ELUSIVE ELLIES !!

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Our first full day here at Thanda and it was a very early start with our alarms going off at 5.3Oam waking us from a deep slumber in our comfortable wooden chalets and a chilly morning it was . We all met up at the main reception area around 6am for a spot of breakfast and a nice warm tea or coffee to start the day and wake us up . Knowing it was going to be a long day out on the reserve we filled up on toast and cereal , packed our lunches and stocked up on water before heading out with our guide who was Nick for the day .

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It seemed to get seemed to get even colder as we headed out of the camp fences but we were met with yet more White Rhino tracks right outside and were told that they had been roaming around outside camp during the night , but they are soo quiet that none of us heard them .. We also spotted Lion tracks just a little further along the trail but these tracks had been made when it was wet and as we haven’t had rain here for a few days we knew that they were old but we now know that they do hang around the camp area so we have to be careful at dawn and dusk when they are most active .

There was a beautiful sunrise and so we began heading East towards the Tented Camps and Main Lodge area to see what was around on the other side of the reserve when we heard something calling .. one from the back of camp and then another responding from the North … it was Hyenas !! They have a really funny call like a high pitched ooooooOOOHH .

As we descended on the other side of the first hill on our way to Main Lodge we heard some Red Billed Ox Pecker birds calling – now this is normally a sign that some of the Big 5 animals are around as they love to eat ticks off of them so we were weary but upon reaching them it seemed they were just sunning and warming up for the day ahead .

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Then from the North East side of the reserve we heard a couple of the Ellies trumpeting .. it was pretty far away but we were headed that way later in the day and were optimistic about being able to see them ! We continued along .. up and down large hills and through valleys and thickets of bush struggling to make our way through because of all the thorny acacia bushes and felt like we had been walking for miles already .

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We came to a stretch of dirt road and decided to stick along that for a while and what did we come across .. a Giraffe ! Which was quite content to just let us stand there and watch him while he carried on about his business and this gave us a chance to talk about them for a while and learn some interesting facts like they have a 4 chambered ruminant stomach , their tongues are about 4Ocm long and we learned how to differentiate between the males and females . This also gave us the chance to take a few selfies with him haha ! Deborah were talking about you lol !

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Along the way as we past Main Lodge where the 5* guests stay we found Hyena tracks form the previous night , saw some Kudu which are a the largest antelope on the reserve which are distinguished by their huge Mickey Mouse ears lol, hiding in the bushes which pretty much legged it as soon they heard us . Then from out of the thicket came some fresh Ellie tracks and knew this might be our chance so we followed them further East heading towards the Savannah area of the reserve .

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Up ahead on the horizon right in the middle of the road were 3 more Giraffe which we would call a Tower of Giraffe as they were standing still and to the left a Dazzle of 3 Zebra who then crossed infront of us prompting the call of Zebra Crossing .. have you ever seen a real life Zebra Crossing ??!! We don’t think so lol . It was definitely then time for a bit of a break as we had been walking for about 4 hours already and by this time of the morning it was starting to get very warm in the late 2O degrees .

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Walking past the predators Boma where they keep new predators arriving on the reserve we stumbled upon a bone yard which was made up of the leftovers which are fed to these animals so we tried to identify some of them with our new found knowledge . For the first time on this reserve and it was hard to believe we hadn’t seen them already lol we saw a herd of Impala who fled as soon as we got close .. they are soo sketchy !! But that’s not surprising to be fair when you are the most hunted animal on the reserve .

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Eric then found a Wildebeest skull and did what anyone would normally do .. picked it up and put it in front of his face to take a picture so it looked like a ghost Wildebeest with a human body lol .. soo mature haha .

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We had finally made it to the Base Camp area and it was nearing midday with the sun really beating down on us now , we crossed a small drainage line and found what looked to be some fresh Ellie tracks which Nick said could have been from a few days before because of the lack of activity around the area .. no sooner had he said this Ben quickly got all of our attention as he heard the Ellies right behind us !! How did we miss them ??! Making our way back across the drainage line and along the road slightly we saw our first Ellie ! Well his bum anyway haha .

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Standing there for a few seconds he began to come out of the bush and as we had nowhere to hide we had to duck back into the bush to get some cover and watch him from a slight distance and it seemed to be a lobe Bull Elephant which could have been quite dangerous . The plan was made to sneak back behind him and watch him from there but as we got there we realised there were 2 of them !! We sat down about 3O metres away and sent some quality time just watching these gentle giants rip apart tree roots with their immense strength . It was soo exhilarating to be this close to these magnificent creatures .. but then … another one !! There were now 3 of them !

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We could have spent all day with them but the day was fast pushing on and we still hadn’t stopped for lunch so we decided to leave them be and carry on . On the way to lunch we were past by a vehicle which said BE CAREFUL as apparently the Lions were up ahead of us somewhere !! But even with all of us keeping our eyes and ears peeled we didn’t manage to see them .. maybe they were lying down n the thickets trying to cool down in the shade ??!! Next Time !

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We stopped for lunch at this beautiful look out point and it didn’t come soon enough .. we were pretty much all knackered by this point and so sat down for a much needed rest for an hour or so in the shade to shelter from the midday sun ! Although we could have sat here for a while longer we still needed to make the trip home and the sooner we left , the sooner we would be back .
The walk back was a lot quieter with not much activity going on animal wise apart from a small herd of Blue Wildebeest and some more Zebra and Impala , this was because during this time of the day most of the animals are trying to cool off in the shade as it’s too hot for them to keep moving around.

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Then not realising we had it the same trail we walked on yesterday apart from Nick and Ben we stopped to see if anyone had a clue where we were lol when yet again Ben heard the Rhino in the thicket of the bush !! But with the bush being to thick and no more sound of movement from the Rhino , probably because it was now resting we gave up the search and continued on our way home as our water supplies were now running short .

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The final part of the hike offered us nothing really apart from some more Female Nyala and a huge sigh of relief was let out once we reached the camp haha finally .. time to rest our weary and tired feet . We could hear the cold pool calling us so grabbed our gear and jumped in .. OMG it felt soo cold but yet soo good to relax our aching muscles .

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After some dinner which got finished in no time because we were all starving we sat down with the other group staying at the camp to watch a documentary on Africa before retiring to our rooms to SLEEP !! And to make sure we got lots of it haha !!

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