What would a trip to Africa be without an up close and personal experience with wild animals? Our group of 12 spent a weekend outside Cape Town getting to know the South African countryside on our way to the Garden Route Game Lodge. We hopped aboard a minibus and departed the city heading east on the scenic Garden Route in true South African minibus fashion – at the speed of light and sometimes driving on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic. Our driver stopped along the way to give us the opportunity to steal pictures of the amazing views of False Bay, and eventually we reached a jackass penguin colony for a quick visit with hundreds of penguins. We saw penguins, baby penguins, and baby penguins in the making (awkward). We spent the night in a small beach town called Hermanus where we had just enough time to socialize with some young, local wine farmers and dance with Hermanus’ finest at the local club.
Early the next morning we were on the road again to Albertinia for a late afternoon game drive at the lodge. The road was lined on both sides with huge aloe plants, farms and giant mountains in the background. As soon as we arrived at the lodge, we dropped off our bags in our traditional thatched roof cottages and jumped into land rovers for a sunset game drive. A Professional Hunter (PH) named Julius drove us around to see Gemsbok, Kudu, Springbok, Cape Buffalo, Wildebeest, a mother and baby white rhino, a couple of giraffes, and last but not least, the lions. Don’t worry, our first land rover broke down before we entered the lions’ den so we were totally confident when we drove into their territory and Julius said to us, “Scream at me if that lion comes any closer while I go close the gate.” We then asked Julius what our best defense would be if the lion actually did approach the vehicle, to which he replied, “I have mace.” (I remember thinking: excellent, the PH has mace. That will surely stop the three lions from jumping on our vehicle.) The male lion roared at us a little bit before we drove back to the lodge to end the night with an enormous buffet of food including various animals that we had seen on the game drive (and they were delicious). The sky was incredibly clear at night and you could see the Milky Way as well as several shooting stars and constellations like the Southern Cross and Scorpius.
The following morning we were up before sunrise for the second game drive. Interestingly enough, we went back to see the lions and one of the vehicles holding other guests at the lodge had broken down inside the lion area. We were relieved when the lions were fed a snack to distract them from the stranded vehicle while we were all on their territory. We also saw the two elephants that were fun to watch until they randomly charged your vehicle unprovoked. The morning concluded with another gigantic buffet of tasty food, and then a trip to the snake den and the cheetah cages. At the end of the day I could say, “I went to Africa and got in touch with the Big 5.” (The photos are compliments of Jackie Schumacher.)