I had three chances to see some of the "Big 5" during the trip. Here are some of my favorite shots. A far as the places we went? I'd rank them: Pilanesberg, Lion Park, Aquila. Here's a bit more info if helpful:
We visited the Aquila Game Reserve, about 2 hours from Capetown. This was my first "safari" and the weather didn't cooperate. Despite the time of year (December), it was cold, windy and rainy during the game drive. I wasn't prepared for that, especially with one of my kids being sick. Mercifully, the drive was cut short. That said, the reserve felt more like a "Safari Drive through" like we had at Six Flags. The lions were actually in a relatively small, fenced-in area by themselves. It was like being at the zoo. Even if the weather was nicer, the park still felt "small".
The visit to Pilanesberg, near Capetown, was awesome. In fact, I could have spent a day riding through the park. The trick is to ask the other guides and visitors (you can drive your own car, and many people did - benzes and beamers on safari? Yes). for the current location of the animals. Spending a day in your own car would be great, especially if you are already in the vicinity, visiting Sun City. This park has animals that are largely "on their own" to find their food (unlike Aquila). It also felt much, much larger.
Lastly, we visited the Lion Park, near JoBurg. I wasn't sure if this would be good or really tacky, but actually thought it was well done. The drive starts with the basic, boring antelopes and other animals. Then, it quickly becomes an array of different lions. The White Lions were especially amazing to see. The first group of lions we saw was "led" by a large male lion that was "having his way" with a female lion. His facial expression made the sight memorable (see photo). After the drive, you can go visit the lion cub enclosure to interact with the cubs. Sadly, some of the "cubs" were not so little. We were next in line when a "cub" attacked a toddler that was in the arms of her father. In the end, the lion ripped off her pants/ diaper while latching onto her with both claws and its jaws. The child was left with at least one huge a gash in her leg from the tug-of-war between dad and lion. Amazingly, after they emptied the enclosure and the dad ran off to get help, the attendant calmly said: "OK, who's next in line?" Amazing.
The king of the animals
The king of the animals