The biggest game reserve in South Africa is the Kruger National Park with about 19.500 square kilometers. Therefore, it is not surprising that many people overlook other game reserves like the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve.
At least I did (but not deliberately).
Before I went to South Africa, of course, I have heard about the Kruger National Park. But not from the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve.
Step by step.
At least for me.
Nevertheless, luckily the game reserve in Plettenberg Bay got my attention when I visited the region. The game reserve is not located directly in Plettenberg Bay, but as the name suggests, close to the town, and thus, in the South of the Western Cape in South Africa. The Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve covers about 20 square kilometers. That means this game reserve is about 950 times smaller than the Kruger National Park.
So it is not surprising that many people – like me – overlook (or have overlooked) unintentionally the this Game Reserve.
I would say that the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve is definitely worth a visit when traveling along the Garden Route.
The Game Reserve provides a home for rhinos, buffalos, lions and leopards. And since recently as well for elephants. All together the “Big Five”.
When I visited this Game Reserve I saw “only” the rhinos, buffalos and lions from the “Big Five”. They had no elephants when I was there. For any reason I do not know, I did not see the leopards.
The Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve is small when compared to the Kruger National Park. But still it is not easy to observe all animals on the 20 hectare area in two hours.
I visited the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve twice.
On my first visit I participated in the „Game Drive“. And on my second visit in the “Horseback Safari”. Both activities take two hours, but the first in a car and the second on a horse.
If I would join a third safari at this Game Reserve, maybe I would choose again the car.
On one side I’m not a good horseback rider (before South Africa I sat on a horse only once in my life) – which is maybe not that comfortable for the horse – and on the other side I just enjoy taking photographs. I could take some pictures on the horse, but it was more difficult. Firstly, on the horseback I had to focus on my balance, and secondly, riding a horse can be too bumpy to take sharp photographs.
Which and how many animals are there in the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve?
There are about 150 different animal species (including birds, reptiles, and so on) in the Game Reserve. The game reserve is home especially for many species of antelopes like the springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), the bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus), the red hartebeest (Alcelaphus caama) and the waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus).
Blue wildebeests (Connochaetes taurinus) as well belong to the antelopes.
On my first visit to the Game Reserve I particularly remember the giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis). Not only because of their beauty, but also because of a study about giraffe populations decline in Africa. This study got some attention. My attention as well.
I also saw some hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) on my first visit. However, not on the horse. We had to walk to a small lake after the „Horseback safari“ in order to observe them. It was just a small walk.
We also spotted a blue crane (Grus paradisea) at this lake.
There was a difference between the Horseback Safari and the Game Drive. During the Horseback Safari it was not possible to approach buffalos (Syncerus caffer) on the horse, because it would have been too dangerous. As the buffalo females just had calved, they were feeding their young with milk to that time. On a horse it would have been too dangerous. However, two weeks later it was possible to approach them by car.
Buffalos on the Horseback Safari in the Game Reserve:
Buffalos on the Game Drive in the Game Reserve:
There are other sections in the Game Reserve that are not possible to visit by horse. That is the area with the wild dogs, lions and cheetahs.
Therefore, I observed these animals only on my second visit during the Game Drive.
At the beginning the wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) were a little bit sleepy. However, shortly after they became more and more active. Maybe because of our presence? Nevertheless, they were moving quite vividly. Thus, it was not that easy to take photographs of these animals.
Same situation in the area of the lions. At the beginning they were relaxing. Separately, the male rested on one side and the female on another side. However, when the female was moving and leaving, the male followed.
The two cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) just kept relaxing when we were entering their territory. They moved a little bit, but in general they were not interested in our presence at all. In the territory of the cheetahs I was allowed to leave the car for some moments. However, not all people are allowed to leave the car in the territory of the cheetahs. Only if visitors reach a certain size they are allowed to leave the car. Children usually have to remain in the car.
Although small with almost 1.60m, I was allowed to leave the car for some moments.
When we left the cheetahs we saw a tortoise crossing our path. The tour guide stopped and put the tortoise on a safer place.
Crocodiles are possible to observe during the Horseback Safari, because their territory on a pond is surrounded by a fence.
In the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve are many zebras (Equus quagga) and ostriches (Struthio camelus). Therefore, good observations are guaranteed on both Horseback Safaris and Game Drives.
Sometimes zebras and ostriches linger closely together.
But not only ostriches and zebras, all the several antilopes and buffalos live on the same territory.
Zebras apparently didn’t care about visitors. They just kept feeding.
When you leave the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve you can still observe animals like these ostriches.
The best way to visit the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve is by rental car or taxi. By the way, taxis are not that expensive. I do not know any bus to the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve. It is also possible to stay overnight at the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve. However, as I did not sleep at the Plettenberg Bay Reserve, I cannot share any experiences regarding this. More information is on their website.
On their website they inform visitors about all the news happening in the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve like, for example, the recently arrived elephants.
I very liked the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve. However, the next time when returning to South Africa I wish to see the Kruger National Park as well.