Garden Route Roadtrip #4: On Safari in Addo Elephant Park
This morning we’re heading back to Africa with the next part of our journey along South Africa’s Garden Route. It seems all the more poignant after last night’s news of the sad passing of South Africa’s greatest inspiration, Nelson Mandela. This beautiful county held a very special place in his heart as it does mine, and he was prepared to fight to make it a better place for all. I truly hope that his legacy will be for his ideals, hopes and dreams to live on in peace.
Going on safari is a very special experience for Mr B and I. We spent many a day exploring the Kruger Park in the first years of our relationship on our regular trips to South Africa, and we spent part of our honeymoon in a nomadic tented camp in Kenya’s Masai Mara. I could, quite happily live in the bush. We knew, in comparison to previous our safari’s, the River Bend Lodge reserve is small, and located in a fairly developed part of South Africa where we were never far from hints of civilisation – a railway, electricity pylon, or farm. This time was undoubtedly a different experience, but nonetheless very special.
Over our two-night stay we managed to squeeze in four game drives – two early morning and two late afternoon drives with drinks overlooking the bushveld at sundown. Our 4×4 was driven by expert game ranger Steve, whose talent was not just his incredible knowledge and passion for the wildlife, but his ability to keep us entertained with his driving skills! The reserve is home to a large herd of elephants, who the rangers had heard were making their way into the wider park where they are free to roam, so that evening we played a game of hide and seek on our game drive following the herd along the river until eventually we caught up with them grabbing an evening snack in a clearing at the foot of the mountains. Steve expertly navigated the 4×4 through the herd until we were surrounded on all sides before he announced this would be a great place to jump out and enjoy a drink. Although we stayed close to the vehicle, being out in the open with this majestic and graceful animals was such a treat. There was one baby in particular who loved showing off in front of the camera!
The next morning we went searching for the shy and solitary rhino. River Bend is taking part in Addo’s wider conservancy projects and it was great to hear of some great successes in this part of South Africa when in other parts of the country this prehistoric animal is suffering such a dramatic decline. We got lucky with an incredible rhino sighting out in the open, starting a few 100 metres away he gently strolled past our vehicle with nothing more than a convincing glare. For such an endangered, and extremely shy animal it was an amazing experience! Just a few minutes later as we were driving into the mountains, I had my eyes closed enjoying a moment of warm sunshine, when there was an almighty commotion in the car! I opened my eyes just in time to see this huge black shape dart in front of us and clatter into the scrub below – a startled rhino whose morning nap we must have disturbed! As we reached the top of the mountain we were treated to breakfast with the most incredible view – this little wooden lookout was the perfect spot!
After a much needed relaxing massage (game drives are bumpy!), that afternoon we headed off in search of another of the Big Five; lion. The reserve has three lions – two brothers and a sister – who often come together after a kill and we had heard that they had done just that the night before. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been so close to a lion, but these kings of the bush never cease to amaze. From sleeping lions, to playful pussy cats, we spent a good while just watching and enjoying as the sun set around us.
For our last morning drive, Steve had a special treat lined up! After a short drive through the neighbouring citrus groves, we arrived at a private concession where we would get to walk with giraffes! These are one of my favourite animals, I just love their elegance and cheeky faces! In the low scrub, you’d think it would be easy to spot these long-necked creatures but it took a while of false sightings – mainly skittish zebra and antelope – before we came across a small herd of mothers and babies. Parking a safe distance away we walked through the bush, following their lead, perhaps only 10-20 metres away. It was incredible!
If you’d like to find out more about the Save the Rhino Project click here. You can also find out about SANParks conservation programs and Unite Against Poaching here.
Join me next week for the penultimate leg of our journey, stopping at the stunning Plettenberg Bay. Follow our route here.