South Africa: Day 3

This was our final morning at the Garden Route Game Lodge. This day our guide was Jason and he taught us a lot more.  

We stopped at the hippos first which we never really got to see since they stay in the water except at night. They actually can’t swim really well and just float and sink and float and sink. They have a layer of skin or fat that helps with the buoyancy. Male hippos can open their jaws 1.5 meters wide (that’s 5 feet)! And have massive teeth that can do serious damage. Since Africa is underdeveloped a lot of deaths by hippos occur since people do their washing in the water.  

We found a herd of buffalo next. These are the most dangerous of the Big 5 to humans because of their curiosity. And more lions are killed by buffalo than vice versa. These animals have very strong horns and actually have a spot on their head that acts as a shock absorber. The dominant female leads the group while the dominant male brings up the rear.  

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We saw the lions one last time, those sleepy cats. The male has had a vasectomy to prevent cubs (reasoning mentioned on my Day 1 post). They aren’t neutered because removing the testes would eliminate the lion’s testosterone and then he would lose his mane. The mane also becomes darker as more testosterone is released, which typically happens when he’s been mating. Lions have about a 15% kill success rate, usually if the kill doesn’t happen on the first try it doesn’t happen at all because of their stamina. These lions are fed about once a week, a bit less than they hunt in the wild since they aren’t expending as much energy. The guides provide a cow carcas for them to enjoy.  

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A herb of zebra were spotted next, mingling with some eland. Some newer research has suggested that zebras in hotter climates have more stripes (black or white, who knows). When air passes over the black stripes it moves quickly creating a breeze effect and to keep the heat moving along. Since zebras have a single chamber stomach they have to spend more time grazing. Maybe that’s why they’re so gassy too! They also have a spot on the inside of their front legs called a chestnut. Their front legs are fused together while in the womb since their legs are so long. Once they’re born the chestnut breaks apart. Their legs are so long so that babies can hide beside their parents and not be seen.  

Last but not least we saw some waterbuck. These animals look like deer and surprisingly can’t swim but their skin and long hair increases their buoyancy.  

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It’s sad to leave the reserve, but I hope to come back someday. I cannot even put my experience into words; the respect for the animals and nature was profoundly moving.

The next four hours I spent driving 120 km per hour (feels so fast on the left hand side of the road), attempting to pass cars like a South African, jamming to country music, and having a heart attack driving in a long ass tunnel. I couldn’t take my sunglasses off because they’re prescription and I needed to see! Mom spoke words of encouragement until we reached the light at the other end.

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After that experience I was beyond ready for a drink. Based on some suggestions we detoured to Vrede en Lust Winery and it did not disappoint. We did a tasting of six wines which probably ended up being about 2 glasses. The pinotage and the Shiraz were our favorites so of course we bought a few bottles to enjoy at our Airbnb. We enjoyed a ploughman’s platter to soak up some of that alcohol and our waitress topped off our glasses with Shiraz! I love this country. 

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Our quaint Airbnb in Green Point is perfect. We have a doorman and so much space. We’re on the 9th floor with a balcony and our hosts left us a chilled bottle of South African Sauvignon Blanc. You can’t beat that or the price! Mom tried giving me the big room since this is my trip, but I took the room with the view of table mountain.

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I spent the night swiping my credit card and planning the next few days’ adventures. We will likely have some rain, but we won’t let that stop us!