My First Time on Safari
It couldn’t have been any more surreal if you had have pinched me until my skin drew blood. Sitting comfortably (perhaps too comfortably) inside an open-top Land Rover as a pride of lions slowly made their way beside the vehicle was indeed one of the most surreal experiences in my life. But this was as the day drew to a close…. prior to that, I had already spent hours amidst the wildlife on safari in South Africa.
The first full day on safari began at precisely 5:30am when I received my wake up call from our game ranger, Bens, who vibrantly stated “see you at 6!” and hung up the phone. Luckily the adrenaline was already pumping through my veins or I almost certainly would have fallen back to sleep at this point. But alas, there was wildlife viewing to be done.
I crawled out of bed shortly after hanging up the phone and began to cover myself in layers of clothes. The night before another game ranger had kindly advised the secret to morning safaris is to dress yourself like an onion and peel the layers off as the safari carried on further into the morning. By the time I reached the safari lounge area for a morning coffee and biscuits, I was wide awake – perhaps partly due to the shockingly cold temperature outdoors.
Shortly thereafter we filed into the Land Rover, Bens jumped in the driver’s seat, and gently placed his rifle onto the front of the vehicle. Although he hasn’t yet had to use it, our game ranger had some scathingly close calls with the wildlife in his many years as a game ranger, including ‘that time when I found myself between a lioness and her cubs’. Oh yeah (I thought to myself)…. that time, eh?
Before we were merely a few hundred metres outside of the camp grounds, we found ourselves gazing at a herd of elephants, our first sighting for the day. This was followed by rhinos, hyenas, and at the end of our morning safari we were witness to a stand off between two leopards.
Given the early start time, many guests at Mala Mala Game Reserve choose to sleep during the day or take the day at leisure. Feeling optimistic, I instead chose to work outside on the deck, enjoy lunch, and gear up for the night safari in the early evening. At 4pm we met with our game ranger for tea and coffee and before too long we were on the open road for our evening viewing.
If I’m to be completely honest, I can’t remember much of that evening before sunset when we were sitting inside the Land Rover with a South African cider and nibbles, viewing a pride of lions and following them through the bush as they moved slowly and without regard for time. We had spent almost an hour in search of the lions, and when we finally reached them (through treacherous terrain), I was in awe of their beauty. Slightly scarey yet somehow gentle and subtle, lions are often the hardest sighting on safari when trying to view the Big 5.
After a phenomenal 48 hours at Mala Mala Game Reserve, I walked away with my certificate stating that I had encountered the big 5 – hoorah!
World of Wanderlust visited South Africa as a guest of the South African Tourism Board.