Bukela Lodge in South Africa provides luxury Safari without fences for people wanting to get close (but not so close that you’ll get eaten) to big game. About 40 minute’s drive from Port Elizabeth, it’s great for those flying in to drive the Garden Route to Cape Town, although if you have a hire car be careful of the bumpy track on the way in or you might see your deposit disappear!
We arrived after staying with friends in Port Alfred for a few days and stayed for 2 nights. The first thing you notice about Bukela is how well it’s kept, and how good the service is. Greeted with a cold drink, your bags are quickly taken to your lodge while you look out over the grounds. A swimming pool (which the elephants have a habit of drinking from) is surrounded by seating areas that are ample for the maximum of 10 guests that you’re likely to be sharing with.
Drives run twice a day, with each one focussing on a mix of what you’d like to see (Lion, Cheetah, etc) and what you’re likely to see (everything else). We were lucky enough to collect the whole set during our stay, with the most memorable being a couple of hours spent watching the Cheetah and her five cubs.
The Lion are kept separately and, to be honest, this is the only slightly disappointing aspect of the park as there are only two. You don’t get the full sense of the ‘pride’, but they’re still hugely impressive beasts when seen up close.
The guides are extremely knowledgeable and (depending on the group size) explain everything in as much detail as you want them to. We had the last couple of drives to ourselves, meaning we could pick and choose where to go, and decided to go looking for the Rhino. Sadly, the park had lost two of their bulls to poachers a few months before. One of the pictures below shows a lower jaw that’s still out there (I haven’t posted a one of the full carcass).
Frustratingly, it’s all completely unneeded. Rhino horn is almost completely made of Keratin (the same as our finger nails) and could be safely removed if poachers so wished. Instead they tend to dart the Rhino, hack of the horn and part of the face, and leave the animal to bleed to death.