3.45am Wake up and get breakfast ready with the other guys.
4.50am Load up the car and lock the gate
5.00am Depart – it’s still dark
This time last week I was on the plane over to SA and a week later and I find myself in the car on the way to see elephants and many other animals in one of South Africa’s National Parks.
We were all pretty tired still, so we had the music on and I was in charge of map-reading. On the whole a success and 2.5 hours later after passing through a high crime area, a toll gate and seeing the magical sunrise at 7.00am, we arrived at the park entrance.
I might add that the car we had was a small Hyundai i10, not really the 4wd for a safari but perfect for driving around the park. We named it the ‘Wildebeest’ after it managed to last the whole day without any problems – showing real power and determination – like the beast itself.
First sightings of Pilanesberg as we drove in the entrance gate was of awe-inspiring beauty. A large clear blue sky with a sandy track leading off amongst shrub-covered grounds and set against the backdrop of several mountainous areas – a product of the volcanoes in the area millions of years ago.
We had a good day for animal sightings. We passed kudu, springbok, impala, monkeys, wildebeest, mongoose, hippos, giraffe and saw 4 of the Big Five: elephants, lion, rhino and leopard but no buffalo.
It was a truly amazing experience and one I will never forget. We stopped at places where you could get out of the car and view the wildlife from hides, across dams and from hill tops.
Even the restaurant in the park, where we stopped for lunch, was surrounded by zebra and warthog. It was a very surreal experience eating a sandwich in the blazing sunshine with animals grazing around us!
It was fun trying to spot animals from the car. Sometimes we would mistake branches or stones for animals and, at other times, animals would grace us with their presence when we weren’t on the look out. Like the leopard that just walked out in the road in front of us. All we could do was stop the car and sit with our jaws dropped as it made its way into the nearby grasses on the lookout for impala to hunt.
On the way back we managed to get a bit lost and ended up going through 5 tolls! Expensive business getting lost in South Africa, but we made it home in one piece and got an early night ready for the next week of work.
The highlight of the day for me was seeing elephants walking on the road near the car. A mother and her calf as well as the rest of the herd were grazing peacefully by the side of the track and we were able to watch them from the car as they took their time moving from one side to the other making their way to the water. Amazing.