RAMBLING FOR RHINOS !!

So this is where our adventure begins , a very relaxed and beautiful morning in St Lucia . Last night gave us the opportunity to get to know our new team member a little and help her settle in with our existing members Will , Deborah , and T.L Ben … so first off … welcome Rui !! It was an early night and we even had the chance to have a bit of a lie in this morning which was definitely needed and should help us with our first Bush walk this afternoon .

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Around 9ish we headed into town to grab some breakfast and our focus was turned to a little restaurant that served nice hot breakfasts with unlimited chips as it was Monday .. who could say no to that ??!! haha . We gathered our things , well most of us did apart from Eric who always leaves something behind , we’ll just wait to see what exactly lol loaded everything into the “ bakkie “ with the 2 boys cruising in the back and began the short trip to Thanda Game Reserve .

Ben has told us many great things about this reserve and apparently even Will Smith and Brad Pitt have all stayed here including many others . Thanda is roughly about 13,OOO hectares and the main lodge itself is 5* but during our stay here we will be staying on the training camp part of the reserve which is called Inthibane , Warthog in Zulu . On our drive into the reserve we saw some of the Male Nyala and even a Giraffe which was right next to the road !!

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Upon arriving we meet Sbu who looks after the camp and he shows us to our quaint little wooden chalets with built in bathrooms and single beds which we will be sharing in pairs and the views from the chalets are incredible .. we can walk out onto our balconies and look out over the reserve . The camp itself is only bordered by a small electric fence and have been told that the animals can , will , and have ventured into the camp grounds before including , Lion and Elephants !!

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After settling in we had a spot of lunch before meeting our 2 guides for the week Pieter and Nick who have been guiding around these grounds for many years so we are sure that we’ll learn alot from them . The aim of this program is to just experience what it’s like to get up close and personal with the animals on their own playing ground and have that excitement of knowing anything can and will happen . It is also to learn about some of the smaller things that normally get passed when going on game drives like learning how to track the animals using their prints and/or faeces , learning about the trees and plant life around the area and some of the smaller insects that inhabit the reserve .

As 2.3O comes knocking it was time to head out for our first Bush walk experience , just before we leave the fenced area of the reserve Pieter briefs us on what to expect for the next week and some of the do’s and don’ts of being on the reserve and our behaviour while we are walking as it could be crucial to our survival if we were ever to encounter some of the Big 5 animals … Lion , Elephant , Rhino , Buffalo and Leopard … We were then ready to get going and let the adventures commence !!

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No sooner had we left the camp we saw some White Rhino tracks which were apparently from the early morning before we got there so we decided to follow the tracks to see where they went .. we also saw some old Lion tracks . This gave us an early opportunity to learn some of the animal tracks and distinguish them from each other so that we would know for future reference and what to look out for . Along the way we saw some Zebra on the horizon but they were quite far away , heard an African Hoopoe which is a cool little bird mainly orange in colour with a black and white chest and saw some Hyena tracks which were also from the morning .

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We continued to track the White Rhino and spotted some of the places where they had obviously rested which meant that we would have caught up on them slightly so we were inching ever closer .. ! Then to the left hand side of us we spotted a Female Nyala spying on us through the thicket of the bushes . We could see the tracks were getting fresher and off to the right was another spot where the Rhinos had laid down and rested for a while .. and what happened as soon as we turned the next corner .. right up ahead of us in the middle of the pathway… a WHITE RHINO !! Yoh we cannot believe we have only been out walking for maybe 90 minutes and we had already walked up on a Rhino .

It looked to be a young bull and he seemed quite content to just stand there and watch us for a while but we were sure to keep quiet and make as little movement as possible .. then Ben called us from the back of the group gesturing he had heard others to the left hand side of us eating in the bush .. Pieter our guide thought it might just be the trees rustling but Ben was adamant .. and low and behold .. there were 2 more down in the drainage system who then began to fight and make fighting noises . We also saw a couple more up on the adjacent hill so being careful we made our way across the drainage system to the other side to try and find the others but unfortunately they had already moved on .

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By this time the sun was beginning to set and we had to start making our way back still keeping our eyes and ears open to anything that might be lurking around in the bushes . Down on the ground Will spotted a large locust that appeared to have a broken leg poor thing .. but this thing was massive .. we had never seen one soo large !! Also along the same track Nick our other guide pointed out some kind of fresh Cheetah tracks that were maybe from an hour or so before and were heading in our home direction so we had our fingers crossed we may see one on the way home .

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Unfortunately we didn’t and it looked like most of the wildlife had gone for an early evening as it was a fairly quiet walk back .. but we had a great first walk and what an experience being within 25 metres of a wild Rhino ON FOOT !! This has definitely given us high hopes for the rest of the week but we need to prepare ourselves as this was just a quick 3 hr walk .. tomorrow will be in the region of about 9hrs !!!

The evening for some stupid reason we all decided to jump in the freezing cold pool after dinner .. don’t ask us why as we have no idea but we did it anyway lol .. then sat around the pool for a while chatting and watching the beautiful clear night skies with its abundance of stars in our freezing swimwear before deciding enough was enough and all headed to bed for an early night to rest up properly for our first full day tomorrow .

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