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My First Experience with Real Safari in South Africa

More than 10 years ago, I’ve been to the so-called “safari” in both Bangkok and Singapore, consist of mostly short distance tram rides. I was told these safaris were managed by a group of people and animals were fed by caretakers. Of course, I find each experience very mesmerizing especially when I have the chance to see so many types of animals in mere 40 minutes rides. With the intention to visit safari again, I decided to join my sisters to visit the real safari in South Africa this time.

As we have never been to South Africa and I personally am not the adventurous type of person, therefore we decided to join guided tour offered by Reliance Travel upon advice from my sister Lily who works there. As usual, I signed up for the tour consisting of 7 Malaysians and 7 Indonesians without asking much question…. lol, only took me less than 5 minutes to make the decision.

We took an 11 hour Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Johannesburg in an aging plane that seems to have been in service for more than 20 years! Regardless, the interior condition of the plane is indeed well-maintained. I’ve flew to more than 15 countries for the past 20 years and none of these flights enable me to sleep. Therefore, throughout my flight to Johannesburg, I watched more than 5 movies in total and constantly asked for crew’s assistance. Can you imagine that? Eating and watching movies from midnight till morning? All my sisters and cousin can take some rest except me! Anyway, we finally landed safely in Johannesburg at 7am. Phew… what a relief!

The Palace Hotel at Sun City SA

Upon reaching OR Tambo International Airport (formerly known as Johannesburg International Airport), the first thing me and my sisters did was to buy data roaming sim card. None of us can live without mobile data except my cousin who is not a geek. Our local guide Nico (pronounced as Niku) received us from the airport and we traveled to Sun City in a 12-seater van. Along the way, we stopped by Pretoria to take some photos. We arrived The Palace Hotel in Sun City around 3pm and it looks similar to Sunway Resort Hotel in Malaysia …. only that the one in Malaysia is so much smaller. Unlike Malaysia’s Sunway Resort Hotel, The Palace Hotel in Sun City is surrounded with huge greens and not concrete buildings. It was free and easy on the first night and we only start our game drive the next morning.

 

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A huge lush of green surrounding Sun City (view from the hotel)

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Reception of The Palace Hotel in Sun City

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The majestic top view of the hotel

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Our bedroom

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The breakfast was really delicious and we were assigned dedicated serving staff

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Game Drive at Pilanesberg National Park

Pilanesberg National Park is home to the Big 5 , along with an abundance of flora and fauna. In Africa, the big five game animals are the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros. The term “big five game” refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Before starting our adventure (game drive) into Pilanesberg National Park, we were told that we’ll be considered lucky if we are able to spot all the Big 5. Of course, all of us were very excited with the game drive and therefore arrived 1 hour earlier at the meetup point in Sun City, forgoing our early breakfast. Few monkeys were playing with us at the waiting area. Initially I thought the tram will at least be covered with wire fences but it was actually an open tram . Then in my mind i was wondering… “what if the lion jumped onto the tram”?

 

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Waiting for the game drive to start

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The 4 Malaysians eagerly to start safari adventure

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Our beautiful African ranger of the day. They actually carry riffles!

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Tour group from Malaysia and Indonesia through Reliance Travel

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I was really excited to spot my first animal upon reaching the gate of Pilanesberg National Park

The first animal we saw was a huge elephant (at least it was huge to me) that crossed the road in front of our tram! It was spectacular. Everyone was busy taking photos of the elephant and of course, I did the same too. However, our guide told us that this is not even consider large. There are more elephants that are double the size. This game drive took us at least 3 hours and we were not even covering 20% of the park! It was really cold in the morning despite having direct sunlight. All of us were offered blankets to cover ourselves throughout the drive. Thanks to our friendly ranger.

According to an article in http://pilanesberggamereserve.com/wildlife-sighting-data.html, here are some of the Pilanesberg Wilflife Sighting Data which show the possibility of catching a glimpse of Big 5. Our group was indeed lucky to have spotted 5 of the 6 animals indicated here despite not able to take good shots of wild dogs (ran too fast), lion (hiding in the bushes), cheetah (on tree eating its prey) and buffalo (too far).

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The first animal we spotted at Pilanesberg National Park

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There are both wide (white) rhino and black rhino. Can you identify which rhinos are these?

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Can you spot the cheetah eating its prey? I can indeed hear the munching sound and saw blood dripping at that moment!

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Oops not sure what is this but we saw a lot.

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 This giraffe was indeed huge compared to those I saw in the zoo. In fact we saw at least 9 giraffes grouped at the hillside and most of them walked away when spotted us. We were told that most giraffes are prone to heart problem due to the long neck they have. It is very taxing for the heart to pump blood to the top.

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This is only one type of antelope we saw in Pilanesberg National Park. There are at least 5 other species we saw there. Some are as small as puppy!

It was really difficult to explain our experience with game drive and what I can say is “it was simply amazing and astonishing”. Guess, there are easily more than 30 animals that we spotted and most of them traveled in groups. In fact, we went for 2 game drives, one as early as 7am and another was 3pm in the evening. It was really worth the travel to South Africa. Simply unique compared to the previous vacations I had. Well, there’s a price to pay. The entire tour package with Reliance Travel cost us around RM12k each that includes visit to Johannesburg, Pretoria, Sun City and Cape Town. Of course, the game drive in Pilanesberg National Park was only a 1-2 days affair in South Africa. We literally had new and exciting experiences every day from game driving into the greens, helicopter ride, exotic meat, step on ostrich eggs, watch seagulls in the middle of the sea, overseeing sunrise and sunset in Cape Town, ride up to the Table Mountain, go down 100 meters to explore gold mining and many many more.

I will be posting more of my travelling experience in South Africa and other parts of the world very soon. Oopss… forgot to mention that the food and accommodation was really good throughout the vacation – except for 1 Chinese meal …lol. Well, no complaint so far and no words can really describe this amazing experience … thanks to Reliance Travel.

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