Black Rhino Game Reserve is about a 2hr drive north-west of Joburg, next door to Sun City, which was very distressing for Don; to be so close to a golf course, yet not able play and add it to his list, was a tease!
Alison drove us up to Black Rhino, along with Jayden and Niven (a school friend of Jayden’s) and we arrived early Thursday evening.
Humbu, our guide for the weekend helped unpack and got a fire started for us to relax by. We cooked dinner and Mark joined us later, driving up after work (for anyone who does bother to read this, it’s OK to skip a bit, this is even sounding boring to me).
Our first Safari drive was Friday morning, piling into the purpose built land rover. Now, our expectations had been set pretty low; we knew that this is the end of the wet season, and there is plenty of water around, so animals are spread out over the Pilanesberg National Park and Black Rhino reserve.
The grasses are also still high, so spotting animals can be difficult. We could drive around all morning and see nothing.
As soon as we turned out of our compound (our accommodation was encircled by an electric fence to keep unwanted visitors out) and onto the dirt track, we have a herd of Impala grazing by the side of the road, indifferent to our presence.
Impala are nick-named the ‘McDonalds of the bush’, as they are seen so regularly. Well at least we have seen something, it was a good omen for not just the morning, but our entire stay.
The Brown’s are bird fans and throughout the morning Alison and Jayden are prattling off bird names and mimicking bird calls. Neither of us have been into birds, but they open our eyes to the large number of varieties and remarkable sounds that bring the bush to life.
Their enthusiasm is contagious, plus they make for great photo’s with vibrant colours contrasting against the dull greens and browns of the bush.
Don’t fear, I haven’t run off and bought a bird book or binoculars just yet, but you have to appreciate everything in the bush and birds are a common companion to most animals, hitching a lift on their backs, in return cleaning out ears and pecking off fleas, mites and other parasites.
Next we spot some water buffalo hiding in the shrubs, they are rather elusive, but we see a few staring back at us through the thicket. Blue guinea fowl are strutting down the road, the blue necks are a striking colour.
We drive through one area of the reserve which is dotted with termite mounds and a mass of cobwebs strung from every bush. It reminds me of something out of a horror movie, not somewhere you would want to be stranded.
We drive down to a more open area and stop for coffee and muffins, as well as rusks (rock like biscuits that Sth African’s love, probably because they could never go stale).
As we head back into the thicker part of the bush we spot a Rhino having a nap, there are only 12 or so Rhino in the park and they are at the mercy of poachers who kill the animals to steal the horns. These end up on the black market in Asia, where they believe it is an aphrodisiac.
Sadly, a Rhino had been killed by poachers only the week before. If they don’t stop this barbaric and pointless killing, we will see the extinction of the Rhino in our lifetime. We are fortunate to see a number of them over the weekend.
One of the highlights, possibly the highlight of the weekend, is when we come to a cross road and looking to our right we see a herd of elephants making their way down the road, we stay put and they keep coming.
Humbu keeps us at a safe distance, but like the Impala, they seem unconcerned by our presence and we are in awe by how close they come. There are a number of baby elephants, which are adorable. They are unsteady on their feet and seem to trip over their trunks. Mothers keep a watchful eye on them as they wander around, often ensuring she is between our vehicle and her baby.
We watch them rip up the grass, tear branches off trees and leave behind a trail of destruction (and lots of elephant poop), as they continue past us, melting into the bush. It is remarkable how quiet elephants can be.
The daily ritual is: 7am morning drive, which includes a coffee stop, return for cooked breakfast, relax by pool or nap, lunch around 2pm which of course is accompanied by a cheeky rose, or two.
At about 4pm we depart for an afternoon drive which concludes with ‘sundowners’ (G&T’s, beer, etc) parked somewhere in the reserve watching the sunset. True to African brochures the sunsets are spectacle of vivid red, orange and pinks.
Back to the lodge for dinner and of course more drinks. I quickly realise that this is not going to be the weight loss part of the holiday and I can already feel my pants getting tight. I could write pages on our time at Black Rhino, it was a wonderful weekend and we were extremely lucky with the range of animals (& birds) we got to see.
We will probably never be able to repay the Browns for their generous hospitality (look forward to trying). Enjoy the photos (I took over 800 so lucky for all of you it takes too long to load them all)!