A two and a half hour drive may seem never ending, watching the winding roads pass by only to be followed by more straights of dark grey tar. On long journeys like these, your eyes become heavy, and the background noise fades into nothing as you get lost in the thoughts of “are we there yet”. This, however, is not the case on a trip through the Western Cape to the Klein Karoo.
From Cape Town to Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve, the sights to see are endless, as are the possible pit-stops you could make. Coffee shops, farm stalls and so much more stand waiting to fulfil your road trip needs. Be frugal with your time. I can assure you, you want to get to your destination as soon as possible.
As you enter the game reserve, your eyes are met with exactly what you’d expect from a desert region. A stunning scene of uninterrupted arid land, decorated perfectly with a variety of cacti and succulents. The staff are welcoming and friendly, offering you a seat and a drink in a tented area at reception before being show to your intimate chalet.
When we arrived, it was around lunch time. If you’re worried about provision of food in the desert, rest assured because the reserve is anything but lacking in this regard. After our welcome drinks we were escorted to the dining area, next to one of the pools. Lunch would have been never-ending had we lacked self control. A buffet including fish, lamb, chicken, green salad, apple salad, beetroot salad, black bean and corn salad, potatoes, rice, and veg is laid out for a mid-day feast for visitors of the reserve.
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Of course, after some travel time and a satisfying lunch, it starts to feel a bit like nap time. But with the first safari coming up at 5pm, a wake-up call was needed. To remedy the sleepiness brought on by nothing but satisfaction, a dip in the pool is called for. The cool water feel more than refreshing in the blistering hot, 38 degrees celsius, sun. Surrounded by empty land as far as the eye can see, as you sit in the pool by the chalet’s, you could easily forget you’re less than three hours away from the city. You may even forget where you are entirely.
The time arrives for the safari, and we’re asked to meet the ranger, Vanessa, at reception. We loaded up into the safari vehicle and got going. Throughout the drive, Vanessa is very informative, answering any and all questions and providing interesting facts about the animals we came across.
You may imagine that it would be difficult to find the wildlife on these drives into the Karoo, what with the land being so vast (10 000 hectares to be exact). If that’s what you are expecting – and it’s what I expected – then you are mistaken. For the very least, we were extraordinarily lucky. Within the first few minutes, we’d seen ostriches, zebras, and two elephants having a drink at the water hole.
Not long after, we stopped at our own little ‘watering hole’. The gin-stop, which is part of some drives, offers safari-goers light snacks and drinks. It’s a short break from the bumpy road and a great chance to take in the experience you’re having, to breath in the fresh air and take in the spectacular views, all happily given to you in a tower in the middle of the desert.
As the sunset drive continued we saw quite a few more animals, including some springbok. There were two highlights for me: the cheetahs and Harry.
As part of their cheetah conservation and rehabilitation efforts, Inverdoorn has set up a programme through which the animals have to run for their meal – they chase a lure at up to 120kmph and are rewarded with food at the end. This is called ‘the cheetah run’ and is put in place to exercise the cheetah’s ability to chase their prey, as they would naturally. On the drive, visitors are given the opportunity to watch the cheetah run. And if you blink, you’ll miss it.
Just as the sun turned the sky gold, we stopped at a body of water in hopes of a hippo sighting. Instead we were met by the most inquisitive and forward ostrich you will ever come across. Harry, the ostrich, came right up to us and poked his head into the window as if to ask what it is we want at his watering hole. After a good few minutes of in-depth research, Harry got tired of us and gracefully took his leave. Thereafter, we took ours too.
Any animals we didn’t see on the sunset safari, we hoped to see on the sunrise safari the next morning at 6.30am. Before that, however, a three-course dinner was in store.
A salmon salad starter, a perfectly cooked kudu with vegetables and a white sauce on the side for a main course, and, to top it off, some lemon meringue for dessert.
At dinner we were joined by Ana, the head of the reserve. Ana is a character and she kept us laughing with increasingly absurd and comical tales about the life of a reserve manager. I would go back just to listen to more of her stories. Everything she said came with a punchline.
Apart from her enthusiastic nature and warm, hospitable presence, Ana was full of insight – not only about the wildlife, but about life as a whole. She spoke very proudly of the fact that the majority of management at the reserve were women, which is incredible.
The next morning after 6am tea, it was time for the sunrise safari. In contrast to the blazing heat the day before, the morning air was chilly. The cold was exacerbated as we drove through the empty land without windows or blankets (which we somewhat ignorantly turned down before the drive began – who needs blankets when you’re in the desert, right? Wrong.).
Lady luck struck again as our first sighting of the morning was a beautiful male lion. We heard his apparently very rare roar as his paramore sneakily maintained her disguise in the bushes.
On this drive we saw some more elephants, giraffes, wildebeest and we got very close to a spirited crash of rhinos. The siblings, a brother and sister, play-fought as mom looked on. It’s quite a sight to see, their heavy bodies causing the sand and dust to lift, forming clouds just above the ground as they ran towards each other in a makeshift game of joust.
When the time to leave arrived, we made our way out feeling both relaxed and enriched. Inverdoorn was a great escape from city life and provided us with the unforgettable, unique experience of seeing wildlife up close.
For a glimpse into a life untouched by technology and an experience of nature that is both intimate and out of this world, be sure to add Inverdoorn Safari to your holiday to do list.
Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve
Contact: 021 422 0013
Pictures: Ilhaam Bardien