Contrary to what some may think, pretty much just Skyler, the Big 5 aren’t the Chargers, Padres, Lakers, CU Buffs Football & Basketball. Here in Africa, they are indeed the Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard, and the White/Black Rhino. And when waking up 4:30am to go on Safari with our awesome guide, Matthew, to try and spot some of this big game, we drove through the most brilliant orange and neon pink sunrise. It was like South Africa put on a watercolor show for us. Not to mention fields and fields of sunflowers fully awake saluting the sun. Just picture millions of bright yellow smiling petals.
As soon as we entered the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, we had unreal exposure to animals in their natural habitat. The kind of situation where you don't get out of your car because who knows what will run up beside you. To them, you're not a sweet 90s Land Rover.... you're breakfast, lunch or dinner. The first animal we saw was the Black Rhino, which is extremely rare (as compared to the more common white rhino) and our guide admitted this is only the second one he had seen in over 10 years. He was HUGE, double horned, large and in charge. Leah was nervous. Even being the animal lover she is (come on... you guys saw the puppies!) this experience is much more sobering when a multi-ton exotic animal is less than a 9 iron from your car. I mean, we're in the wild and invading on the animals' territory, who knows what they’re thinking. This is where they sleep, hunt, mate and brawl. Competition is intense and hierarchy is survival. After a couple hours we loosened up. We saw hundreds of animals in addition to the Black Rhino. We also the saw the White Rhino, elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, hyenas, springbok, the list goes on. We did miss out on seeing lions and leopards, but the experience was still epic and gave us a reason to come back for a much more robust safari experience.
Later we returned home and found a German Pub, oddly enough. Plenty of beers and schnitzels ‘til the cows, er, lions come home?? Skyler even learned a new handshake from the bartenders. On our last day we found ourselves enjoying a Big Red Bus tour, where Skyler swears Richard Simmons was on, too. If not, it was the South African twin of that energetic fellow. On our last stop of one of the world’s biggest breweries, we befriended some awesome locals who took us under their wing and allowed us to crash their dinner plans. We found ourselves at a Mexican restaurant that tried their best to be authentic and they did a pretty good job in succeeding. Experiencing a city, especially one like Joburg, with some locals changes the entire experience…. in a good way. At dinner we got to exchange stories of our lives back home, favorite TV shows and bands. A perfect way to end a cooler than expected experience in Joburg.