Safari!

I’m now back in the (freezing) UK and can finally upload this blog entry I wrote about my safari trip (thanks BT Wifi)… 

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I can’t believe it’s been a week since I was on safari, time here is flying and I just realised today I haven’t blogged since before then! (Beware this blog post will be long and contain a lot of animal photos. Make yourself a cup of tea before reading.. )

So, I hired a car last week to do a self-drive to Pilanesberg Game Reserve, as I was not keen on the extortionate tourist prices on offer. Having done many a safari in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi in KZN I’m no stranger to safari experiences and I thought it would make a good little road trip.

DSCF3188.JPGMy Kia Picasso, a nice little drive (although I drove so much my legs ached!)

On Wednesday evening I also took my friend Fiona to the airport (via Nando’s!) which saw us getting a little bit lost in downtown Joburg, thanks to the supremely slow apple navigation (I’ve always hated it and now I hate it a little bit more). I think I said to her, “It’ll be ok, I was just reading in a guide book that there are only a few no-go areas and as long as we avoid them we’ll be fine. Those areas are Yeoville, Berea and Hillbrow.” A few moments later we came to a Stop street opposite a place called ‘Yeoville Supermarket’, and realised we were right in the centre of Yeoville! But we were fine, it could have got a bit hairy at times with people wandering all over the road, but we made it to the airport and I made sure I didn’t come home the same route!

After that experience I thought I’d be fine to get to North West Province, having studied various maps. However, in the end it took me 4 hours to do a journey that should have taken a max of 3 hours, involving various detours, most of which I will blame on bad signage, but in at least one case it was definitely me thinking I knew best! At one point there was just me in my little Kia Picasso and a whole lot of Platinum mines on each side! So it was that I ended up getting into the park at 11am, which meant that I didn’t think I’d see much until later on, as it was SO HOT!

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The thing I didn’t realise until I got there was that Pilanesberg is a Game Reserve created within an extinct volcano crater, which means it’s hot. Very hot. I’m used to Joburg temperatures (upper 20’s to 34 degrees C) but there it was 37 degrees and I was certainly feeling it! So were the animals, of course.

DSCF3595.JPGJust a bit of the game reserve behind me, taken from the top of one of the mountains. You see it’s quite big with lots of wilderness for animals to hide themselves.

Focusing on the waterhole areas and dams seemed like a good plan and this was rewarded by the discovery of a whole herd of elephant coming to drink and play. I saw them from afar and worked out their route and I was rewarded (after reversing my car from the exact spot they were aiming for!) with over half an hour or amazing elephant viewing. It was truly spectacular. I love elephants and it’s so exhilarating as they are SO big and potentially dangerous…

DSCF3241.JPGOnce I’d spotted this elephant train on a distant hill, I quickly realised where they were heading and I was off to the dam to meet them there! 

DSCF3286.JPGelephant climbing over the wall to get to the dam

DSCF3315.JPGand still more came! 

DSCF3283.JPGDumbo!

DSCF3443.JPGa few of the ‘teenagers’ thought they’d cool off with a swim and water fight…

DSCF3520.JPGbefore too long it was time for them to head off into the bush once more! 

Riding high on this incredibly close experience, I was holding out and praying for a big cat. My aim was to see a leopard but I’ve also not seen lion up close in the wild yet either. After a fantastic cheetah experience in Hluhluwe I was less worried about them. The rest of the afternoon contained baby zebra, baby warthog and the odd monkey, but no big cats.

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In the end I decided to head to the camp that I was booked into. All day long I’d been saying to God: “Jesus, you are king of all the creatures so really you could make a lion appear before me without me having to strive so much to find one.”

As I turned a corner on the road very close to the exit, I saw something fairly big on the road up ahead and I shouted “Oh, please be cats!” and sure enough as I approached I realised it was lion just waiting on the road for me to arrive. They got up and wandered slowly towards me down the middle of the road. Not one, but 3 lionesses and a lion! Jesus was really showing off, I felt!

DSCF3612.JPGJust me and my new friends…

Absolutely gorgeous animals, they came right by my car. To start with it was just me and them, but then a safari vehicle appeared. The driver of this one passed me after the lions had gone past but then pulled in behind to completely block my view right when I was taking a photo. I considered driving off but then thought, ‘These are MY lions!!’ And so I turned around and over took him again, getting into a mini traffic jam behind the lion sauntering along in the middle of the road. There was a car in between me and the lion but I made sure the safari vehicle couldn’t overtake and block again. (The people in there could still see as they were up higher than us!)

It was another incredible experience to end the day. Staying in a safari tent was also cool. I think we had a mega thunderstorm overnight but I was SO tired that I slept through it all.

DSCF3652.JPGthe closest I’ll ever come to sleeping out under the stars! 

On day 2 I was up early to get into the park at opening time and found myself in the park at 5.40am. Before dawn it was lovely and cool, but by 6.30am it was already too hot! I was on a mission to find leopard, but sadly it was not my day for that. In conversation with the safari tours, no one had seen one that day. I did see more of everything else (except Buffalo, who must have been hiding all week!) By 9.30am it was time to head back to camp for breakfast and then off home via Hartbeesportdam, which is also beautiful.

DSCF3694DSCF3663DSCF3717still in the park, beautiful and tranquil

Somehow I managed to miss a turning on the way home and ended up coming into Joburg via Sandton. I have never been so happy to see Montecasino en route as I knew where I was then! I made a brief stop at Cresta shopping mall as they have a big Woolworths (M&S) but annoyingly they’d had a power cut and it was closed!! No more clothes for me…

PS: there will be many more pics on facebook once I get WIFI and can upload them all!

 

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