Tuesday, April 16, 2013

YOU VS WILD



Start your journey from the seaside city of Port Elizabeth, gateway to both the garden route and the Eastern Cape safari Belt. The Eastern Cape goes up to the border with KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho and contains a number of excellent game reserves. This region is ideally suited to a self-drive trip. You will fall in love with PE if you are looking for a stress free relaxed holiday, and even want to come back as the density and diversity of vegetation and the beauty of tall thick trunked trees followed in the Game drive trail speak of their age and are like a balm for city dwellers.


SHAMWARI GAME RESERVE
Check out www.shamwari.com for more information. Tel: +27 (0) 41 509 3000 to make a booking.
A forty five minute drive from PE will transport you to ‘Shamwari’ which literally means ‘my friend’, is the apogee of private game reserves is perhaps the best known in the Eastern Cape , is one of the largest and if you are looking to spot the Big 5, this is where you go! Sample this, free wildlife in the 25,000 hectares landscapes under the African sun, what more could you ask for?  Under the Shamwari umbrella are five lodges, one villa and one explorer camp; each is unique with a flavour of its own. Once settled in your choice of accommodation and as you enjoy nature in sublime you can plan your time here.

GAME DRIVE
Interactive game drives, lasting up to 3-4 hours, take place in the tranquil moods of sunrise and sunset. The grasslands are dotted with plains game, the thick bush in the mountain valleys and on a game drive you always hope to see at least one of the big cats like lion, cheetah or probably the elusive leopard! If you have a good game ranger who’s been at Shamwari for a while, they may know in which areas to look for the animal you’d like to see. That said it certainly is not an air tight plan because animals live their lives on their own accord and these are genuinely wild animals, and one has to work hard at spotting to catch up with them! The antelope species are well habituated to vehicles and the likes of impala and springbok only move away from the vehicle once you close to within a few metres, which make for a great opportunity to get a good look at these animals, including the large numbers of males sporting superb sets of horns. The best part is the tea break on the 4 X 4 by the gorgeous landscape ….mama mia! As for me my highlight was watching a gorgeous lioness eating her kill aka the giraffe! I was sad for the kill for sure…but then it’s the survival of the fittest, isn’t it?


BUSH BREAKFAST BETWEEN SHIFTING TO THE OTHER GAME RESERVE
As you take the morning game drive at the Shamwari Game Reserve and shift to Amakhala, a highlight is the ‘Bush Breakfast’. Of course you need to help, by getting down the pan, the gas burner and folding up the table as you follow your guide up to a small mountain who would hoist the cooler box onto his shoulder. Soon you will found yourself on a rugged kopjie, looking out onto 25 000 hectares of pristine private bushveld, eating cinnamon and syrup pancakes made there and then. What a treat!


AMAKHALA GAME RESERVE
Check out www.amakhala.co.za for more information.Tel: +27 (0) 41 581 0993 to make a booking
This a stunning internationally renowned conservative initiative in the Eastern Cape, set in the heart of a visionary reclamation area of 18,000 acre. And yes the Big 5 roam freely as ever. Replete with indigenous plant species that reclaim this land with a host of birds, eleven privately owned lodges are on offer at this game reserve. My vote goes all out to the Bush lodge which is aptly positioned in the bush at the top end of an open valley; the tented and thatched en-suites overlook a watering point with sky and jungle views. Each suite has a secluded private viewing deck with intimate plunge pool.

GAME DRIVE
This place has a real history and wasn’t created just for tourists. The landscape is a sheer delight created by the slowly meandering Bushman’s river running through it, and with only a very limited number of vehicles one is not surrounded by a hoard of other cars and a host of animals are easy to spot. And I mean not only the much sought after Big 5, but one can find here antelope species, zebra, giraffe and many more small interesting species. The cheetah sightings are the highlight of one’s stay. In addition to game drives, one can go on a boat cruises when the sun goes down while sipping a glass of red wine or anything else that you may fancy along with light snacks. It is an absolutely wonderful introduction to safari for people who have never been on one before and a very relaxed experience for those who wish to be spoilt. The food is fantastic and the staff just lovely Best of all, there’s something to make everyone happy, no matter what you’re looking for. Only one warning; you will want to go back if you visit here!!




REMEMBER TO PACK
Sun block
Hat/cap
Walking boots
Comfortable and casual clothing
Warm jackets for game drives
Camera (300 - 600mm lenses for good photographs)
Medication for allergies

 FAST FACTS
BEST WAY TO REACH- Fly South African Airlines from Mumbai onto Port Elizabeth.
VISA & CURRENCY- Indians need a South African Visa. The currency used is Rand. 1 South African Rand is equal to 6.5 INR.
BEST PLACE TO STAY IN PORT ELIZABETH- Singa Lodge, Every room in this luxurious modern fusion of Eastern and African d├ęcor is distinctive, offering returning guests a fresh experience with every visit.

Published in TLF