Animals are magic
This is your morning call:
A bang and a shaking thud.
Bleary eyed I roll over and look up to the thatched roof and wonder how big a bird would have to be to make that thud. Then a scramble and a gallop from one end of the roof to the other, followed by a short silence and then a crash into a nearby tree. That’s not a bird, my sleepy mind slowly went through the options, definitely too big for a possum. Playful squealing and squeaking followed and more gallops, monkeys! Lisa and I got up and looked out the front of our room and monkeys were dashing about chasing each other and having fun.
Good morning in Africa. After a few minutes when they were sure we were up, the young ones raced over next door to provide the same wake up service for our neighbours! A great way to be woken as a tourist, but maybe not every day!
This was our second night in the Hluhluwe/iMfolozi Game Reserve, and we are coming to the end of our little mini break north of Durban. The last two days in the game reserve have been awesome. It is a fantastic experience driving yourself along and rounding a corner to see a giraffe or zebra, or any other number of wild animals, it is as if you have discovered them yourself. I imagine it could only be bettered by walking through the bush and seeing them, we aren’t ready to mix it with buffalo, rhino and lions quite yet!
I have seen many of the animals before, years ago when I was last here, but it is still amazing to be able to get close to these animals, to spend time near them and observe the little things; the ripping noise of rhino eating grass and the slap of a muddy tail onto a muddy backside after a wallow; the sound of a giraffe chewing cud, the sudden silence when it stops chewing and swallows, seeing the bulge race down its neck to be replaced by the next package race just as quickly back up for the chewing to continue, as if there was a speedy elevator service from top to bottom; sitting in the car next to stocky zebra, their flanks (and stripes) mesmorisingly twitching and tails constantly swishing to keep the flies at bay. It’s not just the big animals that capture you, it’s also stopping next to a tortoise and watching him emerge in slow motion from his shell with a nervous expression on his face; watching the almost comical dung beetles rolling huge balls away while their partners dizzingly manage to hold on, and hearing them flying by, like miniature lumbering helicopters, hoping they don’t veer your way.
The reserves were green and lush with water everywhere and we were so lucky to see so many animals up close, this is definitely the place to come if you want to see rhino and we had to call out to them and start the car on a couple of occasions when they wondered within spitting distance. The adrenaline pumps through and you are certainly on a high after such an encounter. We were both very excited to see elephant, and yesterday afternoon we saw one walking quite close to the road towards a waterhole, we pulled up and watched as he ripped up the lush grass and chucked it up into his mouth. They do seem almost regal in a way, their dexterous trunk allowing them to bring food to their mouth rather than having to bow the head to graze or browse. He ambled along, constantly chewing and feeding as he went, when he got to the waterhole he and we got a shock. He was startled, his ears went out, the truck straightened and he quickly raced forward a couple of paces, and up jumped a cheetah. The cheetah took a couple of bounds away and lay back down on a gravelly patch near the water. We were amazed and a huge rush of excitement pulsed through us. The cheetah lay there nonchalantly flicking the tip of her tail, and we were dumbstruck. We sat mesmerised, swapping the camera and binoculars back and forth between us, huge grins plastered across our faces. The elephant moved away, and we sat transfixed on the cheetah as she lay there looking around, she eventually got up and with a lick of the lips walked with confidence and very long legs around the waterhole, across the road and away to raid the larder. We were left behind glowing and giddy at the experience.
We are a little sad to be leaving today, but know that we are going to have so many more experiences on the travels ahead. Next time we will be driving in Landy and sitting a bit higher than our hired go-kart, bring it on!