One thing on my bucket list was to go on safari… and not completely rough it. I wanted to see African animals, I wanted to feel like I was in the wild, and I wanted all the creature comforts including a hot shower to look forward to at the end of the day. So, after booking our flights to South Africa to spend Christmas and New Years with relatives, I got my research on and scoured the internet for an affordable yet incredible place to experience just that.
I came across this gem: Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. Thatched roof lodges, infinity-edge pool, rolling hills, and adorable rhinos (yes, I think rhinos are adorable!) We booked a One Night Full Board Package including two game drives, all meals, and luxury tented accommodation. Easy! Fast forward a few months, a 27-hour flight, the craziness that is family at Christmas, and we were finally on our way driving 4.5 hours east from Cape Town.
When we reached the entry to Botlierskop, my excitement level was through the roof! I felt as though I had entered Jurassic Park, and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. We had arrived long before check-in so spontaneously decided to have a look at what activities were available – fishing, hiking, horseback safaris, elephant-back rides, feeding the elephants, and our choice: a one hour Catwalk with three of the most beautiful one-year-old lions.
Seriously, I was in love. I don’t know why they gave us sticks “in case they got too close” because there was no way I was using it when they came rubbing up against my legs. Those big kitties were my favourite and truly there wasn’t a trace of fear inside me (or perhaps adrenaline had overtaken). I just wanted to give them a good scratch and appreciate the way they interacted. Our guide was fantastic and informative, and the handlers encouraged the lions to climb trees and play together.
We hopped into safari vehicles with several others and the anticipation of what would be around the corner. We saw four of the Big Five including lion, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros. We had coffee and rusks with awkwardly-graceful giraffes, and laid eyes on rare black impala as they bounced effortlessly through long grass. We popped champagne with a baby elephant, and spied an array of antelope, zebra, and wildebeest. And, on our last game drive, we cuddled into checked blankets as we scoured the land for lions who were hiding in the morning mist – let me tell you that a fully grown male with a mane of glory is magnificent!
The rest of our stay continued our incredible first impression. We pulled ourselves across a small river on a platform to get to our luxury tented accommodation. A mammoth mosquito-curtained bed stood proudly in the centre of the room, with a large tub and outdoor shower at the back. Staff collected us from the other side of the river when we were ready for meals (because the animals are free to roam), and the food was beyond amazing. A degustation dinner fit for a king, with breakfast and lunch to the same standard, all within a very African-themed lodge.
The game reserve is 3000ha and comprises of over 26 different species of animals and more than 200 bird species. The scenery is breathtaking. The accommodation is first class. The staff are pure professionals. Botlierskop Private Game Reserve would make for a honeymoon of a lifetime! We could have stayed there forever…
Images courtesy of Ms Chevron