Open Road Safari in the Eastern Cape
Some country roads can offer you the most rewarding - and cheapest - game drive you’ll ever experience.
In the Eastern Cape, there are countless game farms - many of them bordering the road - and you can count yourself unlucky or unobservant if you see nothing.
I’ve often seen wildebeest, warthogs, plenty of kudu, springbok and blesbok. On quite a few occasions I’ve seen rhinos and giraffes. On one startling occasion I made eye contact with a lion crouching in the bushes beside a game fence.
But it’s not just the big and hairies that are rewarding. Take a drive in the pr-dawn light through one of many Karoo towns in summer and you’ll see lesser kestrels start out from their pine tree roosts in clouds, dozens at a time, out into the fields and farms to catch locusts, termites, spiders and the odd unsuspecting mouse.
You’ll probably surprise pied crows off their dead breakfast varmint, but they quickly settle down again to their banquet.
Stop at farm dams to see ducks, coots and herons churring, clucking, tweeting and warbling. Look out for herons and sacred ibises intent on insects and small fry in the shallows.
Keep an eye out for meerkats. You’ll just see a movement out of the corner of your eye. Turn and you might well see a meerkat sentinel standing guard on a rock, bush or anthill.
They’re fearful of humans, so your only encounter may be an urgent churring alarm and the surrounding veld suddenly boiling with meerkats scampering after their leader to safety.
It’s quite likely that you’ll see a yellow mongoose sprinting across the road in front of you.
In the driest parts of the country, you’ll probably come across ground squirrels. In the heat of the day they fluff up their tails like parasols, and forage in their own personal patch of movable shade.