After Galway we decided to make the long drive down to the Ring of Kerry. We went via Limerick (as we obviously needed to see where limericks come from!). It took about 3 hours to get there but it was so worth the drive. We drove over a hill and suddenly had this incredible view and knew we had arrived. It is an incredibly stunning part of Ireland. We drove through Killorglin and stopped to see the wild salmon fishery, huge River Laune and statue of King Puck (the goat). The views were incredible. The towns are all super cute. They all had little petrol pumps on the side of the road, it felt like stepping back in time. We came across a campsite next to a river and decided to camp there for the night. We were the only tent there (there was one other caravan), but we were treated to an incredible sunset with boats passing by! It was probably the most beautiful campsite I've ever stayed at. The next day we made our way down to Dingle and found a B&B. We stopped at Skelligs Chocolate factory and the many roadside shrines, beaches and castles. Dingle was a great place. We went out for a few drinks at a pub with some live music and had a meal with some cooked oysters which I've never tried before and John Bennys Pub. Our last night was in Kinsale before making our way back to Dublin via the Wicklow mountains and a quick half guinness at the highest pub in Ireland.
I've been to the Lake District a couple of times now. The first time was in 2006 with a big group and we all stayed in caravans near Keswick and went on lots of beautiful walks. More recently we stopped for a couple of nights on our way back from our Scotland trip and camped with our friends. We stayed at a National Trust campsite in Langdale. It was a really good campsite with a couple of pubs 10 mins walk down the road... one of them also owned by National Trust. I didn't realise National Trust did campsites or pubs, but both were brilliant and had really good facilities! The pub was super cosy with fireplaces, blankets, boardgames and all sorts of cute things... they also showed movies upstairs and the food was really good!
The only minor issue with this campsite was it was in a valley in England... where it rains! Our first night was good. The next day we explored the area, went for a walk and checked out the shops and had tea and cake in Ambleside. In the evening after dinner the heavens opened and it poured with rain all night. Chris and I had a particularly bad night as in the very early morning while the rain was hammering our tent we suddenly woke up to the hiss of our blow-up mattress slowly going down. It was a long, cold night. It is not fun packing up when everything is wet but being a National Trust Campsite they had this amazing drying room where we hung everything up to dry while we packed. At least it was the end of the holiday and we could go home for a hot shower... :-)
Our second stop in Scotland was Loch Ness. We found a really good campsite, which to be honest was mostly caravans, but there were a few tents. The facilities were excellent, there was a breakfast van that did really good cooked breakfast and coffee, an excellent shop and it was right next to the loch!
We had been told that the highland games were on around the time we were there, and when we looked into it, realised the final day of the games was an hour and a half from where we were. It was such a co-incedence there was no way we couldn't go! The journey there and the location of the games were beautiful! The games were fascinating... even though it was the final, it was surprisingly small, on a patch of grass next to a river with multiple competitions taking place at the same time. We saw cycling (on grass), bagpipes, long jump, cross-country, highland dancing, tug o' war and some heavyweight men in kilts sitting around eating in-between throwing all sorts of heavy objects throughout the day...
Another fab day in Scotland!
We camped at Loch Ness Shores Caravan and Campsite
A few years ago I headed to Valencia and Benicassim Festival with some friends for a long weekend. Valencia is a gorgeous Spanish city. Beautiful buildings, sculptures and beaches. We wandered around exploring the city, caught the tour bus, spent the day at the beach, ate paella and spent the evenings watching flamenco and visiting bars. After a couple of days in Valencia we caught the train to Benicassim festival where we camped and partied for a long weekend. It is a fantastic festival where you spend the days at the beach and the evenings watching bands and dancing until the early hours. The camping was rough... the ground was hard and rocky and after not much sleep you were woken up early with the heat... but it didn't seem to matter too much when you were having fun. If I went again I would certainly consider a villa (I'm getting old now!)... but I wouldn't say no to another festival of beach days and hot evenings dancing the night away...
Norfolk is one of the most wonderful parts of England I have been to. Huge wide skies with so, so many stars, beaches, wide open spaces, the broads and lots of beautiful villages. It isn't polished, it feels rustic and real... there are lots of working farms and tractors driving around the country roads. We drove past heaps of houses who had an honesty box and little table of goods that they were selling out the front with tomatoes, strawberries, eggs, flowers, plants, jam etc... so cute and so English.
On the Saturday we hired a motorboat and spent a few hours on the broads. I didn't really know what the broads were before this weekend, but soon found out they are a network of rivers and lakes in Norfolk and Suffolk that you can navigate by boat. It is a lovely way to spend a day... you can hire a sail boat, canoe or motorboat and spend the day exploring the broads... slowly floating about with the swans and cormorants. In the evening we headed back to the campsite and had a braai and a fire with marshmallows.
On Sunday we walked around and had a seafood lunch in Wells-next-to-the-sea. It was a hot day and there were hoards of people eating fish and chips outside by the harbour. We walked around and explored the town, checking out all the cute little shops, of which the butcher, baker, deli and grocer are all owned by Arthur Howell (I'm not sure who he is, but he owned a lot of the town!). Afterwards we headed to the beach... which had a really long line of amazing colourful beach huts... all in different designs.
On our second night we opted from fresh bread (from Arthur Howell's bakery) and lots of different local cheeses (plus some Port Salut... obviously!) and another evening with a fire under the stars. I literally cannot wait to go back to Norfolk. I have fallen hopelessly in love with it. Discovering places like this are one of the reasons I love England so much...
My brother and sister-in-law live in Hong Kong. The world is such a small place now, we speak to them on FaceTime, constantly share photos and videos. We've been to Hong Kong and they come back to the UK twice a year. But since they had my niece, Savannah it has felt like they are really far away! We are all close close and even though we are in contact more than we were before, talking over FaceTime isn't quite the same as playing with her, sitting around the fire together, going for a walk... I really miss them now. They have just been back for their summer holidays and we all went camping in Wickham Market in Suffolk.
Chris and I went on Saturday and everyone else arrived on Sunday. We had a picnic for lunch and mom made a lamb stew for dinner and afterwards we all sat around the fire roasting marshmallows. On Monday we went to Aldeburgh and Thorpeness for the day, which are both lovely! Aldeburgh has a lovely long pebble beach, colourful buildings and loads of beach shacks selling fresh seafood. Thorpeness has a lovely little boating lake, windmill and the quirky House in the clouds which you can see from Aldeburgh. On Tuesday we visited Sutton Hoo which has an interesting history, though all you can really see now are some mounds of earth! There is quite a good museum that explains it all.
It was so special to have quality time all together and especially with Savannah as the last time I saw her she was just a few weeks old. Now she was running around, laughing and talking. I got to play with her and put her to sleep. Special memories I will hold onto until the next time...
This year is 10 years since my first festival; V Festival in 2007! I went with a group of close friends (one of who is now married with three children to a friend she got together with after this festival!) We were totally unprepared, queued in traffic for hours and arrived at about 2am. We then had to walk miles in the dark and rain with way too much luggage and 5L bottles of water while we tried to find a spot to camp. We eventually found somewhere (in the centre meeting area of a circle of tents) and set up about setting up our tents... my friend Hayley had brought her dads old school tent with metal poles that you have to put together, which she had never set up before... it was hilarious and a memory we still talk about now!
V Festival was very mainstream and quite different to festivals I might choose now, but the music was brilliant. I got to see more big bands and live music than I could have dreamed of and this fuelled my love of live music from then onwards. I'm so glad the rain and toilets never put me off! Here's to many more rainy, muddy festivals shared with friends in the years to come! :-)
We bought a new tent and thought we should test it out for a night or two before fully committing to a festival or holiday, so we searched for a few campsites and found one in Cliddesden which is a 15 minute drive from where we live! We had never heard of it and have driven through Cliddesden loads of times! It was a bit lame camping so close to home, but we thought at least if the tent was awful and it poured with rain we could always go home!
It turned out the tent was really good and the campsite was fantastic! We turned up after work on a Friday and checked in with the hippy couple who lived at and ran the place. We found a quiet spot in the woods surrounded by really tall trees with no-one else near us. One of the best things was that we could have a little campfire which we set about starting as soon as the tent was up.
We had packed some homemade rusks which I had made at home for breakfast, and made a really nice and easy camping breakfast with some tea. After a chilled out morning we went for a country walk and made our way to the village of Dummer to have a pub lunch at the Queen Inn pub. It is a good pub with home cooked food, but it does close in the afternoon which means that everyone has to leave before they open again in the evening, which we thought was slightly odd.
In the evening we headed back for another fire and a small braai on my bucket BBQ followed by a campfire. It was lovely just sitting under the trees and reading and then sitting out by the fire before bed.
This was such a great find and I will definitely go back again. We have camped with this group of campsites before and had an equally good experience. It looks like Inwood have recently moved the site recently and may move again, but it is still in the same area and they still have the same feel among trees with campfires... so if you fancy camping out among the trees with a campfire I would definitely check it out!
It is festival season... I love festival season, but am not going to any big festivals this year, so thought I'd share the last festival I went to. Our weekend at Somersault started with putting our tents up in the drizzle and drinking cans of cider in our tent porch. Through the night the rain poured non-stop. We woke up to still pouring rain in the morning, even heavier than it was the night before, it was crazy! I do love a good festival but constant rain is definitely not as fun as basking in the sunshine through the day... we eventually decided to brave it and walked from our tents along the straw covered path (that a tractor had been covering all morning to try and control the mud situation) into the festival and found a chai tent for a warm mug of spicy tea!
Luckily for us the weather drastically improved and we did end up basking in the sunshine in the afternoon! Somersault is a lovely small family festival in North Devon with only 2 stages and a forest party. It was all very civilised with some seriously good food stalls serving garlic mushrooms, crepes, homemade pizzas, posh hotdogs. There was even a sit down banquet four course meal that you could have pre-booked each day hosted by River cottage, Fifteen Cornwall and Valentine Warner. As well as the amazing food on offer they had a raft of outdoor activities that you could sign up for including surfing, coasteering, paddle boarding, mountain biking, rock climbing, yoga classes, wild swimming and archery.
The music was amazing too! We got to see Laura Marling, Imelda May, The Shires, Passenger, Lucy Rose, Bombay Bicycle Club (who are one of Chris and my all-time favourite bands and were amazing!!!) and Jeremy Loops, who I had never heard of but turned out to be a brilliant act from Cape Town and is now one of my favourite bands! There were a whole bunch of smaller bands I had never heard of who turned out to be really good... one of my favourite things about festivals is finding new music you haven't heard before!
On the Sunday it poured with rain again which was such a shame! We packed up our tent in the rain, watched a bit of passenger, had some food and headed home exhausted and totally ready for a shower and clean bed!
Somersault have had a break but look like they are returning again next year! If you fancy a small family friendly festival with amazing food, stalls with fresh handmade flower crowns and a party in a forest check it out!
Last year, we had the most wonderful weekend camping in the New Forest. I love the New Forest with all it's ponies and yellow gorse, it feels like nowhere else in the UK! And it is only an hour away from Basingstoke, so we can pop down after work on a Friday! We found an awesome quite basic pop up campsite in Lower Lepe where they allowed you to have small campfire. This is now becoming a prerequisite for deciding whether we will go to a campsite or not as I think there is nothing better than sitting around the campfire when camping. We've been camping a few times recently and I really don't understand all the people watching TV in their caravans! The reason I love camping is being outside, sitting by a fire roasting marshmallows, stargazing and pointing out the one constellation that you know... things you would usually do at home! There were no caravans here and everyone was outside around their fires, it was lovely!
We went camping with our friends Gavin and Nicola who turned up in their MG packed to the roof with all sorts of things! I thought I was bad with packing too much, but they brought everything from candles to beautiful rugs... I have no idea how they fitted it all in that car, but it was great and made for a wonderful home away from home (and totally converted me to taking even more than I usually do :-))!
On the Saturday we walked through the countryside to Lepe beach for some lunch and caught the beach bus back to our campsite for a braai! We bought a disposable BBQ which was totally useless, so landed up creating our own fire and propped the grill from the disposable BBQ up with Strongbow cans! Gavin is an really creative cook! When I cook I tend to use a recipe and buy all the ingredients I need, whereas he can rustle up an awesome meal from some random ingredients sitting in the back of the fridge! We ate like kings that night from just a few ingredients from the local co-op! We had steak, salmon and pork belly all marinated in lemon, herbs and spices followed by toasted marshmallows... nom nom!
On the Sunday after attempting to make a full English breakfast in rain and gale force winds, it brightened up and we headed out on a drive. Nicola mentioned the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive which we checked out. I had never heard of it... it is a lovely narrow road with ridiculously tall trees on either side. I think if you go a bit earlier in the year there are also rhododendrons and azaleas in flower adding some colour, but it is definitely worth the visit any time of the year!
Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of a seafood platter, which you can get anywhere in South Africa. I have never understood why a small island like the UK surrounded by sea doesn't have them! Chris recently heard about the Noisy Lobster who apparently did seafood platters so we obviously headed there for lunch. The restaurant is on Avon beach which is a lovely sandy beach with colourful beach huts! We tried out a cold platter, which I have never had before... we had crab, oysters, mussels, prawns and lobster with chips and salad with some lovely white wine! It was amazing! Definitely worth a visit!
After lunch we went to Lymington, a lovely harbour town with colourful buildings and cute shops! After checking out the harbour and all the cute shops, we headed back for some cheese and crackers for dinner and our final campfire. A lovely bank holiday weekend had by all...
I've been to a few festivals now and Glastonbury is by far the absolute best festival. It is amazing and there is good reason it is nearly impossible to get tickets now. I'm lucky to have been a few times with my old job where we worked from Tuesday to Friday morning handing out little cards with the car park number to everyone arriving as they parked in exchange for a free festival ticket. We could enjoy the days the festival before Friday on our free shifts and then from about Friday lunchtime once everyone had arrived and the festival really kicked off we were free to do as we pleased. As I have tried and failed every year to get tickets this was an amazing deal! Unfortunately I'm not going this year, but as Glastonbury is next week I thought I'd share a few tips I have learned...
What to pack:
You are going to have to carry whatever you pack a really long way, so you absolutely only want to take what you need! My friend Nicola has written a hilarious post on what not to pack, and it is totally true. Once you get there and realise just how big it all is you are going to regret every unnecessary thing you packed!
- Your ticket
- Cash and Bank Card
- Driving Licence (ID)
- Mobile Phone - If you are not that precious if your phone gets wrecked/ lost/ stolen then take your fancy iPhone. If you are precious then definitely take a cheap phone and sim card and a compact camera (with spare battery) and leave your phone at home. You will definitely need a phone for finding people/ emergencies and camera (if you're like me) to capture all those memories, but up to you if you want to risk it!
- Power bank (for charging your phone. There are charging points, but you really don't want to waste festival time standing in queues to charge your phone!)
- Backpack - A travel backpack is the only sensible bag to pack everything in
- Packing cubes - I use packing cubes for all of my travelling, they are so useful for keeping everything organised and finding things when you're living out of a bag
- A few sandwich/ freezer bags or Dry Bags - I have a pack of three dry bags and take them on all my trips as well as a couple of small freezer bags. Keep the small one in your day bag with your phone, toilet roll, money in incase everything gets soaked, use another for wet/ dirty washing and a spare for whatever else you want
- Small day backpack - super useful to carry your drinks/ waterproofs etc
- Tent - keep it small and 100% make sure it is waterproof! I have had my tent and EVERYTHING totally soaked before because my tent wasn't totally waterproof!
- Sleeping bag
- Roll mat (you could take a blow up mattress - I know 5/6 nights is a long time to sleep on the floor, but remember how big and heavy it is to carry!) I have opted for one of those self-inflating mattresses the last few festivals as they are slightly more comfy than one of those old school blue roll-mats and you will be pretty exhausted/ hammered by the time you fall asleep you won't really care
- Pillow - get an inflatable pillow or use your hoodie - don't take a proper pillow!
- A couple of plastic bags for rubbish and antibacterial wet wipes - I'm sure no-one else does this, but I always take a small pack of wet wipes for my tent. I find them useful to try and keep it clean and wipe out any mud/ spilled drink etc
- Head torch - You definitely need one to find your tent at night/ for inside your tent/ for checking out portaloos at night before you decide to go in!
- Festival clothes - Try and take as little as possible but enough to cope if everything gets soaked:
- One pair each of jeans/ leggings (that you can also sleep in)/ shorts or skirt with 5/6 tops is perfect. You may want to have fun and take some crazy stuff for dressing up (as where else can you!) - a tutu, funky leggings, all out fancy dress!
- One pair of pants for each day plus a couple spare
- Lots of socks
- A warm top/ hoodie and beanie - it gets quite cold at night
- A waterproof jacket/ poncho - something that can be folded up really small and is totally waterproof is ideal!
- One pair of wellies and one pair of flip flops/ sandals
- One spare set of clean dry clothes to store separately for going home in (if you are driving keep them in your car)
- Toiletry Bag:
- Wet wipes for face and body (A lot of them!)
- Dry Shampoo (hats and headbands help for dirty hair too!)
- Moisturiser (Small bottle or decant into a travel size jar)
- Lip balm
- Toothbrush and mini-toothpaste
- Make-up - Basic cover up stick and mascara, glitter, face paint and cotton buds
- A compact mirror
- Essentials for surviving the toilets: A toilet roll (to carry with you always as there probably won't be one in the loo). A She-wee (For me this was a life saver - you can go into a portaloo and not touch anything or you can try out the ladies urinals!). Antibacterial hand wash (totally essential - buy yourself a large bottle!)
- Sunglasses and suncream
- A water bottle (there are over 400 drinking taps/ kiosks so just take a bottle that you can refill)
- Ear plugs and eye mask can come in really useful for sleeping especially if you are a light sleeper, you are camping RIGHT NEXT TO other tents!
- Drinks - Glastonbury is one of the only festivals where you are camping in the site and can take your drinks in with you, you just can't take any glass. Remember whatever you take you have to carry. When you turn up you will see everyone has brought trolleys/ wheelbarrows etc with them for carrying all their drinks and gear. Working in the carparks almost every second trolley collapses or the wheels come off from the weight of everything or the bumpy/ muddy road to your camping spot. Don't bother with a granny trolley, it won't last! If you are going to take a trolley, make sure it is totally hardy, can carry a weight and has big wheels that will cope with an uneven muddy surface and a long journey with a massive weight! You will need bungee chords to strap everything in too. If you are going to take beer or cider remember it will be warm! I went with a large group one year who go every year and there are about 20 of them. Between them all they bring cooler boxes (that they carry between them and double up as seats) and a large block of dry ice that they chip away at to keep the drinks cool all week. This is a massive team effort and works amazingly well. If you are not in a big organised group like this, forget the beers and just decant gin/ vodka into plastic bottles and take mixers in plastic bottles, or boxes/ bags of wine work well too. With the latter option remember to take plastic cups too! And then you can just buy yourself the odd nice cold beer at one of the bars!
Now that looks like a really long list, but if you stick to it and keep things small and light, pack and organise your backpack well, you should be able to carry one backpack on your back and if you opt for a good trolley you can drag that behind you! There are also lots of shops on site where you can buy pretty much anything... from tents to plasters, you will just be paying a premium!
This here is an example of what not to take:
Tip 1: If you drive to Glastonbury, take note of whether you park east or west and which number car park you are in as well as any kind of markers of where in the car park you are. If you are lucky someone will give you a card with this info (check it is correct, add any additional notes and keep it somewhere safe!). There are 63 car parks and all of them are the size of a massive field!
Tip 2: The festival is huge! You will walk a long way from the car park before you even get to one of the pedestrian gates and then you will have a way to walk through the festival before you get to your camping spot. If you are lucky you will have a lovely sunny day. If not, you may be walking miles in slippery mud! Make sure you pack sensibly so you don't have to carry too much, and wear really comfortable shoes/ clothes! Also take note of which pedestrian gate you enter from the carpark so you can find your way back.
Tip 3: Arrive as early as you can to get the best possible camping spot. You don't want to be camping anywhere near the toilets or the pathways. Also as it is a valley and known for rain and mud, the higher up you are the better to avoid your tent being totally washed away. People start arriving on Tuesday night so that they can go in as soon as the gates open on Wednesday morning. If you arrive late on Thursday/ anytime Friday unless friends have saved you a spot you are not going to have much choice! Consider taking a flag pole and unique flag to stick in the ground by your tent or take note of another obvious tent/ flag near yours. When you come back late and night in the dark and there are a sea of tents you are going to struggle to find yours!
Tip 4: Check your wellies twice before you leave home to make sure they don't have any holes and will last the week! Last year where there was more mud than I have ever seen in my entire life and the site was muddy before anyone even arrived I put my wellies on as soon as I arrived and realised they had a hole in them. I had a really long uncomfortable journey with wet feet to one of the shops where I paid a premium for a new pair of wellies! Even if there is no rain forecast take your wellies, as with the number of people 20 mins of rain turns it all to a mudbath and your shoes will be ruined! When the sun comes out it also dries surprisingly quickly, but be prepared!
Tip 5: If you are anything like me, as soon as you see the detailed line-up of who is playing on all the different stages, you are going to want to see all of them! The first time I went I had a print out of the plan with everyone I wanted to see one after the other highlighted in bright yellow. When I got there I realised just how big the place was and with the crowds of people it takes at least half an hour to walk from one stage to another, so be selective about who you really want to see and then just go with the flow for the rest. It is definitely more fun to be with people you know watching someone you don't know than being on your own watching someone you do!
Tip 6: If you are in a group of friends, you will need a plan for finding each other and you can't rely on your phones! Agree meeting at a certain point at a particular time and either all wear something obvious that makes it easy to spot each other (I've seen a whole crowd of people in 'Where's Wally' outfits, simple, but really clever!), or consider carrying around a tall unique flag (like everyone else) or a flashing bike light that you can switch on and off when needed!.
Tip 7: Don't just stick to the two main stages! There are some really awesome acts on some of the smaller stages and in the numerous tents. I have found so many new singers and bands that I now love just wondering around and exploring to see what else is playing or just had fun dancing to an Irish or Salsa band in a random tent. Also listen out for surprise acts, there are always some famous bands or artists doing an acoustic set or performance that is not on the planner!
Tip 8: Be a free spirit! Take some time out to just wander the rest of the site. There is so much cool stuff going on. Walk through the children's field to see the circus, movies, cabaret, comedy, poetry, art classes. Walk through the healing fields. Check out the market stalls. Take a walk up to the where the big Glastonbury sign is - it is really lovely and quiet and you have a view of all of the site. If you want to see Shangri-La go early. Go on Wednesday or Thursday night and try go earlier in the evening. If you go late you won't get in. I have only been once briefly and it is completely mental but definitely worth checking it out.
Tip 9: Eat! The food is amazing! There are more food stalls and variety than you can imagine. Everything from your standard greasy kebab van to sit down sushi restaurants. Every type of cuisine: French, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Thai. Hot dogs, square pies, buddha bowls, mezze, pizzas, halloumi, crepes, you name it and a lot of it is a pretty high standard. It can cost anything from £5 - £10 for a standard meal, so add this into your budget and choose wisely. When you see and smell it all you will have no interest in your breakfast bar! Be adventurous and try something different.
Tip 10: Don't try and leave on Monday morning... you will sit in a queue of traffic for a very long time. If you want to avoid the queues you will need to leave Sunday evening, which means probably missing the end of the final headliner or wait around and leave Monday afternoon.
Most of all... I hope you have the time of your life! Whatever the weather make the most of it and enjoy!
I am not particularly good at writing about my experiences - I would much rather share them through photographs and let you see for yourself. But there are some things about being out in the wild, open spaces of South Africa that you cannot see or experience through photos alone. It is the feeling of the sweltering sun on your skin, the dust in the air, the constant buzz of insects... the silence! It is the incredible activity everywhere you look, from dung beetles to huge elephants slowly crossing your path. It's the feeling of sitting eating outside in the cool evening air under an enormous clear sky with more stars than you've ever seen, quietly waiting and watching for shooting stars, hearing lions roar in the distance while you lie in bed. It feels like stepping back in time, to a place where you are not in charge, to a wild wonderful place before people arrived. There is something about being in the bush that gets under your skin, and you come away with memories and a feeling you will never forget!
Last time I went home to South Africa, Chris and I stayed at Pilanesberg Game Reserve for 4 nights. One of my close friends recommended it as a wonderful game reserve that is small enough for you to explore (you can buy a self-drive licence for your visit), has all of the Big Five and is only a 3 hour drive from Johannesburg, which sounded pretty great to me!
There was a really good range of accommodation, from luxury chalets to campsites where you can pitch your own tent. We chose to stay in a fixed tent in Manyane Resort as it was a fairly cheap option, and meant we didn't have to lug camping gear across the world and we got to sleep in proper beds! There was a little shop in the campsite and a braai outside our tent so that we could cook our own food. Our tent had a little fridge too so we could bring our own food and drinks. There was a bar, restaurant, swimming pool and mini-golf which kept us entertained when we weren't on a game drive or chilling with a beer and book on our verandah.
On our first morning we woke up to a herd of deer walking through the mist just past the trees, followed by a troop of baboons being chased by one of the game rangers. It was so beautiful and exciting, I didn't want to spoil the moment running for my camera!
We decided it was worth it to pay for a self-drive licence so that we could take a drive through the game reserve each day we were there. It meant we could really take our time exploring and getting out at the different hides where you could see more birdlife. We also paid for a game ranger to take us in for one morning and one night drive which was really worth it. They shared a lot of their knowledge with us and had walkie talkies to talk to the other rangers and share where some of the Big Five might be so we got to see more of the big animals than we might have seen on our own.
On our morning drive with the ranger, we were so incredibly lucky to see a lion kill a wildebeest! We had been distracted by a rhino crossing our path and all of a sudden there was this chase happening right next to us. The first lion was quickly joined by another, and once they'd suffocated and dragged the wildebeest into a bush, they brought out all their baby cubs to enjoy the feast. It was really one of the most incredible things I've ever seen and one I'll probably never see again.
Sun City is only 10 minutes down the road, which if you haven't heard of before, is a sort of oasis/ resort/ Las Vegas in the middle of the bush. It has a world class golf course, casinos, a wave pool, and various luxury hotels. It is worth visiting for the day to have a cocktail, lie by the pool and have a nice lunch (and of course a game of golf or bit of gambling if you're into that sort of thing)!
My only other experience of game reserves is Kruger National Park, which I went to with a school friend for a night when I was younger. Though I have some incredible memories there, I think I was too young to really compare, and Kruger is on a totally different scale. But if you're looking for a nice small game reserve close to Johannesburg I couldn't recommend Pilanesberg more! I think I will probably return again for another visit next time I go home.