Can you believe I've never been to South Africa in my 31 years on this planet?! I've met South Africans, researched about it the place, and even virtually explored the place but I've never set foot there. Why have I never been? Goodness knows, however that was all about to change as the next stop on my adventures was indeed, South Africa.
I actually saw and did a fair amount on my trip but for the purpose of this post, I am going to talk to you about South African game drives as it was one of the most memorable. As a first timer to South Africa having that experience of a game drive actually changed my outlook on travel, this all sounds a bit deep in only the second paragraph, but it was something I'll never forget.. and thus the reason it's the first on my South African series.
Since my trip a lot of my friends have asked what I suggest they look for when finding the perfect place for a game drive. The answer is I don't know. It truly depends on what you want out of it, but let me paint the picture from my perspective, of what I wanted and experienced. First on my top priority was the animals. It was all about me seeing as many animals as possible and getting incredible photos, from accommodation all I wanted was to purely to relax, unwind and take in the simplistic surroundings.
Cheetah Ridge in Nambiti which was nuzzled away on a private game reserve. The first thing I noticed was the grand fences and security guards as you entered the game area. There is always that irrational fear that a lion may just magically appear as you're heading to the lodge, but it's quicker to get there than you think. Plus even though you're only on the car journey to the lodge, you're already spotting animals roaming freely. For me this was a good sign of great animal welfare.
I looked around Cheetah Ridge trying to take it all in. This was my ideal image of South Africa with the amazing décor, big fires (it was very chilly) and warming staff ready to check you in. I figured that as the place was quite small with only a few lodges, the staff took their time to give customers a great personal experience, this is something I always look for throughout my stay but was immediately clear on arrival. Good start.
Into my private lodge I went. I squeaked to myself a few times before admiring the large windows overlooking the game reserve. There was no technology temptation, just a huge bath, a large bed to snuggle up in and a fire to keep you warm. I was going on two game drives one at 6am and the other at 5pm. I wasn't sure what to really expect on the first one but my goodness it was eye opening.
Top 5 animals to spot on a game drive
Teamed with my Samsung NX1000, super dooper long lens and my walking boots, we drove along with Emily (our tour guide) carefully fighting across the uneven surfaces. Firstly I was sceptical we'd see anything, but we turned a corner and there it was, a herd of elephants so close I could of touched them.
The parade of elephants gathered casually around a salt block, I've never seen an elephant that close up, or as many! The matriarch kept a close eye on us in our jeep, I guess she just wanted to make sure we were harmless - she even came to check us out before returning to the herd! I was mesmerised, so much so, that 30 minutes passed by without me realising!
I spotted three lion cubs on a hunt before we returned to the lodge. Don't panic I didn't just spot elephants and lion cubs on my first trip, I saw loads of animals! But back to these lion cubs, they were watching nearby potential pray and lounging around as the sun went down. This was the perfect time for us to stop in a safe place, (not near the lions!) get out the car and have a glass of wine.
As we drove back I was desperate to spot a Hyena as this was the prime time we'd see them, but unfortunately we didn't. I did however discover a group of hippopotamuses, which as we know are happy veggies but they are Africa's most dangerous beast! They kill more humans than any other animal..
seriously! They can weigh up to 9000 pounds and past that cute looking face they have super sharp teeth... so I was keeping very still and didn't even take pictures!
Up with the birds and off on the morning game drive before breakfast. Safe spot for a warm mug of coffee before adventures began, hunting for a male lion and that elusive rhino.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw such amazing creatures in front of me. It was like a scene out of the Lion King when I saw the pride of lions together around the waterhole. From that moment Hakuna matata danced around my head until I returned to the lodge for breakfast! I won't lie, I was really nervous initially seeing these strapping lions as they are very powerful, but seeing them together made me look at them differently. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't go petting one but they came across carefree in their existence.
The game drive was really a really enlightening experience, bizarrely time just flew by and by the end I was so gutted it was all over. I could of spent a week doing this!
I got to see so many animals up close that I'd never of dreamt. I'm a big supporter of WWF so it was positive to see how large these private game reserves are and that these animals can just be.
I didn't get to see a rhino unfortunately, but we were told before we started that these are very rare. The rhinos are always being hunted for by poachers for their ivory, and this particular game reserves have anti poaching rangers who cover the land on a motor bike on a daily basis to keep track of their rhinos. Why don't they just have a tracker on them? Well if they did then poachers would find a way to get to them, it's also the reason if they are seen you can't take photos on your mobile and upload them to the Internet as poachers are so on the ball, they'll find the location. Crazy isn't it?!
Game drive holidays - who are they for?
- Outdoor explorers
- Relaxation enthusiasts
For my game drive experience I was in Nambiti at Cheetah Ridge and it was spectacular from start to finish, however there are numerous out there in South Africa for you to chose from. The reason I liked this one so much was because it was adventure teamed with simple relaxation.