The sun had not yet peaked over the horizon when we pulled our tired souls from the comfort of warm sheets. Today we planned to hit Pilanesberg early in hopes of some morning glimpses at the more nocturnal wildlife finishing their evening’s excursions.
The air was cold and our eyes were heavy. Small doses of coffee, warm water, and rusks filled our bellies as we shuffled into the van like fleece-clad safari zombies. Yes, it was early, but we were ready.
Not moments from leaving the parking area did we run into large waterbuck, red hartebeest, and a quick favorite of the group, ostrich. Game speckled the landscape as we drove to the gate of Finfoot Lake Reserve en-route to our destination.
Groggy with excitement, we jostled down the 14km rutted dirt road towards the park. South African music trilled over the speakers as Hayden gave out wonderful information about different species of plant and animal, and before too long we were at the gates of Pilanesberg.
Once inside, we made haste to the Fish Eagle Picnic Site for a packed breakfast. Fish Eagle sits atop a large kopje (rocky hill/outcropping; pron. “koppie”) with magnificent views overlooking nearby hills and the Mankwe Dam. The views were breathtaking, and through binoculars we saw white rhino, zebra, impala, hippo, and even some nearby giraffe sauntering by on their way to the dam for a morning drink. There was even the call of lions in the distance.
After breakfast, we went on a valiant hunt for the lions. This, however, was to no avail, as we couldn’t manage to pin them down. It’s amazing how easily the animals can fade into the bush when they decide it is time to be hidden.
As the larger antelope species and others made their way into our sights, we also turned some focus on to the small side of African safari. We viewed the inumerous bird species, listened to the sounds of their calls, watched terrapin in their slow dance just below the surface of the water, and enjoyed the slow sway of the elephant grass in the distant breeze.
After visits to a couple different hides (out-buildings in popular game areas where you can exit your vehicle and sit in a covered area to quietly view game), we decided to head back to the lodge for a late lunch.
The groups was tired, but they powered through as we grabbed a nice bite before heading down to the shores of Finfoot Lake. Here, we jumped onto a pontoon boat and took to the water. It was a beautiful, still evening as we watched birds, giraffe, and nyala along the shores and viewed one of the most magnificent sunsets I have seen in some time.
It was the perfect way to end a long and fulfilling day in Africa!