South Africa: Day 1

I slept like a baby that first night. Pure exhaustion after flying for 16 hours. I set my alarm to workout at the gym because the bikes and treadmills generate electricity for the hotel and this girl loves sustainability, but that didn’t end up happening. Mom and I woke up just in time for breakfast and check out. The weather was perfect in Cape Town so we enjoyed breakfast outside before being in the car for the majority of the day.  

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We spent most of our day driving to Albertinia where our lodge is located. It’s the oldest game reserve in the Western Cape, opening in 1999. We upgraded to an automatic SUV so I could drive since my mom was beyond anxious about it. I’ve driven on the left hand side of the road before and love a good challenge so I found myself in the drivers seat. After some drama getting the GPS going in the right direction we were on our way and Mom only yelled at me once.

The trip took four hours and I was far past ready to be done driving by the end of the trip. Let’s just say there are literally no rules of the road in Africa. People pass on double lines, the speed limit seems a mere suggestion (and it’s in kilometers), and it’s just plain terrifying. But we made it in one piece. 

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The Garden Route Game Lodge won me over instantaneously. Mom and I are staying in a cute chalet with a boardwalk to the main lodge and restaurant.  

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Each night comes with a morning and evening safari. Today we had an evening safari with our guide Ashley. He brought us to see the cats today since he was on the hunt for a cheetah who gave birth this past week and is out hunting for the first time. Unfortunately we didn’t see her, but we spotted another cheetah from afar, lions, Buffalo, rhinos, ostrich, kudu, mongoose, and springbok. 

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The lions are kept separately from the other animals because of their drive to kill. Unlike other animals who kill only to hunt, lions kill for the fun and to exert dominance. The resort would need another 12-15,000 more hectares (1 hectare is 2.5 acres) just to keep up with their 4 lions. There’s one male and three females of the same family. There cannot be another male or females from another family or they’d just kill each other. Even if there were male pups from another father they’d be killed. A lion’s pride is legit. They’re beautiful animals, though, and were quite active for us because the weather isn’t too hot. We saw them in the evening because they’re nocturnal, the white under their eyes reflects the moonlight. 

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Ashley explained to us that they don’t breed more lions on the reserve because they’d be feeding into the “canning” of lions. This is where lions are put into a small enclosed area so they’re easy to kill. Inhumane and disgusting. So glad this reserve puts their animals first. It’s also interesting that lions have a very low success rate of reintroduction to the wild. 

The lions that we have seen have not killed anyone (yet), but in Kruger National Park there are 12-15 human deaths per month. These tend to be immigrants and poachers.  

Next up were the rhinos, there were three that we saw, but six in total at the reserve. Unfortunately, rhinos are near extinction for their horns. Instead of de-horning the animals and letting them live, poachers will kill the animals to get a larger portion of the horn (you can only cut so far until you hit nerve endings). The black market is a dangerous thing for these animals.

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The rhinos on this reserve are all white because of the vegetation available. White rhinos feed off grass and have an enlarged vertebrae that prevents them from lifting their head up all the way. Black rhinos have a hooked lip to help feeding off bushes and can lift their head up higher. 

Fun fact: rhinos can live to be FORTY years old. 

Before heading back to the lodge we enjoyed a sundowner and were able to get out of the Jeep. Ashley made mom and me a gin and tonic. Without lunch we were a bit tipsy immediately, which just made our guide’s jokes even funnier. We were dropped off at the outdoor bar where mom and I enjoyed a South African merlot, one of the only merlots that I like. 

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I’m saving my food post for the end of the trip, but I will tell you that I tried ostrich and kudu that night. The ostrich is red meat, surprising, I know. It was a bit rare for me since I’m avoiding raw meat, fruit and vegetable per my travel doctor, but the kudu was very good!

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In typical Megan fashion, I fell asleep at 8:00pm. 

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