Thursday, 26 May 2016

Shamwari Game Reserve - and the fastest animal on the planet!

130 kilometres per hour - the fastest animal on the planet. In the pre-dawn light, six pairs of eyes scanned the landscape for our quarry. This was his habitat - he had been seen two days before and last night there were fresh tracks. With twenty years experience as a guide, Frans was confident he knew the animal well enough to flush him out. We passed by giraffes and antelope with barely a glance, stopping only briefly to investigate two large grey shapes a few hundred metres from the rough dirt road. On any other morning we may have been excited by the white rhinos, but not today.


'There he is,' a sharp-eyed companion shouted.

It took me a few moments to find him but then, moving slowly through the grass with his long, slender legs and body built for speed, was the cheetah. There are only six cheetahs at Shamwari Private Game Reserve and we had found one of them.

'I know this animal,' Frans said 'he is headed to the dead tree over there, to mark his territory.'

Cheetah at Shamwari, South Africa
'Our' cheetah.

Frans manoeuvred the Land Cruiser across the open ground stopping close to the dead tree. Sure enough the cheetah came toward us, until he was just a few metres away. Rubbing his sleek flanks along the tree stump, he looked very much the lord of all he surveyed. We watched him enthralled - then after fifteen minutes or so he was on the move again. This time headed toward rougher ground and a deep gully. We followed as long as we could, more than a little nervous that the vehicle was not built for such a precipitously steep slope. Finally he disappeared over the edge of the gully.

'He won't stay there for long. That's leopard country - too dangerous for him. Watch for him to reappear on the other side.' Frans stopped the vehicle once more and we waited.

By now we had been joined by another Land Cruiser. Both guides were confident we would see the cheetah again, but for once Frans was wrong. He and the other guide walked down the slope toward the spot the cheetah was last seen. The second guide was armed with a rifle, Frans had a long antelope horn scavenged from a dead animal. No one asked how he intended to defend himself, or us, with it - I don't think anyone really wanted to know the answer. Again we trusted his judgement and his knowledge of the animals he so clearly loved.

Cheetah at Shamwari, South Africa


Finally the two guides returned. The cheetah must have doubled back and disappeared in the grassland behind the vehicles. I wasn't disappointed. There would be no 'fun of the chase' without a few failures. This cheetah was not seen again while we were at Shamwari.

On our last morning Frans took us cheetah hunting again. He seemed to have a special spot in his heart for these beautiful cats, or maybe he just got tired of seeing elephants, rhinos, giraffes, hippos and lions to say nothing of the ubiquitous antelopes and warthogs, and wanted to search out something more elusive. Either way, our little group was delighted to take part in another pre-dawn chase. This time we were looking for a female and her two cubs. We had an idea where she might be but the prize wasn't ours. We had stopped for morning tea, having given up the chase, when word came across the radio that she was ten minutes from where we were.  Frans bundled us back into the vehicle and we sped across the grassland fearful we might miss her - we need not have worried. We found her in the shade of some bushes playing with her cubs, clearly not in any hurry to move on.



Cheetahs at Shamwari
The cheetah and her cubs.

Shamwari Game Reserve was our second South African game park. You might remember we also spent three nights at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve near Mossel Bay. It was a much smaller park than Shamwari. We were able watch animals grazing on the open plain outside our room - David loved it! I had a great time but it felt a bit too much like a large open zoo. I wanted the fun of the chase of a 'real' safari. At Shamwari I got that in spades. 

Shamwari is much larger than Botlierskop and the animals are in their natural habitat with no hand feeding.  Once again David slept through the morning drives - he doesn't pre-dawn starts. I got up at 5.30 am each day and had an absolute ball. We relied heavily on the skill of our guide, with no guarantees we would see any particular animals, but none of our group went away disappointed. We hunted down lions, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, hippos, zebra and of course, the cheetahs.

White rhinos at Shamwari
Did you know white rhinos are called 'white' because they have wide mouths and the word white is a confusion of the word wide?

David, a cat lover from way back, was in feline heaven again! On the first day we saw a pride of females with their cubs, then on day two word came through that another pride had brought down a zebra. It was sad to see the zebra, but thrilling too. We saw him shortly after he was killed. He looked asleep, and slightly shocked, as if he couldn't quite believe he was dead. The lions were guarding their prize. The next day the zebra was barely recognizable. I have some photos of him but I won't post them here. 

Lioness at Shamwari
This photo gives you an idea of how close we got to the lions.

Lioness and cubs at Shamwari
The lionesses and cubs.


Probably the best experience, was the elephants. One of the other women in our group specially wanted to see elephants. I did too, but didn't want to ask. We saw so many animals it seemed ungrateful to ask for a particular one, but on the afternoon of day two we went looking for elephants - and found them in a great thundering herd. Although the adults are pretty much lion-proof, they had baby elephants with them and when something spooked them, they rushed past us like giants on steroids. We followed them down to the river, where a big bull took exception to our presence. Frans threw the vehicle into reverse and raced backwards up a steep ravine. I had the impression he didn't like elephants much, or maybe he just had a healthy respect for their ability to damage his Land Cruiser.

Elephants at Shamwari
Elephants in the river.

Bull elephant at Shamwari
When this guy started to look angry we back-up quickly.

Hippos at Shamwari
Hippos in the river.

Giraffe at Shamwari
A giraffe - we saw this guy more than once.

warthog at Shamwari
Even the warthogs were cute - kind of!

Note: This is not a sponsored post. David and I paid full commercial rates for our stay at Shamwari.

For a link to last week's post click - here.

For links to all my posts on our SouthAfrican road trip click - here.

This will be my last post on South Africa for a while. I have more to right and will re-visit the topic in a month or two. In the meantime David and I have spent a few weeks at home before beginning a road and cycling trip in the north-eastern United States. Watch out for my first post next Friday/Saturday.


28 comments:

  1. Lyn this is incredible! We have just made a deposit on a cycling tour in South Africa. This kind of addition looks amazing.

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    1. Wow! Where is the tour? Is it the Western Cape, we saw tons of cyclists there.

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    2. The route is from George to Capetown.

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    3. I am seriously impressed. I look forward to the totally exhausted blog posts.

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  2. Hi Lyn, this looks absolutely amazing! You were sooo close to all these majestic animals! I would be in photographer's heaven! :) An African safari is definitely on our bucket list. Some day!

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    1. Going to an African game park is something I had wanted to do for a long time and it was as fantastic as I imagined it would be.

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  3. What an absolutely fantastic experience! Is that really why White Rhinos are called white? That is another truly bizarre outcome of globalization.

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    1. Apparently the 'white rhino' explanation is true. The guides at both game parks we went to said the same thing and I googled it as well to make sure. I always wondered why white rhinos weren't actually white. We also saw black rhinos at Shamwari and they looked the same colour to me.

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  4. I love safaris! Had the best time in Tanzania. Zoos never ever again!

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    1. I am working on David to take me back!

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  5. What a fantastic experience, Lyn. I always wanted to go on a safari tour and see these majestic animals so close. Thank you for joining me for #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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    1. I hope you get there one day. I imagine you will. We seem to follow each other around the world - lol. Please feel free to email me if you want any of the details of our trip - eg: where we stayed, what it cost etc.

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  6. This looks really fantastic. and it's fun to see the hard-to-spot animals that not everyone sees. It's been interesting following your adventures here.

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    1. Thank you. I loved South Africa. David and I will definitely go back one day.

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  7. These are great pics! How were you able to get such a close shot of the warthog? Every time I tried, they would take off running as soon as I was 60 ft away!

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    1. Just luck, I think. They did run away a lot. They were cute though running off with a line of baby warthogs scampering behind them.

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  8. I love safaris! Beautiful photos and great luck seeing all the cubs! Wild cats are the best! Roars to you!

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    1. It was such a fantastic experience seeing them in their natural environment.

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  9. Incredible photos. It looks like you got very close to some of the animals.

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    1. We got amazingly close. I think that was probably the main benefit of going to a private game reserve.

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  10. Are you having a great time or what. These are amazing photos and excellent information.

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    1. My blog is a couple of weeks behind and this was one of the last things we did so we have left Sth Africa but, yes, we had a ball.

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  11. There's nothing like a good guide for spotting animals. I haven't had the privilege in Africa yet but in Sri Lanka and the Philippines it was essential. Great pictures. So glad you found that spotted beauty.

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    1. I love animal spotting. I must have seen thousands of kangaroos in my life and I still get a thrill when I see one.

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  12. We are often in the Cape as my partner, George, comes from Plettenberg Bay. We haven't been able to visit private game reserves but we love to stay in the National Parks of South Africa as that is more affordable. Cheetah's are one of my favorite cats. We were lucky last time in the Kgalagadi to see a mother with four cubs. I can't wait to return as the currency is so favorable for us traveling with the Swiss Franc!

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    1. David and I stayed for a few nights at Knysna and drove out to Plettenberg Bay. What a lovely place. We thought about going to Addo which is a SAN very near Shamwari but in the end chose the expensive option - lol.

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  13. Lyn, I am a friend & fellow blogger to Sue over at Travels of Life. My daughter & I visited Shamwari last September & had an incredible experience. I enjoyed reading about your stay here.

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    1. Hi Lynn, Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is lovely to hear from a fellow blogger who enjoyed Shamwari as much as I did. As you probably know Sue is off to South Africa in the next couple of weeks. It will be interesting to hear what she thinks of the game parks she is visiting.

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