We skipped the long trek to get to Kruger National Park for our safari. I know, I know, it is suppose to be the best place for safari; a huge area to self drive, breathtaking views and one of the most famous places in South Africa to see the big five, but it just wasn’t in the plans with the time we had. Having said that, we couldn’t have picked a better game reserve than Amakhala in the Eastern Cape just outside of Port Elizabeth. A chat with my aunt pointed me in their direction and I can’t thank her enough for telling me about it.
There were a few options for places to stay, but my group of friends settled on Woodbury Tented Camp and I can’t imagine a more perfect spot. Not only were the views simply amazing, the tents spacious and cozy, but we saw three of the big five on our game drives, not too shabby!
Our days started early with a personal wake up call outside out tent so we had enough time to bundle up (it is winter after all!) before breakfast and our first game drive. I mean, when I was packing for an African winter my thoughts were, “how cold could it really get?”. I’m here to tell you that it get quite cold. Cold enough for me to bundle up in 5 layers (pretty much all the clothes I packed), wear two layers of socks (one wool) under my sneakers, and a pair of wool mittens. Thankfully it did warm up once the sun was out and I was able to shed a few layers off and set aside the mittens, but boy oh boy was I thankful I threw those things in at the last minute thinking I would never need them!
Bundled up and fed, we would climb into our jeep and our guide Seamus took us out. He was so good, he spotted animals, gave information about the reserve and the animals, and answered our endless questions.
We had so much fun on the game drives searching for animals. The girls in my group were great at finding cheetah, elephants, lions and countless other animals. My claim to fame was spotting grass, an old wall and warthogs that were literally everywhere. Is that a cheetah on the hill? Nope, just a warthog. Is that the lion we have been searching for all morning? Nope, just a warthog. If you’re looking for a warthog in the wild, I’m your girl.
Besides the animals which were an obvious highlight, I was excited to learn that the reserve also has a conservation center. School groups come to learn about the animals, in particular the rhinos that roam the reserve that are aggressively hunted by poachers. We saw the antipoacher unit in full force while we visited with men on the ground and a truck that drove around the reserve. School groups that visit the reserve not only go to the center, they get the chance to go out on a game drive, giving some student their first chance to see wild animals. What an amazing program, how do I sign up my second graders for this field trip?
I will always think fondly on my time at the Amakhala Game Reserve. It was an opportunity of a lifetime to go on safari and see so many wild animals. Maybe one day I will return.