Inspection Visit to South Africa: Niamh’s Safari Diary

Mark GardnerAfrica, Blog, Destinations, Inspection Trip, South Africa, Supporters Tours

South Africa 2021: Niamh's Safari Diary

Inspection Visit to South Africa: Niamh’s Safari Diary 

Coming together as four nations and singing our songs over a nice cold pint is special and a rarity in the modern era of professional sport. That is the beauty of this famous rugby tour. But, as tourists, we like to experience the uniqueness of the countries we visit, too. A must-do in South Africa (as well as sampling the local beers and wines) is a safari.

Making sure everything was tip-top on our inspection visit to South Africa back in February 2020, it was a must to get a safari in and go on the lookout for the Big 5.

For our very own Niamh Houlihan, it was a lifelong dream to go on safari, recalling her experiences from that day.

Check out our supporters’ packages for South Africa 2021.

Niamh’s Safari Diary 

“It’s safari time” 

It was a shock to the system when my alarm went off at 4:30am. But, realising it was the day that I might complete my lifelong dream of seeing an elephant in the wild, I was up like a shot and shouted to Laura that “it’s safari time!”

Down in the reception of the game lodge, we were greeted with copious amounts of caffeine although for the first time in my life, it wasn’t needed. The excitement launched me onto the safari trucks awaiting us outside and the MSG crew were ready for the 5am start. 

The sun was just starting to rise above the horizon as we entered the Pilanesberg National Park and it wasn’t long after we got going that we spotted our first animal. A rhino! The ranger told us all these facts about this black rhino (not that I could tell the difference, but I learned that there is also a white rhino species, too.) 

The MSG Team and partners on the safari truck on the inspection trip to South Africa
The MSG team and our partners ready to embark on safari during our Inspection Trip.

“I was in complete awe of our surroundings”

It wasn’t long until we could see wildlife everywhere we looked. There were zebras, impalas and warthogs; I was in complete awe of our surroundings. Never have I been so eagle-eyed and spritely at such an early time in the morning!

Deep into the park, we noticed some other safari trucks up ahead. Tip: This usually means that they have spotted some animals. My adrenaline was racing in the anticipation of what it might be! It was not one, but two lions! With cameras pointing at them from every direction, they didn’t have a care in the world as they continued licking their paws. It was a magical sight! They barely batted an eyelid.

More zebras and impalas gathering again but still no sign of an elephant. A quick 15 minutes off the truck for refreshments and a time to gather my breath (I’d been holding it almost the whole time).

Our ranger was tactical. Knowing the other trucks had moved on, he took us back to the spot where we had seen the lions to see if he could get us a glimpse of any more action. Success! A third lion had joined them amongst the long grass. One leaned back and stretched open his mouth. Hoping for a roar, we got a yawn. We must have been boring them but it was so amazing to see lions in their natural habitat!

South Africa 2021: Niamh disguised as a Lion on the safari truck
To make the lions feel comfortable, Niamh tried to blend in. That's not an actual lion behind Mark, that's Niamh.

My magical moment

As breakfast was approaching, we started to head back in the direction of the game lodge and my hopes of seeing an elephant were slowly fading away. The ranger slowly brought the truck to a halt and told us to lock in the north east direction and there they were. Two elephants roaming freely before my eyes. A majestic sight and one I will truly never forget!

The icing was put on the cake for me at our farewell dinner. The MSG team knew how much that moment meant to me and presented me with an elephant ornament to remember my dream coming true. An amazing way to finish my internship at MSG.

I was so glad to get my magical moment from an inspection trip which was non-stop. Squeezing in 32 hotels in 20 different destinations across two countries to ensure we can provide magical moments for our clients come July next year.

Thank you, Niamh

“As Niamh leaves the company for pastures new, we’d like to thank her for all her hard work in the two periods she spent with MSG Tours, making sure our South Africa 2021 Tour is the best it can possibly be.

We’re so glad the Inspection Trip provided her with her dream of seeing elephants in the wild and hope she’ll join us as a Tour Manager next year!”

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