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Hey folks! Welcome to Pilanesburg Game Reserve, North West Province, South Africa! Last week I posted some pictures from our camping experience right outside the park, but today we’re going inside. Buckle up! (Or more realistically, unbuckle, grab your camera, and roll the windows down.)
Pilanesburg is a Big 5 game reserve. According to this article on Wikipedia, “In Africa, the big five game animals are the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros. The term “big five game”…was coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot…. The term is used in most tourist and wildlife guides that discuss African wildlife safaris. The members of the Big Five were chosen for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size. The big five are among the most dangerous, yet most popular species for big-game hunters to hunt.”
Just because a park includes the Big 5 doesn’t mean that you’re going to see them. Of those 5 animals, our group only saw the lion, the elephant, and the rhino (and I wasn’t with any of the vehicles that saw lions, unfortunately). However, we saw plenty of other animals!
As I mentioned in the camping post, it rained every day we were in the area. Rain isn’t great safari weather. We did self-drive safaris every afternoon after we finished our school programs, meaning that we drove ourselves through the park in our own vehicles. Condensation on the windows (plus fog) made for poor visibility, so we often drove with the windows down. Thankfully the rain was rarely more than a drizzle, so we didn’t get soaking wet. Please note: open windows in a game park is not the recommended protocol and comes with a risk. Kids, don’t try this at home. If we came close to big game, we put them up.
For the first couple of days, all the girls drove together in the big van. Unfortunately there were no windows in the back seat, so we piled 3 girls in the front and 5 in the middle seat.
Sometimes the guys weren’t content with just opening the windows. It was during a moment like this that Yuriy got “Kissed by a Beetle” (Vlog 13). Click here to see the incredible moment. Please watch it. It’s hysterical. What was even more hysterical was watching Yuriy watch this clip of himself over and over and over again, cracking himself up every time. 😛
Wildebeest. There were so many wildebeest that they became old hat after awhile.
Beginning of the week: “Oh look! It’s a wildebeest! Grab the camera!”
End of the week: “Just another wildebeest. Keep driving.”
A Frans in his natural habitat!
This was a hippo observatory in the park. We didn’t see any hippos this time, but we did see some cool birds.
The van had low clearance, so when we ventured off the tarmac, sometimes we had to fill in some ruts so we could get through.
The animals had a habit of taking over the roads. More on that later.
Oh look! There’s the Frans again!
We took one last jaunt through the park super early Friday morning before packing up and leaving Bakgatla – and we got stuck behind an elephant. It stood in the road for half an hour and would not leave. Traffic was backed up in both directions by about ten vehicles by the time it finally saw fit to amble off into the bush. Meanwhile, we were so hungry and Vlad busied himself by telling us about all his favorite Ukrainian food – which did not help the situation.
Ah, yes! The rhino incident. If you’ve watched the vlogs, you’ve heard about this. Definitely one of the most traumatic parts of the trip. 😛
The picture below isn’t from the actual incident, but I thought a rhino picture would be appropriate. To make a long story short, we were running late in getting out of the park. The gates were closing at 7 and we were barely going to make it. (There were several factors involved in our running late, but at the top of the list was the fact that we were supposed to be meeting at KFC somewhere near the park, but as per usual we didn’t know which direction we were supposed to go to get there. Namely, we didn’t know which gate we should exit to be closest to the KFC. The game park is rather huge.) Two of our vehicles were traveling together, but we had lost touch with the other two. By this time it was getting rather dark, but we were trucking along in the gloom when lo and behold, we come across a MAHUSIVE (new British word alert) RHINO in the middle of the road. The girls’ van was in front, and Valonna, Cari, and I were sitting in the front seat with Bro. Lawrence. Bro. Lawrence kept creeping closer to the rhino, trying to get it to move out of the way, but it was not leaving. In fact, it started to become agitated. We girls in the front seat were a little concerned (read: terrified). Periodically the rhino would start to walk away slowly, but he never left the road. After 10-15 minutes of this intense touch-and-go, he finally moved off into the bushes and we made a break for it. We reached the gate about 10 minutes late and the guard gave us a bit of a rough time about it, but we explained what had happened and he just laughed while unlocking the gate. I don’t know if he bought the excuse or not. (I mean, come on. “We got stuck behind a rhino” sounds like “The dog ate my homework.” But if you’re used to working in a game park…)
Unfortunately we discovered that we had gone out of the wrong gate and had about an hour to drive to get to KFC and reunite with the rest of the group. When we finally got there, it was such a welcome sight!
If you’ve watched the vlogs, you know that KFC became an integral part of our trip experience. 😛
Speaking of the vlogs, these are the ones that cover our time in Bakgatla:
There are still one or two more posts coming from our South Africa trip, so stay tuned!