The African Safari Experience
The highlight and most anticipated leg of our trip is finally here - our African Safari. Though it may not be the hard core safari experience, we were still very much excited. In South Africa, most go to the Kruger National Park, an area as big as Israel as they say, to go on a wildlife safari. But we decided to keep it simple and safe, and so, here we are at the Eastern Cape where the reserves are malaria free.
We started our day in the Addo Elephant National Park. The tour was operated by Hitgeheim, so we didn't have to change cars in the park. You could actually drive around using your own vehicle in Addo, and this is what most people do here.
Just be careful when you drive, because you may hit an innocent turtle crossing the street in such slow pace.
Some turn out be tortoises, huge and still slow. Though if you get close to them, they move quite quickly.
Lizzy was very much in the zone, and this makes an African safari such a memorable experience for kids. And most families take their children on safari on the Eastern Cape, just because it's safer and more manageable. The reserves in Kruger are wilder and bigger, hence you also need ore time to explore the area. The Addo Elephant National Park can be explored in a day.
Of course, the highlight of the park are the elephants that roam freely in the reserve. They usually congregate in water holes, such as the one above.
We passed by a huge herd of elephants, probably hundreds, all lined up heading towards the same direction. It was fascinating to see families of elephants, from the little ones to the massive adults.
3 hours have passed, and our African safari was rather uneventful, except perhaps for the herd of elephants. We had our lunch in a secure area inside the park. The guys from Hitgeheim prepared a sumptuous picnic lunch for all of us, that comprised of fruits, chips and a sandwich.
The picnic area wasn't as secure though, as there were some monkeys trying to steal whatever they can from the feeding humans.
We continued to explore the park, but we were seeing the same animals all over again. I was more amazed with the scenery and the views of the Indian Ocean from the top of the hills.
We exited the Addo National Park after around an hour. We were told that we were to go to the next game reserve, the Tooth and Claw Safari which featured, of course, the predators. On the way, we stopped by this lovely store, the Nanaga Farm Stall.
The Nanaga Farm Stall sold a lot of goods, from jams, to bread, to wine and a whole lot of snacks.
But I was most intrigued by their bread. I forgot what it was called, but think of it as soft bread or long pandesals with butter filling. They were served fresh from the oven. Yummy indeed!
We then entered the Tooth and Claw Safari at the Schotia game reserve beside the Addo Elephant National Park. You see, game reserves are like open zoos. They are fenced sot hat the animals cannot get out. Hence, they stay inside acres of land grazing back and forth within the confines of the reserve.
The Schotia Tooth and Claw Safari commences late int he afternoon, since most of the predators hunt at dusk. As we've been told, predators such as lions prefer to stay in the shade when it's hot. Thus, they don't hunt.
There were more wildlife in Schotia, but it was a smaller game reserve. Probably because of the smaller size, the animals were concentrated more in particular areas, hence we could see more of them.
We were the first to spot the rhinos, which our guide hunted for in the entire park. The rhinos are really a sight to see, as they were bigger than I expected. We were told to stay still, as the rhinos get disturbed easily.
After getting up close with the rhinos, we entered their rest house in another secured area. Here, coffee, hot chocolate, juices and pastries were served.
We then proceeded after to the other side of the reserve which had a more dramatic landscape. After about 30 minutes, we stumbled upon the remains of a familiar animal.
Then suddenly, out of the bushes and trees, came this beautiful creature.
And it wasn't just one, but 4 giraffes moving towards us in a relaxing trek across the hillside. We stopped for a few minutes to see some of the giraffes eat from a tree. We got close again, but the giraffes tend to move away whenever we would go near.
We then got a message from the radio that we should move to the central plains for probably, the only reason why the Schotia Tooth and Claw safari is popular.
And as we descended, the hillside, we didn't need to look for it. The king of the jungle approached us in a very exciting scene.
Turns out that there were several lions and cubs in the area. As our guide said, they were quite lazy that time. The lucky ones get to see the lions hunt and devour their preys on the fields. We didn't see this, as these magnificent cats laid on on the grass and watched the sun set.
The experience was quite exhilarating, as we got really close to the lions. Everyone was snapping pictures away, again, in a very subtle way so as not to disturb the animals.
It was a nice scene, and we spent a good 30 minutes there, watching the cubs feed on their mom. There was also another male lion who woke up from his sleep and stared at us, while we took pictures. The animals seem tame, but we still told to behave properly.
Afterwards, we headed off to a water hole, where some hippos lurked. We only saw a portion of the hippos as they were submerged in water. These animals can stay underwater for hours as we've been told, so we didn't bother to wait for them to go on land.
So instead, we made it into the main dining area of the reserve, just near the lion's den and the hippos waterhole. We all gathered around a bonfire, since the night was getting colder.
The food was traditional and was served by our guides. It was an enjoyable gesture as they engaged us with stories on their experiences in the reserve. We had such a great time waiting for the sun to set while eating.
My take on this African Safari? Of course, it fell short of my expectations. I was shuffling back and forth between Kruger and the Eastern Cape before deciding to go here. I could have gotten a better experience in Kruger, or in Botswana or even in Tanzania, because these are the areas that are really known for wildlife experiences. But in the end, the Eastern Cape safari are perfect for kids, so I settled for this. One day, I will have a real African safari experience, get to live in a reserve (more expensive) and witness the scenes of the Lion King live.