Game plan

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Cream presents a travel special on South Africa. Each week we focus on one of the nation’s many colourful regions, this week honing in on Mattanu Private Game Reserve. Not just your average game reserve, this place offers a genuine eco-tourism experience.

TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANTONINO TATI

A trip to South Africa would be fairly futile without a visit to one of its game reserves, and one in particular – Mattanu Private Game Reserve which is situated in Kimberley, not far from the infamous diamond mines of the Northern Cape Province – offers more than just the obligatory game drive. A family owned and run business headed by wildlife veterinarian, Dr Johan Kriek, guests are fortunate to witness unique eco warriors at work where the good doctor and his assistants work to breed endangered species of African fauna while also helping to keep disease at bay through regular routines of darting animals on the land, vaccinating them and then releasing them to lead a more pleasurable existence. It makes for a more hands-on experience than simply sitting in a four-wheel-drive and watching kudu and zebra wander by. But more about that later.

Within minutes of entering the main gate, we were in fits of ecstasy having immediately spotted a herd of giraffes (also known as a ‘journey’), a dazzle of zebra, and several families of springbok (South Africa’s national animal), happily dashing over rich red and green veld. To think… the official game drives hadn’t even begun and already the wildlife was running rife.

Upon arrival to the main lodge, the staff presented us with refreshments and a brief tour, not wanting to take up too much of our time, knowing we’d want to take advantage of a cool shower or splash in the communal pool before setting off on our first evening drive.

Mattanu provides well-organised game drives, lead by trusty rangers in open four-wheel-drive vehicles, often with a tracker on hand to help spot those often-hard-to-see creatures with their clever ways of camouflage. Kudu, for example, the great antelopes that are most popular on this particular reserve, are decorated in white-striped brown pelts that help them fade into scrub environments. Giraffes are good at blending in with the orange and brown bark of tall trees. And chameleons, well… their name comes from the same root word as camouflage… enough said. But spot them all we did, in all their natural habitat and glory.

Pictured above, clockwise from top left: The Main Chalet at Mattanu; giraffes roaming at dawn; a sneaky li’l chameleon tries to do the camouflage thing.