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Safari: South Africa - Eastern Cape February 2011


Maki
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My first safari experience was in a private game reserve in South Africa, and although it was over two years ago, I wanted to write about it as it was the trigger for the other trips!

The duration of this trip was just 3 nights, and I didn’t make any notes so I will just write about the things I remember (and maybe make something up along the way).

 

So here we go, my first trip report ….

 

We didn’t know what to expect from a safari, we were interested in wildlife and loved the documentaries on Nat Geo and BBC, but always thought it couldn’t possibly be as amazing as on TV. The other thing that worried us was ‘the set routine’, especially the early mornings, it was a holiday after all! As we were going to Cape Town on a holiday, to escape the winter here in the Netherlands, we decided to visit a game reserve for a couple of days to see if we would enjoy it. We were not demanding, we wanted to see wildlife/have a safari experience, didn’t want to stay in a tent (I am a city girl) and it had to be close to Cape Town. So we went to a private game reserve in the Eastern Cape, a place called Kichaka. Not to be confused with Kichaka in Ruaha, Tanzania – the experience couldn’t be more different!

 

Preparation for this trip… pretty much none, no need for malarone, or vaccinations, had no clue about photography, didn’t bring binoculars, clothes in neutral colours? Far from. You guessed it – typical people on their first safari! Luckily most people were, so no one noticed – I think…

Edited by Maki
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From Cape Town we flew to Port Elizabeth, followed by a road transfer for about an hour or so. The lodge itself was lovely, stone and thatch, as were the rooms, so I felt perfectly safe! Lovely lounge and dining area overlooking a waterhole. The room – or I think I should say suite - even had air conditioning, which was a first and last for us when on safari. Our suite overlooked the waterhole, which was great, game viewing from a safe distance!

 

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That afternoon we went on our first game drive ever, the excitement! It was us and a couple from Germany in the vehicle. The guide (or ranger as they call them in South Africa, if I recall correctly) went through a safety briefing – don’t get out of the vehicle, as if I would dare to - and off we went….

First animal sighting – Giraffe! Unfortunately no picture of our first sighting, as they were too close for the lens we had. I say we, but I hardly ever take a picture because I am worried I might miss out on something when fussing about with the camera.

 

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We enjoyed seeing every single animal, waterbuck, zebra, hartebeest, and impala.

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Gemsbok were impressive and beautiful.

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I liked blesbok as well, or was it bontebok? I should have taken notes!!!

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these guys look like bontebok to me -check out the stripes on their foreheads.

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Maki, Nice to see a trip report coming from the Eastern Cape. That area is full of game farms and reserves, and its beautiful country side. I understand that the vegetation is of the richest in the country, and suitable to more plants and animals than anywhere else.

 

I imagine Kichaka used to be an old cattle farm. How big is it?

 

Oh and those are Bontebok. There is a big issue with Bontebok at the moment, and the parks department has been doing genetic tests to ensure that they are pure. There are some places where they have crossed with blesbok, and hence there is the view that there are fewer pure bontebok around than originally thought.

Edited by dikdik
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@@ice - Thanks

 

@ - Thank you. it's small, 7,500 hectare. There are indeed lots of reserves, lalibela, amakhala, and the more popular and much bigger shamwari. It is beatiful country side, and most people drove here after the garden route.

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Than a sighting of a black-backed jackal – we loved out first game drive! Luckily the other couple was as excited about all the sightings as we were.

We were supposed to have sundowners, but than the other vehicle called in a sighting of a cheetah with cubs, the ranger asked if we would mind skipping the sundowners and go check out the cheetah and cubs feeding on a kill instead. A no brainer for me. Fortunately, the others agreed, you never know if someone might prefer a G&T, choices, choices. It took some time to reach the cheetah with the kill, I was worried they might have left. But luckily they were still around, the other vehicle left when we arrived.

It was great to see a cheetah, and the cubs with that fluffy hair. We watched them for quite some time till it started to get dark and headed back to the lodge. A great first game drive!

 

 

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That night we woke up due to a noise we had never heard before, it was so loud that we thought it was actually in our room. I was too scared to go and have a look, the brave half did, but couldn’t find anything. That sound…. We honestly had no idea what it was… The next morning we found out it was a hippo – in the waterhole.

The good thing about this trip is that everything was new and exciting, every sighting brilliant!

That morning we saw elephants for the first time. They weren’t too happy to have us around, protective of the little ones, so we left to find a nice spot for a coffee break.

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After the break we continued the game drive and spotted another cheetah, a male relaxing under a bush. He didn’t mind having us around at all, he yawned as if bored by the guests. Beautiful animals, and our ranger mentioned how special it is to see cheetahs. I have to agree as I haven't had a proper sighting since that trip.

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After the morning drive we headed back to the lodge to relax a bit and enjoy the animals coming for a drink at the waterhole. In the afternoon there was tea and more food – you never go hungry on a safari – and we left for the afternoon drive. Hoping to see lions, or rhinos.

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Enjoyable reading and viewing

It does look like beautiful countryside

Great cheetah viewing

That is a lot of giraffe to see in one group!

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Trying to find the rhinos was a challenge, even in this small reserve the sightings were not guaranteed. I found it a bit nerve wracking, it was summer so green and thick bushes, I preferred plains, better overview. But all of a sudden there they were, white rhinos… Wow, what an impressive animal, huge, and mean-looking. I was so happy to see rhinos, but the rhinos were not too happy to see us. And they showed it. I had no idea they could be so fast.

 

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Lions were another treat that day, not very active though, as usual – so we didn’t hang around for long. We also had some nice sightings of impala, zebras and elephants. So all in all another great day, and it was even better when we spotted another cheetah! The cheetah was relaxing, the setting was nice with a rainbow!

Off we went for sundowners to celebrate the wonderful sightings and enjoying the view.

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The next day, our last, the ranger asked us if we were interested in seeing buffalo. The drive to the area they were supposed to be was long he warned us, but there was a chance we could see a herd. The drive was long indeed, and when we arrived to the area there were no buffalos…we hardly saw anything!

After an hour or so we decided to head back, and then finally saw……… one buffalo.. The drive was worth it though.

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We had another sighting of cheetah, some more beginner’s luck! It walked passed our vehicle, slowly, gracefully, it was one of the highlights of our trip. It couldn’t get much better.

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During sundowners I decided to start researching for another trip to Africa, but a longer trip as 3 nights was not nearly long enough! We loved everything about the experience!

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Very nice report and photos (I really liked the huge group of giraffes the white rhinos, the cheetahs, the hippo yawn and the lions), thank you for sharing. I wouldn't think that a small "malaria free" park in the Eastern Cape would offer such good wildlife viewing.

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Great first trip and very nice report. Next time - 3 weeks!

Edited by Pangolin
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You have me itching for another drive up there. I must admit just driving in the area is so refreshing, and comforting to see so many farms converted to wildlife.

 

I had a look at Kichaka's facebook page and saw one of the best photos of aardvark I have ever seen. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kichaka-Luxury-Lodge/157128837645375?fref=ts

 

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Edited by dikdik
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Maki, what a great first trip - you certainly saw a lot in three nights! I noted that you stated this was your first safari experience, where else have you visited (or are you planning on visiting? Also, great shot of the two white rhinos side by side!

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Thank you all for the nice comments!

 

@ - I know, and some great pics of brown hyena too! they have a silent auction on their website, residents can place a bid - you can give it a try!

 

@@PT123 - we went to Zambia last year - Livingstone, had to see the falls, Lower Zambezi (4 nights), and South Luangwa (8 nights) . This year to Zimbabwe, Mana Pools (11 nights). Not decided yet for next year, Botswana, Tanzania, or maybe Zambia again (Kafue)...

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You got lucky with your first safari chosen like that I guess. Seems like a beautiful place with good game. Thanks for trying to remember (and doing so well) and sharing your first experiences.

 

And you inspired dikdik to take another trip up there - enough said.

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  • 2 weeks later...

All that in 3 nights is exceptional! You were an over achiever on that first safari!

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