As we were nearing the Garden Route Game Lodge in Albertinia, the feeling of excitement in the car grew. We had been on the African continent for a couple of days now and we were finally about to rendezvous with its animals. Zebras, lions, giraffes, hippos, leopards, … we were gonna catch ‘m all!
OK, I suggest we move past that Pokémon reference and talk a bit about the weather, you guys. No, seriously, I really want to talk about the weather. May to September is said to be South Africa’s best season for wildlife viewing. The temperatures are pleasant and the animals are easier to spot due to there being less vegetation.
Fortunately, that was exactly the experience we had. It was September, the skies were (mostly) clear and even though we did not know it yet back then, we were about to see some rather extraordinary sights. Excited as we were, and with our camera in hand, we began what was about to be an astonishing game drive.
A safari with Garden Route Game Lodge in Albertinia
On our safari, we immediately started off with one of the big five: the elephant.
Just to give a small introduction, the big five are: the buffalo, the lion, the leopard, the rhino, and the elephant. Although the name might give that impression, they were not labeled the big five because they are the five biggest animals around. Instead, the name was given to them by big-game hunters because they are the hardest to hunt on foot. It is not about their size, it is about the animals’ ferocity when cornered and shot.
I have to confess, though, at the time I felt like encountering two elephants was just a nice starter and nothing more. I am not trying to sound jaded here, it’s just that we were planning on going to the Elephant Park during the trip and would be seeing lots of elephants there anyway. Little did we know that finding elephants would become quite the challenge later on.
After spending some time with the elephants, it was time to move on. With the wind running through our hair, we hit the rather bumpy road until we saw a group of kudu. Karen, who had a bag of kudu biltong in her pocket at that precise moment, was overjoyed to finally see the animal she so liked to eat. It’s the little things in life, right?
Next up were the giraffes and ostriches.
After that, zebras.
Oh my god, I love zebras. Did you guys know that each zebra’s stripe pattern is as unique as a human fingerprint? They might all look similar, but if you were to spend an insane amount of time with a group of zebras, you would be able to start telling them apart just by looking at their stripes. Crazy, right?
Meeting some of the most dangerous animals in Africa
But Africa wouldn’t be Africa if there weren’t some wild animals around.
And it was about time that we met some of the wildest animals on the African continent.
The buffalos and hippos may look very peaceful chilling by the side of the road, but they are some of the most dangerous animals you will ever meet.
It is even said that, of the big five, the buffalo is the most deadly. Let’s just say that buffalos have a tad bit of temper, one that you wouldn’t want to meet when they are charging at you with their large, thick horns.
And even though hippos are not a part of the big five, they are thought to be responsible for more human deaths on the African continent than any other large animal. Easily frightened, they will spurt to the nearest pool of water when feeling threatened. Hence, NEVER EVER stand between a hippo and its pool of water, or they might come running at you aggressively.
That being said, it is quite rare to stumble upon hippos in another habitat than by their pool of water. Catching a glimpse of them laying in the grass instead was definitely one of the game drive’s highlight.
And if we’re talking dangerous animals, the lions cannot be forgotten. After getting our thrill on with the hippos and buffalos, we were completely prepared for more ‘danger’ and entered the confined area where the lions were kept.
And we immediately stumbled upon the male lion. Our guide even decided to chase him for a bit to see what he was up to, which was somewhat surreal. In the end, he turned out to be up to nothing except lazying around, but following a lion around was rather fun. Luckily, the animals are trained to leave the open vehicle be, so we were completely safe the entire time. We really were, mom.
The lionesses were a bit harder to notice, though. We did catch a glimpse of them eventually, albeit from quite a distance.
On poaching and endangered species
At the very end of our game drive, we were lucky enough to come across another remarkable scene… Not only did we observe a group of white rhinos for a while, we even laid our eyes upon a pregnant one.
As we were talking to our guide, the hard reality that it might perhaps have been our last chance to see something like that kicked it. With the current surge in poaching for their horn, rhinos are becoming rapidly endangered. It was a harsh, extraordinary sight that really made me quiet for a bit.
Looking back on a great game drive
Admittedly, it was not my first safari. Back in 2009, when I visited South Africa through our high school’s exchange program, the opportunity arose as well. Yet, I could not help but feel that this game drive was even better than the last.
Yes, the weather and the fact that we were lucky to see some rather extraordinary sights might have come into play a teeny-tiny bit, but the beautiful surroundings and our insightful guide absolutely had something to do with that feeling as well.
I mean, look at this view!
Personally, I was a bit bumped we did not catch any leopards. Since they are night animals, however, day sightings are extremely rare. Nonetheless, even without the leopards, it was an amazing experience. So if you are looking for a one-day safari experience along the Garden Route, I would definitely recommend stopping by the Garden Route Game Lodge!
Which animals have you spotted or would you love to spot on a safari?
Let me know in the comments.
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