Hello once again from South Africa! Who loves waking up early?
Apparently us! Today we set our alarms for 4am to make sure that we had the best chances possible of sighting all 5 of the Big 5 game animals of Southern Africa. Don’t know the Big 5? The Big 5 are the 5 most difficult game animals to hunt in South Africa, and include Lions, Leopards, Water Buffalo, Rhinos and Elephants. All of them are such beautiful creatures, but are also EXTREMELY deadly to those who hunt them, (unlike us!)
We set out before sunrise, shivering in the cold, (yes, it gets cold in Africa,) driving around the Hluhlue Game Reserve in hopes of sighting all 5 of these big beauties before we needed to leave at lunch. As anyone who has ever been to Africa knows, that’s no easy feat when you’re on a 2-million hectare plot of land! Despite the odds not being in our favor, we definitely found luck when it came to finding Elephants, Water Buffalo, and even BOTH the extremely endangered Black and White Rhinos.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to spot any Lions or the insanely elusive Leopard, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our time and rocking on over to a reptile sanctuary to learn more about Southern Africa’s numerous types of snakes, tortoises and crocodiles. Here we got to assist trainers in feeding crocs, snakes and even pet some of the babies in the incubator!
On to our next day and we had another early start, piling into the vans we hit the road off to Somkhanda Reserve where we would be tracking White and Black Rhinos by foot!!! Arriving bright and early we tucked into our breakfast surveying the incredible views of the reserve, Warthogs, Ukudu and Nyala all walking round. We divided into groups and headed out into the reserve using Radio Telemetry equipment to locate the endangered Rhinos.
All the rhinos in the reserve have bracelets attached to ensure their safety from poachers. Unfortunately in the past month 4 Rhinos have been poached even with all the the safety and security measures in place. As we followed our guides through the bush we equally excited and nervous to see the Rhinos, finally coming into a clearing we found ourselves only 20 metres from a White Rhino.
Everyone was blown away by standing this close to one of Africa’s most endangered animals. We headed back into base for a lunch and a rest then spent time talking to local expert Riley about what they are doing to protect the Rhinos and empower the local community. They have unfortunately had to De-horn the rhinos in their reserve as a deterrent to poachers who kill the animals for the illegal Ivory trade. Travelling back into the reserve after lunch we located more rhinos and recorded data on their size and condition to assist in work being done by Somkhanda, Wildlands and the WWF.
As the day came to an end we went back to our home reserve and had one final dinner and bonfire. We have all become so close over the past few weeks it’s hard to believe it’s nearly over. I’m going to miss these stars and smiling faces….