One of our friend’s mother lives in South Africa and when we were invited to join them on a trip we jumped at the chance. We were able to get favourable rates at the Baobab Ridge Reserve. This was the chance of a lifetime to see Africa wildlife at close quarters. The accommodation is incredible. Take a look at the video below. The reserve is a private property in the heart of the Kruger. There are game drives at dawn and dusk every day.
Every photograph in this blog was taken over a four day period. Click on each image to see an expanded version.
A Video From The Baobab Ridge Crew
Unexpected Drama From The Start
It’s a long flight from the UK to Johannesburg and perhaps we were all a little tired. The drive to the Kruger was four hours and gradually the traffic began to thin out. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a tractor swung into our path and we were flipped over, tumbling across the road. Miraculously, none of us was badly hurt.
Passing cars ferried us in ones and twos to our accomodation while a friend and I waited for the recovery vehicle. It was unnerving as the light began to fail and we realised we were just outside the Kruger.
I wasn’t sure what to expect on our first early morning drive, never having been on a safari before. We piled onto the adapted landrover (three rows of benches and no roof) and slowly drove out of the gate and into the park. Within seconds we saw these two giraffe. It was spine-tingling to be immediately in the midst of such huge animals metres from where we had been sleeping.
Before long we were ticking off several of the larger species including a close quarters encounter with a buffalo. We were close enough to smell it. Our guide had reassured us that although we would be getting close to the animals, we were not in danger so long as we didn’t stand up. The animals appear to perceive the vehicles as another animal species and don’t detect the individuals sitting on the seats.
Good to know when you’re this close to these massive beasts.
Click on the images for an expanded version…
There were quite a few lions around and the driver made a point of getting extremely close. I could almost have reached out and touched this one. Given the evhicle was tilted downhill and I was closest to the lion, it was unnerving. It’s rather baffling that they seem so unpreturbed — unlike me.
This male had been feeding and was lying beside a dead buffalo. The power and strength these animals have is stunning.
Kudu, Steenbok and Gemsbock and Impala
There were plenty of what the wildlife documentaries call ‘prey animals’ around. The Impala is athletic and resembles a deer. The Steenbok (below) makes me think of Mr Tumnus from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Gemsbok are large animals but I found he Kudu to be the most interesting. These too, are large beasts. We would often find them as here opposite, at quite close quarters, nibbling on leaves.
During our time in the Baobab Reserve, the only glimpse we has of Zebra was above. Our guide was worried by how dry it was and perhaps the Zebra had moved on in search of water. There were rather more Zebra to seen once we were in the wider Kruger. The land was parched and although this made it easier to see the animals, it was clear they were suffering in the dry conditions.
This photograph was taken outside of the Baobab Reserve as we headed north up to the Olifants Reserve in the main Kruger Park. It was late afternoon when we reached a bridge spanning a river and given we had a clear view up and down the bridge on either side, we figured it was safe to get out of our car. The scene was rather like a summer afternoon on an English river — except there were baboons, hippos and crocodiles everywhere. The hippos were busy either garzing on the banks or lying face down in the water.
Dawn and Dusk
As I’ve mentioned, each dawn and dusk we would head out. At the end of each drive, we would stop somewhere and have a drink, while still in the bush. It was a thrill to be on foot and out of the vehicle while still surrounded by animals. On our last night they arranged a BBQ for us (brai) in the bush. As we sat eating our supper in the darkness, there was a sudden bellowing close at hand. Our guides rushed off, leaving us alone for a few nerve shredding moments. They returned, and urged us to get quickly into our vehicles. Two lions had killed a buffalo less than fifty metres from where we were eating. That close encounter was a fitting end to our stay.
We finally found a leopard on our thrid morning and followed as best we could as it stolled languidly through the bush. It was difficult to spot, as its beautiful coat made such a great job of blending in with the dappled light and confusion of the thorny undergrowth. I just happened to be pointing my camera at this branch when he walked into view. The branch makes a perfect frame and was such a highlight for me.