PART 2 – SAFARI AT MADIKWE – KOPANO LODGE
As sad as we were to leave the magical Marataba Safari Lodge, the next part of our adventure awaited us, so off we went.
Here’s JJ again, taking off in that 5 seater Cessna again…
The flight was quite short, about 30 minutes, as Marataba is not far from Madikwe, here’s the map I posted earlier, so you can see how close they are.
and a very smooth landing……
Our guide, Wayne, was waiting to pick us up at Madikwe airstrip.
After a short drive of 10 minutes, we reached Kopano lodge, where we were staying.
This lodge, though very different from Marataba, is beautiful in it’s own right. Madikwe game reserve is approximately 73,000 hectares in size, so it’s 3 times the size of Marataba.
We had already seen four out of five of the big five: Cape Buffalo, Lion, Elephant and Rhino, but the leopard had remained elusive at Marataba. We also wanted to see cheetah, but had been unable to do so at Marataba.
What should we see on our very first game drive at Madikwe?
This female cheetah was relaxing in the hot afternoon sun and was not at all interested in us. Cheetahs are usually notoriously shy animals and difficult to find in a game reserve. This cheetah had a tracking collar on her neck because she was new to the park and her movements needed to be recorded. These collars are usually removed after the first year.
Half an hour later, we came across 2 lionesses relaxing under a tree.
And right after that, a herd of elephants.
And then we got caught in a thunderstorm, which was truly spectacular.
A note about elephants: they can strip huge parts of the forest bare in a matter of hours, leaving the landscape looking bereft and apocalyptic.
In the first part of this blog, which you can read here, (South Africa Part 1), I mentioned how surprised I was to see how good the camouflage of the animals was.
Here’s an illustration: we were parked here for a while….I couldn’t see much…
and then, all of a sudden, I could see….
The afternoon game drive brought a huge gift…we found 2 young leopards, brother and sister, about 1 1/2 years old, relaxing and waiting for their mother to return with food. Leopards are usually shy and very difficult to track, as their territory is not limited to the reserve. They can climb trees and jump over electric fences and move from park to park in this way.
Halfway during every game drive, we take a break, get out of the car, stretch our legs. The rangers carry coffee and biscuits in the morning and wine and snacks in the evening, so that we can relax and enjoy.
Here’s what happened on one of our after drives:
Our guide Wayne had just finished explaining to us that the park had taken in a lot of elephants from Zimbabwe in the last year, and these were known to be aggressive and charge the vehicles for no reason. These elephants had been tagged with collars so that the rangers could recognise them at a distance and avoid them.
On that day, I saw a herd of elephants heading in our direction while we were on our coffee break and out guide Wayne, after taking one look at them, said : in the car. NOW!!! He later explained that one of the females in that herd was from Zimbabwe, known to be aggressive, and she had a baby with her.
Some images from that day:
Suffice to say that we slept really well after such an interesting and busy day.
The staff at Kopano Lodge is really cool; they leave sweet notes on your bed every morning and every evening. Here’s a sample:
The next morning, we were up bright and early at 5 a.m and off on a game drive by 5.30. The morning brought an encounter with 2 lionesses who were in a playful mood.
And a family of giraffes feeding on acacia trees;
On our last game safari of the trip, we were lucky to see 2 cheetah brothers at the start of their hunt. Only the male cheetahs hunt together, the females remain solitary, which is one of the reasons cheetahs are on the endangered list.
We followed them for about 10 minutes, after which the sighting was closed, and they were left to continue on their hunt in peace.
Here are some images from our last day of safari:
The next morning, we relaxed at the pool side, before catching our afternoon flight to Johannesburg and then on to Port Elizabeth.
The pool is conveniently close to a watering hole, so we spent the morning animal watching…
That afternoon, we took a flight to Johannesburg. Here are some pictures from the air….
This was the end of the safari part of our vacation. Here’s a promotional film about the lodge where we stayed.
My next blog will be about the Garden Route that we drove for the next 2 weeks.
Click here to read it: South Africa Part 3- Garden Route