To sum up in three words what it’s like to go on a South African safari, exhilarating, tiring, one-of-a-kind (that counts as 1!). A safari was an experience unlike anything else and one that I will never forget. I’m also hoping that in the future, I will be able to go on another safari and perhaps explore in a different location. Last month I had the chance to go to Johannesburg, and while I was there I was able to go stay at a lodge and experience a safari. I was with my sister and we were picked up at our hotel right in the centre of Johannesburg and were driven out of the city centre to the reserve where the lodge was based.
Dinokeng Reserve is a huge area and inside there are many lodges, the one that we stayed at was called Leopardsong Game Lodge. Dinokeng is one of South Africa’s largest big five reserve which means they contain what are considered to be the top five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot, (obviously, hunting isn’t allowed on the reserve and is illegal). The top 5 are; the rhino, the elephant, the buffalo, the lion and the leopard and whilst on drives around the reserve it’s always exciting to try and spot as many of these as possible.
My first questions when being told about the safari were about safety, as you are driving through a gated area that is enclosed in a metal fence and the reserve itself has the animals just wandering around. You are then taken through to another gated area within this and once you arrive at the lodge you are completely safe and the only animals that are inside are animals like zebra or different types of antelope, which are gentle and won’t hurt you. Many of these animals are used to the humans in the lodge and are actually friendly and you are able to get close to them. Obviously these are wild animals so caution is needed but as long as you don’t do anything harmful or stupid you won’t find yourself in harms way.
When we arrived at the lodge we ate, had time to relax and then we went on what they call a “game drive”, which is where you are loaded up into a jeep type car with open sides, leave the lodge and enter the reserve which is where the animals are free to roam. The reserve is huge (18,500 hectres) and during the drives you are looking to spot as many animals as possible. We were driven across rough terrain but always felt safe, and we actually managed to see quite a few before the sun went down. A huge tip here is Johannesburg is freakin freezing at night! As soon as the sun went down it felt like a chilly night back in the UK! Luckily we all had heated seats in the jeep and blankets to keep us warm and we drove back through the night, still managing to spot some more animals on the way.
On our first evening drive we saw zebra’s (many times), impala’s (many times), a giraffe, a rhino and we even got a glimpse of the lions even though it was dark. At the lodge they have trained drivers who know all about the animals and also help to keep you safe should an animal feel the need to take a dislike to the car (apparently this never happens as they are used to the cars driving through). We got back to the lodge in time for a cosy dinner and drink round the fire before we had to head off for bed as we were going on another drive early the next morning to get the sunrise in!
The next morning we were up bright and early and determined to find the lions as the ranger had told us how there were a little family of baby cubs with them and we were not disappointed. They came literally tumbling in to view as the cubs were playing with each other. They looked quite vicious as all animals do when they’re fighting but they were just really playful and cute. They didn’t really mind the jeep and got really close with the mumma lion kind of staying back and keeping an eye on them. I managed to get a selfie with one of the more curious cubs so my trip was made. Seeing the lions was just a really special way to say goodbye to South Africa and after finishing our drive we got picked up and went back to our hotel. We had a few more hours to rest before our flight and then made our way back to the UK. On the flight home I had a little pinch me moment as I was just still in absolute awe of what we had seen!
It was an experience where I was just excited every second so I would 100% say if you have a chance to go on a safari, do it! It makes me want to return to another part of Africa and go again as seeing these animals up close that you normally only ever see in enclosures was really mind-blowing. The reserve seemed like they really care about the animals and as they have such a huge space to roam and be safe in, it was a brilliant way for us to experience it whilst still feeling safe.
I post once a week covering topics such as solo travel, working and living abroad and also creating Gabriella’s Guides to places I have been. I cover topics under the following categories such as Planning and Packing, The Travel Diary, Travel Inspiration, Photo Diaries, Gabriella’s Guides and Working Abroad.