Into the Wild: Game Reserves in South Africa

South Africa’s private game reserves, areas designated for conservation and safari sightseeing form the middle ground between the untamed wilderness and the protected home for animals, enriching the wildlife experience. The game reserve is dotted with a variety of private lodges, ranging from rustic bed and breakfasts to luxury five star accommodations. All these lodges, however, share a common promise of an up close and personal interaction with Africa’s wild bushland. Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, one of South Africa’s many game regions, has established itself as a blue-chip safari destination. Sharing land with the Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand provides a full opportunity to become immersed in the picturesque wildlife. The private lodges nearby plan visitors’ experiences with varied activities, including the daily two open land-rover game drives, one scheduled at dawn and one at dusk. While the land-rover drives may appear rather unsafe for the visitors at first, LeAnne, the Public Relations Manager at one of the lodges, said, “The animals do not realize the passengers could be a part of their lunch. The animals are fairly used to seeing motored vehicles but not human beings.” The drives are accompanied by the experienced tracker and ranger, like Soli and George, who are employees at the lodge that LeAnne works for. Trackers and rangers watch out for the animals in the wild and ensure safety of the passengers as well as the animals. During one of the drives, Soli whispered to George about the male lion walking among the high dry grasses on their path. George then pulled the land-rover back to avoid harming the lion, who was about to mate, continued driving off-road. In hot pursuit of the lion, George parked the land-rover and kept a reasonable distance with the lion. The radio then started to crackle, indicating that the vehicles of the other private lodges were also aware of the lion’s position and were headed the same way. While the land-rovers headed to the spot, the male lion lay down next to his mate. The passengers were soon after able to see the spectacle of the lions mating in front of their eyes. Such scenes like lions mating in their natural habitat or leopards gnawing on the bones of their prey, to name a few examples, are unique to the game reserves, which provides an opportunity that cannot be found in zoos or animal parks. The experience is made possible mostly through the careful approach to the animals led by the ranger and tracker duo. George emphasized the importance of attentive approach by suggesting to place oneself in the animal’s perspective. “Think about the animals as if they are human; put yourself in their shoes. If there is a stranger standing at your doorstep, trust me, you will become very defensive as well. It’s the same thing with the wild animals, say, a leopard. You stand under their tree, they’ll pounce and you’ll be down before you know it. They don’t attack if you don’t prompt them to. If I have to take out my shotgun, then you have done something very, very wrong,” said George. Along with other South African game reserves, Sabi Sand Game Reserve is one of the few unique places today on earth where people can seek for visible insight into what wilderness is like.