Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On Safari at Londolozi

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So I’ve been so busy with work and haven’t had time to update this blog (plus still haven’t got internet connection at home yet). But the least I could do is share the awesome safari adventure I’ve just been on.

It was Margarita’s 50th birthday on May 15th, and the best present she could get from Robyn was a trip to super shee-shee Londolozi, a private game reserve, with 15 of their friends to share the experience (how lucky were we? No complaints this side).

After a 2hr flight to Jo’burg, we took another 20min ride on a 15-seater Cessna plane from Mpumalanga to Londolozi (yes, it has its own landing strip). While we were landing, we spotted giraffes & zebra hanging out by the tarmac – a very good start already! It’s a beautiful reserve, 1 of the top reserves in all of South Africa (perhaps even all of Africa)… At night, you’re not allowed to leave your room unless you call a guard to escort you – the lions & leopards roam around the camp site and you could be their next meal. (!)

What followed in the next 3 days was an awesome adventure – our group was split into 2 Land Rovers, each with a Ranger (he drives the vehicle and provides all kinds of information, a la Jeff Corwin or Steve Irwin), and a Tracker (he sits on a chair attached to the bonnet and watches the road ahead to spot for animal tracks – very exposed). Once they pick up a trail, we’re off to spot some animals! It’s amazing what they can tell from what’s left in the dirt – “male leopard came this way, he bumped into a female leopard that way, looks like she’s tried to entice him… see how their tracks go this way and then that way? Doesn’t look like she was successful, he’s headed to the river...” er… yah. Right.

Lucky me – on my virgin safari trip I saw the Big 5: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. They’re called the Big 5 coz they’d be the most dangerous animals to come across on foot (this is from back in the day when Land Rovers didn’t exist and people walked the bush on foot). On Day 2, Victoria, her friend Jacky & me decided to be brave and go on a bush walk (while the boys watched the rugby). Lo & behold, the 1st animal we ran into was an elephant barely 10m away. ARGHHH!!! Good thing our guide spotted it and swiftly led us far, far away (plus he had a loaded gun on him which kinda made you feel a tad bit safer. Only a tad.)

Saw so many other animals too like nyala, impala, waterbuck, wildebeest, hippo, hyena, giraffe (the collective term for them is “a journey of giraffes”), zebra, and a whole bunch of other deer/antelope-type animals (they start to look the same after a while). It was rutting season for the waterbuck & impala and we saw lots of fights between the males. The best experience must’ve been when our Tracker let me sit in his chair on our final ride back to camp… and we turned a corner and ran into a herd of elephant (who started trumpeting). I thought I was going to die by stampeding elephants. Oh, and then there’s also the dinner these guys set up for us IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BUSH. I kid you not, it’s the most unnerving experience ever. They lit beautiful fires everywhere – in the trees, on the periphery of where we were having dinner, and apparently the fire & noise keep the animals away. Every now & again you hear a hyena nearby and you *know* there are many pairs of eyes watching you beyond the darkness. Going to the loo then was pretty nerve-wracking (yes, they even set up a port-a-loo IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BUSH!)

Very classy and very unforgettable – any other safari experience after this is gonna pale in comparison… but can’t wait to get to Kruger National Park now in our own car, trying to spot animals on our own.

For more pictures, click on the slideshow below:

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