Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Our trip to Pilanesberg National Park

Although Sam not yet recovered from jet lag, on June 21 we drove off to Pilanesberg National Park, north of Rustenberg, for another period of wildlife viewing.    (It is close enough to Rustenberg that some fans were using it as accommodations while attending games there: some Uruguayan fans had this vehicle decked out:.

Maybe it would have made sense to have stayed there to avoid the dreadful traffic between Rustenberg and Pretoria).  I had written to reserve a four-person self-catering chalet at the Manyane Resort just outside the park back in November, but never heard back from them. Then, last spring, after FIFA began releasing rooms as it scaled back its expectations for fan attendance, the owner of Manyane suddenly wrote to confirm our booking.  Having failed to confirm any other wildlife opportunity for this period, I accepted their offer.

Our experience in Pilanesberg was very different from our walking safari in Pafuri.  The chalet was barely heated, but it was nice to have bathrooms in our accommodations.  Although the restaurant had a menu, the menu was usually not available; instead, usually only the buffet was running, and generally the food on the buffet was not very good (it was terrific in Pafuri). 

A building near our lodge had the rather powerful no-smoking sign

Pilanesberg is much smaller than Kruger; the available game are much more condensed.  And, of course, we were driving and not mostly walking.  Paradoxically, in most cases we were able to get much closer to many animals driving than walking; thinking back to what we had heard from Walter and Frazier, animals tend to be more nervous about human intentions when we are on foot than when we are in vehicles.  The vehicles also give US some feeling of security from predators albeit not the larger animals that could easily crush a car. 

Although game drives on 15 or 25 seater jeeps are available, most of the game viewing is by self-drive with no guides.   And, in fact, although we tried a night drive, which produced a couple of memorable sights, we found the self-drives to be most effective.  We finally saw giraffes close up


and several new kinds of antelope as well as many impala.  

One evening as we were heading back toward our chalet we had the sweet experience of a family of three rhinoceros sauntering along beside the road

sadly, all my photos were too blurry. 

The next day we encountered a more disturbing sight involving rhino - game officials had taken one down with a tranquilizing dart, but seemed to have no difficulty allowing a busload of tourists to walk up and pose with and manipulate the drowsy beast

We were pleased not to participate in this abuse.

On one of our drives, we passed a herd of roughly a dozen elephants; later, as we stopped in a nearby hide, we were able to watch as they came up to the waterside to drink

While at the hide, we heard some lions roaring in the distance; and as we drove on, one of the lions sauntered across the road in front of us

then looked back at us from the grassland


We noticed a jackal crossing the road

enjoyed the rare sight of hippos feeding the land (albeit near a lake)

and saw many zebra up close

and more kinds of birds

and this doesn’t include the many birds viewed in an aviary in the park!

By the time we were through, we reviewed our game listings and concluded that, between Pafuri and Pilanesberg, we had seen almost all of the different kinds of antelope, not to speak of all of the "big five" apart from the leopard.  So, we were ready to see other aspects of South Africa.

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