Johannesburg - Never a dull moment in the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve! Certainly the excitement we experienced at Black Rhino Game Lodge will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
For starters, a huge bull elephant named Nkemele (“wait for me”) decided he wanted a change of pace and flattened the entry gate before going on a rampage of eating aloes, destroying tamboti trees and drinking water from the swimming pool. Staff tried to remove him by making a lot of noise, throwing a few stones and firing a paint-ball gun.
Nkemele was unfazed by all this attention, which only seemed to spur him into more action.
Lodge staff ensured that guests from Switzerland, France, Australia and many other countries were safe and not threatened by the intruder.
Although head chef Jacques Botha was late for work one day as Nkemele stared at him through his window.
“There was no way I was coming out with the elephant outside so I phoned for a rescue team,” said Botha, who took the incident in his stride and prepared another sumptuous breakfast.
Nkemele, who is 40 years old, is one of nine elephants brought to the reserve from the Kruger National Park many years ago.
If the events in camp were not exciting enough, there were plenty of thrills for guests on the game drives with the competent ranger, Hannes, laying on a veritable game banquet.
On the first night we were treated to a close encounter with a black mamba with Hannes, a trained snake handler, ensuring we got a close-up view. The next day things got even better; a rare brown hyena, a pride of nine lions in clear view near a waterhole, and a lazy leopard stretching along a branch of a weeping wattle tree just 30m away.
The photographic feast continued with lots of elephant and white rhino. Black rhino are rarely seen but we hope to view one on our next visit, as well as wild dog.
If all this was not enough for one day we met Kingsley, the tame barn owl, who landed on our table amid a super dinner of rump steak, oxtail and many other treats. Kingsley enjoyed a few titbits before moving on to the next table.
Then the rangers showed guests a rather large puff adder they had found too close for comfort before releasing it well away from humans.
The lodge, set within a tamboti forest (one tree is estimated to be 480 years old) and next to a waterhole that attracts numerous species of birds and animals, has 18 private luxurious bedroom suites, all with air-conditioning and DStv.
General manager Riaan du Plessis is understandably proud of his staff and the new projects, including a large hide overlooking the waterhole, and the planned link-up with Madikwe game reserve through a conservation corridor.
His staff do their best to meet the needs of their guests, but requests for tigers in Africa are a little difficult to meet.
Ranger Hannes remembers that, after viewing one young leopard, a guest asked him if he could find a more mature animal.
And he was serious.
But most requests are met with a smile in an awesome environment that brings guests closer to nature than they could possibly have imagined.
Call 083 297 5020 for bookings and more information. - Sunday Independent