My first safari – guest review by Michelle

Trip Review – Michelle Luffman


Born in South Africa


Having lived in SA all my life and never been on a Safari, I was persuaded by my sister “just go and enjoy”.  I had also lost my husband 5 years ago, and needed to feel alive again.  I booked wit “Safari With Us” and opted for the 3 day camping trip to Pilanesberg.  I was not disappointed.


Greeted with friendly faces


On arrival at OR Tambo Airport I was welcomed by a smiling Thabo and was driven to Safari Manor, the guest house belonging to Safari With Us.  Thabo, an experienced and careful driver, made me feel safe.  The guest house, tucked away in a peaceful suburb of Benoni, is close to the airport – good news for a weary traveller!  The high security gate opened a paved area surrounded by shrubs, flowers and my favourite roses!  I was further welcomed by the owner Andre and his assistant Debbie. 


Safari Manor


My room was attractive and had all the necessary comforts – cupboard, table for writing, tea & coffee, comfortable beds, a shower and toilet en suite and TV .  After unpacking I relaxed in the inviting recreational area close to the pool and barbeque area.  The staff are friendly and the meals were excellent.  There is also a shopping mall close by which is another plus.


Day 1 of the safari


I left the next day at 05h30 with Thabo (a Safari With Us guide) to start my 3 day Pilanesberg campig safari.  On the way collected 2 other guests – a couple from Argentina.   We drove in a big, comfortable, air-conditioned Quantum whilst experiencing the North West province before turning into the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve.


Game drives in Pilanesberg


 The entrance/ reception area of Pilanesberg was lush, green in contrast to the dry thorny landscape, so typical of the bush veld.  Thabo to set up camp while we went on our first bush veld game open vehicle game drive. Our game viewer was a 15 seater open sided truck. There was excitement in the air as we drove off into bouncing and bumping into the wild.


Guided were in radio communication so good sightings could be quickly relayed. One can see many animals on TV wild life channels but that does not compare with the real thing – seeing these wild animals in their natural habitat while on a game drive. These close encounters are the real thing. For example when suddenly stopped and we came face to face with an inquisitive giraffe looming over the trees.


Then moving on an elephant, lumbering lazily out of the bush, in front of the truck and its wrinkly backside disappearing again.  Coming out of winter and after ravaging fire, the park was dry and dusty. The landscape was dotted with shrubs and scarred trees. Guides telling  Interesting facts and tales of animals to awe-struck visitors.


Stocky Warthogs, zebra flicking their tales gracefully impala, kudus and wildebeest were showing themselves.  Suddenly the guide stepped on the petrol and drove to a nearby thicket of trees, in the shade a male lion licking and loving its mate!  Cell phones and cameras clicked and binoculars went to the eyes!  The park boasts of a number of dams and here we saw plenty:  Elephants, buck, zebra.  In the distance 6 hippo looking rocks.


Back to camp


Time to go back to camp, where Thabo had been busy getting us sorted.  The heat of the day was rising and I went for a dip in the pool “ in and out” as the water was to cold to swim for me.  The Argentinians rested outside their tent.


As the sun set and evening darkened I watched various camp fires flicking and flame into life, and listened to the visitors chatting matching ours.  This was camping at its best!  We ate a hearty supper and fell into a deep sleep.


Day 2 in Pilanesberg 


The next morning early (5:0) we left for another game ride, and once again we were not disappointed.  God’s creatures entertained us as we sat wrapped up in blankets to keep the chilly morning air out.  After about 2 hours of enjoyment the guide said “look rhino!”  the sleepy tourists jumped into action with their familiar cell phone, cameras and binoculars.  I heard and understood for the first time the difference between the white and black rhino, nothing to do with colour, but everything to do with their shape of their lips, the one wide the other triangular.  Sadly the Northern Rhino is extinct, poaching having been rife.   Even the 2 types at Pilanesberg are under threat due to the evil of poaching which is hard to control due to the parks size.


Time for breakfast


Back at the camp Thabo had once again prepared a delicious breakfast.  The Argentinian couple were now relaxed, easy to talk to, and the husband even persuaded Thabo to it back and enjoy himself that evening as he wanted to cook!  It was his passion he said.  Later Thabo and the coupe went off to buy the food for supper and I stayed at camp.


Friendly visitors


A strange noise interrupted my reading.   Close by group of 8 banded mongoose were running up and down, some standing on their back feet, front paws up.  A guide came over and said he himself had never seen this behaviour.  One mongoose tired to scramble up a tree trunk and a blue starling chased him away.  Perhaps they were after bird eggs or a snake?


Early evening birds I had never seen, fluttered down to peck at crumbs.  A hornbill, a tiny yellow, rec and black spotted bird and a grey lourie.  Later on as I lay in my tent a type of wood pecker was hammering and eating grubs.


Late afternoon game drive


The late afternoon game drive bought more surprises.  A silver black backed fox family.  A dad keeping watch, while mother and cub were trotting about looking for a safe den.  Next an elephant resting.  They do this by hanging their heavy trunk over a low tree branch.  Last but not least 3 buffalo in the shadows.  We were told that the malaria mosquito killed more people in Africa followed by the hippo and then buffalo.  We rumbled and rattled at quite a fast pace, back to camp, this “African massage” lulling many tourists to nod off.


And back to Johannesburg


We ended this memorable trip with a different route through the park and then the road back to Johannesburg, stopping to view Hartbeespoort dam, and buying curios at Chameleon Village.  From Johannesburg a flew back to the Cape, my camera loaded and my head full of stories to tell.  It was raining a much-needed blessing.


To summarize


In summary I can say for those who like the outdoors and want to experience wildlife, a Pilanesberg Camping is a great option. And I am glad I booked with Safari With Us. Everything was proper and we had fantastic and personable guides.