What a great day today visiting Pilanesberg National Park!
We awoke to the sounds of the adida as they perched overhead outside of AfricaSky Guest House in Johannesburg. It was a cool morning and the sun broke the cloudless sky with a wash of bright blue. The group we have out now is from a fantastic private primary school out of Chattanooga TN (USA) called Bright School. It’s a wonderfully inquisitive and excited group of rising 3-5+ graders who are all here in South Africa on their first ever visit to the continent. Our merry band of youngsters groggily pulled themselves from slumber with excitement in their eyes as we departed for Pilanesberg National Park to embark on their first ever game drive.
After a couple hours trek to the gate, we pulled up to see a large troop of rambunctious baboons and a small herd of impala waiting there as if to personally introduce us to the wonders of Pilanesberg. After rumblings of excitement and snapping of pictures , we entered the park with anticipation…all eyes glued to the landscape in search of that first great sighting. Without but moments passing, the call of “elephant” rang from the mouths of the group as we saw our first wild African elephant at a short distance from the van. There is nothing quite like the elephant to start a game drive on the right foot.
After many photos and fascinations, we moved along, spotting white rhino, zebra, wildebeest, and even more elephant. Two of the Big 5 ticked off the list in the first 30 minutes.
Being way past due for lunch, we headed to Pilanesberg Centre to grab a bite and see what wild animals might be gathered around the watering hole of which the restaurant overlooked. We were not disappointed, as multiple giraffe were only a stone’s throw away from our tables.
Eyes and bellies full, we started back for the gate to make time to get to our lodging for the evening. There was not much to see as we cruised through the park, when suddenly a White Rhino appeared and we stopped the van to get a better look. As we sat observing, this beautiful beast came strolling out of the bush like a chubby grey unicorn straight towards our van. It flanked us on the left side and then walked right into the road behind our vehicle. It stopped, as if to pose for a moment, before turning to face us and walking within 5 feet of the tail bumper. The van was silent and a little uneasy as the rhino huffed a moment, kicked his feet, and then peered at us in confused curiosity. We couldn’t believe how close we were to such a beautiful and rare animal. We watched for what seemed like forever. At it’s own pace, the rhino almost kissed the bumper to say goodbye, and then slowly turned around and meandered down the road. How unbelievable it was!
To top it off, near the gate to exit, Nicole and Jenny spotted the tail of a leopard that swiftly hid in the bush from the rest of our peering eyes.
So much more to see tomorrow and we just can’t wait!