Endangered July 10, 2003 Shamwari Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Tracking Rhinos Shamwari Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Friday July 10, 2003
Is an animal still in captivity if its enclosure is about 200 square miles? I think that's about the size of the Shamwari Game Reserve. Captive or not, it seemed quite wild as we got driven around.
This was a fairly high-end one-day safari. At least a lot nicer than what most backpackers would probably find themselves on. They serve tea and a big lunch on the deck overlooking the reserve before sending you out on the open-topped Land Rovers with your armed guide. There's also a visit to the "cultural village," where actors portray various tribes. Think Disney World performers in the bush.
"This may have been total crap." Zulani was our pleasant, knowledgable and outgoing guide. He made it quite exciting by leaning out of the vehicle to check animal prints in the sandy road and telling us we were "tracking a rhino." This may have been total crap, but it made it fun as we went crashing off the road into the bushes.
Tracking the Rhino
After hours of seeing not much at all, we finally started getting lucky as the sun was setting. There was a while rhino and her child just standing right along the road as though the staff had brought out a styrofoam model to keep us happy. We were really really close to them.
Then the giraffes walked across the road in front of us, eating off the trees and nearly cutting off their heads on the telephone lines. Zebras were everywhere, along with some dog-like animal and kudus.
"He loaded the rifle and ordered us out of the Land Rover." Second only to the mosquito, hippos kill more humans than any other animal in Africa. So of course this was the only animal for which we were told to leave the protection of the vehicle to go see. Zulani loaded the rifle and ordered us out of the Land Rover and over the river bank. The hippos were maybe twenty yards into the river, with their eyes and noses sticking up. They could probably have eaten and digested us before Zulani got off a single shot. Quite cool.
I was absolutely freezing to death as we headed through the cold wind back to the camp. But suddenly Zulani swings the Land Rover around and heads back. He'd heard on the radio that another group had made a rare spotting of a black rhino not far away. We got there in time to see it for about a minute before it got aggravated enough to saunter off. Supposedly they're really mean and easily agitated. But I got some good photos... even a little movie of it I think.
Then I lost Dad's $300 binoculars. Sorry.
"Their husbands were busy shooting its brains out." I'd also be remiss not to mention the other Americans we met. Two rather large ladies from Dallas. We're all stereotypical Americans, I suppose... but these two were perfect. A little overly outgoing and a bit loud... but really very nice. The funny part, though, is that while these two were taking photographs of wildlife... their husbands were busy shooting its brains out at a hunting camp down the road.