June 23, 2016 – The Longest Safari
The morning pickup was at 6 am. An eerie mist had settled upon the reserve, clouds having rolled in during the night. The sunrise game drive was therefore going to turn into a cloud bursting adventure.
Departing the lodge at 6:30, we definitely didn’t have enough layers. The wind whistled through the open air Range Rover. As we passed through the mist on the way down to the lower escarpment, down once again the infamous Big Five Marathon hill, water droplets settled onto us, chilling us further to our cores. A few zebra and the odd wildebeest were all we spotted. Then we roamed and roamed in search of more game. Bundled as tight as could be, our eyes watering, I found the exhaustion and lack of consistent sleep was taking its toll. Whether it was early onset hypothermia that had my body trying to shut down or just the aforementioned exhaustion, as the Range Rover rocked back and forth over the terrain, I drifted in and out of consciousness. Had we spotted anything perhaps I would have rallied but as it was, I kept nodding off.
Breakfast was at the Legends Golf Resort and Safari Reserve. They had wifi so while we all attempted to warm ourselves in the restaurant, we also desperately logged in to try and update friends and family on our whereabouts and adventures. The Ravineside Lodge still hadn’t recovered from the elephant trampling of telephone cables but by this evening, with the arrival of 29 more guests, they apparently had gotten the Internet up and running again. But we didn’t know that would be the case so we fumbled with Facebook updates, churned through backlog emails, and tried to quickly catch up on world news. As I summarize the day at 8:24 pm tonight, I don’t know if Brexit is a real thing or if it will be relegated to the dustbin of history, like Y2K or Psi’s Gangham Style.
After breakfast we headed over to a White Lion preserve that was also supposed to feature a water buffalo breeding program, but the latter was a bust. To be honest, this trip was much more of a zoo experience than I was expecting, with the lions on “islands” separated from our truck by a deep ditch/moat and a wire fence. While I was glad to see the lions, it still felt… Odd. Perhaps I was still smarting from the woefully unsuccessful bush tracks we had undertaken the night before in search of a lion “in the wild.”
The highlight of this excursion was probably sighting the painted wild dogs, an endangered species that sure enough looks like a pack of dogs had run through Jackson Pollock’s canvas.
And of course this is a real live novelty rhino. We’d get almost this close to the real live actual rhino later in the day.
From there we returned to the lodge and had a quick lunch followed by at least for me a quick catnap. I’m really struggling with this jet lag.
The afternoon game drive, populated with new arrivals, started in the upper escarpment and led to some of the best game sightings we’ve had. A number of guests from the original 10 guests opted to skip this drive and rest up; mom and I choose to err on the side of if someone asks if we want to go for a game drive we say yes.
A long drive back up the Big Five hill, which many of the newcomers were experiencing for the first time, was yet another reminder of what I’m to face on Saturday. It’s going to be tough, no question. But what a privilege to run through this preserve, amidst wildlife and flora and fauna and rock formations. The Rangers who have to take three hour shifts to protect us from the most wild animals are also a reminder that this isn’t a joke. This is the real deal. And I cannot wait.
As I’m wont to do most evenings, I tried to capture a bit of the night sky before turning in. I think these turned out pretty well — hopefully somewhere I’ve gotten the southern cross but even if I didn’t, the night sky is pretty spectacular even in my subpar images. As with a lot of this trip, no photo can really do justice to the majesty and beauty of the place.