Close encounters with the Big Five – a short South African safari in a Mercedes-Benz 500 SE.

Into the wild.

Close encounters with the Big Five – a South African safari in a Mercedes-Benz 500 SE.
Photos & text: Johannes Förster und Julian Robinet/broken bloke Production

The call of the wilderness.

After our urban excursions in Cape Town we simply could not resist the call of the wild. Although the Mother City is a true metropolis, it carries a whiff of the wilderness in all its captivating glory.

So, we decided to leave the city in our über-comfortable 1991 Mercedes-Benz W126 500 SE retro rental to explore the delights of unspoilt flora and fauna for a few days.

The landscape at the gates of Cape Town invites to spontaneous short-safaris.in qu

In search of the 'Big Five'.

First up, our adventure took us to a nearby game reserve, a privately owned and run national park that allows visitors to observe animals in their natural habitat. A mere 200 km from Cape Town, the Aquila Private Game Reserve is the region’s only park that boasts the so-called big five: elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions and leopards.

The term, originally coined by big game hunters, does not reference the animals’ size, but the effort it takes to hunt and bag them – in our case, with the camera.

The beauty of the wilderness – besides the „Big Five“ elephants, rhinos, buffalos, lions and leopards also giraffes can be seen at close range.

The dazzling beauty of the Karoo National Park.

After a night in a luxurious lodge and a quick coffee we headed off before dawn to reach the secured reserve – where we soon came face to face with our first pair of rhinos. Warmed by the first rays of the sun, the awakening landscape and wildlife revealed the Karoo National Park in all its golden glory.

Our friendly guides took us to several sections of the 7,500 hectare reserve and were extremely proud of the park’s new hippo offspring. Assaulted by a wealth of new impressions, the safari triggered a riot of emotions, dominated by joy and awe – and the urge to snap some great pictures. Here, nature lent a generous helping hand since most of the park’s animals frequent the different watering holes in the morning.

In the early morning you can observe most of the wild animals from up close.

South African hospitality.

Deeply impressed by these imposing scenes we returned south on the well-maintained federal road. The only thing that might have stopped us was the Steers fast food chain with its excellent burgers – or the South African specialty biltong, a snack of air-dried beef or game, available from any service station. We steered clear of these culinary delights, however, to honour a dinner date at Babylonstoren 50 km down the road.

The wine-lands outside Cape Town invite all the winelovers to relax and enjoy delicious breaks.

One of the Cape’s oldest farms, boasting a wealth of fruit and vegetables, it also serves plenty of fine food in a laid-back atmosphere. Surrounded by the craggy rocks of the Drakenstein Mountains, we treated ourselves to a glass of the home-grown red and enjoyed the view of the surrounding Cape Winelands vineyards.

Underwater-Safari at Hout Bay.

After a few leisurely hours, we found ourselves craving another adventure boost and headed back into the wild. After an hour’s drive through breath-taking landscapes, we finally reached the West Cape’s most stunning inlet, Hout Bay, and prepared for a dive near Duiker Island. Before heading out on a boat, visitors are supplied with a full kit of diving equipment to keep them warm in the icy Atlantic waves. The chilly temperatures have one advantage, though: Sharks tend to steer clear of the bay and instead head for the other, warmer side of the Cape to hunt seals. According to our tour operator, the last shark sighting dates back to more than twenty years ago.

South Africa mesmerizes with its peerless combination of mountain chains, long sandy beaches and desert landscapes.
The underwater scenery of the Western Cape bays is home of many fascinating creatures.

Underwater Love.

Nowadays, the island is brimming with seals that seemed to consider us welcome new playmates. In their interaction with divers, they displayed remarkable curiosity and no sign of fear or animosity. Yet there was a lot more to see and experience below the surface for us diving novices – the bay’s underwater realm is extremely diverse and reminiscent of a primeval forest.

Despite the brevity of our trip into the South African wilderness, this experience has underscored just how unique and generous nature can be – it is stirring, inspiring and absolutely worthy of our protection.

Impressions of the short safari.

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