Last weekend was my first safari. If you’re ever in Africa, you better make sure you do one. It’s like going to Northern California and not visiting to the wine country if you’ve never been. It’s just culturally offensive.
We visited the Botlierskop Game Reserve located a just a few miles north of Mossel Bay in South Africa. Classified as a luxury game reserve, we enjoyed well-manicured lodges and private tents just peering over the wildlife land.
It was a Saturday afternoon arrival with a Monday afternoon check out. Out of the twelve going, none of us had ever been to a safari. I had no idea what to expect.
10 Things I Learned on My Safari
- Per our guide, 99% of animals are in captivity here in Africa. Most of them are on game reserves or wildlife preserve where they live in environment almost identical to their natural habitat. While their living space sprawls over thousands of acres, it is hard to ignore the electric fences you enter and exit through. It is a sad reality, but it does help to keep many animals from being endangered.
- Safari size will determine what your experience will be like. Our safari spanned across 12,000 acres while others could be up to 62,000 or more. Some may offer different habitat types such as dry valleys, lush forests or mountainous greenery. A larger reserve size may seem appealing, but that could require more search and less time with the animals as a result. It depends a lot on how many drives you’re doing total, the surroundings you prefer and the animals you want to see.
- Safaris, known as Game Drives, usually last about four hours with a break of snacks and wine. Some did two a day while others once. We drove a Jeep for our sightings and did one horseback riding. Note there are walking and canoeing safaris available at different reserves. Even though the Jeep choice is the least active, the animals are less frightened by them which will allow you to get closer. When walking, you’re more limited to the micro sightings of nature.
- Some reserves, like ours, only takes in rescued animals or those that cannot survive in the wild for whatever unique circumstances. They will never bring in a perfectly healthy animal from the wild nor will they kill for their feed either.
- Bring a darn good camera or have a friend with a professional one. An iPhone will not hold up for those distant beautiful shots unless you are unstable enough to get a selfie with a wild animal.
- The horn of the Rhino is the most in demand today. Reserves actively fight against poachers through security measures and by filing down the horn. Unfortunately, one of Botlierskop’s did not survive a recent strike. While the Rhino could have survived, the assailants left him to bleed to death.
- These resorts can be as lavish or basic depending on your interest or budget. For us, the Botlierskop’s resort was just as jaw dropping as it’s natural surroundings. When we weren’t on a game drive, we were lying next to our private infinity pool while taking in the zebra and wildebeest roaming around. At night, the antelopes would scurry along as we would trek up to the main manor for dinner.
- Safaris are not just for the wildlife enthusiasts nor the tree huggers. You are well fed, provided warm accommodations and your comfort is certainly a priority for the guide during your drive. Nails won’t brake, and cellular data will still be available for some parts. You have various safari times in the day to choose from. If the city mouse gets uneasy, there are spas on some of the reserves as well.
- Confirm the local weather. Surprisingly, it was cold since we were not in an enclosed vehicle. We were covered up from head to toe by the time the sun set. Handy blankets were provided by the guide.
- You’re not guaranteed to see anything. The animals will appear and do their thing when it’s their time. Trust your guide will get as close as he can while not disturbing the environment and compromising your safety. A little patience and awareness is key during these activities. Take it all in. You will be surprised with the amount of knowledge your guide will share while nature will amaze you endlessly.
The safari is nature’s museum of its creation. Appreciate the art from close and afar. This is the study of relationships, habitation and how one cause affects the other no matter what side of the fence you are. We were as exotic to them as they are to us.
Respect the bush and the bush will respect you.
Even nature will warn you to be mindful and respectful. Come with an open mind. Let go of your expectations. Embrace whatever your surroundings may be.