Yesterday we had the pleasure of trawling around Pilansberg National Game Park in the North West Province in South Africa. (I add those extra bits for those of you who are not South African in case you want to google where this awesome place is!)
My lovely husband has a liquid nitrogen making machine (the Stirling tart) that is misbehaving and is causing the Dutch company that supplied it in the first place no end of heartache.
Eventually, they sent their big guns out to fix it. We decided that all work and no play makes for a very dull existence and that taking Ton (the big gun) to check out some African wildlife was in order.
First, we had to overcome the problem that our Tucson’s electric windows misbehave, so right now it’s not the ideal vehicle for viewing wildlife. Let’s be honest – one wants to stick your face out of the window and sniff the fresh bush air – or if you’re me – the steaming elephant dung. Chris came up with a plan to rent a vehicle from work. He got a big-ass Ford Ranger which did a superb job.
We fetched Ton at the crack of dawn on a chilly Sunday morning. Tendrils of mist snaked their way across the road, to begin with, lapsing into thick pea soup every so often, making the 170km trip somewhat interesting at times. We entered the reserve through the Bakubung Gate just after 7am.
The scenery that confronted us was totally divine.
About half an hour into the game park, after having seen nothing much of interest apart from the odd boring bokkies (Impala), we spotted some elephant.
Not too far from the road either. Cautiously inching a little closer, we were delighted to come upon another dude on the other side of the road. He was even nearer, quite unconcerned with us whilst he was systematically demolishing a small thorn tree.
With videos of rampaging elephants at Pilanesberg a few months ago fresh in our minds, we treated these magnificent creatures with the utmost respect and gazed at them in awe.
He was clearly an old guy, with really big tusks and the holes in his ears would have made a punk proud!
We continued on our way.
Chris is an excellent game spotter – nothing much gets passed his eagle eyes.
We saw all the usual suspects – including white rhino, hippo, zebra, giraffe, waterbuck, tsessebe, impala by the hundreds, a single springbok, a teensy crocodile artfully draped on a rock in the middle of a dam, turtles, blue wildebeest, two hoppity skippity squirrels and my favorites (next to the giraffe) warthog!
We climbed out for a stroll in one of the braai areas (supposedly guarded by an electric fence and cattle grid) and had a fat laugh when Ton pointed out there were great globs of not-so-stale elephant dung dotted around the place.
I got seriously excited – spotted a croc lurking underneath the hide at the first water hole we stopped at – but another visitor witheringly pointed out that it was only a terrapin!
We were on our way to the Pilansberg Centre for coffee and some breakfast when we came across a roadblock manned by a very tall policeman.
A giraffe – standing right in the middle of the road! He was very pleased with himself and seemed to be chewing on something. We figured once he’d finished swallowing all the way down his very long throat, he’d probably mosey off into the bush.
Instead, he spat out what he was munching. It looked like some round fruit or other, about the size of a naartjie. He eyed his audience carefully, then did the awkward bendy-leg thing, retrieved his morsel and resumed chomping. His long black tongue rolled the object around in his mouth and his furry lips curled and twitched as he chewed.
He was clearly very impressed with himself and certainly, the occupants of our bakkie were mightily impressed with him too. Whilst all eyes were on the jester, a mother and baby giraffe floated gracefully across the road behind all the cars and disappeared into the bush.
Eventually, a couple of the other vehicles became impatient and nudged passed the masticating beastie. He moved reluctantly to the side of the road, but not before spitting out his stuff and retrieving it again.
We finally realised it was either a smooth round rock or perhaps a rounded bit of bone that he was gnawing on. I googled when we got home and found that many of the leaf-eating critters do this sometimes, to gain calcium and other nutrients that are necessary for their own bone growth.
I laughed and made a joke that he was probably paid by the staff at the centre to put on a show so that all the crazy tourists then dashed off and bought the lovely beaded-giraffes that are sold at the curio stands. To my mirth Ton did exactly that – bought a duo of beady giraffe for his friend.
There are large signs that say “please do not feed the animals or birds” that gather at the waterhole outside the restaurant area. It’s easy to comply as far as the animals are concerned, however, it would appear that the birds did not get the memo!
A few cutie little sparrow type feathery friends hopped around on the railings, looking for crumbs on tables (or plates).
A rather larger loerie greedily, not to mention, noisily, eyed out a piece of pizza – that was busy being eaten by a patron. They had barely left the table when he pounced on the slice and tried to peck a piece off it. He was joined by a buddy of his.
Frantic cackling announced the arrival of some guinea fowl. Beady eyes flickered all over the place and an intrepid bird wobbled his way along the railings, leapt onto the table, chased off the loerie and snarfed a large piece of pizza for himself. He fled, his prize flapping loosely either side of his beak, closely followed by a gang of spotty thugs intent on ripping it from his clutches.
They disappeared around a bush and I lost sight of them, so have no clue how the story ended. Am perfectly sure it’s a daily soapie though.
We heard fish eagles screech, saw trees pretending to be rooted in rock (actually they were hugging the backside of the rock growing in perfectly fine soil) and witnessed air-bubbly-rings bobbing on the surface of a pond, that had us convinced a hippo was wallowing under water. He never materialized so we bandied about theories of underwater gases, farting frogs and other ridiculous things.
We never found a decent sized croc, but we did come across another elephant on our way to the gate in the late afternoon. His tusks were a lot smaller than the dude we’d seen in the morning, but he was no less majestic. We also saw a single little monkey just before we exited the park.
At one water hole, Ton nudged me and pointed to the reeds. A cat! Not quite the cat we were expecting either…
The drive home was uneventful and we delivered Ton to his hotel door – safe and sound.
I think perhaps that the liquid nitrogen machine is more of a beast than any of the critters we came across at Pilanesberg.
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