A trip to the Inverdoorn Game Reserve (although the term “safari” is exaggerated) was the highlight of my trip to South Africa. The country has a lot to offer, both in terms of the fauna in its great national parks and in smaller reserves. I chose the latter. Even though it was a substitute for a real safari, I don’t regret it.
Initially, I had planned to visit Kruger National Park, one of the most highly recommended parks on tourist sites and travel blogs. You can reach it by renting a car (an option I didn’t consider) or by taking a bus to the nearest town, from where you must take a taxi because there is no public transport to the park gates. You need to have your taxi driver on standby because most camps where you can stay are several kilometers away from the entrance gate.
The Inverdoorn Game Reserve covers an area of about 10,000 hectares. It is a compound that includes the Game Reserve, Iziba Safari Lodge—bungalows, and the Western Cape Cheetah Conservation Center. The reserve is home to approximately 1,200 animals from 28 species, including the Big Five: lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalos, as well as cheetahs, zebras, hippos, wildebeests, kudus, bonteboks, springboks, and others.
The resort offers various packages. Personally, I chose the one-day safari package, which includes a welcome drink, a three-hour safari with a guide, a plentiful lunch, and some free time to relax in the beautifully decorated garden. I paid R2360 per person at a tourist information office in Cape Town. It was a bit pricey, but comfortable — something for something. (The same package purchased directly from the Inverdoorn website costs R1375, but you have to arrange your own transportation there.)
In Inverdoorn, you can also purchase a two-day safari package with accommodation in a bungalow or cabin, or opt for a self-drive safari.
At the appointed time, early in the morning, a minibus is waiting for us, along with two other tourists—one from Mauritius and the other from Germany. A French family with children joins us on-site. Everything goes smoothly, and we are invited into a jeep, ready for our adventure.
“Adventure” is obviously an overstatement, but for us city dwellers, it was a substitute for a real African adventure. The reserve is spread across a vast area, giving the impression that we are seeing animals in the wild, even though they live in a limited space. However, this is not a tiny zoo with cages. Animals roam freely, going wherever they want and doing whatever they please.
The first animals we encounter are rhinos. They appear a bit larger in images and videos, but they still look dangerous. Additionally, as our guide explains, rhinos have poor eyesight and must quickly determine whether a silhouette they see is an enemy or not, and whether self-defense is necessary. We can get quite close to them because the reserve’s jeeps are not unusual for them, but we still need to stay alert.
A moment later, we come across a pair of giraffes, which stride majestically between tall acacia trees, picking leaves to eat. Few people know that while acacias have sharp and long spikes designed to protect them from becoming food for animals, giraffes seem not to mind and make a delicious meal out of their green leaves, sometimes completely stripping the trees.
We witness two male giraffes fighting, as if preparing to compete for a female. Our guide explains that young male giraffes can be distinguished by their horns. However, with age and a specific “training,” they lose their horns, so it’s not easy to distinguish them from females.
Giraffes have been the most beautiful and interesting animals we’ve seen during this trip, apart from cheetahs (not counting the penguins at Boulders Bay).
Elephants also leave a great impression on us as they majestically stroll around the reserve. However, there are probably only two of them. That’s because these large mammals require a lot of living space, and the reserve did not obtain permission to bring in more. It’s good to know that such reserves are not solely focused on filling the owners’ pockets (although that is also an aim), but rather prioritize the well-being of the animals, regardless of profit.
A little further ahead, we come across a whole herd of various antelopes and African buffalos. We cannot get too close to them. As we learn, buffalos are one of the most dangerous animals, as they attack with the intent to kill. Well, appearances can be deceiving. We also spot several ostriches, a couple of rhinos, oryxes, and other smaller animals.
Continuing our journey, we notice a couple of lions hidden in the bushes. They sit lazily, tired of the heat, observing us, the tourists. It’s a “two-way” spectacle: we arrive to see the animals, and the animals watch us.
We move on in the hope of spotting some hippos, but with little success. As it’s late summer, the lake they inhabit has little water, and these huge animals are submerged, with only the tips of their heads—nostrils, ears, and eyes—visible to our thirsty eyes.
On the way back, we stop in a grove. Expecting another story about the fantastic African flora, we only hear a whisper from our guide: “Look outside, but don’t lean out too much.” Unable to resist, I lean my head out of the car and… right next to it, there is a herd of cheetahs! What an amazing sight! At first, it gives you goosebumps, realizing how close you are to these predators. Moments later, you start admiring these lazy animals, basking in the southern sun, not needing to attack the intruders on their land, idly looking at us, wondering why we’re there.
We have several minutes to take photographs and enjoy this magical moment with dangerous animals at our fingertips. We don’t even think about escaping; we are captivated, gazing at their spotted fur, unable to stop marveling at the beauty of African wildlife.
We savor this moment for a long time on the way back and during the dinner in a garden filled with succulents and a small enclosure for turtles. When we return, we feel that for a moment, we have touched the true Africa, the true exotic, and we know that this experience will stay with us for life.
You can watch a short clip from the Inverdoorn Game Reserve on my YouTube channel.
South Africa: Admiring penguins at Boulders Beach