I’ve just spent 2 days with a family of tourists and I’m still not quite sure why they came to Cape Town. They were good decent people but left me more than just a bit frustrated. This was a last-minute booking, no planning or prior discussion.
Apparently they were here to see animals. Wild animals. Problem is, they didn’t research at all in advance so hadn’t a clue that the best game reserves and safaris are not to be found down here but in the Kruger National Park which is many miles away to the north. Cape Town is famous for many wonderful things but authentic game viewing is not one of them. They hadn’t actually ever heard of Kruger. In fact they wanted to go to the zoo. Except we don’t have one. So, we first spent a day at Cape Point where I happily showed them a group of bontebok a few metres away from us, along with some ostriches on the beach and baboons on the road, but they didn’t think much of those.
They asked for a safari so the next day we went to a small game reserve just 2 hours from the city. It’s not the ideal way to see game but it’s all we have. The property is small enough that the rangers always know where the animals are and you can see almost everything in just 2 hours.
Within minutes of starting our game drive we had seen zebras, giraffe, wildebeest, springbok and eland. Clients didn’t say much, didn’t listen to the guide, but took a lot of photos with an iPad. I hadn’t even brought a camera and my phone stayed in my bag. I amused myself by looking for game.
Suddenly, I spotted a blesbok in a dry water hole and called out to the ranger. He drove closer and as we approached we noticed a very young calf with the blesbok. Our ranger, Hyran, became extremely excited and told us that the calf must’ve been born in the last few minutes because it wasn’t there a few hours before. Sure enough, we could even see its umbilical cord and the placenta wasn’t yet fully expelled from the mother. I whipped out my camera. Mother started moving away very rapidly with the newborn stumbling along behind so we stopped and didn’t go any closer. Hyran and I were beside ourselves, not least of all me for having spotted it first!! Hyran explained that this was extremely good news because the park only has 2 blesbok. Clients didn’t care one little bit and asked to move on. Where are the lions? they wanted to know.
So, we drove to the lions. In their big enclosure, one old male was lying next to the track, didn’t even move as we stopped next to it. Client, who had asked to see lions close-up, freaked out and asked that we move on. The other 2 lions were high on a koppie so all we saw was their silhouettes. Then we saw 2 elephants quite close-up playing, as young elephant males do, but client was very scared that they would turn on us, so we drove on. We saw rhinos from a distance but they started walking in our direction, so we drove on because client was scared. This reserve has a rhino conservation project and Hyran is closely involved in it and I asked him a lot of questions, but the client was not interested, so we moved on.
The ‘safari’ ended with a visit to a rehabilitation enclosure where 3 lions are being looked after being rescued from canned lion hunting. Client was happy now: lions, very close-up but behind a fence. Perfect. If they’d only said so from the start, I would’ve taken them to that lion park place just outside town and they could’ve spent the whole day taking photos of lions behind fences.
On the way home I stopped on Du Toit’s Kloof for a look at the view. Client looked down and asked if we were back in Cape Town.
“Not yet,” I said, “Cape Town is over there, see where Table Mountain is?”
Turns out they’d been here for almost a week, staying in Green Point, and hadn’t noticed, let alone visited, Table Mountain.
I think the blesbok and her calf saved my sanity yesterday.