Jon and I went on safari last weekend and I feel like I haven’t lived until now. Seriously. It was a combination of humility, awe and sheer excitement. I honestly have never felt anything like it. Jon and I drove about 2.5 hours to Pilanesberg National Park, which is a huge park with a few different biomes. The drive up was pretty interesting because we passed a few townships and I witnessed more poverty on that drive than I had ever seen. We also had to make an emergency fuel detour because we were worried we’d run out along the way. Oops… (But we saw a monkey sanctuary on that detour that we might visit on another trip so no harm done!)
We arrived at our lodge and were greeted with drinks and taken to our chalet. It was so much nicer than I was expecting – I couldn’t believe that you could stay in something so comfortable when in the middle of a national park! (It had A/C, an outdoor shower, a lovely porch, and a wall of windows we could just fold away to see the whole lodge!) We got settled and went to the common area to meet up for the afternoon drive. The lodge was full for the weekend and our fellow guests were four 17-year-old Australian boys who had just graduated high school, a couple from Joburg, and a lady from the U.K. who had already been to this lodge three times. Our guide, Jared, took us out and I couldn’t contain myself. I’d been told not to be disappointed if we didn’t see anything. Well…
The below are are of the animals that we saw over the four drives:
- Cape Buffalo*
- Elephants* (including a baby!)
- White Rhinos*
- Leopard Tortoise
- Red Hartebeast
- Lions* (two prides!)
- Scrub Hare
- Dead rhino 😦 😦
- Mountain Reed Buck
- Lots of birds
And that was over three rides because we barely saw anything on our Saturday morning ride. It was just magical. Seeing these animals interacting with each other and, even more so, within families, was super cool. Jared shared countless facts about the lives of these animals – when they leave their family, their size, how their territories work, if they lead solitary lives or not, etc. It was fascinating.
I could tell a million stories about each drive but the most special event was seeing the leopard. We’d stalked a female leopard on two different drives – there were rumblings of her being in a certain area and a few trucks were driving around, trying to find her – but we never made contact. Then, on Saturday afternoon, Jared started hauling ass all of a sudden and told us that he got a message that a male leopard was nearby. There were four other trucks there and we heard a low, crazy growl. (Jared explained that’s the noise the leopard makes to tell potential foes that he’s there and not to mess with him.) We spotted him through the bushes on a nearby hill and he started walking down. Everyone kept moving forward along the road, to keep up, and it seemed like he was going to come down to us. There was one truck in front that didn’t move in time so while we all got to see him, they were the only group that got to see him walk across the road, right in front of them. He was maybe 10 meters away. Nonetheless, it was just crazy and trying to capture a good picture of him was a bit of a challenge. He was so fast, beautiful and strong. Ridiculous. (Not to mention, an hour or so later, we saw our first lions. The pride was six females and three young males.) [high five!]
The lodge was incredible, the meals between drives were lovely, the gin stops during the drives were outstanding, and seeing a rhino walk up to the watering hole in our lodge was just nuts. I felt so lucky** to be able to see these majestic creatures and be in their world. It made me realize how small of a part we play on Earth and how much we need to do to protect them and our world. Phew.
– By Naama
* = the ‘Big 5’ (we saw them all!!)
** = I’m just going to say it – anyone who comes to visit and wants to go on safari, I’m down. It’s such a high that I want to have as often as I possibly can!! (Hint, hint.) Also, we never saw a male lion, so… Challenge extended.