Monday, May 18, 2009
This weekend we went to Pilanesberg National Park for our first safari experience. The park was created in 1979 and thousands of animals were brought in to fill it, including all of the "Big Five". If you, like me, have never been to Africa you may not know what the Big Five is...apparently based on the most dangerous animals to hunt this list is kinda the "must-see animals" when going on a safari. The Big 5 consists of elephants, rhinos, water buffalo, leopards and lions and Pilanesberg is home to all of them. It is only a couple hours from Jo'burg so we booked rooms at the Bakubung (People of the Hippo) Lodge located inside the park. After a very long drive packed like sardines in the back of the car through standstill traffic we arrived in time for a late dinner on Friday night.
Saturday morning after breakfast we set out to see our first animals. The hotel only offered safaris at 8am which according to the guide is a bit late to see the good stuff. Apparently hotel guest complain too much about the cold to go early in the morning. We were able to see a lot of the antelopes, some zebras and even a giraffe from afar though.
Afterwards we had lunch overlooking the watering hole in the back of the lodge. There were some wildebeest hanging around but the real excitement came when some Vervet monkeys came onto the property...they hopped on the roof, ran across the patio and one even jumped up onto a table and took a swipe of whipped cream off the top of a little girl's cake. I always feel like there is at least one picture opportunity that I miss each weekend and the shot of this monkey running off with a whipped cream mustache is definitely the one I regret not capturing. I still giggle thinking about it.
At 3:30 we headed out for our evening safari. Much more excitement...we saw some giraffes up close and personal and saw our first elephants and hippos out of the water. The night drive back was great...we followed a small jackal around, saw a herd of wildebeest running and were able to catch some elephants and giraffes eating in the dark. We ended our day without any big cats though but had high hopes for our last safari the next morning.
Our last guide, Peter, asked us right off the bat what animals we hadn't seen yet or wanted to see. The entire vehicle said "cats and water buffalo". Personally I had traded water buffaloes for giraffes in my own "big five" but I did really want to see some lions. The buffaloes at Pilanesburg are still fearful of vehicles so apparently very hard to see but they do have lions and leopards in residence. Peter immediately got on the horn asking other guides about the whereabouts of some cats. We spotted our first lions after only a few minutes but they were pretty far away. It was a large pride but after driving around in vain for where they were headed we gave up and drove on. Just as we were looking at some hippos from across a pond Peter yelled "I see cats, hang on!!"..."No, seriously hang on!". He put the pedal to the metal and we were off. I couldn't have been more grateful for Peter making such an effort. We got right up to two male lions and even witnessed them stalking a wildebeest. The wildebeest caught wind of them before any real action happened but it was seriously like being in an episode of National Geographic...so freaking cool.
I knew we'd enjoy safari but I had no idea we'd both love it so much. The anticipation of seeking out the animals and the thrill when you find them is awesome. Watching these beautiful creatures in the wild has no comparison. We both said we could honestly do it every weekend and never tire of it. Thankfully we're in South Africa for another 7 weeks so there should be more to come!
*disclaimer-there are like 500 pics from this weekend...so check them out when you have time to browse them all...the animals are amazing!
Posted by MAV at 11:16 AM