Giraffes, Ostriches, and… Leopards, Oh My! – Dawn Foot Safari at Thornhill Safari Lodge

There are situations  when what you don’t know could hurt you.  This was one of those situations.

The good news is: you won’t be worried about what you don’t know unless it actually hurts you.  The foot safari on the last day of the three-day stay at Thornhill Safari Lodge provides an example.

It was well before dawn and still very dark when my guide, Dyson, and I exited the gate at the lodge to begin our two-person foot safari in the Guernsey Nature Reserve.  The Guernsey Nature Reserve is fenced off from Kruger Park and does not have lions or elephants roaming around.

I was looking forward to walking through the bush outside the fences that surround the lodge.  On the drives in and out of the lodge very little wildlife was visible.  Driving back from from Kruger National Park, we had a brief glimpse of a hippo.  That was my only large animal sighting inside the reserve.  I remember the guide’s remark:  “If you run into a hippo, he will kill you for sure.”   Original emphasis.

After taking only a few steps into the bush we ran into several giraffes. These giant animals were barely visible in the dark as they moved silently among the trees.

Photo was edited to greatly increase the brightness.

The giraffes let us approach to within 15 feet.

Brightness-enhanced photo with giraffes
That long neck is pretty flexible.

Later in the walk we found an abandoned ostrich nest.

Ostrich eggs
Dyson holding an Ostrich egg.   This egg would make quite an omelette.  Dyson was very aware of the surroundings and always spotted things before I did.

Several adult ostriches were out and about.20170610_131151

Ostriches would takeoff if we approached them.

Dyson showed me how locals used to turn common plants into personal hygiene items.

The fibers in the stem of this plant make an excellent toothbrush.
Adding water to the leaves of this plant makes shampoo.


There is also a plant for toilet paper. (No demonstration).

Aloe Vera has numerous uses and health benefits.

The walk proceeded along some of the dirt roads surrounding the lodge and across grassy fields.  It was fun just to walk around.  We came across more wildlife from time to time.


We could get fairly close to zebras but not as close as to the giraffes earlier.

Burchell’s zebra

20170610_125924 (1)

We came across more giraffes.  20170812_121217 (1)

These giraffes were more skittish than the ones we came across at daybreak.  We could not get within 30 feet of them.  They move slowly covering a lot of ground with each stride however.20170811_185813_resized_1 (1)

So what was it that I didn’t know?  Well I knew that there were leopards in the reserve.  The proprietor at the lodge said she had even seen them inside the lodge compound on a couple of occasions but that leopards would not attack people.  So I was hoping we would see leopards.

Contrary to what I was told, I later learned that leopards do attack people although that is very much the exception.  We didn’t see leopards, and since I didn’t know they posed any danger, during the foot safari I wasn’t concerned.  Had I known, however, about leopard predations on humans, I would have been a little less cavalier.

Overall Impression

It is great, and sometimes necessary for safety, to see African wildlife from a vehicle.  Walking next to them, including 17-foot tall giraffes, is even more fantastic.  I would have loved to spend more time walking around outside the fences of Thornhill Safari Lodge.

Other posts on the trip to South Africa:

Pictorial Trip Report — Robben Island (Mandela Prison) Tour, Cape Town, South Africa

Climbing Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

Trip Report – Cape of Good Hope and Cape Peninsula Tour, Part 1

Trip Report – Cape of Good Hope and Cape Peninsula Tour, Part 2

Cage Diving with Great White Sharks – Dyer Island (Shark Alley) Gansbaai, South Africa

Review – The Westin Cape Town, South Africa

Priority Pass Lounge Review – Bidvest Premier Lounge Domestic Terminal Cape Town, South Africa (CPT)

Trip Report – South African Express Airways DeHavilland Dash 8 Series Q400 Turboprop, Cape Town, South Africa (CPT) to Hoedspruit, South Africa (HDS)

Thornhill Safari Lodge, Guernsey Nature Reserve, Hoedspruit, South Africa

Night Safari – Timbavati Game Reserve South Africa

Amazing Safari In Kruger National Park, South Africa




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