The abundance of game on the reserve is the result of Africa's biggest game relocation project from the 1970s. Critics use this to argue that the game park lacks in authenticity. The fact that this was a preserve made me happy because it's obvious the animals are protected. They are also in their natural habitat and wild. This is not a petting zoo!
Rhino, leopard, lion, buffalo and elephant make up what is called Africa's Big Five. The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is home to all of them. Pilanesberg is a prime location for viewing lions. These stately creatures can often be spotted padding along the reserve's roads.
Despite our best efforts and sharp eyes, the day Paul and I were there we were weren't lucky enough to see any lions. There were no cat sightings by any of the people we spoke to that day. We were told that many visitors to the park spot whole prides of lions on game drives. The elephant and giraffe populations are large too, and we were fortunate enough to see many, many of both.
We took an escorted ride through the park in an open lorry like the one in the picture above. Our guide rode up front and had a loaded high-power rifle on the dash of the truck. Before starting out we were given instructions about some of the more dangerous animals we might encounter. He told one story of a tourist who had been attacked by a lion. Whether it was true, who knows, but we paid close attention to his instructions.
Soon after we headed out, as an elephant came toward the truck, the guide told us to basically stay seated, be quiet and don't take any photos because he had the power to overturn the truck if he felt like it. Sure enough he walked right along side the truck with his eye level with us. It was obvious he was looking into the vehicle as he walked by. The photo below of the elephant walking away was the only one I got of him!
This was a "maternity herd" of elephants, just mothers and babies. We watched them for a long time as they fed on the vegetation. They don't just munch on the trees, they wrap their trunks around them and yank them out by the roots. We've all heard elephants on television and maybe even in the zoos, but to hear mothers call to their babies in the wild is something I'll never forget.
The giraffes were my favorites by far. We actually watched two bulls fighting. They look so graceful as they swing their heads around but then they use them as mallets on each other. We could hear the sounds of them striking each other.
Here they were on the move across the grassland. I love that the one all the way to the right was looking straight at us. My favorite shot of the zebra all in a line. In the back is the lake in what was a volcano.