This is my last blog from South Africa, and is mostly just pictures, because these beautiful wild animals speak for themselves! I took way too many snapshots, so this is just a sample of a few of the animals everyone likes to see and be near – we even saw 4 of the “Big 5”!
On my last full day in Johannesburg I wanted to get outside the city. I knew I wanted to do a safari, but I really didn’t want to do one on my own. Thankfully Lucero (a girl from the conference) agreed to join me. We got up early and met our driver in front of the hotel. We found out it would just be the 3 of us in his SUV for most of the day, but he was really cool so I had no problem with it. We were headed on a 2 hour journey to Pilanesberg National Park!
Our driver had a playlist which included a lot of songs from the Lion King and also “the Lion Sleeps Tonight”. He sang along to all of them, he was a lot of fun! Due to the police on the way there, he asked Lucero to sit in the front, and I stayed in the back. We stayed this way for the rest of the morning, and it gave us both great views (especially because I could switch from side to side depending where the animals were!). We stopped on the way for some snacks, and I bought some cold medicine (since I had woken up feeling not great). As soon as we drove through the front gates we were confronted by a herd of zebra munching on some grass by the road – wow! At the hotel the other guests didn’t have many great things to say about going on just a one-day safari, especially at this park, and especially during the middle of the day (instead of at sun rise) – but they were totally wrong!
After our morning drive we went to a resort for lunch (the only hotel that is actually located in the park). It has a bar, restaurant, cabins, shops, and a hotel. We had the buffet (which was delicious) and a cocktail. You can even see the animals grazing from our table, as there is a small water-hole near the fence that separates the hotel from the animals. I wrote a few postcards and we chilled in the grass until 4pm, because we were pretty tired already.
In the afternoon we opted for an open vehicle with a park ranger. Although I found the view to be just as good as the SUV, it felt nice to have the wind in our hair (until it got dark and that wind turned cold!). The park ranger was a huge bonus though, since he had a radio and knew the park really well. This allowed the rangers to compare sightings with each other, giving us a better chance of seeing some animals up close. The first thing we saw was a lion, which was really awesome. He seemed to be relaxing when we saw another lion close-by. The two brothers then wandered a bit and ended up playing in the tall grass, it was a really cool sight to see them interacting.
The “Big 5” are – Lions, Elephants, Rhino, Water Buffalo, and Leopards. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the last one (since they’re nocturnal and sleep in the trees during the day – making them pretty elusive), but I saw at least 2 of each of the other 4 animals. They’re called the Big 5 because they’re so dangerous and have been known to kill people in the past. Apparently rhinos have awful sight but amazing hearing, so they’ve even been known to follow humans through the grass, thinking that they’re another rhino. Don’t try this at home kids!
We were also lucky enough to see big herds of elephants and water buffalo. My favourite was watching the baby elephant play with the others! The whole family walked right across the road and we were able to just sit and watch them do their thing on either side of the path before they ambled off.
Two-thirds of the way through the tour, our driver took us to a high vantage point for sunset, it was very beautiful. You could see herds of animals and the wonderfully blue lake in the distance. We took pictures, chatted a bit with the other people we met, and had some snacks the driver had brought. After the stop it was getting pretty dark, especially since there were no street lights to be found. One of the girls asked to see a giraffe, and our driver called his colleagues on the radio. Thankfully, they had spotted one by the road, and we were able to see him slowly eating away at a tree about 10 feet from us! For my Canadian friends… we saw an elusive “house hippo” that only comes out at night but is super cute! 😉 For my non-Canadian friends, we also saw a hippo wandering around in the dark, apparently they travel quite far distances at night but always make their way back to the water by sunrise.
By the time our tour ended at around 8pm we were exhausted. My headcold had gotten worse, and we were cold from the open car. We met up with our driver from the morning, got in the car, and passed out all the way back to Johannesburg. For anyone visiting the area, I would definitely recommend it!
If you want to know more about this trip, check out my other blogs about South Africa (which have already been posted):
- South Africa – Part 1: Sometimes Everyone Needs a Bit of Pampering
- South Africa – Part 2: Design With the Other 90%
- South Africa – Part 3: Soweto and the Apartheid Museum