A close encounter
I don’t like caged anything when it comes to wild animals. It is for this reason – and with their whole-hearted support – that my children do not go to circuses. So when I learned that we were to actually ride on the elephants I was a little sceptical. We listened to the guides’ preamble about how the animals were never beaten or tied up and how they were only ‘positively reinforced’ during training. The second I got up close and personal to Jabulani, now a strapping big male elephant, and he made eye contact with me I felt an instant connection. There was such intelligence behind his languid brown eyes and the quizzical look he gave me kind of said, “So what are you doing here buddy?”. The ease with which the elephants allowed us to climb atop their backs, the way the handlers had to utter no more than a softly spoken word to get the elephants to move into position and the complete lack of any kind of instrument to beat or force the elephants into compliance soon had me convinced that this herd had never been mistreated. We set out into the bush on the backs of these majestic animals, and with the advantage of the elevated view began to enjoy a very different kind of game drive. The elephants in their natural habitat allowed us to enjoy closer encounters with game who were not at all concerned with the close proximity of the elephants. This sunset safari was truly a one-of-a-kind experience as the Jabulani Camp offers the only night safari on elephant back in the world. The next morning we awoke to the sound of a lions roar so close it could have been from inside our lapa. With our hearts still racing we set out in the Land Rover game viewer in search of the predator and not far down the dusty paths we came across three male lions sunning themselves on the already warm sand road.
Flying Our guide stopped the Landy a little way up the road, and we watched the trio languidly coming to their feet and start moving past us, close enough to touch. And then suddenly we saw it. A few hundred metres down the road the rump of a waterbuck was sticking out into the track. The lions had seen it too. Well, two of the lions. The third collapsed lazily, very close to our car, as though the walk up the road to the waterbuck was all a bit much for him so early in the morning. He wasn’t there long, however, when we spotted some movement to our right. An adult warthog emerged from the bush with her baby, clearly under the impression that the coast was clear. The warthog and the lion locked eyes and at that moment the decision was made: she made a run for it – leaving her baby, and a cloud of dust, behind. But the baby lived to see another day as the lion chose instead to pursue the mother. We all grabbed our cameras and all but fell out of the viewer to follow the action, but the lion’s heart just wasn’t into it. After running a few metres with a loping, lazy stride he gave up the chase. After all that commotion, we were more than ready for breakfast and were escorted to a dining setup in the middle of the bush, something you don’t get to see every day. A chef standing at a bush kitchen rustled up a hearty breakfast for us, with a rifle strategically placed against his prep table. The 1 866km drive from Cape Town to the Kapama Private Game Reserve will take 17 hours and 16 minutes via the N1, provided there’s no traffic. This route is tolled. The 495km journey from Johannesburg to Kapama Private Game Reserve is a duration of five hours and nine minutes via the N12 provided there’s no traffic. This route is tolled. CPT to HDS weekend round trip for a single adult will cost from R5 500 on SA Airlink Non- stop flight duration: 2hr 40min JHB to HDS weekend round trip for a single adult will cost from R4 380 Non- stop flight duration: 1hr 5min