BotlierskopBotlierskop is a private game reserve operated by a retired wild animal veterinarian, Dr Dirk Neethling, who saw the need to conserve South Africa’s large mammal biodiversity.  The property is located between the Outeniqua Mountains and unspoiled beaches of the Indian ocean, in the back of the photograph, along the Garden Route.  Since our visit in 2005, the reserve has upped their offerings, with more luxury for the visitor while still maintaining their commitment to the country’s fauna.

Botlierskop’s reserve covers 3000 ha (7400 acres) on which 26 different animal species and more than 200 different bird species are found.  These include the rare black Impala, Rhino, Lion, Buffalo, Giraffe, Mountain Zebra, Eland, Elephants, and an array of bok (antelope).

Botlierskop_Black_ImpalaOne of the more unique animals on the reserve is the Black Impala.  A genetic rarity in nature, Neethling first saw the skin of such an animal in the 1950s and wondered if a breeding pair existed in the wild.  In 1991,  he found two and began an intensive breeding program, coupled with a lot of patience, resulting, today, in several herds of black Impala roaming the hills of Botlierskop.

Botlierskop_ElephantThe game reserve also is home to a celebrity.  Totsi, the elephant, “starred” in a South African movie released in 1980 called “The Gods Must Be Crazy.”  The movie’s premise tells the story of Xi, a Sho of the Kalahari Desert bushman, whose tribe has been isolated from the developing world.  One day, up in the sky, Xi sees a single engine plane fly overhead and an empty, glass Coca Cola bottle falls from the sky.  He brings it back to the tribe where only bad things happen.  Convinced that the bottle is evil and must be thrown off of the edge of the world, Xi sets out alone to return the object, only to encounter Western civilization for the first time.  The elephant, along with another, came to Botlierskop in 2003 after they were orphaned following a culling program in Zimbabwe. At age 23, Tsotsi gave birth to Chima, a male calf, inn 2007. Prior to the calf’s birth, you could have a picnic lunch with the elephants in toe, feeding them their noontime meal afterwards.  Ever have lunch with an elephant?