Saturday morning we woke up bright and early to be on the bus at 5:30 am for the 3 hour drive to Pilanesburg for a day full of game drives. We saw the sun rise (for those who weren’t asleep) and pulled onto the reserve around 8:30. We hopped onto two safari vehicles and were off to scout out wildlife. The vehicle I was on had a wonderful guide named Jared. He was extremely knowledgeable and helped position us to see several animals that might not have been so close to us otherwise. For example, there was an elephant standing near the road and Jared had worked with elephants for two years learning their behaviors. He positioned us in the path where the elephant would most likely walk, and sure enough it came right by us! It was trying to show dominance, so Jared made a noise that communicated to the elephant that we were just observing and weren’t causing any trouble, so he moved on. Such a neat encounter!
We also saw a few white rhino, which are most likely going to be extinct in the next 3-5 years so we were sure to take lots of pictures! People still try to get in the reserves to poach the animals because of how much money the horns go for, so the population is being depleted. Jared knew a noise to make the rhino look up so we could get pictures of its head (white rhino keep their heads down mostly, black rhino walk with their heads up). We saw a black rhino off in the distance later on, and Jared said they are the mean ones that will charge at you. Probably a good thing that we were very far away!
We were also fortunate to see three lions sleeping on a mountain. Much zooming was required on the camera to take a picture, but looking through the binoculars was incredible. We could see them lift their heads and they were such beautiful creatures. Other animals we saw throughout the day included zebras, giraffe, baboons, hippos, kudu, springbok, wart hogs, guinea fowl, wildebeests, jackals, and a hyena (the hyena was during the second drive once it was dark). We finished up our first game drive and then had about a 3 hour break for lunch and relaxing before our second game drive.
When we headed out for the second game drive, my group requested Jared again and he did not disappoint! He took us to a special spot up the mountain to watch the sunset and it was amazing! He told us to close our eyes at one point, and when we opened them we all gasped because we were looking over the majority of Pilanesburg. It was so neat! After the sun went down we headed to have dinner in the “bush” with the rest of the people who did game drives that afternoon. The food was delicious and we had a great time around the campfire discussing our reflections of the trip and wrapping up the program.