One of the benefits of living in South Africa is having the ability to easily visit any number of wonderful national parks and game reserves. One of my favorites is Pilanesberg National Park and Game Reserve. Set within the crater of an ancient volcano, it is the most accessible of South Africa’s parks.
Situated in the ecologically rich transition zone between the Kalahari Pilanesberg is home to an incredible variety of game animals; including The Big 5, wild dog, Roan, Tsessebe, Sable antelope and more than 360 species of bird.
A number of roads criss-cross the park affording visitors a spectacular opportunity to view the park’s varied wildlife. Game drives can be undertaken on one’s own or with licensed guides. I prefer using a guide – in addition to handling the driving (leaving me free to gawk at the scenery and continuously snap photos) our guide Bryce, knew all the usual haunts, could spot a zebra (and anything else) from a kilometer away, was rich with information and most importantly knew how close was too close. Our tour brought us face to face (literally within a couple of meters) with white rhinos, elephants, wildebeests, zebras (which is apparently NOT pronounced with a long e ), giraffes, kudus, impalas, springboks and many others.
We were so close to the animals, the rapid-fire shutter noise of my camera caused many of them to look our way in consternation – especially one particular rhino – who was clearly on the fence regarding our presence. The ensuing stare-down between the rhino and my camera concerned Bryce as well so we backed up and pulled away – leaving the Rhino in peace.
Rumors of a lion sighting sent us “speeding” across the park where we were rewarded with some pictures of a drowsy male lion and a very quick glimpse of some sexy-time with his lioness friend. A visit to one of the parks many blinds exposed more of a bull elephant than I ever want to see again – a sight that was accompanied by a brief but informative lecture on elephant erections.
The experience was stunning. To be so close. To see so much. To glimpse the surprising personality and character in each one. And, finally, to note the way many of them gazed back… seemingly enjoying the spectacle of wide-eyed tourists with mouths agape, and lenses clicking.
For more pictures visit my Pilanesberg Album on Flickr.