Natural South Africa – Schotia Preserve

What journey to Africa is complete without an opportunity to see “the big five” on safari?  After the conclusion of our business at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, we visit a nearby game preserve.

DSC_0688

We enjoy a sunset game drive in open vehicles and have many up-close animal sightings.

20170605_113718

DSC_0701

IMG_1504

DSC_0714

As the sun goes down, we share stories around the campfire and enjoy a traditional braai (bbq) meal.

IMG_7420

IMG_7436

After dinner we make our way back to the gate of the preserve, with a few additional animal sightings along the way.

DSC_0769

Schotia Wildlife Preserve

Anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE animals – from my two fluffy cats at home to big beautiful elephants, graceful giraffes, and even ferocious lions. So, our visit the Schotia Private Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth was a welcomed respite from our academic endeavors in South Africa. After a busy week in Johannesburg, breathing in the fresh South African air and gazing at an open sky full of stars was just the thing I needed to refuel.

Schotia is the oldest private game viewing reserve in the Eastern Cape, bordering the eastern side of Addo Elephant National Park. With over 40 mammal species and approximately 2000 animals, we were sure to see Africa’s Big 5 (Leopard, Lion, Buffalo, Elephant and Rhinoceros) during our Tooth & Claw game drive.

When our group arrived, we helped ourselves to coffee, tea, and cookies before loading into our open-aired vehicles to begin our adventure. Within a few minutes of entering the reserve, we had our first sighting. A group of warthogs gathered near the gravel road, grazing on the tall grasses as we drove by. From there, we saw an amazing assortment of species—wild blue wildebeests, zebras with their unmistakable black and white striped pattern, and countless antelope. This was way better than any zoo I’ve visited!

Driving off road through the rocky, mountainous landscape, we came across a group of elephants before carrying on to find a giant crocodile, a hippo, several giraffes, rhino, and buffalo. After stopping for a brief break and some delicious hot chocolate, we were off to find the King of Africa—the lion. As the sun began to set, we drove through the bush to a small open area where a small pride of lions was gathered. As intimidating as it might be to see lions in the wild, these big cats were just lounging and relaxing. One lion even let out a loud yawn before laying down and taking a snooze. We took this as our cue to leave the lions to rest and began our journey to a huge open air lapa for a traditional South African braai (BBQ) meal.

Inside the lapa there are several large ‘Schotia’ trees and a roaring log fire. We gathered around the fire as a small band played a mix of South African music and familiar tunes (think, The Lion King soundtrack). We shared a lovely meal, complete with my new favorite dessert, Malva pudding, a kind of sweet and spicy sponge cake covered in a delectable custard, before heading back to the lodge to end our day.

Our visit to Schotia Reserve gave me a new appreciation for the natural beauty of South Africa. Although the primary goal of our trip was to learn about the higher education system in South Africa, our afternoon with the African wildlife gave us an opportunity to explore another aspect of the country—and we even lived to tell about it!

–Kristen Glasener, PhD candidate