Cape Town Trip: Seeing ‘Real Africa’ By Safari.

Posted on January 10, 2013

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Male lion, SA safari

Leandra leaned over Reagan and said, “Jon, welcome to Africa.” It’s been almost two weeks. We smirked at each other knowing the prevalent stereotypes–no, there aren’t any elephants walking around the streets of Cape Town.

Earlier that morning, we woke up early and headed to Botlierskop, a game reserve offering day safaris. When you hear of South Black impala, safariAfrican safaris, those take place in Kruger National Park, a 2.5 hour plane ride away in the far Northeast corner of the country. In other words, Cape Town isn’t base camp for those Discovery Channel-like expeditions into the wildlife-dense African bush. Within a few hours drive from downtown, there is a wealth of game reserves that offer day-trip safaris. Yes, some may see them as cheating since it’s not Kruger, but it suits our itinerary perfectly and gives us a chance to see some of the ‘Big 7’ animals outside in as close as a natural habitat as possible.

Botlierskop started as a farm to raise black impala, an animal verging on extinction until human interaction. There was no mention of Female lions, safarihunting for valuable horns or anything of that sort–beside meat–but in being black colored, they are easily spotted in the wild and singled out by predators much more than their tan/grey cousins that are much more camouflaged in the savanna. The reserve grew to 3,500 hecters (something like 8,600 acres), and started to provide habitat to a more diverse animal population. With an amazing amount of land to live on, the reserve often supplements the animals’ diets, feeding them roughly once a week, to compensate for a lack of migration opportunities and Lion King, safarihealth reasons; e.g., fleas, food diversity, ticks, and illnesses.

We began our safari in some kind of Mega-tron looking vehicle, capable of climbing straight up mountains without flinching, which is exactly what we did on our way to the lions. They keep their three lions (2 female, 1 male) in a 100-hecter electrified enclosure resembling something from the Jurassic Park movie–this provides safety for the other free-roaming animals. As soon as the automatic door closed behind us, we caught some movement along the fence line. Within minutes, the two females were walking the road, directly at us. They seemed almost curious as they approached, checking us out, coming within a few feet of the vehicle, and making eye contact with us all. Just after they laid down yards away, the majestic beauty of the male lion came to see what was happening. Magnificent creatures… absolutely magnificent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe scaled back down the mountain to an open pasture and the reserve’s largest herd of wildebeests. We

passed a group of black impala, learning that the reserve often sells eligible animals for somewhere around $20,000, due to their lack of numbers in the wild (about 1,000 animals now). We stopped to view an interesting relation to the antelope. Water Bucks-what I dubbed as butt-rings-had a distinct white ring, quite literally, around their rump. Apparently the legend states that this animal was the first to use the safari, bontebuksbathroom on Noah’s Ark, before the toilet’s paint was dry. Before we headed to the far reaches of the reserve, we saw a herd of incredible looking bontebok–an Afrikaans word that when translated, means “multi-colored antelope.” When looking closely, they have seven different colors of fur.

Then we headed to the upper reaches of the reserve, shaking all the way, for about 10 minutes to a savanna-ed plateau with a few treed valleys in the direction of where we came. Soon, we spotted a pair of heads peaking above the treetops… giraffes. We pulled near four giraffes, keeping watch over a yawning valley as Giraffes, safariif we were physically in a The Lion King set. Over my right shoulder, I saw a handful of zebras grazing a few ridgelines away; what I thought would be our next stop before we head back. As the mega-tron fired up to pull away, the guide quickly turned the vehicle off. He pointed in the direction of the zebras towards two dark spots on the next point of land–we were lucky enough to catch a look at two of the reserve’s five rhinos.

From this point, I soaked it all in. I was on an African Safari (or as much of a safari as I need), and from my OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcurrent perch, I can see four giraffes, two rhinos, a handful of zebras, some bonteboks, my wife, and my incredible friends. Gosh, I’m blessed.

On our way home, scaling, quite literally a cliff, we were a stone’s throw from the lodge when we crossed a rickety concrete bridge over a small stream. I looked to my left and caught a glimpse of three elephants OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcooling themselves and sipping the water. Wow.

Welcome to Africa, indeed.

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