South Africa: Encounters in Wildlife Wonderland

By: andrewbowman

August 6, 2010

We recently posted a piece on the ultimate Animal Adventures, featuring some of the most exciting and interesting encounters across four continents. But if you want to get your fill of wildlife wonder in one trip, there’s probably no better place than South Africa.

Home to the famous Big Five (lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhino) and much, much more besides, the country’s national parks and reserves, along with the surrounding seas offer a lifetime’s worth of animal experiences.


Lucy Corne with penguin at Christmas

Lucy Corne with penguin at Christmas


In the second part of this post, travel writer and wildlife enthusiast, Lucy Corne, brings us a guide to unique up close animal encounters. First, we asked her how she came to be seduced by South Africa”¦

“As we switched off the idling engine, the silence was almost absolute. The only remaining sound was that of a white rhino chomping just metres away – a not insignificant noise. Suddenly, a young calf appeared from behind its munching mother and proceeded to charge around in ever-widening circles, increasingly near our car. It was a remarkable moment and if it hadn’t been for concerns about how our budget rental car would fare against an angry rhino mum, we would have sat there until the sun sank behind the mountains.


White Rhino and calf Pilanesberg reserve © Riaanvdb |

White Rhino and calf Pilanesberg reserve © Riaanvdb |


This rhino encounter at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve was the first in a string of animal adventures that would spark a long-term love affair with South Africa. A chronic zoophobic when I arrived in the Rainbow Nation, I was soon swayed by the national passion for nature and found myself partaking in activities I would previously have placed on my list of nightmarish pursuits. It was with great surprise that I found myself with my hand in a hippo’s mouth one sunny afternoon. I’d arrived with the intention of standing on the sidelines, but some not-so-gentle persuasion from former game warden Tonie Joubert convinced me it would be foolish to pass up such a rare opportunity. Suddenly I was hooked and I quickly realised that South Africa’s animal experiences stretched much further than standard group game drives.


Lucy Corne with Jessica the hippo

Lucy Corne with Jessica the hippo


From stints caring for orphaned animals to terrifying hands-on encounters with big game; from guided walks in Big Five country to the liberating sense of accomplishment you get when stumbling across a rare wild dog on a self-drive safari, South Africa can keep the most demanding animal lover amused – and quickly convert cynics into wannabe safari guides.”

Photos courtesy of Lucy Corne. Rhino photo  © Riaanvdb | Boulders Beach penguins by Crouch 24/7 on Flickr.

Virgin Atlantic fly direct daily from London Heathrow to South Africa. Check out Lucy’s other features on dining in style in the Cape Winelands and Johannesburg: South Africa’s Heart of Gold.

Categories: Our Places