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Game and Wildlife Encounters

This category includes posts and reviews about game lodges and South Africa’s fabulous national parks, nature and game reserves. South Africa boasts a huge collection of wildlife regions encompassing every possible landscape from deserts to forests … Visit SA-Venues.com for more information about South Africa Game Reserves.

Monday, 8 December 2014

10 best places to see wild dogs in South Africa

Probably the most distinctive feature of the African wild dog is its big, round ears. They’re nothing like a domestic dog’s.

They’re nothing like a wolf’s either, yet this beautiful Cape hunting dog, or painted dog as it’s also known, is given the Latin name Lycaon pictus, meaning ‘painted wolf-like animal’, because it is closest in nature to a wolf.

Their hide is different from a dog’s too – covered with irregular patches of black, brown, red, white and yellow fur. Wild dogs have a black, furrow-like vertical line on the forehead between the eyes that is rather endearing. And they have only four toes per foot, unlike the five toes of domestic dogs.

Catching a glimpse of one is difficult. The wild dog is southern Africa’s most endangered large carnivore, and has all but disappeared from most of its original range… Continued

Friday, 24 October 2014

South Africa’s elusive aardvark – 7 places to see it

The aardvark. The only surviving member of the prehistoric species Tubulidentata.  It looks like a rabbit crossed with a piglet and a kangaroo, and is sometimes called an African antbear, or a Cape anteater.  Actually, its name comes from the Afrikaans meaning ‘earth pig’ or ‘ground pig’, due in no small part to its habit of burrowing under the ground to avoid the heat of the day (they only come out at night).

Despite its name, the aardvark is not even vaguely related to the pig, nor the South American anteater, despite looking fairly similar (only smaller). In fact, its closest living relatives are elephant shrews, dassies, elephants and tenrecs (a Madagascan animal that resembles a hedgehog, shrew or mouse).

So, if you’ve managed to spot an aardvark in your life time, I’m impressed… Continued

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

South Africa’s peace parks – top 5 parks that transcend borders

Peace parks, also known as Transboundary Protected Areas (TBPA), allow animals to migrate freely between neighbouring countries in a return to their natural migration patterns. They promote tourism and goodwill between neighbouring countries.

It is also a potential tool to save a deteriorating ecology. Once parties or countries involved realise the importance of biological diversity, they are more likely to co-operate.  Environmental cooperation, in turn, can help resolve political and territorial conflicts. Sharing physical space and management responsibilities sustains peace among countries.

Real-life examples of such successes include the Seslous-Niassa Wildlife Corridor, and the Emerald Triangle conservation zone in Indochina.

But the bonus for visitors is the increased access to a greater variety of game, and far greater variety of wildlife habitats.

South Africa has eight peace parks, and one in the making. All are worthy of a visit. Here is more on 5 of them: Continued

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

South Africa’s four small wild cats – where to see them

The big cats in South Africa receive a lot of attention. In fairness lions, leopards and cheetah deserve the focus; most of these top predators are in danger – we live in their space, we hunt them illegally and kill them when they prey on livestock.

But South Africa is also home to four smaller cats – the African wild cat, the black-footed cat (now known as the small spotted cat), the caracal, and the serval. To this list I wanted to add the civet and genet but they are not, in fact, cats at all. Instead they belong to a family known as Viverrids, related to the mongoose and meerkatContinued

Monday, 2 June 2014

South Africa’s rare Riverine rabbit – 7 places to see it

One of the most endangered mammals on Earth, the riverine rabbit is found only in the Karoo.

There are thought to be less than 250 of these rare creatures left. And few people can claim the privilege of having seen one. Found mostly in dry riverbeds in the arid, central Karoo in an area that has been almost completely converted to agriculture, the riverine rabbit is under pressure to survive.

None of its traditional habitat has, up until now, been protected within a national or provincial nature reserve. The rabbits are found only on private farmland, private reserves or in isolated pockets of no more than 50 rabbits in a number of areas in the Western Cape… Continued

Monday, 26 May 2014

10 top places to see leopard in South Africa

The leopard: a solitary creature that because of its preference for living in dense bush, and its nocturnal habits, remains well hidden and seldom, if ever, seen earning it the labels: secretive and elusive.

They are strong, comfortable in trees, and adept climbers who think nothing of hauling their kill up into branches. Closely related to lions, tigers and jaguars they are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. Outside of Africa, many of them are endangered.

There is a long history in South Africa of conflict between farmers with live stock and leopards. There is also little information about leopard populations or their conservation status.

Tourists who come to South Africa expecting leopard interaction are disappointed.  Whilst numerous places offer up close and personal moments with elephant, lions and cheetah, leopards very seldom put in an appearance for photo moments.

On the whole, a bit of sleuth work might pay off if you intend spotting a leopard.

But you are more likely to see leopard in South Africa at one of these 10 places: Continued

Monday, 12 May 2014

Where to see the Big Cats in South Africa

South Africa’s big cats – the lion, leopard and cheetah – are the reason so many people visit South Africa. However spotting them is not always as simple as visiting a game reserve, particularly if you want to see the leopard, who is by nature elusive.

Game reserves are for those for whom the excitement of seeing the cats in their own territory, whether you spot them or not, is all important. Whilst for those who want to see cats up close and personal, the sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres are a good idea. Continued

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Five Safari Breaks Near To You

All my life I had read Wilbur Smith novels, watched programmes like 50/50 and National Geographic (filmed right in my backyard) and craved the experience of the “bush.” I was a city boy though. So though I craved the experienced I never made the effort to get out there – thinking I could just satisfy my thirst with another chapter / episode or magazine. The truth of the matter is that the real wonder of a South African safari can hardly be done justice through pictures or the written word. It has to be experienced first hand,

Last year I gave in and headed out to the Kruger National Park, the largest game reserve in the country, and came back a different spirit. To be right alongside these majestic creatures, to smell the, to witness them feeding – be it on leaves or a fresh kill (equally exhilarating), playing with their young and going about their daily lives was incredibly special. I remember my wife and wishing that all South Africans would get the opportunity to witness what we had. And the truth is, we all can. Continued

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Top 5 wildlife parks in South Africa (other than Kruger)

South Africa has 700 publically owned reserves. The list includes 19 national parks. Over and above that are at least another 200 private reserves.

Making a choice as to which ones to visit can be rather difficult. As a consequence most visitors simply head to the Kruger National Park – it’s an obvious choice.

South Africa is hugely diverse. It’s habitats range from the intense heat and red sand dunes of the Kalahari to the subtropical wetlands of the Elephant Coast. It has great swathes of mountain belts like the Drakensberg and the Cape Fold Mountains, densely forested kloofs, heaving waterfalls, and savanna grasslands that extend to meet the horizon.

Within this medley are a myriad protected areas that house game.

We list the five wildlife parks in South Africa we consider worthy of a visit, and why… Continued

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The elusive Knysna elephants – do they exist?

It is a bit like tracking down the Yeti, or Big Foot – trying to find out about the Knysna elephants. Information about them is inadequate, tends to lapse into lengthy descriptions about their history, or is shrouded in mystery.

There are those who say they are so elusive that, if indeed they are there, they have yet to make their presence known.

Very little is conclusive about them. As a result, they have become figures of myth and legend; a mystery. Some people believe they do not exist at all… Continued

Thursday, 3 April 2014

10 Best Places To See Cheetahs In South Africa

The Cheetah: fastest land animal on earth over short distances; can reach a speed of 120 kilometres an hour; measures two metres from the snout to the end of its tail; weighs between 40 – 60kgs; is the only cat with semi-retractable claws, and has a spotted coat.

Cheetah are listed as Vulnerable, and Critically Endangered in North Africa and Asia.

Cheetahs prefer open plains where they run down their prey, but they can function as well in savanna woodland. They no longer occur in almost 80 percent of their historic range in Africa, although they have been reintroduced in about 38 reserves in South Africa. However, their populations are small and isolated… Continued

Monday, 30 December 2013

Why I love the Kruger National Park

Why I Love Kruger

Why I Love Kruger

As young girl, I first visited the Kruger National Park with my parents and brother.  We stayed in a camp just outside and drove in during the day seeking out animals and waiting for them to burst out from the bushes.

For large chunks of the drive we didn’t see much except bush, acacia trees and large rocks forming little mountains. But each time my brother and I laid eyes on an elephant herd making its way across the road or a giraffe bending over to eat the leaves of trees, it was magical.

This year, I was able to visit this wildlife haven again.  We stayed inside the park at Jock Safari Lodge and went out before the sun rose and again before sunset to witness animals at their most active times… Continued

Monday, 9 December 2013

Know where to see the BIG FIVE – we list the top reserves

The Big Five are not only  the most popular animals in Africa, they’re also among the most dangerous. Yet people fly into South Africa intent on sighting them. Not everyone manages to tick them off the list (the leopard in particular is rather elusive).

We give you the lowdown on exactly where to find the BIG FIVE… Continued

Monday, 25 November 2013

The secret life of South Africa’s little five

What do the leopard tortoise, buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, ant lion and rhinoceros beetle have in common with their large counterparts?  Very little other than the names they share. What they are is a sharp reminder of the neglected small creatures – the “forgotten inhabitants of the African savannah”.

It’s human nature to support the little guy. In psychology terms this is known as the appeal of the underdog; the Davids (as opposed to Goliaths) of this world… Which is one explanation for Rael Loon’s concept of South Africa’s Little Five. As opposed to the Big Five – one of the major reasons tourists visit the country.

The massive Big Five push (just about every tourism document in the country promises sightings on safari) needed a nudge to return to the heart of the issue  – that of conservation. Continued

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

On Safari in Sibuya Game Reserve

So when the day came for us to check in to Sibuya Game Reserve in Kenton on Sea, we completely missed the boat.  Literally, at 11:30am the boat chartered all the guests across from the reception to the reserve.  Except for us.  We arrived late from Hogsback and Ranger Chris came all the way this side of the river to collect us in time for lunch.

As we boated along the river, looking out for birds and even game beside the water’s edge I realised that so much of this game reserve’s beauty lies in the fact that you can only access it by water. We stopped to see a tiny malachite kingfisher perched above his nest on the bank.  It wasn’t long before he took off, his bright blue and orange colours disappeared quickly… Continued