In the first post about my holiday to South Africa I wrote about how Raquel and I decided to take it easy for this trip and not exert ourself with sightseeing as this would not be our only visit to the country. However, I did want to her to experience the bush by way of a safari. I decided to book a night at the Black Rhino Lodge in Pilansberg National park close to Sun City. This way she would be able to see two local tourist attractions in the region.
Pilansberg National Game Reserve is located in North West Province in South Africa, around an hour’s drive from my town. The park was originally owned by three local tribes, and is now administered by the North West Parks and Tourism Board. The park sits in an ancient extinct volcano which is one of the largest in the world. Within the Pilansberg game reserve lies the Black Rhino Private Game Reserve and the Black Rhino Game Lodge. Here we would spend roughly two days, indulging in good food and safari’s in a tranquil bush setting.
There are bigger national parks in South Africa to go on Safari in, however this one was close to home so there was no long distances to travel. We left Thabazimbi by noon and an hour later we were at the park. Soon after checking in we started our first game drive with our guide Arthur and an elderly Australian couple who live in South Africa.
Being winter, the bushveld was a kaleidoscope of yellows, oranges, reds and faded greens. It was fun to see Raquel’s face light up with the pallet of South Africa’s dry winter colours of the bushveld and the animals roaming the park. She has seen animals confined in cages and enclosures in zoo’s, never this wild. As usual, impalas and other bucks are found in abundance, but that’s not what most people come to see. The big five are the safari treasure that everyone seeks: the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant.
Our fist big five sighting was a herd of buffulo. We stopped to watch the herd kick up the dust and scatter across the plane. Soon after this we found a couple of giraffes. They have to be the most zen animal on the planet: They just stand there, eat and nonchalantly look at us humans in our little cars, as business class passengers look at economy class passengers on airplanes. Every time I see giraffes I am reminded of an Eddie Izzard sketchabout evil giraffes.
Soon after seeing the giraffes heard low roar of a lion at which point we stopped next to another group of Safariers. The guides comment that it was strange to see a female lion on its own and it was most likely looking for cubs. At this point Raquel was slightly worried as the roar of the lioness was quite loud and she some (irrational) fear that it would jump into the car and attack us.
We had our lioness fix and made our way back towards camp in the hope of spotting more of the big five. It was getting dark and as we drove back towards camp in the road ahead of us we spotted a camera shy leopard, who when realized he was spotted quickly darted into the bush and ran away. It was funny to see the sudden rush of excite when we spotted the leopard in the road.
After our leopard sighting we headed back to camp. Just as we got to the gate, Arthur got told over the two way radio system that another guide had spotted a male lion not far from camp, so we turned back and headed towards the lion. There were another 3 cars watching the lion when we arrived. Everyone was parked up and pointing spotlights at the lion. Suddenly the lion left the light and the guides didn’t see which direction it walked in, moment later, in the dark, the lion was walking around five meters away from our car. Raquel merely clutched on to me for dear while I silently watched the majestic animal wander away from us.
We were all satisfied with our viewing for the day so headed back to camp for dinner, which was a mixture of delicious local dishes. After dinner Raquel and I headed back to our room for the night as we had an early wake up call the next day for our early game drive.
I struggled to fall asleep and was lucky enough to hear the lions roar quite loudly close to the camp. It’s a good thing Raquel was asleep as I’m sure she would not have enjoyed knowing the lions were close by.
We woke up the next morning to have our morning game drive. It was cold. Bitterly cold and once the car started moving the biting breeze and mist made it feel even colder. Raquel turned into an ice cube. To compound the cold, it seemed like the animals weren’t in the ‘playing-up-to-tourists’ mood and stayed away from us. Things only got better once the sun was up proper and we could absorb the warmth it provided when we stopped for coffee.
After our coffee we drove on in search of more animal and struck luck again with the lions as we found a lioness crossing the road ahead of for a nice photo.
With no more animals in sight we were back in camp for breakfast. Once we had our breakfast, Raquel and I just lounged in the sun and then on the couches until lunch was served. After lunch, our brief safari experience was over.
On the way back to Thabazimbi, we stopped at Sun City which I will subsequently write a brief post about.