I have had one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life in South Africa. A safari in the Kariega Game Reserve.
The Kariega Game Reserve is a privately managed game reserve at the Eastern Cape of South Africa with a size of 10,000 hectares. About an hour drive away from Port Elizabeth. It is also well suited for a pure safari holiday.
What distinguishes Kariega from other game reserves such as Kruger National Park?
In the Kruger NP you can drive your own car through the wilderness, which I find somewhat controversial in view of the danger to humans and animals.
In Kariega you are only allowed to drive through the area with the rangers, who explain a lot about the animals and their habitats. This has the advantage that one often finds the wild animals and does not have to make privately long game drives into the unknown.
When the security gates closed behind us I saw pure green mountain valleys surrounded by the fog of the morning dew and a few giraffes drinking next to us at the waterhole. This almost surreal world of pure wilderness made me think of only one thing: „Welcome to Jurassic Park“.
It is 5 o´clock in the morning, it is 9 degrees Celsius and the fog of the thaw makes the landscape look like the set of a Hollywood movie.
We drive in a Toyota Land Cruiser, a bit outdated, without a roof, but with comfortable seats.
Today we are stalking for the lions which are said to have torn a big pack of gazelles in the night.
We drive past a white rhino family – a mother with her calf stands a good three meters away from our car, the engine is off, and we observe the beautiful pachyderms in the wild. Behind and next to me are the release sounds of the cameras. The rhinos are relaxed and do not let themselves be disturbed while grazing.
We continue on good paths for the cars, which also used by the lions, because this is more efficient. The lion is just a lazy cat, the ranger explained.
We see skeletons along the way – the ranger gives us to understand that the lions are certainly still nearby, as full as they are.
After about 45 minutes we found them, a lion pack with two females and one lion. Two of the lions come walking towards us on one of the paths.
The ranger turns off the engine and we wait. The cats don’t feel disturbed by us and keep running curiously towards us. When the lions are at our car my heart beats faster – you don’t meet a wild lion every day.
The lion strolls past the side of the car where I am sitting, less than 30cm from me, and sniffs casually if there is anything to get. My breath falters, my hands sweat wet.
The lion is relaxed and casual. He walks by and hardly appreciates us a glance.
„They are now going their round, they have already eaten,“ joked the ranger.
After a good 90 minutes safari the Range looked for a quiet and remote place above a river in the thicket to eat a small bite.
We noticed that below us are hippos in the river. They floated around light as a feather only with their ears, eyes and noses above the water level. A hippo spotted us and attacked a hanging branch to make it clear who was the stronger one.
So we preferred to go back to the car.
After a relaxed coffee we drove on again.
We also see baboon clans which, unlike urban baboons, still have reverence for people and Water buffalos and Wildbeests which graze. The ranger tells stories and lots of interesting facts about every single animal we see.
After a good three hours the safari is over and we leave the „Jurassic Park“ again through the lock gate to sit comfortably at the breakfast buffet and enjoy the view over the Kariega valley.
During the morning and midday we relax with good coffee and sociable rounds with other guests of the reserve.
From 4 pm we start the evening safari.
The ranger picks us up again with the huge off-road vehicle and there are six of us sitting in the car.
Into the adventure!
The ranger now wants to show us the African elephants, which is not so easy despite the enormous size of the animals.
So we drive to more remote areas in the Kariega reserve to spot elephants. Far and wide nothing – after a good thirty minutes of searching, we find a small elephant family with the elephant cow, two small calves and a son in his prime adolescence (10 years).
The ranger reminds us that the young elephant is a rebellious teenager who soon has to leave the herd and join another. The law of nature has spoken. The elephant doesn’t like that.
And as soon as the ranger warned us, the elephant walks towards us with threatening gestures – he stamps his big legs on the ground and wiggles his ears.
As I learned from National Geographic, this means: Attack.
We’re in his territory and he won’t accept that.
The Ranger calms us down with sovereignty and assures us that nothing will happen to us – he just wants to play.
So let’s play. The young bull runs frontally to the car and pushes it as if it were an empty beverage can. Several sham attacks from the front and the troop in the car is in panic.
The ranger talks to the elephant, yells loudly, brags on his head and just pushes the felt 5 tons machine away.
After he lets the engine howl, the elephant feels intimidated and vanishes into the thicket.
Then suddenly he shoots with a new attack from the side out of the bush and almost hits our car.
Our ranger tells us that we have to overcome this situation now, otherwise the bull would follow us and we would show weakness.
After about five minutes the young bull leaves us and moves on with his family.
What an insane adventure.
We take a relaxing break and enjoy the sunset with some wildebeests in the background.
Back through the locks and to dinner buffet.
We spent two nights here in a Main Lodge Chalet. Our chalet was directly on a steep slope of the Kariega Valley with a breathtaking view and a great sunset/sunrise directly on the terrace.
The facilities were great. The food was fabulous. The service was first class.
There is the possibility to stay in one of the four other lodge environments, but these are much more expensive.
Costs: 255EUR/per person / night. All Inclusive.
It is not only worthwhile for a pure safari holiday, but also for a Garden Route stop.
Because of the very good location at the Eastern Cape about 1.5h drive from Port Elizabeth, you can fly home very well from here.
For more information check: https://www.kariega.co.za/
Photography Gear is used during the Safari (Affiliate links to Amazon):
Fujifilm X-T2 Body
Fujifilm X-Pro2 Body
Fujinon 50-230mm Lens (Superb Quality for it´s Price)
Fujinon 55-200mm Lens (Bigger but better quality)
Fujinon 35mm f2 (on my X-Pro2)
Fujinon 23mm f1.4 (the Storyteller)
GOBE Filters – Always on my Lenses