People often forget that we can spot wild, untamed animals right here in Joburg or in the surrounding areas. Lion, cheetah, elephant, rhino – all of these magnificent species can be spotted in various reserves and parks scattered about the province. The team decided to put a few of these places in the spotlight as they make a great day trip.
You won’t spend hours driving around and can use these places to introduce you children to wildlife and hopefully teach them the importance of conservation.
Askari is an hour’s drive from Joburg and offers the chance to interact with a number of animals. Their elephant experience is booked out well in advance and its not hard to see why – visitors get to join them through their various morning rituals and then walk with them through the bushveld. Askari also do game drives where you will have the opportunity to see lions up close. What I enjoy about Asakari’s elephant experience and game drive is that they are designed to fit humans around the daily natural routines of the animals, rather than the other way round.
While you are there, be sure to enjoy their 5-star cuisine. The breakfast and lunch buffets are fabulous. If you are a day visitor to the lodge you will need to book for animal experiences and meals in advance.
The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre – De Wildt
I highly recommend one of their wildlife experiences. I went on the guided tour in which we learned about and witnessed the feeding of various endangered animals such as wild dogs. While pricey, the tour is awesome and the funds do go to a good cause. You will marvel at the size of some of the rescued vultures (and I am referring to birds not opportunistic tow-truck drivers) and be in awe of the cheetah. I’m not sure if it is still there, but there was a rather podgy hyena on our tour – if there was a Bio-slim for animals this hyena could have used it! You will also learn about Anatolian sheep dogs. These are massive dogs that farmers now use to deter cheetahs from killing livestock. At the end of the tour we had the opportunity to have a photo taken with a cheetah called Byron and could hear him purr as we stroked him.
Krugersdorp Nature Reserve
It’s not the largest reserve but it is still home to a number of buck, zebra, hippo and buffalo. Unfortunately, some of the rhino in the reserve were poached earlier in the year. There is a lion enclosure within the reserve and there are other species one can look out for including Brown Hyena, Black Backed Jackal, and Genet. You may be lucky enough to spot a Leopard which is rumoured to have wandered through to the reserve from the Magaliesberg. If you want to make a trip of it and enjoy an a la carte lunch or perhaps have a braai, visit Ngonyama Lion Lodge which is situated within the reserve.
The Elephant Sanctuary provides a “halfway house” for young African elephants in need of a temporary home. Their vision is to release all the elephants into an environment where they can be more independent once they are older. Visitors can learn more about elephant habits, behaviour, different personalities and anatomy through up-close and personal interaction. You get an opportunity to touch, feed and even walk trunk-in-hand with these magnificent animals. There are a number of programs available including educational talks, an elephant ride or overnight experience.
Rietvlei Nature Reserve
Rietvlei Dam was built during the great depression and was completed in 1934. 40km of roads within the reserve make for a pleasant outing with the family. Game is readily seen along the roads ranging from cheetah to Rhino. Many of the roads are tarred and in good condition. Birdhides, toilets and braai facilities are available along these roads. Night drives cater for groups of 10-12 or 18-20 people. Firewood and blankets are supplied and game is tracked from open game viewing vehicles.
Any pub in Joburg South
Having been a resident of Mondeor for many years, I can tell you that you will encounter some wild animals in the South. I am related to many of them. Local sports derbies or Super 14 games at the pub are a good place to spot or start a fight. Watch out for the brandy drinkers – they tend to bite.