Thursday, 12 November 2015

Richards Bay - Safari

Hi everyone,
For the last three days we have been "on safari" in the Hluhluwe/iMfolozi Game Reserves.  We had a fantastic time.

On Sunday we drove from Richards Bay to the Nyalazi Gate between the two Game Reserves.  We spent much of the day driving around the iMfolozi reserve and saw much more game than we expected.  Best was seeing an elephant and several giraffe up close, and seeing a pair of cheetahs at a distance.

They're not joking
Entrance signage in full
The region is suffering from a severe drought.  The rains which normally start in September or October haven't happened yet this year.  All the rivers are dry with only a few pools of water remaining.  Some of the animals dig in the dry river beds to find water which is about 0.5m down.  Apparently the rhinos are starting to fight each-other for territory near water.

View over the all-but dry Black Umfolozi River
On Sunday afternoon we checked-in at Hilltop Camp.  The camp itself is also suffering from a severe water shortage.  Instead of unlimited showers each couple received a 5 litre container of water per day for washing.  It was only a minor inconvenience to us "grotty yachties".  The meals at the camp were excellent and the rondavel we stayed in was neat and tidy.

Our Hilltop rondavel and car
On Monday morning we went on a guided morning walk.  The guide carried a rifle as we walked through the bush.  We encountered buffalo, nyala and zebra.  On a smaller scale we found a trapdoor spider and the guide showed us an array of animal tracks.

Trapdoor spider at home
For most of our stay we drove ourself around the Hluhluwe reserve, covering most of the roads over the three days.  Some of the hilly dirt roads were a challenge in our little hire car but she rose to the challenge gamely!  

We saw an array of antelope including impala, nyala, bush buck, water buck, duiker and wildebeest.

Adolescent male impala mock-fighting
Blue Wildebeest
Male Nyala
Female Nyala
 The park has plenty of water buffalo.  Some of the herds we saw had well over 50 animals.

Water Buffalo
Water Buffalo
We saw a number of zebra.  Most seemed to be in family groups of 3 or 4.

Plains zebra
 We saw several groups of giraffe.  Most seemed to be in groups of three.  Beautiful animals.
 In the camp we saw vervet monkeys.  In the bush we saw several large troops of baboons.

Vervet monkey
We saw both warthogs and bush pigs too.

The reserves are famous for their rhinoceros.  Every white rhinoceros on Earth is descended from the 20 last animals which survived in this reserve in the 1960s.  There are over 500 in the reserve now and hundreds more distributed all around the world by Operation Rhino.

White rhinoceros
White rhinoceros
Two week old baby rhinoceros
We saw several solitary elephants and herd of over a dozen.

Lone elephant
Lone bull elephant
Herd of female and young elephants
Sadly we didn't see lion or leopard, but we did see two cheetahs.  They were about 200m away but we could see them clearly in the binoculars.  The telephoto lens wasn't really up to the job but we did get pictures.  We were very lucky since there are apparently about 30 cheetahs in the two reserves while there are over 100 lions.
Spot the cheetah
The birds in the reserve were amazing - very, very colourful.  They are tough to photograph but we did manage to get a good shot of one.

Cape Glossy Starling
On Tuesday afternoon we did a sunset drive with a guide.  He found a lot of rhino and the herd of elephant before dark.  After dark we drove through the bush shining lights to spot animals.  We found an owl, a bush baby, a genet and several chameleon in addition to various antelope.

African Sunset
These three days have certainly been one of the highlights of our year.  There's something special about having sailed here to see it all too.

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