Thursday, 12 May 2016

Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Lion at Botlierskop 'Never run from a lion. You will just die tired.'

With that advice ringing in our ears, our guide pointed his remote at the electronic gates separating the lion enclosure from the other animals at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. I had finally made it to the Africa of my dreams. Now it seemed I stood a good chance of being served as breakfast to the King of the Beasts.

We were on our first morning game drive - the sun just peeping over the horizon. The Land Cruiser had open sides - no windows, no wire mesh, nothing between us and the lions. The guide didn't appear to have a weapon. Someone asked if the vehicle could out run a lion.


'No!' - something to do with potholes and uneven ground.

'Don't worry,' the guide said 'The lions are well fed.' We feed them once a fortnight.' Could that possibly be enough - I must have misheard - and what happens to the visitors who are unlucky enough to pick the tour right at the end of that fortnight. Being completely unprotected, within a couple of metres of lions, was one thing - being completely unprotected within a couple of metres of hungry lions was entirely different. I was beginning to wish I had stayed in bed with David.  David doesn't do sunrise. He was safely fast asleep back in our room.

'Keep your arms inside the vehicle and don't make any sudden movements.'

The vehicle drove forward. The King of the Beasts and his two wives were lazing in the long grass, catching the first rays of sunshine. They weren't oblivious to us - just uninterested.  According to our guide, there was a jealousy thing going on between the two females and the felines were far more interested in each other than they were in us. The magnificent male seemed slightly amused by the antics of the females as they growled and jostled with each other. When he got bored he stretched, stood, struck a few poses for our cameras then settled back down in the grass for a morning nap. He appeared completely secure of his place in the world, in that way all cats have.

We watched, transfixed, for half and hour or so then moved on - quietly and without any sudden movements.


Lion at Botlierskop
Magnificent isn't he!


Lions at Botlierskop
The ladies.

Lion at Botlierskop
The King of Beasts taking his morning nap.

After the lions, you might think everything else was an anti-climax. Far from it. As we bounced and bumped our way along the rough bush tracks and open ground, wildebeests, giraffes, zebras and springboks all posed obligingly, and unthreateningly, for us. They were often no more than a few metres away and they would turn and look straight at us like super models posing for the cameras.

Giraffe at Botlierskop
Right in the middle of the track and only a few metres in front of us - it was almost as if he was saying 'What are you doing here?'

Zebras at Botlierskop
'Zebra crossing' - the blur in the bottom right corner is the front of our vehicle.

Zebra at Botlierskop
Cute!

Springbok at Botlierskop
Have you ever wondered what a springbok looks like? Now we both know!
Hippos at Botlierskop
Hippos grazing near the river.

Botlierskop Game Reserve



Botlierskop is a private game reserve of 3000 hectares near Mossel Bay, about four hours drive east of Cape Town. We spent three nights there. If you want the 'wind in your hair', 'fun of the chase' experience of a wild safari, then this is not for you. The three-hour morning and afternoon game drives were great fun, but they felt slightly contrived. No-one really thought we wouldn't see our share of the big five animals and there were times when we lingered just a bit too long at a group of rhinos, hippos or giraffes - almost as if we needed to fill the time.


White rhinoceros and baby at Botlierskop
The game drives may have felt a bit contrived at times but there were moments of pure magic, like seeing this 3-week old baby white rhino. The mother's horn is blunt because the horns are removed every few years in an effort to combat poachers.

David loved Botlierskop. His idea of enjoyable game viewing is one with almost no effort required on his part whatsoever. He avoided the morning drives entirely and only came along in the afternoon to keep me company. He still saw most of the animals. From the private terrace in front of our room at the Manor House we looked out across a large open plain. We spent many pleasant hours there - wildlife spotting. The wildebeests had made it their home and grazed there every afternoon. Herds of zebras, elands, springboks and other antelope came for frequent visits and on the last morning the white rhinos appeared a few hundred metres from us.  All this only served to confirm David's view that viewing African animals was a sedentary sport - a bit like watching cricket.


Eland at Botlierskop
A herd of eland crossing the plain in front of our room

Wildebeest at Botlierskop
Wildebeest had staked their territory on the plain in front of our room.

Puff Adder at Botlierskop
A Puff Adder we saw on the morning drive - this snake was probably more dangerous than the lions
Game drive vehicle at Botlierskop
See what I mean about open-sided vehicles.


My Tip: - Stay in the Manor House for views from the terrace across the Botlierskop Plain, but be warned, the Manor House was not built with game viewing in mind and you won't see much from inside your room. Of all the Manor House rooms, the Executive Suite had the best aspect for seeing wildlife.

Our room with terrace at the Manor House.
The topic of next week's post will be how we survived a riot in Knysna. Keep an eye out for it next Thursday/Friday.

For last week's post, on the Winelands near Cape Town, click - here.

For links to the full list of our South African road trip posts, click - here


Note: David and I paid normal rates for our stay at Botlierskop. This is not a sponsored post.

50 comments:

  1. This looks like a perfect adventure for your leisure-loving husband. While I would probably appreciate a safari more, I can't imagine an easier way to capture photos of the Big Five than at a game reserve. My husband dreams of seeing a cheetah one day in the wild. Did they perchance have any?

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    1. No, they didn't have cheetahs but we also went to another park, Shamwari which was much more of a 'wild' experience and there I saw cheetahs. We had to stalk them but our guide was fantastic and found them for us twice. The first time we saw a male and the second time a mother and her cubs.

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  2. Did you have a big lens or were you very close? That lion is gorgeous- looks like his mane was just brushed! We bumped along on the Serengeti and while we did see lots of animals and some close it felt real and everyday was different. We did not get close to rhino and only saw them in Ngorongoro crater. Interesting how different every safari is!

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    1. I only have a small camera with a 30x zoom. We were very close to all the animals including the lions and rhinos. It was amazing.

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  3. Woe. What awesome shots. You must be thrilled with the entire experience

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    1. I was. David even enjoyed himself, which given that he is not an animal person is really saying something.

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  4. All those animals look like they're posing just for you, the photo of the giraffe is just stunning. There's nothing like seeing animals in the wild, I remember being impressed by the smells too as that's something you really can't get from films. I appreciate your honesty in this review, but I can see that it's an easy way to see a lot of wildlife. #weekendwanderlust

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    1. Later on we went to another game park where it felt much more like a real experience. I enjoyed both. Given the choice David would return to Botlierskop but I would return to Shamwari.

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  5. Amazing. I'm off to South AFrica soon and wish I had time for a safari! Looks incredible.

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    1. I hope you have as great a time as we did. The Cape is just beautiful.

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  6. Fantastic lion photos. i've never seen a hippo in the wild. They are impressive.

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    1. The hippos were fantastic. I think my favourites were the giraffes though, they are so elegant.

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    2. Remember more people are killed by the hippos than the other African animals put together.

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    3. Haha - We kept our distance from the hippos!

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  7. Fantastic photos. I love the rhinos! How old do you think children should be before going on a safari like this to really appreciate it.. and not be a nuisance!

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    1. I think some of the game parks might have a lower age limit. It would be worth checking. It probably also depends on what sort of vehicle you go in. Obviously one with open-sides is trickier with little children. My boys are grown up now but they would have been fine at about four.

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  8. I love a safari! I love the snakes and the lions! Gorgeous shots.

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    1. Most of my photos came out really well. We were just so close it was easy to take good shots.

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  9. Wow, you saw quite a bit of wildlife! While it is awesome to see lions in the wild, I agree there is so much more when on safari. Giraffes were a personal favorite of mine. I think because they are so unique, I was always fascinated with each sighting! Thank you for linking up with #weekendwanderlust

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    1. I'm with you on the giraffes. They are so very different to any other animal and so elegant.

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  10. I don't think I've ever seen a baby rhino before. It's quite cute. That's really sad that the horns have to be removed to combat the poachers though.

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    1. Removing the horns is better than finding a dead rhino, or worse, a live rhino without a face. Apparently the poachers don't always kill them, just knock them out and then remove the horn and half their face. It is awful to even think about.

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  11. What an amazing experience. I too would be thinking what if it is day #13 of not being fed.........

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    1. Haha! We got out in one piece though.

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  12. I lucky to see a baby Rhino! And I just love the giraffe - my favourite.

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    1. The baby rhino was lovely but the giraffes were still my favourites.

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  13. Wonderful photos! I think that part of the thrill of going on safari is that these are indeed very dangerous animals. It's a real privilege to be able to see them in the wild. I love that photo of the giraffe. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. For me a big part of the thrill was just seeing them in their natural environment but you are right about them being dangerous. I just tried not to think about that too much - lol.

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  14. I sure would want a vehicle that was capable of being faster than a lion! Your photos are spectacular.

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    1. On an open road I am sure the Land Rover would have been faster. The problem was that we would have been racing across an open grassland completely with potholes and other obstacles. You really just had to trust that the guides knew what they were doing.

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  15. What a beautiful trip you took, Lyn. South Africa was on my list for a while, but now that I've read about your experience I feel even more convinced that I should go. For instance I have never seen any of these wild animals in their natural habitat. It's not the same seeing them in a zoo.

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    1. The Cape area of South Africa, which is where we went, once had all these animals roaming wild. They were driven out when the European farmers and other settlers arrived. They have been brought back in for the game parks but all the animals we saw were once native to the area.

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  16. I went on a 'real' safari in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania a couple of years ago, and it wasn't very 'real' either. For each pride of lions there were five to eight other vehicles. Which meant even if we were close it was hard to get a picture without traffic in the background. I think I'd like Botlierskop better!

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    1. Thank you. When we were at Shamwari a couple of weeks after Botlierskop one of the other guests asked the guide what the differences were between our experience and that at Kruger, which is a much larger Sth African National Park. The guide said that at Kruger because people can drive themselves and because there is competition between the various guide companies you could get up to ten vehicles at once around a group of animals. I hate competing with other tourists for things so I think I will stick to the private game parks.

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  17. We will be going to a private game reserve in the same area of South Africa, so I was very interested in reading your article. I'm not sure if I will side with Dan and skip the morning drives, but I certainly will be well informed on what to expect, thanks to your wonderful article. Thanks!

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    1. We also went to Shamwari, near Port Elizabeth, which felt like much more of a real experience. David didn't like it as much because you had to go on the game drives to see the animals.

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  18. What wonderful images you captured! Just beautiful!

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  19. Wow, not sure I would feel safe in that vehicle no matter how well fed the lions are. But remember, you don't have to be faster than the lion, just faster than the slowest person in your group. ;)

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    1. Haha - We have just arrived in New York after a 22 hour flight and the usual unbelievable hassle getting our mountain bikes on and off planes - just what I needed, a really good laugh.

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  20. I love that shot of the lion! I'd echo another comment above - his hairdo is way better than mine looks most mornings! Also that giraffe is stunning. I find it interesting what you say about organised drives, etc. The safari industry isn't something I know much about, so I'm glad to be educated. Personally I think I'd rather see the animals in a controlled environment and know they're safe, because I know that's becoming increasingly difficult to achieve.

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    1. Sadly, even Botlierskop was the target of Rhinoceros horn poachers a few years ago, losing one of their rhinos. It was hard to believe that poachers could gain access to a private park in a relatively well-populated area of South Africa but it would appear that the poachers are very sophisticated in their methods.

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  21. Nothing better than a safari although I'm not very keen to be close to a lion in a open vehicle. Enjoy the rest of your time in South Africa - there is no better country in my opinion #TravelTuesday

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    1. It is an amazing country. We will definitely go back again.

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  22. WOW! Yeah, I will remember the advice to never run from a lion. Dying tired doesn't sound all that appealing. ;) Your pictures are amazing. What camera do you use? I only just got a DSLR camera and have so much to learn about how to use it! Thanks for linking up with us on #TravelTuesday!

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    1. I use a little pocket Canon with a 30x optical zoom. Because David and I cycle a lot when we travel I need a camera which is easy to carry. I take lots and lots of photos and find I get enough good ones.

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  23. Such a wonderful adventure. I can't help but wonder, in the lion area did your guide have a gun that you just didn't see. All the questions you wrote would be the same ones running through my head. Although even not being a morning person, I wouldn't have missed this. Thanks for sharing this adventure with us.

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    1. I didn't ask but I don't think he had a gun. I am not saying the lions were tame but I think they were used to people and vehicles coming near them.

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