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From big business to big cats

On big game safari in South Africa

From CNN's Richard Quest

Lion sightings are the highlight of safari trips.




Biz Traveller
South Africa
International Trade

SHAMWARI, South Africa (CNN) -- Pushed onto planes, hassled in airports, and constantly called by head office, business travelers could be forgiven for feeling hunted.

Which is why, a wild game safari in South Africa -- on the trail of some of the world's most majestic beasts -- is a great chance to turn hunter, even if you are only armed with a camera.

Shamwariexternal link, a game park in South Africa's Eastern Cape, makes a perfect destination for executives seeking an escape, not least because it is a malaria-free zone and there is no need for mosquito protection.

But with lions, leopards, rhinoceros, and buffalo on the loose, there the risk of attracting a few other unwanted bites.

Spotting tall giraffes and lumbering elephants requires patience and, although we're safely ensconced in our four-wheel drive vehicle, considerable nerve. Jumbos, it seems, are notorious for overturning jeeps.

"They can move surprisingly quickly, but you must stand your ground," advises Jason, one of my guides in Shamwari.

Says Jason, many visitors to the game park are on the look out for specific beasts, others take pot luck

"You could be going out there to look for the big 'five', which a lot of people are coming out to look for. Other people like just to sit back, enjoy what comes their way. Generally those are the people that get everything."

At Shamwari, many of the big animals back have been reintroduced into an environment they inhabited hundreds of years ago.

This 20,000 hectare reserve houses five different eco-systems, with some spectacular views.

After hours of driving through the park, at last we encounter some big cat tracks, and soon we spot a lion and cub. On a bush safari, this is what visitors pay your money for, and it's breathtaking to watch; even if they are a big cat in business, they are nothing compared to these big cats.

But the best was still to come. As we filmed we saw the lions in fearsome action -- killing a warthog. The young cats fought over every last bit of the carcass, nothing was wasted, not even the warthog's head.

Driving through the bush in Range Rover allows visitors to feel like they're in the heart of the action. But the feeling of safety can be misleading -- shortly before we arrived at this game park, three tourists were killed in a freak accident when their Land Rover overturned.

Although I spotted most of the big animals, according to Jason, it's the little creatures that make the safari worthwhile.

Creature comforts

"You've got to get a piece of it all. You can't just come here and say 'I've come to see the big game that's all I want to see,' otherwise you'll be missing out on the bigger picture. You've definitely got to come out and see the smaller things."

I'm no bird watcher, but I took Jason's advice and began scanning the trees with my binoculars. We spotted what could have been a white eagle, or perhaps a jackal buzzard.

There are plenty of other species here that can only be found in South Africa, making it a popular spot for ornithologists.

After a hard day in the bush, Shamwari offers luxury accommodation with plenty of creature comforts. A typical suite costs just under $1,000 per person per night, including two game rides and all meals.

But if you want to rough it a little bit, there's the novelty of an outdoors "bush shower" instead of a standard indoor bathroom.

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