Jan 27, 2013

Safari (3)

After completing the Big 5 when we saw the male leopard on our 3rd day in Phinda (see the post Safari (2)), ranger Devon came up with another idea. This guy was never short of entertaining stories, had so many interesting facts and experiences to share, could whistle the song of more or less each bird on the reserve, and used an app on his blackberry to produce calls that would trigger a bird to respond. He loved his job, and was always up for another idea. This time, on our 4th afternoon game drive, we would go to the south once more, for another try to track down elephants, and on our last morning do a walking safari on the border of the northern savannah.

And then there was Zac, our tracker. We already were utterly impressed with his skills tracking the leopard or spotting cheetahs from far away, but on our trip to the south is where he again came into play. Although we could all figure out that freshly looking and smelling elephant dung on the road is a sign that elephants must be in the neighborhood, this guy spotted elephants over a mile away with bare eyes, while bumping around on his stool on the hood of the landcruiser. We still had a hard time seeing them through binoculars with the car standing still!
The next trick up Zac's khaki sleeve: predict where elephants move to.  Driving through the rocky terrain it probably took us 5 minutes to get to the spot where we had seen them from a mile away. They were nowhere to be seen, and seemed to have vanished in thin air to us amateur Crocodile Dundees in the back of the jeep. Back in Addo Elephant National Park (see South Africa - Land of weavers) we had already been amazed to see that it took these giants only 2 seconds to disappear out of sight, not leaving a single trace noticeable to us. But Zac could trace back exactly how and where they had moved, and we got a prime sighting of a group of 9 beauties.

On the way back to the lodge, about an hour drive, we bumped into another lion hunt. This time another pride of lions, hunting a large group of female wildebeest. But one young male in the pride was too playful and spoiled the hunt for his mom. He didn't really care, and instead started teasing his sister. Scaring the heck out of her by sneaking up on her from behind, they got into a playful fight. That's when you realize they are big cats - they play like kittens, except they are about 25 times bigger and heavier. Imagine 200 pounds of lean muscle with paws the size of a human head hitting his little sis........
After 4 days of amazing game viewing, it was time to leave. But not until our last morning drive and walking safari. We all had our wish list checked off, but when Devon asked if there was anything we would still like to see, Gabriella was quick to say "honey badger". Devon smirked "yeah, right", and took us on a walking tour through bushland. This time he did load his gun (that's a heavy thing to carry around, by the way), and no one was allowed to talk so we would not chase off any small wildlife or scare any big ones into attack. If we wanted to get Devon's attention, we had to click our fingers.

All were confused when Jeroen started clicking like a madman, until everyone saw running straight at us from around a bush: a honey badger! No kidding! Devon was ecstatic, making victory dances: this was the third time he ever saw one on over 30 years of safari, the first time on over a 1000 walking safaris, and the first time in plain daylight. Gabri was a little more down-to-earth by responding: "You just have to wish hard enough for it". Don't you love her? Well, I do..... And the honey badger? When he saw us he stopped dead in his tracks, paused to consider whether he was gonna give a s#!t, then turned around and ran off.
Devon, still excited like a little kid, also had a trick up his khaki sleeve. Walking up front, he guided us to the last sighting in this beautiful safari paradise. A green-white checkered picnic table, with Zac's hot chocolate and amarula waiting for us.

Man, it's hard to leave this place. Maybe I should have followed by childhood dream of becoming a ranger after all. Nonetheless, a couple of dreams came true in GABROEN's 4 days in Phinda.

GABROEN on behalf of Jeroen


  1. Thank you for sharing your African trip with us! Sounds like a trip of a lifetime!! Son and Richard

  2. I have so enjoyed your South African trip memories! Makes me determined to do the same.