The last leg of our trip to South Africa was Pumba Game Reserve, near Grahamstown, where we stayed from 14th to 16th June. Does the word ‘Pumba’ ring a bell? Well, if you’re wondering why, it’s because Pumbaa was the name of the warthog in Lion King. Anyway, it was mine and Nabhith’s ‘birthday gift’ and was by far my favourite experience in the entire South Africa trip. It was a 7000-hectacre reserve and was filled with different animals. In just 2 days, we saw 3 of the Big 5. (The Big Five are lions, rhinoceroses, African bush elephants, cape buffaloes and leopards) We saw both white and yellow lions, an entire herd of elephants and three big rhinos.
In Pumba, we stayed at the bush lodge, which, as its name suggests, is located in the middle of lots of bushes and trees. From our cottage, we had a wonderful view of a watering hole which was surrounded by a natural clearing. We could see lots of warthogs, zebras and impalas each day. (Once, I was browsing through a booklet provided to me at Pumba and came across a picture of an elephant drinking water from the pool of an occupied cottage. I wished we would experience the same thing!)
We had two game drives every day; one in the morning and the other in the evening. In the drives, we went in the big jeep and looked for animals. South Africa is located in the Southern Hemisphere, so it was winters over there and the morning game drive was simply freezing. Nevertheless, the rangers at Pumba kept us warm by providing us with hot-water bottles and cloaks. There were also some extra activities like archery, fishing, bush walks, etc.
All the game drives were simply amazing. We followed lions, looked for rhinos, saw elephants drinking water and play-fighting, and did many other things which will probably make you want to leave for a game reserve right now. The lions were totally fearless, walking right up to the jeep. The cubs were carefree, but the two lionesses accompanying them kept a close watch on all of us. There were five cubs; three yellow and two white. Once, they sat down in such a way that it looked like the cub in the middle was their king. Why? Well, a yellow one sat in the middle, which was surrounded by the two white ones. The white cubs were further surrounded by the two other yellow ones. The lions were a welcome sight each time, except once. That was when we were exploring the southern part of the reserve, looking for leopards and cheetahs. Instead, we saw two fully grown lions. Our ranger, Dean, told us that the leopards and cheetahs were scared of the lions , hence we would not be able to see them. I felt rather annoyed with the lions at that time.
A rather frightening moment was when we were face to face with the matriarch of the herd of elephants at Pumba. We were just passing along when she and a young elephant calf appeared out of nowhere. Our ranger immediately stopped the vehicle and backed away, yet the matriarch approached us with an attitude of ‘Let me show you who’s boss’. It actually looked as if she was getting ready to lift the jeep and toss it away. (Luckily, Dean knew just how to prevent that.)
From a point of interest, I asked one of the rangers which animal has he seen on each and every game drive he has ever gone on. He said impalas, and I couldn’t agree more. Although I went on 4 game drives only, I saw more than a hundred impalas on each of them. And that’s a lot, considering there are only 17 predators in all. (12 lions, 3 cheetahs and 2 leopards) Compare that to more than one thousand five hundred impala.
We signed up for bass fishing, but the wind was so violent that there was a risk of hitting other people with the line. In fact, Nabhith nearly hit my mother’s face. To my great disappointment, fishing was then called off.
As the last day approached, we left Pumba with a heavy heart. I had had a lot of fun over there and made good friends with some of the rangers. I really didn’t want to come back home.
In all, it was an awesome experience, and I’ve never done anything like it before. I would love to go there again.
After Pumba Game Reserve, I realised that there was no point visiting a zoo. If you go there just to look at the animals, you can look at them from the internet as well. A game reserve is what you should be looking for, because an animal’s behavior whilst in its natural habitat is really worth experiencing. It makes you realize how different each individual animal is, just like humans.
17 July, 2018