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Trip of a lifetime

We had the opportunity to travel to South Africa and stay in a private game reserve inside the Pilanesberg National Park, just a couple hours away from Johannesburg. We consider ourselves animal lovers and were excited to see the exotic animals of Africa in their own environment. In my later years, I have felt guilty after visiting zoos and attending circuses where these incredible animals are exploited and imprisoned. But to see them in nature gives you the opportunity to see their personalities, to see their instincts, all in surroundings unmolested by man. It was incredible to witness a herd of female elephants with babies in tow chase off two much bigger males by banning together, raising their trunks and begin loud trumpeting noises while charging at the duo to run them off. Those big boys turned tail and left as fast as they could! We viewed male rhinos attempting to sharpen their horns on rocks even when no horn was present. The preserve removes rhino horns at about 7 years of age to protect these animals from the hands of poachers. It was so special to drive up to tall, majestic giraffes with their heads in the trees, getting all the good leaves and watching the impalas and gazelles grazing together while keeping an eye out for predators. During one safari trip, we were observing two male lions taking a late morning nap in an open field when a small herd of impalas started crossing the same field. The lead impala saw one of the lions and slowly retreated but much to our surprise the herd of impalas decided to cross the same field anyway by taking a very wide arc path around the snoozing lions. We were later told that prey animals know if they can see predators, they are most likely not going to get hunted. It’s the predators they cannot see that are the real danger. My two favorite experiences were ones that got my heart thumping with fear. The first was at the beginning of our safari adventure, driving our own car through the preserve with our family in one car while my son and his family were in another car. They spotted a leopard crossing the road and as we pulled up to where he was last seen, we were able to find him resting behind a tree, about 10 yards away from the cars. We were next to each other with our windows rolled down taking pictures when suddenly the leopard rose and charged at us with teeth showing! My daughter-in-law hit the gas in their car taking off while I was trying like hell to get that window up as fast as possible in our car! Luckily for us, he was just messing with us and slowly crossed the road disappearing into the woods. The lesson here is, do not bother a resting leopard, especially when you are within striking distance! The other very memorable experience occurred at our lodge. The lodges are surrounded by an electrified fence to out keep the exotic animals. But one day, while resting between safari’s, the staff advised us to be on alert and stay close to our lodges because an elephant had broken through the electric fence looking for food. A couple hours later, my son and myself were sitting at the outside table, relaxing and talking when suddenly the elephant appeared right in front of us on the other side of the pool! You have never seen two people scramble as fast as we did to get our asses inside the lodge! Once inside we turned and saw the elephant running away from us. I’m sure she was just a startled as we were. These two memories will always be with me along with all the beautiful pictures we captured to truly round off the trip of a lifetime.

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