Jan 21 – Feb 11, 2020
January 29 – Wednesday – Safari
My goodness but 5:00 am comes early! The plan this morning was to meet at 5:15 at the lounge for a 5:30 game drive. I was up before the sun!
The lounge at the lodge
It was a chilly morning and it felt good. While I don’t always like to be up before the sun, I really do enjoy watching the color come into the morning sky, slowly giving definition to the world around me.
This morning’s search started by looking for the lions. The rangers had an idea of where they might be, but that location wasn’t necessarily accessible by our truck. But our driver tried!
I don’t think that they ever stop eating…
Ok, eventually they stop eating
After much scouring the hillsides with our eyes and ears, we were losing hope with the lion hunt. We returned to the pool where we had seen a couple of hippos yesterday. A momma and her baby had been deeply submerged in the water, only surfacing to exchange the air in their lungs. Today wasn’t much different, but I did get better pictures of them!
Finally having admitted defeat in finding any lions this morning, our driver turned the truck down a road that led us to the far side of the Reserve. It was a lush scene, full of healthy green plants that had benefitted from the recent rains. There was even water flowing in the small stream that ran through the property.
Despite keeping our eyes peeled, we drove down this valley without seeing any wildlife. I kept hoping that there would be a big cat hanging out in the shadows – and who knows? Maybe there was! – but I never saw it. The valley we were traveling through widened and became more obvious of what it used to be: farmland. From the Wiki page: “Gondwana is the first authentic free-roaming Big Five Reserve in the Western Cape, situated on 11,000 hectares of fynbos and proteas. Owners, Mark and Wendy Rutherfoord, started Gondwana six years ago, transforming a series of cattle and sheep farms into a safari destination.” So what we were driving down was an old farm lane, and where sheep once grazed there were now Zebra, Impala and Wildebeast. Or at least there could be. Right now, we saw nothing.
It is springtime in South Africa
We left the valley floor: our driver had seen one of the Big Five and would take us to a good viewing location – and we’d have a tea break as well.
But first – another one of “those” plants!
And then – giraffes!
The vegetation in this area didn’t appear to be high enough for giraffes to comfortably eat from, but they still managed to munch on enough leaves to keep them healthy and happy.
An overview to give you an idea of the landscape they were traveling through
Our guide had parked our truck high up on a hill, out of the way of the foraging giraffes and giving us a great view of the valley below. There was even a surprised Bushbuck peering at us from the brush!
The valley we had driven down
One of the old farmhouses across the valley (super zoom to the rescue!)
Munching through the vegetation as they headed down to the valley floor
My favorite photo from the morning
After having watched the giraffes make their way deeper into the vegetation and out of sight, we resumed our tour through the Reserve’s land. We made our way back to where we had been the previous evening, to see what other animals we might see this morning.
Not everything flourishes in this unforgiving land
Burchell’s zebra (with the shadow stripes)
Private homes within the Reserve (you’ll to read the link from the previous day if you want to know more)
We were back at the lodge for an 8:30 breakfast, a fast packing of the bags, and then a 10:30 departure. Our time at Gondwana had been amazing. Even if our trip had ended here, I would call it a success. But it wasn’t over, and in fact, it had barely begun!
Link to Day 4 (cont’d)