Walking with Lions: Botlierskop Private Game Reserve

IMG_3489A true escape into a real African gem! I happened to come across this special on Groupon and was very excited so jumped at the opportunity as I have never been on a real Safari retreat. Botlierskop is a 4 star private game lodge situated between Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian ocean, in the heart of the Garden Route. The highlights that made me buy the Groupon special (apart from the price) was the fact that (1) the game reserve was in Mossel Bay which is not too far from Cape Town  (see map directions here) (2) and you stay in a luxury tented lodge – and you know that I like tents!

After a very easy booking experience I was on the road to Mosselbay. About a 4 and a half hours later I arrived at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. Upon arrival I was greeted by a female game driver and she advised that she would be my personal “go to” person for the duration of my stay.

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The main house and dining area

Upon check in I was advised on the different experiences I could book as well as the various spa options. I was also offered drinks and given a bowl of olives, breadsticks and nuts. After filling in the welcome document and all the admin was done, I was driven to my “tented lodge” by my private game driver. During the course of the 2 minute drive, I was assured that this was going to be a truly luxurious stay…

We arrived at our luxury “tents” and I say “tents” in inverted commas because it is very far from your standard tent! It is a structure built around the trees made from wood and soft material. Earlier I had given my car keys to the game driver and when I got to my room, I found my bags were already waiting for me- magic!

The doors slide open to reveal wooden floors, a king size bed with luxurious linen, beautiful rustic decor and furniture. That was just the entrance! The bathroom was quite spacious with a big stand alone bath. The shower was outside and I never used it during my stay there as it was winter so standing outside was not an option. I think that this is the one thing I would maybe change – have the option of a shower inside as well.

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The Doors leading to the bedroom

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The King Size Bed

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The luxurious Bath

After settling in , I immediately made reservations for the “cat walk” which started promptly at 7am! Went to bed early that evening and before I knew it, I was in a game drive vehicle in the early hours of the morning on my way to walk with lions! I was so excited and nervous at the same time.There are a number of activities you can book while you there, see price guide here. After about 20-30 minutes of driving we entered an enclosure (I assumed it’s privately owned) and was asked to sign an indemnity form – basically, protecting them if anything bad happens to you. As I signed the form I started getting more and more nervous as this was becoming a reality. Walking with lions surely seemed like a good idea yesterday. But today, it seemed like the dumbest idea ever. So now I was thinking about if something had to happen to me, at least I would die in a really awesome way (sigh!)…. As you wait, the handler tells you to grab a stick to take with you. The stick is about 1.2 meters or so. This must be a magic stick as it’s supposed to protect you from lions. I still did not see the point but I took the stick. Rather something than nothing I guess.

As i walked along the pathway all confident with my stick in hand and about 4 other handlers with me (including the game driver), I saw two massive lions walking towards me. Then reality hit. They were huge. A male and female lion named Mufasa and Laya. They were given pieces of meat as snacks to distract them from these strangers aka me. You cannot touch/cuddle them; you can just pose with them. There were times I just wanted to grab one and cuddle – but that just happens in the movies. In reality they would probably kill you. I did learn a lot about Lions while walking with them. After about 40 minutes walking with them, they go back to their enclosures, The most important facts I learnt about lions was:

  1. They can climb trees. So if you are chased by a lion, Climbing a tree is not an option
  2. Do not kneel or bend near them as making yourself smaller would just make them want to hurt you.
  3. They have really good night vision

After that amazing experience, I thought that maybe the game drive planned for the afternoon would be an anti-climax. Safe to say, it exceeded my expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The game driver was extremely knowledgeable and very passionate about the animals as I gathered during the game drive. We saw elephants, buck, zebras giraffes and so much more. The highlight for me was seeing the family of rhinos. I noticed that their horns were cut-off and shaved down so they only had a little knob horn. When I asked the ranger why they shave the horn down. She told me that they were the only private game reserve that was hit by poachers and they lost a few rhinos. They shave the horns to prevent rhino deaths. It was so sad seeing this. It’s actually disgusting what these poachers do.

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Me waiting to walk with the lions. Notice my nervous grin?

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Notice the stick I had for protection…..?? More like the Lions toothpick after he eats me! I’m kneeling under supervision of course and as you can see they haven’t noticed me behind them.

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Mufasa and Laya walking infront me

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Notice how Laya is in the tree! They can climb.

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Elephant I saw on the game drive

After about 2 hours of driving we stopped to have snacks. We had snacks surrounded by giraffes walking around us. It was absolutely the highlight of the drive.

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Just walking around us!

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The Rhino family

By the time we got back to the main house, I was starving and opted to have the 3 course pre-set dinner. I wasn’t disappointed at all. The food was wholesome, tasty and just what I needed after the day I had. Another great perk about Botlierskop is that they are halal friendly and they cook your meals on a separate grill, etc.

After the absolutely amazing weekend, it was time to leave and after the great experience I had, I would defiantly recommend this place to someone looking for a luxurious African experience. So in the wise words of Timon and Pumbaa (Lion King), “Hakuna Mata” (no worries) and that’s definitely how this place makes you feel….

 – Jihan

Deets :

Website : http://www.botlierskop.co.za/

BOTLIERSKOP PRIVATE GAME RESERVE
P.O. Box 565, LITTLE BRAK RIVER, 6503
TEL: +(0) 44 696 6055
FAX: +(0) 44 696 6272
Email: info@botlierskop.co.za

Photos – self taken with iphone 5s

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