Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved being outdoors and exploring nature. My parents used to take me to the Dolomites in the north of Italy for every vacation and I collected the best memories there, getting to know my first snakes, squirrels, deer, birds, snails, and everything an Italian forest has to offer. I remember gearing up with my tiny binoculars, boots, little knife, and a compass so I was ready for any adventure!
Over the years, my passion for Africa, and lions in particular, started to develop. So in 2011, I decided to book a flight to South Africa to see if the life of a Ranger would be possible for me – studying lions and making a difference in conservation. After ten years, I am still here, working as a Ranger for a project called LEO Africa.
The best thing about being in South Africa is being able to dive into nature and see wild animals in their natural habitats. Luckily, there are still some private game reserves and national parks that offer protection to wildlife and a habitat where they can live.
When I have some free time, I love to go exploring new places or return to the ones that have a special place in my heart, depending on how much time I have available.
There are two places in South Africa that I really love to visit: one is the world-famous Kruger National Park, while the other is the Marakele National Park, very close to where I live.
When I only have one day free, I choose to go to the Marakele National Park as it is pretty small but absolutely stunning and accessible, and being located in the Waterberg Mountains means it has breathtaking landscapes.
my aim here is to focus on the small things and views of the mountains and of the endangered Cape Vultures. I always carry my SWAROVSKI OPTIK CL Pocket 10x25 with me because Marakele is home to such an incredible variety of birds, small mammals, and insects that the only way to identify them is with great binoculars.
When I have a week available, as well as going to visit family in the Hoedspruit area, I always dedicate a couple of days (or more!) to visiting the Kruger National Park. Both Marakele and Kruger offer self-drive options, so I can keep costs down and still have an awesome experience in the bush, at my own pace, trying to spot my favorite animals. There are many camps at an affordable price where you can stay overnight within the park, and sometimes I even jump on a two-hour night drive to try and spot some nocturnal animals such as genets, owls, civets, and of course all the big/small cats and hyenas/wild dogs (for safety reasons, self-drive is not allowed at night).
I have some favorite spots in Kruger, including some dams, river roads, and hides where I love to spend time looking for birds and well-camouflaged creatures. Patience is always a must, as well as being able to identify the sounds of nature to predict what might happen next. With the aid of a great pair of binoculars, identifying new species and spotting them through the lush vegetation is easier and more rewarding.
I am very honored to be able to use a SWAROVSKI OPTIK CL Pocket 10x25: before using this awesome tool, I had the impression that binoculars had to be larger to provide great results. I was wrong. The CL Pocket is a perfect combination for everyday use in all conditions: when I conduct bush walks, for example, it is perfect as the binocular is light and it provides such a sharp and clear image. It really helps in my job to identify single individuals and I even feel safer, having to always keep my ears and eyes open for potentially dangerous encounters.
I always try to spend two or three days visiting Kruger so I can drive to different camps, enjoy the different scenery, and dedicate more time to photographing all the animals that decide to appear close to the road! Each time I see an animal I am extremely grateful – the park is so vast that they could hide away from sight all the time. Nature is magic, nature is our home. It is our responsibility to respect it to the best of our ability, being grateful for what it provides us with every day.
Sabrina Colombo is an Italian Ranger living and working in South Africa at LEO Africa, volunteering for wildlife, conservation, and sustainable living causes since 2012. Sabrina also has a degree in tourism and is a former professional tennis player. Her decision to move to South Africa from Italy came with the desire to make a difference in conservation and to monitor and study lions in the wild. Alongside lions, Sabrina really enjoys all wildlife, being in nature, and educating people about conservation, sustainable living, and the importance of respecting our planet, for our future! Since 2021, Sabrina is part of our Nature Explorer team.