what you’re going to get – making every sighting and encounter as thrilling as the next.
The WildEarth SafariLIVE is broadcasted in two main timeslots, Sunrise Safari and Sunset Safari. These virtual safari broadcasts can be enjoyed on the following days and times:
- Monday to Sunday
- Central African Time (CAT): 06:30am – 09:30am
- East African Time (EAT): 07:30am – 10:30am
- Eastern Standard Time (EST): 00:30am – 03:30am
- Monday to Sunday
- Central African Time (CAT): 15:00pm – 18:00pm
- East African Time (EAT): 16:00pm – 19:00pm
- Eastern Daylight Savings Time (EST): 09:00am – 12:00pm
WildEarth’s virtual safaris are broadcasted live in real-time, but in case you miss the action you can visit their SafariLIVE YouTube channel as all the videos will be saved there.
WildEarth also has an incredible virtual safari experience for all the young nature and wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy – WildEarth Kids! WildEarth Kids is all about connecting kids with nature and inspiring the next generation of conservation ambassadors. This exciting wildlife adventure takes kids aged 4-18 on free, live, and interactive virtual safari rides, transporting them from wherever they are onto the back of a virtual safari vehicle. For 45 minutes, kids join safariLIVE and tour some of the most iconic wildlife destinations in Africa. They can interact with the expert guides and game rangers in real time as they drive through the African wilderness, asking questions about what they see.
This fun and interactive virtual safari takes place during the first 45 minutes of both the Sunrise and Sunset drives. During that time, the guides will only answer questions specifically from the kids. These questions can be sent to them via [email protected]. Currently no bookings of sessions are required. This means the whole family can join in on all the virtual safari and wildlife fun as often as you want.
- Website: wildearth.tv
- WildEatrh YouTube channel: WildEarth Media
- WildEarth Facebook: @WildEarth.TV
- WildEarth Twitter: @WildEarth
- SafariLIVE YouTube channel: WildEarth
- SafariLIVE Twitter: @LIVEsafariLIVE
- WildEarth Kids Facebook: @WildEarthKids
Experiential travel company &Beyond is bringing the African wilderness to you by means of their WILDwatch LIVE initiative. &Beyond’s WILDwatch LIVE comes in two exciting parts that can be enjoyed by nature and wildlife lovers across the world.
On YouTube or Facebook
In an attempt to liven up your lockdown and give you an authentic African wildlife experience, &Beyond collaborated with wildlife broadcasting experts, WildEarth, to stream (in real time) twice-daily, three-hour long game drives from &Beyond Ngala Private Game Reserve and Djuma Private Game Reserve – two of South Africa’s top game reserves, both of which are adjacent to the Kruger National Park. Authentic and non-scripted, the game drives will follow the sights and sounds of the African bush as they unfold. The stream will move between three or four live feeds to bring viewers the action as it happens. Creating a seamless multi-feed virtual safari experience hosted by both &Beyond and WildEarth’s expert field guides. Viewers will be able to interact with the guides in real time as if they were on an actual game drive by asking them questions on YouTube or using #wildearth on Twitter.
You can join &Beyond and WildEarth’s virtual safari adventure by tuning into Wildwatch Live for a sunrise or sunset safari which takes place at the following times:
- 06:30am – 09:30am CAT (sunrise dependent)
- 15:00pm – 18:00pm CAT (sunset dependent)
The first 45 minutes of each afternoon drive will be dedicated to young wildlife fans and the guides will only answer questions asked by children during this time. Parents can sign their kids up by selecting a date on wildearth.tv/kids. Children (or parents) can then email any questions to [email protected] for age appropriate and personalized responses.
On Instagram Live
Besides joining the &Beyond and WildEarth guides for a thrilling virtual safari in the heart of the African bushveld on YouTube or Facebook, you can also watch all the action unfold on Instagram Live. Their expert guides in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve are always out and about, and will be jumping online, ad hoc, on &Beyond Travel’s Instagram page when they come across any exciting wildlife sightings. If you’d like to sign-up and receive notifications for when these Instagram Live streams will be taking place, be sure to do the following:
- Follow @andBeyondTravel on Instagram
- Select the “Following” button and go to Notifications
- Select Live Videos and make sure “Get all Notifications” is selected
- Website: andbeyond.com
- YouTube Channel: andBeyond
- Instagram: @andbeyondtravel
- Facebook: @andBeyondTravel
- Twitter: @andbeyondtravel
Tintswalo Safari Lodge Virtual Safaris
Tucked into the beautiful Manyeleti Game Reserve in the heart of the Greater Kruger National Park, Tintswalo Safari Lodge has launched free virtual safaris where you can explore the wonders of the African bush from the comfort of your home. The game rich Manyeleti Game Reserve is known for its incredible Big 5 sightings, which include lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos. Besides the African Big 5, Manyeleti Game Reserve also boasts a prolific variety of birdlife and other wildlife species. Now you get to experience all the action and spectacular sightings the Manyeleti Game Reserve has to offer courtesy of Tintswalo Safari Lodge’s ‘On the Beat’ virtual safaris.
Their ‘On the Beat’ virtual safaris include phenomenal video footage of actual sightings and exciting wildlife encounters experienced by their game rangers on patrol. The videos will be uploaded daily on all their social media channels. Make sure you follow them to avoid missing out.
- Website: tintswalo.com/safari
- Instagram: @tintswalo_safari_lodge
- Facebook: @TintswaloSafariLodge
- Twitter: @Tintswalolodges
- YouTube: Tinstwalo Lodges
Shamwari Private Game Reserve
Shamwari Private Game Reserve is a premier safari destination located in South Africa’s ecologically and culturally significant province of Eastern Cape. The head ranger of Shamwari Private Game Reserve, Andrew Kearney, is doing a series of “lockdown” episodes where he aims to showcase the beautiful African wilderness to as many people as possible. These special lockdown episodes will feature highlights from his daily walks and drives, as well as other interesting titbits and insights into life at the Eastern Cape reserve. As the Shamwari Private Game Reserve is home to the renowned Big 5 as well as vast herds of wildlife, birdlife, and incredible ecological diversity, you can expect some amazing sightings and encounters.
You can find head ranger Andrew Kearney’s virtual safari lockdown episodes on Shamwari Private Game Reserve’s social media platforms.
- Website: shamwari.com
- Instagram: @shamwariprivategamereserve
- Facebook: @shamwarisafari
- YouTube: Shamwari Private Game Reserve
Singita Sabi Sand
Singita is a conservation and ecotourism brand that has been preserving and protecting the African wilderness and its many inhabitants for the past 26 years. Singita’s unique philosophy lives on in each of their fifteen award-winning lodges and camps spread across six diverse ecosystems and four countries in Africa. At each of their premium lodges and camps they aim to offer guests an authentic African wildlife and safari experience unlike any other. Singita has three Sabi Sand lodges located in South Africa. The Sabi Sand is a privately owned game reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park. Together these two areas make up some of South Africa’s most pristine land.
As they aren’t able to share their incredible wildlife and African bushveld with guests at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are doing it virtually by live-streaming game drives. These live-streamed virtual game drives will be hosted by resident photographer and former guide Ross Cooper twice daily on their Facebook and Instagram platforms. Singita Sabi Sand is renowned for their high concentrations of big game and frequent leopard sightings. Not to mention the spectacular lion, large rhino bulls and tiny baby elephant sightings Ross Cooper encounters on his live drives through the Singita Sabi Sand concession. This makes for a thrilling virtual safari experience filled with exciting up-close wildlife encounters.
Motswari Private Game Reserve
The Motswari Private Game Reserve is located within the Timbavati and Umbabat Private Nature Reserve. These two breath-taking nature reserves form part of the Associated Private Nature Reserve region which borders on the Kruger National Park. The Timbavati and Umbabat Private Nature Reserve shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park, which allows wildlife species to move freely between these expansive parks. This means visitors can look forward to some phenomenal Big 5 sightings as well as incredible wildlife and birdlife encounters.
To ensure nature and wildlife lovers don’t miss out on the wonders of the African bush, Motswari Private Game Reserve has two guides who patrol the reserve daily, filming their drives and wildlife encounters and sightings along the way. All the highlights from their drives are then posted to their Instagram feed for everyone to enjoy. Ensuring you get your daily dose of African bush magic from the comfort of your home. Follow Motswari Private Game Reserve on Instagram to avoid missing out on all the incredible wildlife action!
Savanna Private Game Reserve
Savanna Private Game Reserve is an exclusive 5-star lodge situated in the internationally acclaimed Sabi Sand Reserve within the Greater Kruger National Park Conservancy. Known for their authentic safari experiences and magnificent Big 5 sightings, it is considered completely normal to see lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, and rhinos all in one game drive. The numerous nearby dams and series of waterholes in front of the lodge also attracts several other wildlife and birdlife species.
To ensure wildlife enthusiasts don’t miss a single second of the action, Savanna Private Game Reserve has put together a virtual safari experience in the form of daily ‘[email protected] Safari’ segments. These segments consist of +/- 10 – 20-minute videos featuring each day’s safari highlights and thrilling wildlife sightings and encounters. Savanna Private Game Reserve shares their daily ‘[email protected] Safari’ segments on their Facebook page for everyone to enjoy. Follow them as they explore the magnificent Sabi Sand Reserve and everything it has to offer.
- Website: savannalodge.com
- Facebook: @SavannaPrivateGameReserve
- Instagram: @savanna_private_game_reserve
- YouTube: Savanna Private Game Reserve
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve
The Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is South Africa’s largest private game reserve and one of the best places in Southern Africa to see cheetah in the wild. Situated in the Savannah Biome, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve lies in a transition zone between the true Kalahari ecotype and arid Savannah. This unique location contributes to a greater habitat diversity than anywhere else in the Kalahari. The Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is home to one of the very few mountain ranges in the southern Kalahari, the Korannaberg, as well as rolling hills and expansive grasslands. Tswalu is also known to receive more rainfall than many other parts of the Kalahari. Giving rise to a rich biodiversity, thriving ecosystems and diverse range of wildlife and birdlife.
In the shelter of the mountains you will find Tswalu’s 240 bird and 80 mammal species, including Hartmann’s mountain zebra and wild dog. On top of that you will encounter incredible Kalahari species you may never have seen before. While giraffe, zebra, and buffalo will be familiar sightings if you’ve been on a safari before, this will likely be your first opportunity to capture iconic Kalahari sightings such as dainty springbok with a backdrop of red sand, or the silhouette of a gemsbok atop a dune. It really is something special!
Now you can experience all the magic of the Kalahari and its unique wildlife from the comfort of your home. Every Thursday the area’s researchers and wildlife experts will post live videos and Q&A’s to Tswalu’s Instagram and Facebook pages, inviting you to enjoy every second of the action along with them.
Tau Watering Hole, Madikwe Game Reserve
Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve is located on the Northern border of South Africa and Botswana. The magnificent Madikwe Game Reserve is the fourth largest game reserve in the country and one of Africa’s most sought-after wildlife destinations. The beautiful Tau Game Lodge overlooks the famous Tau Waterhole, which is an oasis for a vast variety of wildlife species in the area. Elephants, giraffes, lions, zebras, and cheetahs are just a few of the Madikwe Game Reserve regulars you will spot at the Tau Waterhole.
To share these spectacular wildlife sightings with the rest of the world, Tau Game Lodge has set up a 24-hour Tau live camera feed. This gives viewers the opportunity to enjoy a secret window into this sanctuary and its robust ecosystem as elephants bathe, lions roar, wild dogs roam, and crocodiles prey.
The Naledi Cat-EYE
The Naledi Game Lodge is a World Luxury Hotel and TripAdvisor award winning wildlife safari and luxury game lodge located in an exclusive private reserve within the Greater Kruger National Park. The Greater Kruger extends across several private reserves with no fences to impede the migration of game. One of these private reserves is Balule Nature Reserve – The exclusive 40,000-hectare reserve in which Naledi operates. The reserve holds high natural densities of Africa’s Big Five as well as an abundance of other wildlife and birdlife species.
Explore.org in association with Africam.com is giving viewers a live window into the African wild with a live camera feed over the Balule Nature Reserve’s watering hole. For an entirely unique perspective of the animals that frequent the watering hole, this live camera has been set up at the eye level of a leopard. As other larger wildlife species such as elephants and giraffes tower over the camera, viewers will be able to enjoy a whole other viewpoint of these magnificent animals as they visit the waterhole. According to Explore.org, you are likely to spot a vast variety of wildlife species ranging from curious cheetahs, lions, elephants, giraffes, impalas, baboons and warthogs to Egyptian geese, meerkats, waterbuck, and porcupines.
Tembe Elephant Park
South Africa’s Tembe Elephant Park is a 300km2 reserve located between Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mozambique. It is known for having the largest elephant population on the African continent. Now you can watch these gentle giants of the African bushveld from the comfort of your home via a live feed. Both Africam.com and Explore.org have live webcams set up at the Tembe Elephant Park watering hole. Giving viewers the opportunity to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.
Even when the largest visitors don’t make an appearance, it is still worth the watch as the reserve is home to a variety of other wildlife species, including lions, rhino, buffalo and suni antelopes, to mention just a few. As it’s a 24/7 live feed, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the African wilderness whenever you choose.
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is located in the heart of the South African bushveld. As Ulusaba is a member of Virgin Limited Edition, a select group of luxury hotels, they have teamed up with Virgin to host a thrilling virtual safari experience every Monday at 3:30pm via Instagram. This is the perfect opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to see leopard cups, a lion pride or any of the Big Five in their natural habitat. Be sure to follow them on Instagram to avoid missing out on all the action and incredible wildlife sightings and encounters.
- Instagram: @virginlimitededition
The Majingilane Coalition got their name from the reference of watchmen patrolling the night. They marched with intention, never altering their course. Their origin was traced to the Manyelethi Game Reserve, where they were part of a pride with a reputation as buffalo hunters.
The five Majingilane males were born between 2004 and 2005. By 2009 their solo journey apart from their main pride started. And so they moved south towards Sabi Sands. The brothers decided to stick together and the gang started causing a big stir in their new territory.
Challenging Their Predecessors
By 2010 the new coalition faced off against two formidable Mapogo males – Mr. T (Satan) and Kinky-Tail. The encounter was brutal. The Mapogos managed to isolate and kill one of the Majingilanes, breaking his spine with their sheer force. But the remaining four Majingilane lions managed to strike back with a night attack and killed Kinky-Tail.
Mr. T (Satan) joined his other remaining brothers again in the western sector of the Sabi Sands. Everyone was holding their breath for a big showdown between the two coalitions, but this never happened. The remaining four Majingilane males managed to take control of most of the Londolozi reserve area. Following in the brutal footsteps of their predecessors, they purged the land of all the lions not bowing to their dominion.
Settling In To Their New Territory
The first pride that was targeted by the Majingilane Coalition, was the much-loved Tsalala Pride. Out of the eight sub-adults, four were killed. Only the four younger lionesses and their three mothers survived. By 2010 the two adult lionesses succumbed to their powers and started mating with the “enemy”. Survival of the fittest took over and even though the Majingilane males had killed their cubs, they knew that the strongest and best genes had to be passed on.
Their next target was the Sparta Pride. The Majingilanes killed two of the three cubs and by the beginning of 2011 quite a few pride members were missing. The pride had been split up, and not wanting to draw attention to themselves, they did not call out to each other. This means they could not reunite to stand their ground against the attack. The Majingilane lions grew stronger, with their manes darkening and thickening. And they took over more and more land. They reigned the land for over 7 years.
Making Their Mark
The mighty Majingilane male lions definitely ruffled feathers with their arrival. Similar to the way the Mapogo coalition sowed havoc, the Majingilanes greatly affected the lion population of the Sabi Sands.
Their reputation rests on a few factors. Firstly, the size of their territory, as well as the number of pride takeovers they managed. Not quite as infamous as the Mapogo coalition, the Majingilane lions were just as powerful.
The brothers were born in the Orpen area of the Kruger National Park. They meandered into the Sabi Sands reserve at the beginning of 2010. They dominated 5 prides in total. The Majingilane lions were named according to prominent physical features: Dark Mane, Golden Mane, Scar-Nose, and Hip-Scar.
Cubs born from the coalition:
|Tsalala Pride||11 cubs with 3 surviving|
|2 killed by buffalo, 2 killed by a flood, 1 killed by Scar-Nose (Majingilane) and 3 disappeared|
|Breakaway Tsalala Pride:||no cubs|
|Fourways Pride||4 cubs with 3 surviving.|
|1 cub disappeared|
|Styx Pride||6 cubs with 5 surviving|
|1 cub disappeared|
|Sparta Pride||13 cubs with 8 surviving|
|3 killed by flood, 1 killed by Tsalala Pride, 1 disappeared|
|Total||34 cubs, with 19 surviving|
In the prime of their dominion over the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, it was estimated that they controlled 26 676 Hectares. That’s 267 square kilometres or 65 919 Acres. To put it into more perspective, the area they patrolled was about the same as 50 706 American football fields! The perimeter came to about 64.6 km (40.2 miles).
The End of an Era
On average a male lion lives to the age of 10. As part of a coalition, they can maybe stretch their lifespan a little bit further. But because the battle for dominance over their territory is so fierce, they usually don’t make it much further than a decade of domination.
By the end of the Majingilane coalition, the four brothers split up. The first brother to pass away, was the Hip-Scar male. People following the journey of the formidable four lions, had predicted that he would be first to die. He seemed to be the outsider, mostly a loner away from the group. Sometimes the other brothers would ignore his roars, not answering immediately.
Next the Golden Mane lion went missing. Reports say that he was badly injured during a buffalo hunt. And an old lion’s chances of recovering from such an ordeal, are slim to none. He succumbed to his injuries.
The Dark Mane and Scar-Nose males were the core members of the coalition. They were constantly seen together, almost as if inseparable. In the end they also split up, both emaciated. After 8 years of a reign of terror, it was old age that crumbled their dominion.
Click here to view a tribute to the majingilane
The lives of the legendary lions of Sabi the Sands read like the script for a soapie. A thirst for power, brutal techniques to gain it, betrayal among siblings, and unexpected take-overs from the rivals. Below a video series, following the journey of the famous lions of the Sabi Sands.You will be surprised to discover how much these magnificent wild beasts have in common with humans. See the behind the scenes of life in the African jungle.
The infamous Mapogo Lions of the Sabi Sands have become legends in their own right due to their impressive dominance of the area for 6 years, but also because of the violent and shocking way that they gained control of their territory and held it over the following years.