You cannot visit Africa without experiencing an encounter with the Big Five - lion, elephant, buffalo, Mountain Leopard and rhino, for this is truly a life-changing occurrence. We had pre-booked our overnight stay at Fairy Glen Private Game Reserve from Australia and were astounded that not even a deposit was required at the time of booking.
If you're looking for an intimate, personal encounter with wild animals, then the privately-owned Fairy Glen Private Game Reserve, located in the Brandwacht Mountains close to the Boland town of Worcester is the place for a thrilling safari adventure. Whether you're into game drives or bush walking, your experience will be unparalleled with fantastic photo opportunities and experienced game rangers sharing their local knowledge with you.
Despite the kitty face, definitely a wild one - Image: Elaine de Wet
Fairy Glen is only an hour's drive from Cape Town and tucked away at the foot of the world famous Brandwacht mountains. This Reserve is surrounded by natural Proteas and fynbos (fine bush) vegetation in an idyllic little piece of paradise. The name Fairy Glen originated from a very large Dragonfly which was found in their natural habitat in the valley mountain streams, known as Fairy Glen.
We checked in at 2.00pm on our day of arrival. Our choice when booking was for a standard chalet, one of six available for guests. The great advantage to the standard chalets is that the guests' swimming pool is right on your doorstep and the restaurant for meals is only a hop and a skip away. There are also five luxury chalets, one of which is wheel-chair friendly, but all boast their own game viewing decks overlooking the watering hole. The standard chalet has all the essentials for an overnight stay, including a TV, small bar fridge for 'cold' necessities and an en-suite bathroom. Click here for accommodation options.
Once we had settled in to our accommodation, we were treated to a bushwalk by one of the resident rangers, who was very happy to share his local knowledge with us re the fauna and flora.
We were really fortunate and were the ONLY guests on the night of our stay, so had the restaurant totally to ourselves. We were even offered a third chalet, free of charge, which needless to say we didn't take advantage of. The dinner was buffet style with a choice of South African delicacies.
Our three and a half hour game drive was scheduled for 9.00am the following morning after a sumptuous breakfast - either English-style or Continental. Did I mention I will need to go on a serious diet when getting home to Australia - all this food has definitely ensured I've put on a few dreaded kilos!!
English-style or Continental brekkies - Images: Elaine de Wet
Mauritz was our personal Game Ranger - another advantage to staying overnight as day visitors share a game viewing truck. First stop was the lion enclosure. One has to remember that all these animals are wild and are kept in very large enclosures for their safety against poachers and naturally, for our safety too. Judging by all the feathers, these lions had already eaten, but we weren't taking any chances by venturing too close.
Our next meet and greet was with Higgins and Lady - these are the only two rhinos that have survived poaching in the whole of South Africa. A bit of trivia - did you know that a group of rhinos is called a 'crash'? Very appropriate I would think - as surely with all that weight any opposition would cause a crash.
Elephant, Springbuck and Eland - Images: Elaine de Wet
The poachers had created a fire on the game farm as a distraction to the employees of the game farm, before darting Higgins and Lady with a dart gun containing the deadly anaesthetic drug called M99 and then savagely removing their horns, whilst they were still alive. Without the quick thinking and medical attention by the owner of Fairy Glen, Pieter de Jager, and local vets, Higgins and Lady would surely have died. Today, these two precious beasts wander around the Game Reserve without their horns, their sensory abilities forever damaged and their only mechanism with which to defend themselves against would-be predators, gone forever. For a fast, very informative read on the drama surrounding these two rhinos, one can purchase the book, Higgins & Lady, either through www.amazon.com or www.chapter1.co.za.
Even though this is only a small game farm, we were treated to elephants, zebra, buffalo and various species of buck, all presenting beautiful photo opportunities. Unfortunately, we didn't see any mountain leopard as these beautiful predators are nocturnal and yes, you've guessed it, prefer to stay in the mountains. We even had the pleasure of seeing a rather large Leopard tortoise out on his morning stroll. The tortoise was ambling UP the hill, which I've learned they tend to do before rainfalls, so as to avoid being in flood-prone areas - how clever is that?
There is such a big variety of Game Drives available at Fairy Glen - one can do morning safari's which include pick-up from Cape Town, breakfast, lunch and being returned back to Cape Town; afternoon safaris or even horse-back safaris amongst the animals. For all the different options, please click here. And, of course, you can choose to stay overnight - definitely a worthwhile choice as you'll get to wake up to the early morning roar of the lions - not something we would hear in Australia.