Morning morning wake up calls rang in the air at a lovely 6am this morning. Zombies arose from the tents slowly but surely, but luckily none of them were mad about the earliness of the day. We brushed our teeth and prepared for the day to the beautiful sight of the sunrise. It’s such a unique aspect of the game park, and I absolutely love it! You look out from the bathrooms on the top of a hill and you can see the mountains in the distance as well as the view of the open bushlands in between. It’s a gorgeous sight to see immediately in the morning, and we couldn’t have asked for a better welcome to the game park.
We had a leisurely cold breakfast before our morning activities and sipped our much-needed hot coffee. We also watched the rest of the sunrise together overlooking the deck of the lodge where all our meals are. It was cool having everyone stand along the porch and watch it together.
In Ben’s group today was Scout, Keira, Cheleigh, Nikkita, Jordan, Drey, Doug, Devon, Elissa, Emily and Elisa. We headed out on a bushwalk straight away this morning. As we headed out on our walk Riley gave us a quick briefing about how to behave during our walk through the bush as there is a possibility that we may come across some of the more dangerous animals that roam around the reserve ie , Leopard , White Rhino and especially Black Rhino who can be very temperamental !!
Along the way we make sure to keep in a straight line as it minimizes our chances of being seen and decreases the noise effect we have . First off we spot some Crested Guinea Fowl running around the bush being chased by Rocko the local reserve dog who we had to tell to stay behind . We have also been told to keep as quiet as possible and keep our eyes and ears open as it is sometimes very difficult to spot the game as they can be very well camouflaged .
We then spot some impala running infront of us .. we thought they might be being chased by something .. turns out yet agin it was Rocko who had followed us haha !! Riley was very informative and we got learn about some of the animal tracks , how to tell them apart and to work out which direction they have been travelling . We saw tracks of Large Spotted Genet , Impala , Nyala , Blue Wildebeest , Warthog and Zebra among many more .
Riley also taught us about some of the tree and plant species and even how to tell different faeces apart if we couldn’t find any tracks .. it’s also a great way of working out when the animal was last here depending on how fresh the poo is ! It was soo interesting being able to walk through the bush and get up close and personal with the animals .
Tara’s group for the day included Amalie, Phil, Will, Dan, Chris, James, Eric, Deborah, Alyssa, and Shelby. First of all, we had a blast. We are already laughing uncontrollably when we’re together. I can’t wait to see how much more we laugh throughout the week. We began the day with a game drive! We were locked and loaded by 7 and ready to tour the park. We drove around for a few hours searching the bushes and trees for unique animals, and we certainly did not come up short. Within the drive we managed to find all kinds of big small and cool things. The first animals we spotted were the very rare and very endangered impala and nylala. We couldn’t believe we got to see some! Bahaha justttt kidding. Those guys are everywhere. They are still very funky looking though, and we learned a bit about the differences in the males and females and their mating tendencies.
Next up, we ran into a bunch of kudu. These are a little scarcer than the others, and they are much bigger as well. They also have some massive oval ears that make their heads look like they have funnels coming out of them! I tried to get a decent picture of one lady looking right at me, but she turned her head in the last moment. I still got a good shot of her though!
Right after that, we saw a zebra sprint off across the road right in front of us. We were very excited to see zebras! They are so awesome looking! On our way back, we saw a group of pumbas (or warthogs) and giraffes. We came upon some unique birds too such as the zazu bird (crowned hornbill), a kingfisher and a purple crested tarcou. It was a great sighting for this morning drive!
After the exciting events of this morning, we got a bit of time to hang out at the lodge and relax. We also planned a number of team building activities to break the ice even more with the group and to get them trusting each other. It really helps them start listening to each other and learning how to work together too! We started the activities off with a trust fall exercise. However, this one was a trust fall on steroids. We all stood up on the stone block by the fire pit (the fire pit was not lit. don’t worry), said what we liked about ourselves as well as what scares us, and we each did a trust fall into a line of our team mates. We hooked arms together that way it didn’t hurt anyone, and we caught everyone one by one. It was a huge success, and I’m glad to say that everyone did it! Even the ones who were a bit scared by it conquered their fears and jumped up there. I think it really helped them learn more about each other too!
Next, we did a weird game that involved helping everyone across the gap of a tree. The catch was that nobody that was climbing over could touch the tree at all. They had to work together and devise a plan on how to get everyone over in as short amount of time as possible. They did it in less than ten minutes!! They all climbed over so quickly and worked together brilliantly!
We had another challenge for them right afterwards. We put a square piece of cardboard in the middle of them and we had to all place one foot on the cardboard and then have the other foot off the ground. We all had to balance together for 10 seconds with one foot off the ground. It took a couple trial and errors, but they eventually found a way to balance with all 21 of them! Great job guys!
Now, finally we had our last activity during lunchtime. We all stood in a line and said that one side of the line was the riverbank and the other side of the line was the river. When Ben would call out river or bank, everyone had to jump to the appropriate side of the line. If they jumped on the wrong side or stepped when they shouldn’t have, they were out. It was a hoot! Will was the first out the first time when he jumped on the very first shout to the wrong side and stormed off flabbergasted. Elisa was our winner for that round! Yeah girl! We did one more round and I’m happy to announce that Will redeemed himself and got down to the final three. Elisa pulled through again with the win. She was on a roll!
That seemed to be enough for everyone, but it was a really fun time while it lasted. We then sat down and had a chat with Riley, our tour coordinator for the week, about Rhino poaching. Now, white rhinos are extremely endangered in Africa because poachers are hunting them in the game parks, cutting off their horns and selling them on the black market for ridiculous amounts of money. The demand is high for rhino horn because in Asia, it is believed that it can be used for medicinal purposes. The problem is that when the poachers cut the horn off, they try to get the entire thing and cut so deep it causes the rhino to bleed out. It has gotten so bad that over 1400 rhinos were killed just last year. Some parks like Somkhanda have cut part of the horns off their rhinos to deter hunters, but there is still a threat for them to collect the last portion of the horn. Therefore, monitoring them and keeping up to date everyday on their whereabouts is so important. We can now say that we’re helping protect these amazing creatures.
Lunch was a quickie, and soon we went out again for our afternoon adventure! This time the groups swapped for the afternoon and Tara’s group went on a bushwalk with Riley. Riley is really knowledgeable on the animals and nature in the park, and it was very interesting hearing about all the different little things in the park. Seeing all the big and hairy animals is essential when you come to Africa, but what I find even more fun as an added bonus is learning about all the itty bitty things that you can’t necessarily from the car. We learned about different trees and vegetation around like which ones are poisonous, what remedies the locals use them for and how the animals use them as well. The aloe trees are nutritious for the animals and if they eat them, apparently they repel insects and mosquitoes. We had a little taste of the aloe tree. I think their faces speak for themselves, but I don’t think they found them particularly appetizing. It was a very nutritious afternoon snack though!
We also learned that some bushes are used to cure colds, some are used as body enhancers (yes, apparently they have a form of plastic surgery too), and some are even used as a toothbrush! We tried the toothbrushes this afternoon. Again, I don’t think it tasted extremely nice. However, everyone thought their teeth felt squeaky clean afterwards. We also stumbled upon some bones of a warthog. We even had a punny bone conversation that got us laughing really hard.
Ben’s group went out on a game drive this time guided by Izzy our driver and T.L Ben. We were hopeful that we could catch sightings of Rhino and Giraffe . The first idea was to head out to where they were last seen but it looked like they had moved on so we continued . It’s almost like it was Nyala day or something .. there were sooo many !!
After a fairly quiet first hour or so we stop at a little viewpoint to take some amazing photos of the beautiful scenery that has been bestowed upon us . While most of us were off taking pictures Ben persuaded Elisa to join in on a little contest .. who can spit Wildebeest Poo the furthest !! WHAT !! And you know what she stepped up to the plate – put that poo in her mouth and gave it her all !! haha good girl .. eventually we managed to persuade most of our group to participate after some heckling lol .. funniest moment of the day had to go to Scout who seemed to make this puking sound while the poo just fell out of his mouth haha ..
This seemed to get everyone riled up for the journey back as the day was closing in on us . And guess what .. as we were driving along the road Doug spots from the back of the vehicle .. Giraffe !! YES .. a mother and her little one .. soo cute .. we even saw another 4 more along the way and even got to spend about 20 minutes with one of them who came up close to the vehicle and wanted to see what we were all about .. such an incredible experience J .
Overall, it was a really eventful and exciting afternoon for all. Dinner was extra amazing tonight too! After that, we all went out on a night drive in two vehicles. We drove about for about an hour looking for animals that only come out during the night. Between both groups, we saw zebras, bushbabies, a white tailed mongoose, a bark spider, and a bunch of nyala and impala. It was the most amazing first day out here, and we are so happy we have so many more!! Signing off now, folks, but we will update you more tomorrow!
Ben and Tara