Our self-drive safari experience was better than the organised tour. You could go where you wanted and got to spot the animals yourself! We even spotted a leopard during the first hour of driving ourselves at Hluhluwe! Many South Africans were very jealous of us for that find. We also managed to spot the Big 5 at Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park in the first two days, including the elusive black rhino. We stayed in a Rondavel at Hilltop camp grounds in iMfolozi where we cooked up a few traditional braai and got raided by baboons! The baboons hda figured out the door locks on the Rondavel units and got their grubby fingers on our bananas and cereal. Staying within the safari park was not cheap, but made it easier to get early starts and see many animals before most visitors even arrived at the park.
We went on another road trip and headed for Sodwana Bay to visit some pristine beaches and go scuba diving on one of South Africa’s best reefs. Sodwana Bay was a bit difficult to find but after a few wrong turns we pulled into the sleepy town and found our bed. We woke the next morning and had an amazing dive with Pisces Dive Charters on two mile reef. We were a bit nervous as we hadn’t been diving for almost three years. We got back in the groove quickly and the afternoon dive on seven mile reef was even better.
We heard about a Cheetah and Cat Rescue Centre that was on the way to our next destination and we decided to have a look. It was amazing to get so close to the big cats but we did have reservations regarding the whole experience. The cats were all cared for very well and had great relationships with the trainers but they were also no longer wild cats. It was meant to be a breeding program but sadly, at least for the cheetahs, the male cats were sterile so did not help the breeding program. These cats were also now tame and could not be released again into the wild. Needless to say we left the centre with mixed emotions.
We ended our safari experience in Leopard Mountain. This was a private reserve with all meals, game drives and watering hole hideouts included in our stay. Not something we would normally do but we enjoyed the experience. Self-drive is just as good and probably better if you prefer to find your own way. At Leopard Mountain we saw the Big 5, minus the Leopard, but witnessed a Cheetah kill and many Lions up close.
We had an amazing time on safari in South Africa and loved the experience. So much so we are already looking forward to the next time we can visit the big red continent.