Week 241 – Safari – Pilanesberg National Park

For one of the few times in my life, I booked an all-inclusive tour for the safari portion of the trip. Given security situation in Johannesburg and after finally getting to South Africa I wanted a stress-free experience. We did get a great experience – a little pricey but everything was handled. We stayed just north of Pilanesberg National Park – most people hear of Kruger National Park and we heard it was spectacular but not materially better than we were and another 200% expensive because of the branding/name recognition.  The name of the lodge was Black Rhino-

Link to Black Rhino website

We were in a private lodge on the park grounds – inside the 15’ main electric fence that spans the perimeter of the entire national park and then inside a fence for our lodge to protect us. Animals came right to the fence as they had a watering hole right at the lodge. Missed a lion by one night. We booked 3 days with 2 drives per day but with late arrival on the first day (drives end at dusk) and a decision to combine 2 drives into one longer to see more of the park – we only did four. For me – about right. Others stayed 6 days and said it was a bit too much. Also, apparently, it’s better to see animals early in the morning so the 4:45am alarm was not in my planning.

View from Black Rhino Lodge

First morning out – went about 1/2 the scheduled distance as we ran into animals immediately. First group was elephants (including one that thought about charging us) and then a pride of lions. Then both white and black rhino and lots of deer-type things and back for breakfast by 10am. People with us who used to live in Kenya said it was their best drive ever. Then 6 hrs of free time in the middle of nowhere where you can’t leave. But since I had work calls and credit card companies to talk to – it worked out fine.

Afternoon drive saw a lot of zebras and giraffes – herd of water buffalo but missed a leopard and cheetah that another jeep saw.  Then had a great sunset.

On our long drive day we made it further into the park where we encountered humans that weren’t on a guided drive but just paid a fee to drive through the park in regular cars. It was still wild – like driving through Yosemite and seeing a bear but it was managed. The park was about the size of central Maryland. While we wore dull colors to blend into the background and we couldn’t get out of our jeep – the “self drive” people would be getting out and taking selfies and wearing brightly colored clothes. Signs were clear do not get out.

Our last morning we were focused on a big cats – you become jaded as you see a herd of running giraffes and elephants and you are like “seen it”. Found some lions but a long way from road.

A shout out to Sharon – she bought a zoom lens a couple of years ago – came in very useful on this trip.

Dropped by Sun City on the way out – nice resort and many purple trees on way back to Johannesburg.


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