Post written by Hills of Africa Travel’s marketing director, Britt Urbach
With a handful of game reserves to choose from in South Africa, it’s hard to know which one you should visit whilst on your African safari vacation. Although Kruger National Park is one of the most popular National Parks in South Africa, there are a variety of other exceptional game reserves, including Entabeni.
Just a 3-hour drive from the Johannesburg airport, Entabeni is a malaria-free game reserve, perfect for individuals wishing to take a family safari vacation. Game drives on the reserve allow visitors to come face to face with the Big Five, as well as other animals, including giraffe, impala, warthog, and more.
I recently returned home from a trip to South Africa where I visited Entabeni Game Reserve and had an exceptional experience! October is a great time of year to visit the reserve since the grasses are short and you can see lots of animals.
Upon arrival at the reserve we were greeted by a group of 5 giraffe at the entrance, as well as wildebeest and adorable warthogs.
We stayed at Hanglip Mountain Lodge for two nights and upon arrival to the lodge, we were greeted with an assortment of dishes for lunch. We enjoyed our lunch outside with herds of wildebeest and zebra grazing in the backdrop.
Hanglip Mountain Lodge sits at the lower escarpment of Entabeni, so there are dramatic mountains in the backdrop, which make for a picture-perfect setting. The lodge is comprised of 10 luxury en-suite thatched rooms that each feature a wood fireplace, spacious bathroom, and private deck, overlooking a watering hole.
After enjoying a few quite moments on our private decks, observing wildebeest and zebra as they passed by, we headed out for our afternoon game drive with our guide, Amos.
Amos grew up in the Entabeni area and his grandfather taught him everything he knows about the land and its plants and wildlife. As we headed out for the afternoon, we came across wildebeest and then Amos stopped the vehicle to pick leaves off a tree.
“Do you know what we call this?” he asked. None of us knew . . . “We call this Bushman’s toilet paper because it’s soft and not poisonous!” And of course, it’s eco-friendly. None of us used the Bushman’s toilet paper, but it was nice to know that it was available should we need it! (see below for a picture of Amos with the Bushman’s toilet paper!)
While we were stopped, Amos also pointed out a circle in the sand, which was made by an antlion—one of the little five. The antlion creates a pit where ants fall into. Then, the antlion comes out of the hole in the middle of the pit and eats the ants. Pretty interesting stuff!
We continued our game drive and saw a single female lioness on her own in the bush. Amos said that she was once part of a pride but she was kicked in the face by a buffalo and became injured. The pride abandoned her because she was injured.
We also came across elephant stripping the bark from trees, a jackal and her babies (which were absolutely precious!), and even more giraffe.
After several exciting hours on safari we stopped in the bush for some wine and cocktails. The temperature was perfect, approximately 70-degrees Fahrenheit and the sun was beginning to set.
We headed back to the lodge where we enjoyed a delectable dinner buffet that included vegetable soup, steak, rice, mashed potatoes, a vegetable medley, and an assortment of cheese and crackers.
After dinner Amos walked each of us back to our rooms to ensure we wouldn’t encounter any unexpected wildlife on our way back. The evening is super quiet with only the sounds of the wind and frogs chirping.
During the following day at Entabeni we enjoyed rusks (which are like biscotti) and tea and coffee before heading out for our early morning game drive (6am!). Today we drove from the lower escarpment to the upper escarpment, which was one heck of a bumpy ride!
The landscape in the upper escarpment of Entabeni is much different from the lower escarpment. The upper region is comprised of vast plains as far as the eye can see, while the lower area contains thick brush and forests.
To get to the upper escarpment you must drive 30-minutes up the steep gorge. En route there is a natural swimming pool with a deck where you can enjoy a picnic lunch or bush breakfast.
As we traversed the upper escarpment we saw ostrich, kudu, wildebeest, zebra, dassie (which is like a little gopher), warthog, and five white rhino! The best part of it all was the baby rhino who stood by her mom but would come up to the vehicle every once in a while to check it out. Once the baby got too close and ran behind its mother. It was too cute!
After our morning game drive in the upper escarpment we came back down to Hanglip and enjoyed breakfast, which included omelets to order with fresh vegetables and meats. There was also a selection of cheeses, cereals, fruits, and yogurts.
Once our bellies were full from breakfast we retreated to our rooms where the fireplaces were lit. I sat on the chair in front of the fireplace and watched as wildebeest and zebra, once again, grazed just outside my window.
Later in the afternoon we went on our afternoon game drive with another guide, Albert. During our drive Albert stopped at a watering hole and picked four lily flowers. He then made each of us necklaces out of the lily flower and stem!
We then drove off and came across six white rhino grazing. We continued our journeys and stropped for some sundowners in the plains. We reminisced about the days events as we enjoyed wine and gin and tonics. But it wasn’t long before we received a radio call that cheetahs were spotted close by. So, we hopped in our 4X4 and headed to where they were spotted. We saw two and they were absolutely gorgeous! They would walk for a little and then stop to sit in the tall brush as they starred at the dozens of wildebeest grazing. Albert followed them for 10 minutes before we got word that a male lion was in the area.
We raced to the other side of the escarpment to find the lion laying down in the middle of the road. After a few moments he got up and headed into the bush. We followed him into the thick forest and would hear him roar and grunt every once in a while. It was truly magical.
Definitely two days we would never forget!