I’m writing this from back in the UK having spent the best part of the last 3 weeks in South Africa. The first half of the trip was a safari in Pilanesberg National Park, which is about a two hour drive North West of Johannesburg. This was my first every safari and to say it has touched me profoundly is an understatement of epic proportions.
While the park does not perhaps get the same high profile attention as Kruger we simply fell in love with the place. The animals, the dust, the landscapes, the isolation, the adventure. We had 7 full days at the park and we quickly fell into such a simple, yet wonderful routine.
- 5.30 am rise
- 6.30am park gates open and we were normally first in the (short) line to enter
- Game drive (either a self drive or on two occasions we did organised game drives with Mankwe Game Trackers.)
- Back for breakfast (we were staying bed, breakfast and evening meal in the Safari tents) for around 9am.
- 11.30am back out into the park where we would stay until kicking out time (6.30pm) and believe you me sometimes we were close to getting locked in.
- Dinner and bed normally for around 9pm …
Rinse and repeat !
We had some very good views of 4 of the Big Five with only the Water Buffalo missing from our list. On top of this we also had countless experiences with elephants (including at one time being surrounded by a herd of around 30 which was heart poundingly terrific (good job cameras come with image stabilisation as a huge Matriarch passed within a few feet of the car, rumbling as she went). The park, at this time of year, is full of young and we were treated to some wonderful interactions between young and their mothers (White Rhino, Lions, Elephants and Hippos to name but a few).
On our last night, and thanks to our amazing tracker called Given (what a beautiful name, don’t you think?), we managed to watch a female Leopard stalking prey for about 20 minutes. This was such a privilege to see and such a dramatic and wonderful ending to our time in the park.
We then drove for 4 days from the Park in the North of South Africa right down to the coast, starting the well trodden Garden Route, from Plettenberg Bay. From here we headed west and after an overnight stay in De Hoop Nature Reserve finally reached our next base in Hout Bay where we would stay for another week.
Don’t get me wrong, Cape Town and the surrounding area is beautiful and we have some fantastic memories. Our hearts and soul however belong back in the dust of the park. As a passionate Wildlife photographer it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. In future blog posts I’ll talk more specifically on my experiences as a first time Safari Photographer.
For now though one image which sums up our feeling in the park – we really did find ourselves at home in the park and have certainly left a little bit of our heart and soul back there. I best plan to go back and get it 🙂