By Zachary Moses
Day 7: To the Reserve
We drove this morning to the Shamwari Game Reserve. We’d chosen this reserve because it lies conveniently outside of the Malaria zone. We arrived at the lodge in time for a wonderful lunch, followed by an orientation with our local guides in the relaxing hotel meeting area.
We then went out for our first game drive. Our first spotting was of a couple of cheetahs.
We got out of our vehicle to start our walking game drive, and walked near a crash (herd) of rhinoceroses that got so close that we could hear them munching the grass.
Our guide had to stand guard with his rifle. Since we were on foot, it was necessary to have an armed guard, in case the rhinos were to charge. In this case, our guide would shoot them dead. Of course this would upset the game reserve, and we would likely owe them $300,000 for the rhino they just had to kill, because of our poor behavior. We all decided to behave.
Our guide explained to us about the poachers that come into the reserves by helicopter and kill the rhinos for their horns. The poacher will likely only make the equivalent of a few thousand dollars for the horn, but it’s more money than they would ever make working in their entire lifetime at other jobs available to them, so the poachers justify the fact that they are killing these precious and endangered animals. The horns are then shipped to Asia, where they are ground into a powder and sold as an aphrodisiac…this seems pointless to me, but maybe they haven’t discovered Cialis yet.
Every night there are anti-poaching teams that hide in the bush and track the animals. Whenever a poacher is spotted, the scout radios for a defense helicopter.
As we drove back to our lodge we stopped to observe zebras drinking from their watering hole.
Then this giraffe walked past the front of the car. It was extremely cool.
Back at the hotel, we enjoyed our deluxe accommodations. We all knew that the morning would have us off on our real bush adventure, so we truly savored the 5-star luxury.
Day 8 To the Camp, and into the Bush
After breakfast, our walking guide came and oriented us about what to expect at our tented camp for the next two days. It was going to be rough. We’d be exposed. However, there were a number of tactics put in place to keep us safe, like hidden electric fences etc. We then transferred to our camp and got a tour of the facilities.
There were 5 sleeping tents, a mess tent, a shower area, a latrine, and a deck. Our guide Jurann told us how he’d had to shoo away some lions that were sleeping on the deck before opening the camp for us. Nothing like a wildlife story to keep us in check! We had a safety orientation regarding camping outdoors in Africa’s wild-lands and then took a drive to the trailhead of our first walking safari.
We mostly saw small animals and birds while on foot. We tried to approach a group of rhinos, but they eventually noticed us and moved on.The downside of walking vs. driving is that the animals are scared of people on foot, whereas they just ignore the vehicles.
The upside to a walking safari is the utter quiet, and being able to get up close with things like this giant termite mound. Things that I’ve only ever seen in National Geographic.
Our day was filled with sightings as we spent the afternoon tracking animals.
An African Safari has always been my dream, but I was also excited to just be able to return to camp and enjoy the fun of lounging around in the great outdoors.
On our way back to camp we caught this guy staring at us from the edge of the woods.
We were all so tired after dinner that we dropped right to sleep. That night I woke up needing to use the facilities, but when I went to unzip my tent I heard something shuffling through the camp, and the strangest animal sounds. It made me very scared, and I stood frozen still for twenty minutes before the sounds faded away. I then decided to stay put in the tent, and simply re-purpose my water bottle as a latrine.
In the morning, my heart sank when I discovered the source of the nocturnal sounds…[to be continued]