While I was excited to stay in luxurious hotel for a week, I was more excited about what would come after: my friends and fellow PCV’s invited me to their home to spend the weekend. My friends Tim and Liz, along with their very gracious and generous friend Palma, treated me to the most amazing weekend of my South African life to date: a tour of Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
(I’ve seen Pilanesberg referred to as a National Park on maps, but I’m told it is not.)
Let’s just say that I’m only now closing my mouth after having my jaw dropped the entire time.
Words can’t really describe how wonderful it was. We saw almost all of the animals to be seen there. It was truly amazing. Since it is a park full of wild animals, you’re not permitted to walk about, but rather you must drive in a car and remain in your car to do the wildlife viewing.
Palma has been visiting the park for years and is a very, very good tracker: she always knew where to go and where to look to find animals. Tim is very good as well and between the two of them, we were running from one group of wild animals to the next. It was truly amazing.
I kept waiting for Robert Redford and Meryl Streep to pop out of the bushes and often heard the soundtrack from Out of Africa playing in my head.
I kept remarking, “Finally! I feel that I am actually in Africa!!”
We had lovely meals throughout the weekend and Tim made the most divine omelet I believe I’ve ever had. And I was thrilled that Liz served me a beautiful salad that actually qualified as a salad. It was lush and delicious. (Apparently, South Africans view a salad as something small and insignificant, usually on the order of three tablespoons or so.) Liz’s salad was eye-popping!
Palma treated us to all kinds of fun and goodies and a viewing of The Gods Must Be Crazy. The latter is a comedy set in South Africa. It’s an older film, but I hadn’t seen it. It was fun. (This is the first film I’ve seen since coming to South Africa: since July 2009!!)
I know you want lists and pictures of animals seen. I have a few good shots of the animals I could get close to, but many are from a distance and not very good. Tim is exceptional with a camera and has wonderful shots of animals of Pilanesberg. To give him some privacy here, I will mention only his first name, but I will give you his website, and that will help you get to his photos:
I got several shots of warthogs. We had breakfast at the Pilanesberg Center and they serve food on a lovely patio overlooking a salt lick and a water source. Both of these are strategically placed to attract animals and such attraction provides excellent wildlife viewing (and good photo opportunities).
(A brief aside.) When I was a little girl, my family owned a cabin in the woods on Nolin Lake. We were lucky enough to visit our family cabin year-round. There wasn’t a lot to do during winter months, but we were young and there were four or five of us so we could usually find something to do. We would bundle up in layers and don wool jackets and hats and go hiking deep into the hollows left from the draining of the lake. (Nolin Lake is a reservoir built for water control.) We would always pretend we were “warthog hunting.” We never found our elusive warthogs, so you can imagine my satisfaction at finally finding one. (This one’s for you, Pap!)
It was exhilarating to sit and breakfast and see wild animals roaming about in the distance. We saw herds of varieties of antelopes along with wildebeests grazing while a lone giraffe strolled along the plain. (Again, soundtrack playing!) I could have sat there all day! It was amazing.
Tim also had wild birds feeding out of his hands. The wild birds know that they can beg handouts from dining guests and are tame enough to approach.
In our drives we came very near a springbok (the South African national animal (?)) and a wildebeest. We visited two “hides” to observe animals at a water site. One “hide” provided elephants frolicking on one side and hippos surfacing on the other. At this same hide, we saw a crocodile swim out away from us further into the lake. Amazing.
The next hide we visited we were treated with hippos coming up out of the water and onto the grass. Amazing.
It was an amazing, amazing day and again, my jaw set upon my chest the whole day.
Ps. For more on Pilanesberg, see their website at: