Travels with Susan


Watching us, watching them

Posted on August 6, 2006 at 11:40 AM

Once all the evaluations had been done, training was not something that was on the forefront of the minds of management. Now at this stage I was an extreme novice, and in desperate need of some guidance. Guiding was something that got into my mind after working as a lodge receptionist a few months earlier. I completely fell in love with the bush, and often had guests coming in to ask wildlife questions - which made me start reading nature books, which fed my interest….and the rest is history.

So I found myself in the bush, volunteering my time (about 20 hours a day) in exchange for training (which I wasn’t getting). Each day I would find out what airstrip pickups and drop-offs I needed to do, help with any jobs needed at the lodge, and studied in-between. Although this wasn’t ideal, I actually am incredibly grateful because it taught me how to study. After a few days of this, one of my many boss’, Rob, felt a bit guilty and decided to take me and a few of the other guides out for a day trip. After driving for a bit, we came across two white rhinos grazing in a semi open area. We all jumped out the vehicle, and Rob checked the wind direction. We all followed closely behind him while he crept closer to the rhinos, and stopped about 5m away from them behind a bush. After sitting and watching them for about a minute or so, we headed back to the vehicle. Once we were all safely inside, he told us that viewing the animals without their knowledge is the perfect situation. Just then we saw that, right in front of us, in the open, on top of a termite mound, was a young leopard. Who knows how long it had been sitting there, watching us watching the rhino – but there it was. We sat dumbstruck for a moment, while the leopard gathered its courage to approach the rhino. It was obviously inexperienced, as there was no way it was taking a fully grown white rhino down, but it was clearly curious about what they were. The wind was not in the leopards favour, and almost immediately the rhinos smelt it and were instantly uneasy with the situation. The leopard ducked into some tall grass, and managed to miss a mock charge by a few inches, but it didn’t give up until it had to leap into the air to avoid a horn. After this it moved on, looking back at its missed lunch every so often. This was a very good start to our day. We spent the rest of the day viewing birds and plants until we came across a giant pile of elephant dung. We once again jumped out the Landrover and had a closer look. While Rob showed us the half digested fruit inside, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to witness an entire herd of over 100 elephants running across the road in complete silence. Incredibly they were only about 50m away from us, but they made barely a sound. Apparently the reserve was darting elephants with the birth control drug from helicopter, and these elephants were most likely remembering the mass cull that had happened to them many years ago. There were so many of them and we were out in the open, so luckily for us they didn’t make us a target. We were in awe. It was definitely a VERY good day, that’ll never forget.


Categories: 2006

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