I went to South Africa in May 2013 and it is a rare day when I don’t think about it. More than anything else their wild life is on such a grand scale that it has left me completely smitten. Here are 10 reasons why a South Africa Wildlife Safari will spoil you for life!
The Guys with Outrageous Sense of Humor
10. The South African Sense of Humor: If your safari guides are anywhere near as cool as mine their sense of humor is going to blow you apart. They have a nonscientific explanation for every animal and behavior. According to them Kudus have white lines on their back because they sat on a freshly painted toilet seat! Initially I thought it was blasphemy but I started enjoying it once I was over the shock!
The Walk in the Bush
9. The Walk in the Bush: We did a 45 minute walk on foot in the South African bush. Most safaris would give you this option. This is the only time you will wish that you don’t spot anything big. This is the time to see the pug marks, the trees and other small things in nature.
The Gorgeous Sunsets
8. The South African Sunsets and the Night Sky: As the South African bush is not as thick as Indian jungle, the sunset and the evening light seen to brighten up everything from end to end. One can see a sky full of stars only in a place away from the cities. I still remember the cold evening we spent looking for the Southern Cross and the Scorpion constellations. I wish I tried my hand at night photography then.
The Story Telling
7. The Story Telling: Our guides literally live in the bush. They had years of experience with the wildlife. If you ask them nicely they have stories to tell. Like the time when there were 8-10 lions right behind the lodge going for a Cape buffalo. Then the herd of the attacked buffalo appeared and a fight ensued. I have a queasy stomach and I don’t think I could stand the distress call of the attack but what an story it was. Another story was about the guests who wanted to enter the muddy region to get closer to the lion to get a better picture …
The Generous Hospitality
6. The Generous Hospitality: South African hospitality is warm, and being from India it feels just right. I am fine with the professional tone but I will take warmth any day over professionalism.
The Bush Breakfast
5. The Bush Breakfast and Drinks: The sun was setting and Erick took the jeep toward a water body. Then we saw the drinks and starters right there in the middle of the bush. That is when I discovered Amarula for the first time. I am told it is available on Delhi Duty Free and I am going to put that theory to test very soon. Next day after the bush walk, we were served the breakfast right by the Hippo pond.
4. Bird Watching: My guides considered bird watching a waste. Only the Big 5 fascinated them and that is what they wanted to show. Now that is not strictly true. They were patient with my bird watching attempts but they could not mask there true feelings, which was- what a waste, we might be missing a big cat somewhere!
Waking up in Total Silence
3. Waking Up in Total Silence: We stayed at Manyeleti Game Reserve and there was nothing for miles around us. There was an electric fence around the Manor House, the lavish place we stayed at. And then there was the bush and the silence. It was such a soothing experience.
The Supporting Cast
2. The Supporting Cast: Apart from the Big 5 (see below) the supporting cast includes zebras, giraffes, kudus, wildebeast, vervet monkeys, hippos and impalas. Now if the supporting cast is so fascinating the main actors are of course going to leave us spell bound.
The Big 4 out of 5, South Africa
1. For the close encounters with the majestic Big 5: The big 5 are lions, cape buffalo, leopard, rhinos and elephants. On three rides I saw 4 out of 5. Only the shy leopard remained elusive. And what sightings they were. 9 elephants came behind the deck of our lodge to drink water. A lion walked a few feet ahead of us for what felt like an eternity. We saw two rhinos who were playing rather nosily with each other. With Cape buffalo we saw only two. In many other places two is a big number, not in South Africa.
Usually at the end of a trip I am happy to go home. This was one trip I was torn into two. Half of me wanted to stay back, such was the lure of the bush. I never expected the sightings to be on such a grand scale.
One of the most beautiful days that I have spent has been exploring the Panorama Route in the Mpumalanga region of South Africa.
Drakensberg Mountains, Panorama Route, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Our first stop was near this souvenir shop and we had a fabulous view of Drakensberg Mountains. Sam was our driver and guide. The roads were a pleasure in itself with little traffic and a lot of traffic sense.
The Three Rondavels, Panorama Route, South Africa
The Three Rondavels was our next spot. Rondavels are traditional South African huts and the three mountains on the left resemble the huts, hence the name the Three Rondavels. All the natural attractions have ample car parking. They also have wheelchair accessible routes. The walking involved is not much by my standards.
Souvenir Shops at the Panorama Route, South Africa
Not only the routes have beautiful stops, they were also full of colorful souvenirs shops. Bargaining is the natural way of shopping. I am not big on shopping but I also ended up picking more than I normally shop for.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Panorama Route, South Africa
Bourke’s Luck Potholes derive their name from Tom Bourke who was prospecting for gold in the area. The potholes are part of Blyde River Canyon. They have been formed by the natural grinding of stones with water along the route.
Waterfall at Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Panorama Route, South Africa
There is a beautiful waterfall right along the Bourke’s Luck Potholes. As we were a bunch of Indians we all agreed that it was better to have potholes in a canyon than on the Indian roads.
The Berlin Waterfall, Panorama Route, South Africa
Our next two stops were waterfalls. The first one is called the Berlin Waterfall. I was there in the harsh mid day light which doesn’t do much for the photographs. We also thought we wanted to spend one day at each attraction rather than doing all the attractions in one day. We had lunch at the famous Harrie’s Pancakes at Graskop. We got out after more than an hour, fully stuffed. The pan cakes are huge and delicious.
The Lisbon Waterfalls, Panorama Route, South Africa
The bigger of the two waterfalls is the Lisbon Waterfall. As we had a few attractions left to cover, we this place in 15 minutes. I was the last person to get back to the car!
The Pinnacle, Panorama Route, South Africa
Our next stop was the Pinnacle. The Pinnacle is a single column of dolomite rock rising above from the valley. The sun was already casting long shadows and we still had to visit God’s Window, our last stop on the route.
God’s Window, Panorama Route, South Africa
Our last stop was the beautiful God’s Window. The light was fading fast at this spot. How I wish we really had one day at each attraction so that I could photograph them in the best light.
Panorama Route, South Africa
With the light giving everything a golden glow, it was time to head back to a Sabi River Sun Hotel and then home the next day. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful journey. South Africa will always remain special.
The trip to South Africa in May 2013 refuses to fade into its rightful place. Nepal did manage to push it back for a while but South Africa finds a way to force itself back into my consciousness.
Aloe Vera Flowers at God’s Window, Panorama Route, South Africa
The picture was taken in the Mpumalanga region in South Africa on the Panorama Route. The place is known as God’s window. The sun was low when we reached there. And many of us wanted to spend a day at each of the attraction on the route. I got 45 minutes in reality at God’s Window. And even though I do not like to admit it, the picture is not a patch on the actual place!
This post is part of Sky Watch Friday, do check them out. It is addictive.
Panorama Route in the Mpumalanga region of South Africa is a spectacularly scenic drive. For me the first attraction was the road itself. On the route our first stop was Tufa waterfall and we ended up at God’s window.
Panorama Route, Mpumalanga, South Africa
There are various stops between Tufa Waterfall and God’s window like Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Three Rondavels, Berlin Waterfall etc and all are nature’s wonder. However the road is so enchanting itself. I was fascinated by the never ending stretches of the road. If I could have it my way, I would ask Sam (our driver for the day) to pull over every few kilometers. It is a pity that there was no chance of having it my way. And if you are from India or any other part of the world where traffic means nightmare, these open stretches and light traffic would be soothing to your eyes and nerves.
God’s Window, Mpumalanga, South Africa
God’s Window offers uninterrupted panorama, up to as far as eyes can see. It was a pity that we reached there when the light was fading. I had no tripod (and I could have kicked myself for forgetting it at home on a trip to South Africa) and these pictures are all I have to show. Well, if all that feels like an excuse to you, my photography skills are pathetic compared to the destination and what my eyes could see. It was pure grandeur.
View at God’s Window, Mpumalanga, South Africa
This picture was taken a little earlier when there was still some light. We walked through the car park to the various viewing points at God’s Window. One of the viewing points involves climbing a few stairs. That was fun for our group. Someone counted the number of stairs too and told us they were more than 100. Some of my colleagues took this opportunity to quiz me about my treks after walking those stairs. Sam counted them as a way of digesting the excellent pancakes we had for lunch. This was the last stop for us on the panorama route. This was also the last major excursion we took in South Africa. I sincerely hope there is going to be another time for me, if not to the same exact place then to the country at least.
Panorama Route is an excellent way to get close to the nature. All the stops feature souvenir shops too, where bargaining is the rule.