NEVER before have we had such an incredible encounter with elephants than at Kariega Game Reserve.
Kariega was our first foray into private reserves in South Africa and boy did it impress. The park is located in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, along the Garden Route, and stretches across ten-thousand hectares of wilderness to provide a diverse landscape for animals to thrive.
Our new mate Dirk from The Safari Company worked with the reserve to host us. The night before going in we had a wonderful time with him and his beautiful wife and children being treated to our first serious South African family braii. Here in Bushmans River Mouth we learnt the art of wood stacking and fire starters to achieve the perfect BBQ. Although we were perfectly happy to sleep in the Troopy his kind parents offered us a soft bed for the night and in the morning, feeling refreshed, we gave Dirk SENIOR a hug goodbye and hit the road to Kariega.
Our private safari vehicle awaited and our guide Tayla sat ready to roll – all we had to do is sit back in bliss! A massive pinch yourself moment
For all the fellow travellers and overlanders out there reading this, we highly recommended making room in your budget to sit back like a king and have someone drive you around. The wonderful thing is that the guide KNOWS STUFF and happily shares their knowledge with you.
^ The Kariega rig and Tayla
Of our time inside the reserve we had two incredible highlights that I would love to share with you.
Firstly // We shared some time with Thandi the World famous Rhino – who is unfortunately well known for all the wrong reasons.
A tiny dirt track that opened out onto a waterhole led us to her and her two friends – another Rhino and her baby. It was equal parts exciting as it was sad. An incredible sight to see these majestic beasts up close, but so sad to see that Thandi’s horn had been hacked away and her friend’s chopped off to prevent her the same suffering that Thandi had endured.
Not so long ago Thandi made international news. Early one morning a Kariega guide had come to see where the wildlife were at. He came across three rhinos laying on the ground. ‘Strange that they are still sleeping’ he must have thought, then as he got closer he saw blood and mince. The Rhino’s had been attacked by poachers, one dead, one later died, and somehow against all odds Thandi survived.
Sitting in the Kariega vehicle staring at Thandi was hugely emotional. All of us were silent in processing just what this animal had endured. Tayla told us that the park has decided to trim all their rhino’s horns as a way of preserving the species and deterring poachers. She conceded however, that at USD$30 000 a kilo that even the stump that was left was still at risk.
Moments like these make you think about the idiocy of the human race. Studies have been done recently that reveal Rhino horn is the equivalent of human toe nail. And yet, misinformation, is putting these beasts at serious risk.
And then… // Crawling along a track – trees either side – surrounded by knee length grass… BAM! a family of elephants came walking our way. Firstly there was Mr. Interested who led the group and walked along the towards us. Then a few others stopped to sniff at us, all so close I could have simply raised my arm to have a pat from the open topped vehicle. It was a heart racing moment and I couldn’t believe Dirk and Zone’s well behaved kids hadn’t let out so much as a squeal!
We joined the family of 30 elephants for half an hour. Watching, hearing, smelling… being. It was magnificent. The baby of the group stole my heart. He was still learning to walk and swing about his trunk. At one point he rambled up a hill – falling, skidding – only to come up with ears blazing and trumpet flung in our direction! The cutest of cute.
^ This Springbok was chewing the bones of another animal to get calcium, a very rare sighting
^ Who you lookn’ at?
^ Springbok with some freshies
^ Thandi and friends. See how the horns go from one to some to none?
^ Mr.Interested, the Elephants of Kariega
^ We watched this little fellow using his legs, ears and trumpet for one of the first times
^ Picturesque Kariega
^ Gareth and I with the awesome Dirk, Zone’ and kids from The Safari Company
^ Oh, Hi!
^ SO good to be in a private safari rig
^ The Safari Co.
^ Land Cruisers unite!
Kariega Private Game Reserve is a must if you visit South Africa – for the intimate encounters with Rhino, the touching tale of Thandi and for the HOLY FRIGGN’ SHIT BALLS BAT MAN moments with Kariega’s special elephants who take you into their fold.
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* Full Disclosure: We were hosted as guests of Kariega Game Reserve and The Safari Company, all opinions are our own and, as you can tell, we absolutely loved them both!
** Note: Public guests can not drive through the park in their own vehicles – this is a private game reserve with exclusive safari vehicle drives and lodges that show you the best of the park.