Wildlife Conservation & Safari Trip

Accompanied throughout the safari by a wildlife veterinarian, this hands on African Vet Safari gives guests the chance to learn more about Africa’s wildlife in a unique way, incorporating modern day conservation and the need for hands on wildlife management.

This safari takes guests behind the scenes, affording the opportunity to interact with wildlife vets, researchers and guides, while discovering the fantastic world of wildlife in Southern Africa.

Participate in hands on wildlife veterinary management procedures and in so doing contribute financially to wildlife conservation through your participation. During this safari you will work with antelope, the iconic endangered rhino, and African predators, under the watchful eye of your South African wildlife veterinarian.

The safari starts near Johannesburg with a visit to the world renowned Ann van Dyk Cheetah Center and then heads into the wild for more traditional wildlife viewing activities, making sure that first time visitors don’t miss out, before heading to a third venue where we will participate in wildlife management procedures on the reserve. For the more seasoned Africa traveler being guided by a wildlife vet will shed new light on Africa’s amazing wildlife, not to mention the opportunity to get hands on with some of Africa’s iconic wildlife species! A hot air balloon flight over the picturesque Magaliesburg area adds even more excitement to the safari……

Full Day by Day Itinerary

thumbnail

Day 1

You will be met at the Johannesburg International Airport by a representative of Southern Sky Adventures and transferred to the first destination of your South African adventure – a small lodge in the Magaliesburg, west of Johannesburg. Transfer time approximately 1.5 hours.

This country lodge is situated on the enchanting banks of the Magalies River. Here you find yourself in awe of the stunning river that runs below the lodge, and you will discover paradise in 27 hectares of landscaped gardens enveloped by the unique African bushveld. The lodge is the epitome of tranquility and serenity.

Your en suite accommodation will either be in a garden room or suite which is spacious and comfortable.

The lodge restaurant is renowned for its delicious cuisine. All meals are prepared by an international chef, with all herbs freshly picked from the gardens…

Dinner is at the lodge at around 8PM, followed by an evening of leisure.

thumbnail

Day 2

After an early breakfast (depart at 7AM) you will head north, towards the west of Pretoria, to the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Center. Transfer time approximately 45 minutes.

On arrival enjoy watching a “cheetah run” as the cheetah put their extreme speed on show, chasing a lure! Then it is time for an ambassador hands on experience…. feel the cheetah’s hair on your hands as you listen to it purring…

Afterwards you will be taken on a private tour of the facility. During the tour you will not only learn about the many interesting animals and birds at the center, but also about their conservation and management issues, from your local guide and accompanying wildlife veterinarian. Guests will also visit the small veterinary hospital and discuss the veterinary management of animals at the center/in captivity.

The Ann van Dyk Cheetah and Wildlife Center is renowned for its breeding success of rare and endangered species in captivity. The very rare King Cheetah was first bred here and similar success was achieved in breeding the Wild Dog, Brown Hyena, Blue Duiker, Suni Antelope and various species of vultures. Visitors to the center can see some of these animals up close and learn interesting facts about their nature, habitat and way of life when taking a tour in an open vehicle, conducted by a knowledgeable guide. The center is a CITES approved cheetah breeding center.

In the last few decades this sanctuary near Pretoria has played a crucial role in the survival of the magnificent cheetah and it remains a crucial center for breeding African animals that are on the brink of extinction. The center was opened in 1971 by founder Ann van Dyk who volunteered her parents’ chicken farm when the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa ran out of space to continue their captive breeding programs. It is now a world renowned research center.

To its credit this cheetah sanctuary has managed to breed over 800 cheetahs since the inception of the program, when the total wild population in South Africa was estimated at only 700. The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Center has also decisively proven that these captive bred cats can fend for themselves in the African bush.

Besides cheetah rehabilitation, the center has also successfully bred African wild dog, brown hyena and Cape vulture. Particular highlights include the breeding and release of captive born, highly endangered African wild dogs into their natural habitat, the breeding of the rare riverine rabbit for donation to the Karoo National Park and the breeding of Suni antelope for the Kruger National Park.

After the activities, enjoy lunch at the center and a visit to the curio shop….

If there are any elective veterinary procedures scheduled, these may be included in the program for today – subject to confirmation. We will work to have a procedure scheduled for this day.

After the tour and talk, transfer back to the lodge for some leisure time before

dinner at 7PM in the lodge restaurant.

Please have your bags packed tonight, in preparation for a very early check out tomorrow.

thumbnail

Day 3

Today will be a very early start…. but well worth it! After a quick cup of tea or coffee, it’s time to check out. Depending on the weather conditions, you will be transferred at 5:30AM to the nearby launch site for Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris – approximately a 15 minute transfer.

Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris has been operating as a legally licensed balloon Air Transport Service since 1981. It is a family business run by Bill Harrop, his wife Mary, and daughter Sarah, working in partnership with over 60 full time, part time, contract and casual staff.

Only qualified and experienced professional pilots are employed, and over five thousand very happy passengers a year are testimony to their professional attitude in entertaining you to one of the most memorably enjoyable experiences of your life.

Bill firmly believes that attention to service excellence and a commitment to care for one’s community will build a better nation, especially through education, and he was a recognized “Platinum Benefactor” of the Tourism Education Trust.

After a hot cup of tea/coffee and biscuits, served from the beautifully appointed clubhouse pavilion, you will set out on your flight at sunrise…

Your flight will be approximately an hour over the Magalies River Valley which boasts some of the best ballooning weather in the world.

Enjoy a celebratory glass of sparkling wine on landing whilst the professional crew pack up the balloons, and afterwards, a delectable breakfast will be served from the clubhouse pavilion and restaurant overlooking the beautiful Magalies Mountains.

After breakfast, it’s time to head back to Johannesburg International Airport for your flight into the Lowveld of South Africa– another adventure awaits. Transfer time approximately 1.25 hours.

On arrival check in for your flight to Hoedspruit airport – to be advised (flight cost included in the program). Flight time approximately 1 hour.

After landing and collecting your luggage, you will be met by a representative of Southern Sky Adventures and transferred to your next destination – a private game lodge in the Timbavati Game Reserve.

Even though you know that Africa and South Africa offers so much more than the Big Five, the familiar images of these iconic five animals soon begin playing in your mind: lions roaring; elephants trumpeting; buffaloes lurking in long grass; rhinos standing stately under a thorn tree; leopards prowling in the gathering darkness….you’ve seen the Big Five in books and you’ve seen them on TV, but now it’s time for the real thing, and so much more…..

Check in and enjoy some leisure time, before heading out late afternoon on a private guided game drive, in an open game viewing vehicle. You will be accompanied by your local guide and wildlife veterinarian (provided he has arrived in time since he will follow by road with the veterinary equipment!).

Enjoy sundowners in a scenic location in the bush, as the sun slowly sinks beneath the horizon and then slowly make your way back to the lodge, looking out for nocturnal species on route.

Freshen up back at the lodge before dinner in camp, and a good night’s rest, listening to the night sounds of Africa.

thumbnail

Day 4

As dawn breaks over the African bush, a gentle tap on your door will wake you to the delights of a new day. After morning tea/coffee and rusks, it’s time to head out on your morning game drive, looking for the many species of wildlife that abound in the reserve.

Not only can one expect to see different species at different times of the day, but they may also be busy with different activities/behavior…… so each drive is a chance to discover something new!

Enjoy a coffee break while out on drive, and head back to the lodge mid- morning for a delicious breakfast.

If you wish, you can walk off your breakfast on a short walk near your lodge, accompanied by your ranger, who will share his insight into the smaller animals and vegetation in the area – subject to availability/pending the lodge you are at.

On some of the days there will be informative talks on the veterinary procedures to come, focusing on general principals and conservation issues, instead of leisure time.

Enjoy some leisure time before high tea mid afternoon.

After high tea you head out on another game drive, in search of species not yet seen!

Return to your lodge early evening to freshen up and experience a mouth- watering dinner beneath the magnificent African sky, and some African tales around the campfire…..

thumbnail

Day 6

Wake up for another early morning game drive, or simply lie in and wake to the sounds of the bush…..

After breakfast it is time to pack our bags and say farewell.

Transfer to another game reserve near the town of Hoedspruit.

On arrival at the lodge, meet some of the reserve staff who will give an overview talk on the reserve.

This is followed by a more detailed veterinary talk, in preparation for the work to follow the next day.

Afterwards a short sunset game drive will take you to your new lodge.

This reserve of approximately 75,000 acres, is a conservancy (15 owners) and takes its name from a river which traverses the northern sector of the reserve from east to west. The river was named after local gold fields and was the scene of a minor gold rush in 1865. The gold fields were in turn named after a female chief of the small Tebula tribe who lived in the bush around the Murchison Range to the north of the area.

The rolling, hilly countryside is punctuated by spectacular granite outcrops and the relief affords visitors spectacular views of the surrounding bushveld and the magnificent Drakensberg range to the west.

The Game Reserve is home to over 50 different species of medium to large size mammals, including elephant, black and white rhino, sable antelope, lion, leopard, hyena, giraffe, multiple antelope species and cheetah. The beauty of the many riverine structures that permeate the reserve is topped by a semi- perennial river which meanders for some 13 miles through the reserve. The varied habitat on the reserve supports a vibrant bird population and the diverse geological substructure gives rise to a variety of plant species, including the Encephalartos Dyerianus, the rarest cycad on the planet.

Dinner is served at around 7:30PM and then it’s time for a good night’s rest in anticipation of what tomorrow holds…..

thumbnail

Day 7

It’s another early start for tea, coffee and a light breakfast, before heading out to the breeding area of the reserve to assist with veterinary procedures on the endangered sable antelope/or other antelope species – species is subject to the reserve’s veterinary needs at the time.

The reserve has an extensive sable antelope breeding program, comprising over 150 animals, and there are always various veterinary procedures that need doing.

The plan is to work with at least five animals, ensuring guests ample opportunity for hands on involvement with the various procedures, and a chance for close up photos!

Once the procedures are done and the excitement has abated, return to the lodge for brunch.

After brunch, there will be a discussion on the morning’s immobilizations, and rhino immobilization, in preparation for the next day’s work…..

Time permitting, there will some time to relax before high tea and heading out on an afternoon game drive.

Enjoy sundowners in the bush and return to the lodge early evening to freshen up and enjoy dinner.

thumbnail

Day 8

Today you wake early again for a full breakfast, before heading out to locate and work with some of the reserve’s rhino….

The reserve has both white and black rhino and an ongoing management program to notch, collect DNA, dehorn and in some cases collar animals. The actual work to be done will be determined by the reserve’s veterinary needs at the time, but the plan will be to work with approximately 5 of these magnificent beasts today…..but this is all dependent on circumstances and the actual number of patients is not guaranteed.

The moment of truth arrives when the vet darts the rhino from a helicopter…… Once the rhino is safely immobilized, you will assist with the various procedures – ear notching for positive identification and management reasons, blood sampling for DNA to help combat poaching, collaring, etc – all the while monitoring the status of the patient.

All being well, there will be plenty of photo opportunities as you get hands-on with one of Africa’s most endangered species…..

Once the procedures are done, you’ll retreat to the safety of the nearby vehicle while the rhino recovers and walks off into the bush, sometimes a little disgruntled!

Once all the procedures are done for the day, return to the lodge to savor the day’s experiences and have a delicious lunch.

After some leisure time (time permitting!) one of the reserve staff will give a talk on their predator research project and this will be followed by a veterinary talk on the immobilization of predators.

The reserve has an ongoing predator research project involving lion, leopard and hyena, and their interactions. As part of the project tracking collars need to be placed and removed and guest involvement will most likely be to facilitate this on one of the study subjects (i.e. the aim will be to work with one predator).

Time permitting there will be an evening game drive, using telemetry tracking (tracking wildlife using collars). You will have the opportunity to try your hand at this, or the group may already set out to work with one of the predators – dependent on the work and species that needs immobilization at the time.

If guests do not enjoy a telemetry drive this evening, the plan will be to do this tomorrow.

Return to the lodge in the evening for dinner and a good night’s rest after a busy and exciting day!

thumbnail

Day 9

Pending how successful the predator work has been to date, today’s program will be flexible.

If the plan is to work with lion, this will probably take place during the morning since these animals are fairly habituated to vehicles and provided they are in an accessible area, one hopes to have success!! These massive beasts are truly impressive and their size and obvious strength will make the hair on your neck stand up!

After the immobilization and the animal’s recovery, you will return to the lodge, or enjoy a packed lunch in the field, pending the day’s work.

If the plan is to work with leopard or hyena, then this will probably be a night time operation, and is less predictable. In all likelihood immobilization attempts will then start on the evening of day 8 already.

Once guests have completed the planned veterinary procedures, there will be some time to enjoy more talks, possibly discuss dart guns and fire water filled darts at a target, or just simply relax.

Kindly note that some meals may be in the form of a packed meal in the field, to facilitate procedures.

thumbnail

Day 10

After breakfast at 9AM, it is time to pack and check out at 11AM

Transfer to the airport in Hoedspruit and check in for your flight to Cape Town International airport – flight cost included in program.

thumbnail

Day 11

thumbnail

Day 12

thumbnail

Day 13

thumbnail

Day 14

Included

Accommodation as per schedule
Meals as indicated
Park fees
Activities as indicated
Services of guide with vehicle, fuel & taxes

Not Included

Meals not indicated
Activities not Indicated
Drinks, Gratuities, Personal Spending