Safari & Beach

January 5, 2014 in SOUTH AFRICA | Comments (5)

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Slinking beauty

SAFARI AT PHINDA

Continuing our safari and beach holiday in Southern Africa, amidst fascinating biodiversity and different landscapes.

Flight direct to Durban from Dubai on Emirates, then all travel done by car and 4WD, driven with silken courtesy and perfect safety by And Beyond and Town&Country Tours.

Now the wild joys of safari…

On safari you are hunting, with your camera and with your eyes. Since the best sightings are at the hours between day and night, including sunrise and sunset, you are woken early, in summer at a startling 5am, and given rusks and tea before setting out to see the dawn break over Africa. Breakfast is around 9am after the hunt, and dinner again late in the black and usually starry night, after the evening drive. Yes you are on the go…

There is an intimacy about your safari-ing.
You are given your own game ranger and tracker, usually sharing him with 5 other people. But we had the good fortune to have our game ranger Nick and our tracker Tom all to ourselves. It is certainly worth the extra money to try to book your own vehicle and ranger. It becomes your own hunt…

Nick took upon himself the earnest duty of finding all the big five just for us. Guided by the camp’s radio transmissions, we would head towards a spot where game had been sighted, watching for tracks over the sand roads. The tracker Tom could tell you just by looking how many hours ago a buffalo or elephant passed.

They are very careful not to disturb the game, or the beautiful terrain. No more than 2 vehicles are allowed at a sighting. Because of rain we were not allowed to drive offroad, as in the mud the beautiful bushlands can be carved up and ruined. But there are many intimate tracks that take you deep into the stirring romance of the bushveld.
Phinda has seven eco zones, so part of the adventure is finding yourself in very different scenery. Rocky mountain tops, then down onto the wetlands which were lush green spiky grasslands, fringed by lala veld (rich in lala palms), then into the sandforest with its tight canopy creating a hidden world, and out into open parklands with trees dotted over grassveld, finally deep into thorn thickets….

And of course the look of everything changes as darkness turns to dawn blushing on the sky, then blazing sun or silver rain. Again, the afternoon light dimming into a sky blooming with sunset and finally night. Perhaps most exciting of all, with Tom spotlighting left and right watching with his eagle eyes.

The Big Five

The Big Five are not necessarily the biggest – they are the ones the first hunters considered the most dangerous.

Our first of the Big Five came without trying. A bunch of young rouge buffalo lying in a mud puddle. ‘Stand up very slowly,’  said Nick who felt we could get better pictures above the long grass. ‘If they stand up sit down. It means they are about to charge.’ Buffalo are not called one of the Big Five for nothing,

Number 2 was the lion king on our second evening, Lying on sandy ground near a dam. Lording it out with two ladies, we saw him turned down for his amorous advances, whereupon he just gave up to lie in the sun and sleep. They are so used to vehicles we seemed invisible to them

Number 3 was a herd of 40 elephants, on the glistening marshland, in a frieze against the sunset. Gradually they dispersed, heading towards acacias silhouetted against the reddest sky. Not before some of the elders approached us giving signal that we should move off.

That elephant are one of the Big Five was dramatized for us the next day when we had a rendezvous with Nick to see one of the elegant lodges especially suitable for 3G travel. The visit is off! A bull elephant in musk has trashed the place.
The next night we came close to cheetah, not considered as Big Five. But splendid big cats and a thrill to see three beauties each staring in a different direction to cover the panorama of the wetlands. Then driving the sand roads we spotted two lionesses just by the roadside and shouted Stop. Tom was exposed on the front of our vehicle so they had to drive forwards to allow Tom to get off the tracker’s seat and back into our open vehicle. They stared with their powerful yellow eyes, as if to pounce…but finally our ranger and tracker noted their behavior was calm enough for us to reverse. We adored our lions…

Now night was falling and we began the most exciting hunt of all — for our fourth of the Big Five – leopard.

Tracks showed that the oldest and biggest leopard had crossed into a block of dense bush. Tom predicted where he would emerge, and sure enough he came out of the darkness walking towards us along the road and right by the jeep.

His muscles rippled and his spotted coat seemed alive and glowing… It was the most exciting moment of meeting the other kingdom.

Then he headed off down the road, with us following, and I got this little proof…

Next morning early we were up at 5 to do our last hunting. Nick was devoted to this triumph . and so we got to see Number 5, a white rhino. They looked very peaceful, almost bovine. Hard to imagine that they are dangerous….

The most dangerous animal

It is of course man, not the Big Five who are dangerous, in 2013 year 964 rhinos have been killed in South Africa by unscrupulous moneymaking poachers. The North Koreans are the main villains Nick told us and they employ Mozambicans to do their dirty work. Number one villain is the president of that monster regime

As DH Lawrence wrote
‘MAN THE ONLY ANIMAL ON EARTH TO FEAR’

Nick told us it is possible they will lift the ban on rhino horn and devalue the absurdly high rhino horn price by flooding the market. They will farm rhino for the horns; if you cut off the horn it grows again. The reason poachers kill the animals is for their own safety… rhinos are after all one of the Big Five.

Next blog will cover the lodges at Phinda

 

 


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