After a long journey, to be exact a. A 10.5 hour flight from Perth to Johannesburg, 4 hours waiting in the lounge for a pickup, and then a 4 hour drive to Madikwe Game Reserve, I finally made it to Mosethla Bush Camp and Eco Lodge with a warm welcome, with hopes of seeing the Big 5 in person! For those that don’t know the big 5, they are the Lion, Elephant, Black Rhino, Leopard, and Cape Buffalo. And are named the Big 5, due to their difficulty of hunters to hunt these animals on foot.
The weather was so-so, as it has been raining, uncharacteristically for the past 2 weeks, making many of the tracks more difficult and muddier than usual.
Before we even made our way to the main road we caught a pack of Elephants, all colored deep brown because of the mud. These are typically adult female elephants and the young elephants, as the adult males don’t travel with them.
Shortly thereafter our guide asked if we wanted to forego her usual drive, in search of 4 cheetah’s that were spotted a far drive away from the camp, we all enthusiastically said yes! This felt like a true safari as a number of guides helped to find the cheetah and we made a bee-line for them, whilst catching some other wildlife along the way. After some deft maneuvering from our guide, we were well positioned to view the Cheetahs resting just before sunset. These four Cheetahs are brothers and there is a 5th on the reserve that is not related and stays away. Most of the cheetahs introduced here have not survived because of the lions, but they are introducing a female shortly to hopefully increase the population.
On this drive we also saw Giraffes, Warthogs, Zebras, Impalas, and at night on the way back to camp we caught a glimpse of a few White Rhino. But did not get a good picture opportunity because of said darkness. The guides are not supposed to shine the spotlight on Rhino because of their poor eyesight, and it would only make it worse, and it also makes us look like poachers. Our guide was nice enough to shine a red-light (which is less obtrusive to the Rhino’s vision).
Day 2 had us up at 5:30 AM, for a 6 AM departure, which I had no problem waking up for, giddy as could be!
We saw Zebras, Impalas, Kudu, Wildebeast, Giraffes, Elephants, and the big kicker for me was catching two sister Lions up close. Our guide caught them walking down the road from about 300 meters away and we stationed ourself on the road to watch them walk by. They paid us no attention whatsoever, just a few feet away from our Land Rover. One of the lions was pregnant and was bringing up the rear very gingerly. Apparently the other sister is around 16 years old and is starting to get quite grumpy, as recently it roared at a truck that got too close. They are going to neuter this particular cat due to it’s age and proclivity to get cranky. Once our guide got on the radio to let everyone know about the spotting, the trucks shortly followed. Eventually the lions peeled off the path, and our guide wanted to give them some privacy, and we let them on their way. Additionally, she did not want to find her way into the bush and get stuck near some territorial lions. Apparently they were on their way back to the den as the older of the two siblings recently had cubs. Probably a smart move, but another part of me wishes we made our way into the deep bush to explore.
Shortly after spotting the lions we ran into a Bull Elephant who was mighty aggressive and took a couple of charges towards our car, needless to say we didn’t stick around long to see how angry he might get. It’s mating season for the elephants, so the males are extra aggressive this time of year.
The 2nd drive of the day we caught some White Rhino, Giraffes, and another angry Elephant that charged at us, chasing us away, blowing his trunk at us. The big find was once again the Cheetahs, this time in a picturesque setting amongst a tree and an anthill.
The 5th and final game drive for me got us up close and personal to a pride of lions feasting on a Wildebeest that they had killed the previous evening. Just nearby was a hyena that wasn’t so lucky, as he was looking for some scraps, the lions decided to have their way with him and killed him and left him for dead on the side of the road, perhaps a message to all those trying to do the same. We then spent ~30 minutes looking for a Leopard, which is a rare sighting due to the fact that there are roughly 20 or so on the reserve, and they are stealthy hunters that typically hunt alone. We also did not get to see any Cape Buffalo, so at the end of the trip I saw 3 of the big 5. Technically 2 I guess, since we saw a White Rhino and not a Black Rhino.
All in all it was truly an amazing experience and I will definitely go on another trip like this, albeit probably somewhere else, so I can increase my odds of seeing everything. I’ll also make my next trip in the opposite time of year to increase my odds of visibility, the bush was really quite thick and lush. However, as an introduction into a safari this was perfect. There was no malarial risk, the guides were amazing at spotting animals, and on the game reserve they have free reign to drive anywhere they want, unlike at some place like Kruger in a self-drive park, where you’re relegated to only the roads.
The lodge I stayed at was just what I needed as well. It was the Mosethla Bush and Eco Lodge, and for the money I paid, I definitely got a good bang for my buck. I wasn’t looking for luxury when I booked this, my main objective was viewing the animals, and having the most authentic safari experience possible, and they delivered way above my expectations. For anyone going to Madikwe I would definitely suggest staying at Mosethla!
Check out some additional select shots from the safari below as well! The DSLR purchase was well worth it!