Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
I came across this mural in Newtown one day in March. Amazing though it is, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city, it looked completely out of place. It did, however, make me really look forward to a change of scene, and why not an animal-themed one?
Fast forward a couple of months and I find myself in South Africa. I spent a few nights in Africa On Foot, a lodge in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve that specialises in walking safaris. Africa On Foot claims that it specialises in Big Five safaris and it did not disappoint.
We are picked up at Hoedspruit airport by a friendly guide. On the way in, we spot baboons, impala, waterbuck, and a herd of elephants. I’d never been on safari before, and didn’t know what to expect, but this density of animals was amazing. Little did I know, but that was just a teaser.
Over the next few days, we saw heaps of animals, including all of the big five. The feared African lion were, I have to say, the least impressive. Both times we spotted them, they were doing nothing more exciting than enjoying a siesta in the sun. In fact, our guide mentioned that he’d spent hundreds of hours with this particular pair of lionesses, most of which they had spent sleeping.
Our leopard encounter was a little more exciting. We had just finished sundowners and were heading back to camp. Enoch, out on the “bait seat”, had a powerful torch and was sweeping the light in steady arcs, trying to spot some nocturnal animals. All was quiet in the truck, and after a pretty great game drive, we were all happy to head back to the warmth. We don’t see him at first. Enoch’s powerful torch is off to the side, scanning the bush. But the leopard is straight ahead, lying by the side of the road, next to one of the final forks in the road before reaching camp. “Leopard!”, calls our driver excitedly, and instantly, everyone is alert. Enoch’s beam swings around, catching it full in the face. The leopard calmly pads off into the bush and down into a nearby gully. We try to follow it for a while, all of us on the edge of our seats, but eventually we are forced to admit defeat.
Africa On Foot specialises in walking safaris, and it sure didn’t disappoint. The first two mornings we were there, the wind is too strong and we are forced to do a game drive instead. But on the third morning, the weather is perfect and we head out on our walk. There have been reports of rhino in the area, so our guide points us in that direction. Before we know it, we come across a crash (don’t you just love this term?) of rhinos. We crouch down behind some shrub, peering through the branches at the magnificent animals. We are quiet as mice, but they must have sensed us and they slowly start walking. Before we know it, they have circled to our right, and there is nothing but wide open space between us and those menacing horns. They come closer and closer and we all freeze, holding our breaths. They are a mere five metres away when our guides decide that they are close enough. They start clapping their hands and patting their thighs, trying to scare them away. The rhinos are unfazed. One even takes a step closer. Our guide starts to slide the bolt of his rifle in place, and it is this metallic noise, so alien in the bush, that finally scares the rhino off. We all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
It is our last day on safari and we still need one more animal to round out our Big Five – the cape buffalo. On our morning walking safari, we spot some fresh buffalo tracks, but going in the opposite direction. Our guide promises to circle around, and hopefully spot them on the way back. True to his word, and testament to his skills as a tracker, we are on our way back to camp when he tells us to get down. There is a large watering hole in front of us, screened by a clump of trees, and from what we can see, there are a couple of buffalo right in front of us, on the other side of the trees.
The buffalos move, thankfully not towards us, and we creep closer. Turns out we were wrong – there aren’t just two or three buffalo here; it’s a whole herd. They have just drunk their fill from the waterhole and are following a little gully out onto higher land. We watch silently, not daring to move. Luckily, the safari truck is close by and they come to pick us up. The animals are used to the truck, but not to humans on foot, so we can get a lot closer (and feel a lot safer!) when we are in the vehicle. After some time observing the buffalo, it’s time to head back to camp and back to reality.
This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Delta.
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