Wow, Your lens is Gigantic! (& Did you pack the beers?)
Camping in the Pilanesberg; where all the photographers go
Cameras, lenses & Photographers
Packing for a long weekend of camping in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve
With a series of long weekends approaching in South Africa it normally means a mass exodus from major inland cities to supposed better destination. Some of us look for less traffic, sirens and crime and tend to rough it at some resort or campsite. This brings to mind one such long weekend.
We joined the masses and headed to Pilanesberg for some rest and relaxation. We hoped to spot some game, wrongly identify some birds and relax to gather some strength for the last quarter of 2012. We looked forward to a couple of days of escapism from the concrete jungle and its weekly grind.
Instead we exchanged it for rush hour soap and shampoo ritual in the campsite. There’s always a distinct possibility of crime. If you leave your food for their beady eyes to see, monkeys could easily snatch it with their nimble fingers. Sirens were replaced by screeching birds from 4 am in the morning. Trust me it is not always a delightful little chirp - more like a squawk!!
We roughed it and slept in our rooftop trailer tent and shared ablution facilities with the masses. Why did we do it? It’s hard to believe that one gives up all your home comforts, but strange enough, we do return home somewhat rejuvenated.
Packing list for camping:
Oh, heck, it’s far too long. Just go with these few things:
Beer, wine & cold drinks – check. Maybe even a couple of G&T’s.
Clothes – check. Make sure to have a bit of everything from cold mornings and evenings to blazing midday heat.
Bedding – check.
Everything including the kitchen sink - check! Usually cars and trailers are stuffed to full capacity, with every mod con they think they require while camping. We don’t go to that extreme, though. We like a few comforts, but we try to keep it simple.
Hit the road, Jack.....
Did I say we were going to Pilanesberg to rest and relax? Rising at 5.15am every morning and spending hours in a vehicle to hunt for animals (no, to gawk over them, not shoot them) is not really my idea of relaxing! But then a special moment erupts and the experience is unforgettable.
We arrived at Pilanesberg late afternoon. They don’t allocate sites and the camp filled up fast and furiously. We were fortunate as there were a few camping sights still available. We pitched our tent and gazebo just in time as an approaching storm hovered over us. Lightning flashed and thunder roared. Gusts of wind lifted the gazebo so much that we held it down, cringing at each crack of lightning. Not really the best thing to do, holding the poles in a lightning storm, but luckily we were safe and no lightning strikes harmed us.
We ate at the restaurant that night. Most of the camp fires had been doused by the rain and it would have taken a while to fill our hungry stomachs. The following two nights we sat around blazing fires and cooked a traditional braai or barbeque over coals while sipping drinks and gazing at the stars periodically.
Leopard and lion
Did I mention we got up at the crack of dawn to go game viewing? Ok, just checking. That’s the best time to look for game. If you’re not an early morning person, late afternoon or early evening is also good, but it’s worth getting up early at least once.
We were fortunate and saw a few raptors as well as the usual small game such as wildebeest, impala and zebra. We stopped at one of the hides and were shown photos of a leopard that others spotted close by. The photos were so clear and that was just on a little point and shoot camera! They told us where to find the leopard but when we got there it had moved on to better pastures.
We were also told where to find a lion ‘kill’ so we drove in that direction. Each and every vehicle driving towards us just about barricaded us to tell us about it. It is good game viewing etiquette, but by now we had the general idea that there were lions in the area. Each account varied in accuracy where the lion was actually spotted. We drove right past her, and still couldn’t spot her. Eventually we found her hidden between a few measly blades of grass, about 5 metres off the road. Good camouflage tactics! We were the only vehicle, but it didn’t take long for other vehicles to surround us. By the next day she hadn’t moved from the area and was causing a major traffic jam. I’d have run away if I had so many people watching me! I’m sure there were more vehicles than game at one stage and it could take you a while to get out of that gridlock.
We never managed to find leopard, although on Sunday morning a few people had caught a glimpse of it, before it walked into the dense bush.
On one of our afternoon drives, one of the highlights was seeing two black rhinoceros. What fascinated us was what they were munching – DRY TWIGS! There couldn’t be much sustenance in that, never mind the flavour and texture! Someone should tell them succulent juicy leaves are far more enjoyable! The sad part about seeing rhinoceros, is not knowing how much longer they will be around. Poachers are ruthless and destructive and I know quite a few rhino have been killed in the Pilanesberg area.
Fishing like a King.
We love looking at the ‘Big Five’, but it’s just as enjoyable looking at the smaller creatures. A Pied Kingfisher caught a fish almost the same size as him. He bashed and mashed the fish against the wood of the tree he was perched on. He did this for ages until he was satisfied that it was tenderised enough and then gulped it down. It still took numerous attempts to reach his stomach. We were convinced he would spit it out, because it seemed to get stuck, but with perseverance he managed to swallow it.
Cameras and lenses galore.
I find it very amusing to watch photographers with their camera gear. Cameras of all shapes and sizes, amateurs and professionals alike. There’s quite a competition going on between this fraternity. The size of some of the lenses! They are gigantic. No gym sessions needed when you carry all that equipment. No wonder they cheat a little bit with tripods for that perfect shot. I’m sure they snigger when they see my point and shoot camera. I will admit that their photographs are simply outstanding and I would love it if I could take such gorgeous shots. Alas, my photographic ability consists of ‘memory’ shots – or so I try to convince myself, especially when they tend to be a bit fuzzy! Besides, my camera is far easier to carry around.
It’s definitely worthwhile to visit Pilanesberg but it’s better to choose a quieter time so you don’t have to dodge the crowds. It’s also a closer destination to Johannesburg and Pretoria than some of the other game reserves and national parks, especially when time is limited.