It was elephant interaction day!!! Not only that, but we did so many activities on top of it too!! Man, it was a long but very eventful and crazy and fun and awesome and amazing! Ok, let me tell you what the low down was.
Oi it was an early morning this morning. Up before the sun, and boy oh boy was it chilly. Thank goodness it was worth it though and we were able to fit so much in! We ate our breakfast slightly like zombies with grunts and groans but still an awkwardly excited vibe. It was a weird morning. Before we could go out to meet the elephants, we got a chance to try out the rhino radio telemetry and learn about the camera traps set up around the park.
Group B began with the rhinos today and we set out on a mission to find them. I’ll explain why it’s so important to track them tomorrow when we as a group understand the significance and have more practice with the equipment. Anywhoooo, We were so eagerly looking for them that we found ourselves at the right place at the wrong time. We were getting out to the vehicle to use the telemetry again when someone was like, “Are those dogs??” Yes, yes they were. They were the illusive and extremely endangered wild dogs on the reserve. There are only 5,000 wild dogs left in all of Africa. It is incredible that we got to see one! Somkhanda has introduced them to their habitat in order to help them breed and build up the population of them. They are absolutely unbelievable creatures. They make really weird sounds that you wouldn’t even think come from a dog, they are beautiful and they are much higher on the food chain than most people understand. The colors and unique attributes of them are incomparable and we are so lucky to have witnessed them hunting in the area.
Group A got to go around and collect camera trap memory cards. We are also monitoring leopards at Somkhanda to gather data on their werabouts in order to help the communities and the country understand that leopards are not as high in population as they think they are. They have to change out the cards a few times a week, and now we get to look at the pictures to see if we can find anything interesting. We all stopped at a beautiful lookout of the African bushland, and we took pictures for a while before we had to rush back to get to the elepahantes.
Driving was quick because we were excited, but we were finally there! We entered and sat patiently for the family and they came sauntering up together to greet us. We got to meet Rambo, his mate, Rachel, and their daughter, Jubilani. Rambo and Rachel were in a herd that was set to be culled, which essentially means it was supposed to be killed off to keep numbers down and upkeep the ecology of the park. However, the day they were supposed to be culled, the people had struck up such a good relationship with them that they couldn’t follow through with it. They instead took them to another park. During this time, these elephants got so used to human interaction, that when they were put into a wild environment with no humans, they began to cause trouble in order to get the humans back. Now, they need to be around people everyday, which is why they have this set up. It is a really beautiful story, and it was cool to hear about the history of these massive, gentle giants. We all got a chance to feed them, feel the back of their ears, underneath their tusks, and to feel their tongues as well. Rambo is seriously massive!! Most of us barely came up to part of his ear.
We each got a chance to interact with them, touching their trunks, inside their mouth, his tongue, back of the ears, and legs. Jubalani is a cheeky little girl, trying to steal the feeding bowl all the time. It was more than awesome!!
After the high of the elephants, we came back and continued our search for rhinos. We all went together in a couple vehicles to look for them and again ended up running after the wild dogs. We just wanted to see them again!! Unfortunately we started a bit late and the sun went down, so maybe we’ll have more time another day to find them, but we really couldn’t have asked for a better day. We are so happy to be here together!
Tonight we have a braai with steak, chicken and sausage. All the meats you could ever want!! Yummmmy! Traditionally, we have some mealie pap with a sauce as well as bread and salad to go along with the delicious meats too. We are pumped up for that.
Tomorrow is a new day, and without a doubt more exciting events will occur!
Be in touch!
-Grill Master Tara