As you’ve probably figured out from the title of my post I’ve been on a safari! It was my husband’s idea and a great way to try out our new camera. We went to one of the few places in the Western Cape that boasts the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino), Aquila Private Game Reserve.
Aquila is a two hour drive from Cape Town. The smooth highway isn’t monotonous at all, most of the time you’re surrounded by beautiful mountains. We were lucky to see baboons with their little ones on the road but unfortunately I didn’t manage to take pictures. At some point we even had to stop to let a wounded baboon carrying its baby across the road. TIA, for real.
Aquila is very popular even in winter (yes, readers from outside South Africa, it’s winter here at the moment). For someone who lives in Cape Town it’s just a perfect time to go, because it’s cheaper and less crowded when off season. They offer full day safaris (includes some chill time at the lodge time), quad bikes and horseback safaris and what we opted for, a half-day safari. We weren’t interested in staying over at the lodge but it is an option. The huts and rooms are not stationed in the park itself but just next to it so I had no regrets in this respect.
The half-day afternoon safari is a two to three hour drive. It starts like the beginning of the trip in “Jurassic Park” with the automatic gate linked to a high voltage fence closing behind you. The vehicle you’re traveling in is half-open. Being a neurotic of course I wondered about safety…
It was quite a thrilling experience, I must say. I had no idea that you can get so close to the animals! We saw lazy hippos chilling from far away, but two elephants approached us and they were maybe 3 meters away! It was absolutely amazing to see these magnificent animals so close by. They weren’t doing much, just half lazily staring at the vehicle and rubbing their skin with their trunks. I think all the tourists in our vehicle felt respect for them as everyone went quiet in awe and all you could hear were flies and the sound of pictures being taken with cameras.
As we continued the drive, we saw a pregnant rhino, which also was very close to the car. She didn’t even look at us but I must say her massive horn looked threatening. She seemed to also pay no attention to the nearby ostriches. Speaking of the latter, the overgrown chickens are much more dangerous than you’d think. If you piss them off they can kill you with a few kicks. Our guide gave us a relevant tip: if they attack you lie down, the can bite you but they can only kick at the height of around 0,5 meters. On our way to the lion’s territory we also saw zebras and buck.
The definite highlight of the whole tour was the lion area, consisting of rescued animals. It’s separated from the other parts of the park for obvious reasons – there wouldn’t be much to see if lions ate the other animals. I assumed we would see them from far away but there was a point when a male specimen was not more than a meter away from where I was sitting. I must say, I recoiled and stopped photographing for a second when he looked at me with what I interpreted as discontent. It was super cool to be so close to them. They were behaving surprisingly docile, mostly lying around, yawning or lazily chewing meat. I think a part of the reason why such drives are safe is that they never let the lions be hungry. They do let them hunt, bringing small animals into their enclosure occasionally. I was a bit sad to leave them and a bit eager to get away from the potential danger.
After the lions we went to visit some giraffes. I imagined them to be bigger, so I was a bit surprised with their size. My memory of the animal from “The Lion King” also suggested that they should be lazily walking and feeding on the grass, rather than climbing mountains to find leaves higher up. This was the only part of the trip when we were allowed to get out of the car to enjoy some snacks and drinks. Surprisingly, the only moment when our guide got a bit nervous had to do with this seemingly docile animal. A member of our group decided to take a very close shot of a female and she kept anxiously moving away. As the guide pointed out, she was expecting and he should just leave her alone if he didn’t want her to chase him.
This brings me to an important point which is: What to wear to a safari? It’s important that your wear “natural” colors so that you can easily pretend to be a part of the surrounding. This is a picture of me successfully pretending to be a stone (I know it’s difficult to see a human there, but it’s really me!):
The drive finished soon after the rest of the group managed to find me among stones. After so much excitement, a two hour long trip home seemed even longer. The experience was really amazing and I recommend it to anyone who likes nature and animals.
Btw Biltong101 is now on Instagram, follow me there to see what I’m up to between posts.
Have you ever been on a safari, Dear Reader? Have you enjoyed your experience? Do you have terrifying wildlife stories to tell?