I realise that for many people who have been to South Africa, or other bloggers that live here, what I am about to describe will be pretty tame stuff. There is so much to do and see here, and so many people writing about it and photographing it, that you have to do more than just describe a trip to see some fairly commonly spotted animals at an easily accessible gamepark to get noticed.
But I don’t care. I don’t profess to be some big travel blogger trying to make a name for myself. I’m not hoping to get my pictures picked up by National Geographic, or shared on some viral travel site. I just want to describe a brilliant day where we saw some beautiful and magnificant animals in their natural habitat and which led to my youngest daughter laughing with such delight that she just forgot, for a moment, that she really doesn’t want to be here.
Pilansberg is the closest “proper” park to Pretoria – ie one that is a full day out of game-spotting, that has lodges and such attached should you so wish to stay close enough for those early-morning drives. If you have seen the film Blended, this is the park they visited.
Our day started at some ungodly hour – 5.30am or something horrendous. Coffee was downed as we bundled the girls into their warm clothes (it’s winter here remember and although the days are bright and sunny, it gets pretty damn cold at night!) and set off through the still-sleeping city. Thanks to the lack of traffic we were on the motorway out of town pretty quickly and watched the sun rise behind us as we sped past the little settlements scattered along the side of the road.
(Note: as well as being a fantastic opportunity to see wildlife, getting out of our little expat bubble world in Pretoria gave the children a chance to see a bit more about what life is like for the average South African. I am sure I will write more about this another time.)
When we finally arrived at the park gate, we found a rather long queue outside the ticket office – which seemed to be moving verrrrrry slowly.. When we finally got to the front, we realised this was because every car coming in had to have their numberplate noted and phone number of the occupants taken. I guess this is because they need to check that everyone has actually left the park at sundown…yup, we’re not in Disneyworld now…..
Anyway, we finally bought our tickets, got back into the car and off we went…
Only to meet by the side of the road just a few minutes in:
Yes it’s a rhino! Ok it’s not the best picture of a rhino but he/she would insist on hiding behind a bush. And I wanted to include it because it was the first “proper” siting of the day….
But things only got better because just around the corner from this rhino was….
Yes, he was in the road. And yes, he did start walking towards us flapping his ears….luckily he then decided to take a turn off the edge of the road and strode past our car just metres away. My youngest daughter, who had professed that elephants were what she wanted to see most in South Africa, laughed with complete delight. It absolutely made the whole hassle of getting here worthwhile.
Anyway we spent around 7 hours in the park in total and saw a huge number of animals, including lions (hard to spot but for the throng of cars and safari trucks by the edge of the road), warthogs, monkeys, lots more elephants, giraffes, zebras, lots of “antelopey things”, more rhinos (including a mum and her calf), hippos, a fish eagle, hornbills, loads of birds we couldn’t identify (that will have to wait until granny and grandpa are here!). wildebeest…..Anyway, here are a few of the highlights:
I have more pictures but I realise that I will probably be boring you if I put up too many! I am very conscious that we will be seeing a lot of wildlife over the next couple of years and I don’t want to be that person who everyone moans about – oh no, not ANOTHER picture of a flipping elephant! But this was our first and it was a fabulous Welcome to SA so I thought I would share it with you. There’s still plenty more to see (cheetahs, leopards, closer views of lions, chameleons, dung beetles, bushbabies, meercats, all the creatures of the sea like the whalesharks and the manta rays….) so I am sure I will post some more pictures from time to time. But for now, I will enjoy the memories of our first South African Safari.