August 25

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South Africa – Trip 1 – Day 6 & 7

Pilanesberg Game Reserve (4pm, 23aug14)

Pilanesberg Game Reserve (4pm, 23aug14)

My first weekend in South Africa and an opportunity to experience the stunning scenery of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and the beautiful Shepherds Tree Game Lodge. To get there, a 2.5 hours drive on rather poorly maintained roads but it was worth it!!!

I left Krugersdorp at 10am on Saturday morning and got to the lodge at around 1pm following a few Sat Nav inaccuracies… I have to say I was unimpressed by the ability of this supposedly reliable instrument to locate every single hotel in a 25 km radius except for the one I was looking for… Oh well, ‘Things are sent to try us’…. but I did make it in the end… phew!

The lodge was one of these places where, from the minute you arrive to the minute you leave, you are being taken care of… nice! 🙂 I have to say that it is a truly beautiful place, architecturally inoffensive against its rather splendid surroundings…

Shepherd's Tree Game Lodge

Shepherd’s Tree Game Lodge

Time for lunch, a quick shower [an outside shower… a first for me! Apparently the only potential onlookers would be the local wildlife, particularly elephants… 😉 ] and we were off on our 4pm game drive.

I had never done anything like this before and it was a truly amazing experience. Driving around some of the 572 km2 of this extinct volcano was breathtakingly beautiful and seeing some of the wildlife in their natural habitat was a privilege! 🙂

 

Impala

Impala

We saw white rhinos, giraffes, lionesses, a brown hyena [which apparently is very rare], hippos [well, the rather large behind of one in the distance….], impalas, wildebeests, black-backed jackals and a few rather good looking birds and other animals that I can’t remember the name of… sorry!

Nearly sunset in Pilanesberg (1)

Nearly sunset in Pilanesberg (1)

What did strike me the most though, was the beauty of the park itself, the light at sunset and the clarity of the night sky – the stars appeared so much brighter and you could clearly see the milky way… I had never seen anything like it! – No ‘light pollution’! – Looking up at the sky, on that rather cold night, made me feel so very happy, I can’t describe that feeling… Mind-blowing!

Nearly sunset in Pilanesberg (2)

Nearly sunset in Pilanesberg (2)

We came back to the lodge after 4 hours of driving around the reserve feeling ecstatic, and slightly frozen – it’s mad how temperature drops the second the sun goes down… and we’re talking about a 20°C drop in less than 30 minutes!!!!

Next game drive… 6.15 am Sunday morning. Wake-up call 5.30 am… That’d be my daily wake-up call on my commute to Stockley Park… I’m thinking game drive in South Africa is a better reason to get up at 5.30 am [if it is ever a good idea to get up that early… I don’t think so!!!] 😉

So here we are, 6 am Sunday morning eagerly awaiting our early morning adventure… Our driver, Chane, insisted that we left at 6.15 am, not 6 am – I hadn’t realised how much difference those precious 15 minutes made… so much lighter, slightly warmer… I was using the layering technique to its full potential, t-shirt, jumper, jumper and coat and then blankets provided by the lodge…. I think I could have done with another layer…. 🙂 [I’m not joking!!!]

Wildebeest (or Gnou) in the morning light :)

Wildebeest (or Gnou) in the morning light 🙂

Zebras in the morning light :)

Zebras in the morning light 🙂

What did we see? A stunning sunrise, an elephant [in the distance], zebras, more impalas, more wildebeests, a white rhino family [Dad, Mum and cute baby rhino 🙂 ] and two lions. [Yay!] One of them happened to be in the middle of the road as we were driving… magnificent creatures, lions, if a little lazy… Those rather big kitty cats decided to just lie down for a bit… then got up briefly, then lied down again… It was lovely to witness, but let’s face it we’d hope there would be a bit more action!!! Better luck next time!!! 😉

Daddy white rhino

Daddy white rhino

Big kitty cat :)

Big kitty cat 🙂

Back to the lodge for breakfast, then it was time to get ready and check out… time flies when you’re having fun! The drive back to Krugersdorp was rather uneventful… which was nice!

I’ll definitely be coming back – I’d like to see some elephants from a bit less of a distance… a leopard or two would be lovely as well… The thing is, this is not a zoo, animals aren’t on display for us to see… we’ve got to be lucky enough to cross paths with them as they go about their normal business… and that’s what’s amazing… every game drive is different… Chane, our driver this weekend, really has a great job, she gets to witness this most days, twice a day!!!

If you haven’t done it already, I thoroughly recommend it!!!