Photos and Text By Guest Blogger Dr. Diane King
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We are off now to Safari! David stepped up to be the main driver for this holiday and he had the difficult task of driving through rush hour traffic in Joburg. We rented a VW manual transmission car that just held all of us and our luggage. He quickly acclimated to the right hand drive concept and we were on the road for the next adventure. The directions we were given took us on a wandering route out of town that we later decided to not repeat on the return trip. Somehow we did manage to get on the right path and 5 hours later we were at the front gates of the Madikwe Game Reserve. They were expecting us and we followed the strict rules of not hanging outside of the car, or leaving the vehicle at any time. It is an enclosed 75,000 hectare government and locally operated reserve to make the best use of the poor soil in that area which was not suitable for farming. All profits go to the local community.
You must stay in one of the 30 lodges on the reserve to have access to a game drive, or book a tour for the day with one of the lodges. You cannot drive your own vehicle in this reserve like you can in some others. It was an odd feeling not knowing what wild animal might be just around the bend in the road, but we really did not see much on the short drive to our lodge.
We got settled in and oriented to the typical safari happenings by the friendly staff and had a short rest till Tea was served at 4pm. Brits again. It was more of a buffet with a variety of substantial salads, cold meats, cheeses, sweets, beverages etc. The lodge was not full as it was the end of their summer and the kids were back in school and holidays were over for awhile. Mostly SA is visited by Germans, other Europeans, Dutch and the Brits. There are some “Americans” as were are called (sorry Canada, we know you are Americans too), but not very many.
Our driver and guide, Tyrone, met us at Tea, then we got in the specially designed safari Land Rover, and were introduced to our very talented and valuable spotter, Sam. It was just the 4 of us that day and since it was our first safari, we stopped a lot for any animal or bird that was spotted. After about 100 Zebra pictures, the pace picked up and we realized there are a LOT of Zebras at Madikwe and we certainly did not need a photo of all of them.
As the sun set it became more interesting and more difficult to see any animals. Sam sat on a special seat IN FRONT of the left front fender of the open vehicle. He had binoculars, a spotlight and later we found a machete too! He would quietly signal Tyrone when he spotted something and we would coast to a stop to not disturb the bird or animal. It was very difficult to photograph animals in the darkness even with the spotlight from Sam and we were not to use a flash to prevent temporary loss of vision of the hunting nocturnal predators. We were very lucky to find a group of lions including a male who had some minor injuries from a little scrap with another younger male.
About 8pm or so we are back at the lodge for dinner. You get right off the Rover and go straight to dinner. It is a sumptuous affair with a beautifully set table and Tyrone was present during all of our dinners too. It gives a chance for conversation and question as we are to be very quiet around the animals. We went directly to our rooms and into bed as the wake up call for the morning drive is 5:15am.
The second set of photos is of David checking out the bed in our room, a not too shy Klipspringer that hung out around the lodge everyday, the pool, Valerie and Tyrone in the Rover, and an African wild dog.