Last Friday I spent the whole day being shown around the Kariega Game Reserve, which is just a 15 minute drive from Bushmans. I had been asked to write an article about Kariega for a British travel site’s blog (Travelbag) and so was to enjoy a day “getting to know the Reserve”. Even before entering the gates, I spotted a lonesome hippo from the road and on my short meander up to reception I saw a scattering of blesbuck and zebra, a massive tortoise, and of course the ever present and populous impala – the game viewing experience had officially begun from the comfort of my little Chevy Spark!
After a few pleasantries with the General Manager, I was handed over to the Head Ranger, who would be my tour guide for the morning. First stop, releasing of the serval! 6 months ago Kariega introduced two male servals into their reserve and two months ago they received two females. The females had up until this point been kept in make shift enclosures in order to make sure that they were healthy after their travelling and help them to acclimatize to their new surroundings before having to fend for themselves. One at a time, these beautiful, oddly proportioned wild cats were set free and with a little enticement (a plump shimmering starling) they cautiously crept from their respective enclosures. The starlings were soon forgotten when they sensed the rats scuttling about in the nearby grass. For 2 months these rats had been running around the enclosures, tormenting and frustrating the poor servals! Ahh… What wonderful delicious payback! Much jumping and pouncing followed and I could almost hear the theme song from Born Free playing in the background… Born free, as free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows… La la la.
After liberating the servals we continued our game viewing, driving through the areas of the reserve that were burnt a month ago (see my Poor Man’s Game Drive post). It turns out that this was actually controlled burning that was planned to encourage new growth, which will be richer in nutrients and therefore better for the animals. Driving around I was amazed to see ground, that was black just a month ago, now turned a bright and strangely luminous green.
We drove about the game reserve spotting water buck, nyala, eland, blue wildebeest, giraffe, warthogs and a black backed jackal, until the heat and our rumbling stomachs forced us to head to the main camp for lunch! We were a teeny bit early for lunch, but I happily spent the time nosing about the facilities and relaxing on the balcony. Lunch was great and the pudding was a scrumptious sponge cake filled with layers of caramel, coconut and coffee cream.
Once refueled, I was handed over to another game ranger who was to treat me to yet another game drive. Along with some guests, off we set in search of the lions! Along the way we spotted 2 caracal, who quickly slunk away into the bush foiling our attempts at photographing them. Luckily our next spotting, 3 rhino, couldn’t have cared less that we were there and made for great photographing models!
Driving along a beautiful, cool, canopied winding road, we suddenly came upon the lioness and her 3 cubs. The lions didn’t seem bothered as we followed them along the track, the cubs showing their nonchalance by lying down every few metres for a little rest. It’s tiring trying to keep up with someone who has legs twice as long as yours! Believe me… I know! After making it up the hill, they met up with another lioness and 2 lions. Mother lioness promptly plopped down and the cubs began frantically suckling. They were partly obscured by bush and unfriendly uncle lion was blocking the road, so we couldn’t go forward to get a better view. Our guide had the brilliant idea of driving a circular route around to come from the other side of uncle lion, thereby giving us an uninterrupted view of the cubs.
Talk about going to the back of beyond for your guests! The ride couldn’t have been more than 20 minutes, but it felt like forever and was one crazy, hair-raising, bundu-bashing, off-roading (sometimes in reverse) experience. I wasn’t scared in an “I’m gona die!” kinda way, but more in an “I’m gona fall onto my guide’s lap” kinda way! I really regretted not having worn a sports bra…
After finally looping back to the spot we had left, we had the perfect view. Totally worth it! The cubs suckled and played and I thought my camera was going to overheat from the exertion of taking so many photos! After watching them for what must have been an hour, thirst and the evening chill compelled us to move on. We stopped for drinks as the sun was setting and the horizon looked to be on fire!
To Bronwen, Alan, Jason, Shaun and everybody else at the Kariega Game Reserve, thank you so much for an outstanding, superfluous day!