“It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had”
~ Africa, by Toto
Actually, it took us two days – and many discordant renditions of this classic, just because it’s one of only two songs we know that mention Africa.
So yep, last weekend was safari weekend.
The Cape Town WiFi Tribe chapter split into two groups: the first flew to Port Elizabeth for four days, to visit Addo Elephant Park and get some action on the Garden Route; the second took a two day road trip to an ostrich farm and wildlife ranch in Oudtshoorn, as well as a private game reserve.
Fun, drinks and animal-cuteness-overloads were had by all.
And, of course, thousands of photos were taken.
I went with the second group, so here’s a photographic overview of the two-day trip.
Cango Ostrich Farm
Ostriches are… strange. And strangely fascinating.
They have dinosaur-feet.
And super flexible necks.
And eggs that can carry 150 kg (or something ridiculous like that) without breaking.
A female’s very first egg is a “test egg”, meaning it’s smaller than the ones she lays later, and never fertilized.
They don’t stick their heads in the sand.
Their leather is extremely strong.
They can grow 40 – 50 years old.
They can sustain a speed of 40 miles per hour (64 kph) for 30 minutes.
Their meat is super lean, very healthy – and nomnom yummy!
There are far more ostrich fun facts, but those were the ones that stuck with me.
Buffelsdrift Game Lodge
At this stop, half of the group went on an elephant bush walk at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge, while the other half sat on the veranda above the water hole and enjoyed two bottles of wine.
Since I’d done something similar, cheaper and with more elephant-action not two months ago in Chiang Mai, I opted out of the elephant walk and for the Durbanville Hills Chardonnay.
From our veranda-vantage point, we winers got to watch the elephant group set off on their way through the bush with three gigantic (yet teenage and still growing) elephants and their mahout.
Cango Wildlife Ranch
The Cango Wildlife Ranch left us (or rather, we left it) with mixed feelings. It came across as a bit of a glorified petting zoo.
Yes, they have programs that take in wounded or abandoned baby animals, and nurse them back to health. Point to them.
They treat the animals well. They were all well-fed and well cared for. Another point for the ranch.
But for an extra ca. 300 Rand, you are allowed to enter most animals’ enclosures (with an experienced ranch-hand by your side, of course) to pet and cuddle them.
They also make them perform tricks for visitors; the crocodiles were tempted with a dangling piece of chicken to leap out of the water and grab the meat off a hook.
The otter was made to demonstrate its speed in the water by chasing after pieces of meat thrown into its enclosure.
And the enclosures, while clean, seemed somewhat on the small side.
So nothing that truly hurts the animals… and I could imagine that the ranch needs every extra penny it can muster via the petting encounters, just to keep their ranch and rescue programs running. Which again, point to them!
Let’s just say, it wasn’t exactly the “safari experience” we’d anticipated. We could have gone to a zoo at home and seen the same animals in similar surroundings. Though maybe not quite as close… which made for some great shots of lions and tigers and leopards, oh my!
(And meerkats and lemurs and birds, oh my!)
Botlierskop Private Game Reserve
This is what our trip lead up to.
This was the safari experience we’d been craving since day one.
We went for a bush walk and walked about 100 meters up to a snoozing herd of rhinos.
We were driven across the game reserve in a 4×4 by Eugene, our ranger guide.
We watched a wildebeest chase zebras around.
We encountered a mad elephant daddy and were happy about the electric fence and gate between him and us.
We spat antelope dung as far as we could.
Yep. You read that right. According to Eugene, dung-spitting is the safari initiation. He was probably pissing himself with laughter on the inside. We did it anyway. The alternative he promised would have been worse, and I’m going to shield you from that one at this point!
We drove around for about an hour looking for the elusive lions. Eugene proved to be persistent and fearless in this quest. The lions hadn’t been sighted for several days, and basically the entire game reserve was out looking for them, all rangers on their tours communicating via walkie-talkies.
When the lions were nowhere to be found, Eugene at one point stopped the 4×4 and literally walked into a ravine full of near impenetrable shrubbery on the off chance that they were hiding out in there! He disappeared completely in the shrubs for about five minutes, leaving us to wonder how to react if we heard him screaming as the lions mauled him, or if the lions should finally show themselves to maul us in our open transport vehicle.
Alas, no mauling took place, as no lions were sighted.
A big shout-out and thank you to Uriel, our driver from Adrenaline Hunters, who let us pick the music, stopped for rest stops at the perfect moments, and gave us an all-in-all very satisfying safari weekend and experience!
Thanks also to the people whose photos I used for this post besides my own, in this case Dan Sloan, who provided the group shots at the top.