The small town of St Lucia is where you would’ve found us in mid-March. This town caught our eye because of the game reserves around it. We went to two game reserves when we were there: the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the iMfolozi Game Reserve. My favourite was the iMfolozi Game Reserve.
The day after we arrived in St Lucia, we went the iMfolozi. We woke up at about four in the morning to meet a guy named Rick for our safari. In the safari vehicle there were blankets placed for us, because it was a very cool morning. Rick drove us to the iMfolozi Game Reserve with all the plastic see through flaps down so there wouldn’t be too much wind. Once we got to the park Rick pulled up the flaps and paid the entrance fee.
Once we were in the reserve, the first animals we saw were Kudu (a type of antelope), warthog and some white rhino. They were all very far away. You could barely see them. It was a good thing that we brought binoculars. For about an hour all we saw were different types of antelope and the occasional white rhino on the top of a far away hill. The first of the “Big 5” was the least impressive one, the buffalo. It was also far away.
Right about now you are probably wondering what the “Big 5” are. Well the “Big 5” are five animals that are traditionally the most sought after trophies by white hunters. These animals are the african buffalo, lion, rhino, leopard and elephant.
After Rick stopped for breakfast, we headed further into the reserve. The first animal we saw after breakfast was the giraffe! I find the giraffe an amazing animal. It is very unique with its long neck and spots. Did you know that the giraffe is related to the zebra and horse? I didn’t.
The giraffes we saw were part of a breeding herd. They had a couple of baby giraffes in the group. They were very cute. One of the adult males in the group stepped onto the road in front of us, forcing us to wait. He was so funny. It was almost like he was thinking, “Look at me from this side. Oh no! Look at me on my better side.” I found it hilarious!
Around this time, Rick got a text saying there was a very big breeding herd of elephants an hour from where we were. We drove straight to where the elephants were spotted. On the way, we spotted a white rhino taking a nap in the mud just 5 meters from the car! Did you know that there is no colour difference between white and black rhinos? The main difference is the shape of their lips. Where white rhino have wide lips, black rhinos have pointed lips. The rhinos look prehistoric to me.
After the rhino there was mostly antelope: Kudu, impala and others. My favourite part of the antelope are their horns, some spiny, some twisted and some straight. None were the same. It is sad to hear that they are at the bottom of the food chain. There are a lot of different animals that eat them.
Eventually we got to the elephants. Once we spotted the herd I realized that it was a lot bigger then I had anticipated. We ran across a few male elephants on our way deeper into the herd. Then we saw the first baby elephant. It was taking a mud bath behind some bushes. Rick said that the herd was the biggest in the park. With about 120 or more elephants, you could see an elephant in every direction. At one point there was a male behind us and one in front. They both had huge tusks. At this time we were all sitting very still hoping that the elephants wouldn’t charge. Once the elephant behind us moved, we decided that it would be a good idea to head back the way we came.
A while later we stumbled across some zebra. Three to be exact. They were walking along the road without a care in the world… well aside from predators. One of the zebras had a really nasty gash on his hind leg from a previous attack. Luckily zebra can heal faster than most mammals. I found the zebras amazing! I could not have asked for a better day!
Just at the tail end of the day it got even better! Three lionesses were stalking prey just off the side of the road. They were beautiful sitting in the shade listening to the animals around them. The lionesses were very patient. Sadly they got up and walked deeper into the bush.
After the lions we didn’t see much else and got back to town rather quickly.
After a couple of days we decided to return to the reserve and stay for a night. We picked the four person family site with two tents, a barbecue, a kitchen and raised and fenced walkway connecting them all. Once we got to camp and setup, we immediately signed up for a night safari.
We still had some time left so we went back to the tent. We ate some snacks, prepared dinner and changed into warmer clothes. At dusk we knew it was time to go and headed to reception. My Dad had to go run back and get the car, because it wouldn’t be safe to walk to our tent after dark. Once we all got there, we hopped on the safari vehicle. Two ladies got on after us and we headed out.
The first animal we saw was a big male elephant. He was really stinky and slow. Because he was on the road ahead of us, we had to wait for him. After about fifteen minutes he turned a different way and we could keep going.
After a long time of looking for glowing eyes with spotlights we saw wildebeest, a rabbit and a couple of sleeping giraffes. The wildebeest had eyes that glowed orange in the light. There was a whole herd of them.
The rabbit was a huge shock to me. Mostly because I could understand how can a small animal like the rabbit can live in a predator infested place? However they were doing it. It worked.
The giraffes were all sleeping. When giraffes sleep they keep their heads up because when they put their heads down for too long, they get too much blood to their heads. This will kill them. Can you imagine not being able to put your head on a pillow, ever!
After a while of seeing nothing I was starting to get bored. Then all of a sudden we came across a pack of wild dogs! The dogs smelled really bad. Our guide said that they were the most successful predator in Africa. I don’t know how they can be so good at hunting with a stench like theirs. We drove behind them for about one kilometre then drove back to the camp.
Once back at camp we started up the barbecue. We kept a sharp lookout for leopard and hyenas. Luckily he saw nothing. When dinner was almost ready, my Mum asked me to get a blanket from our tent. As I was walking on the platform I saw a hyena on the opposite side from where my Dad was cooking. He looked about 2 and a half feet tall and gave me a fright that I’ll never forget! My Mum and Dad came up to me and asked me what was wrong. When I told them, they helped me calm down somewhat. I was very thankful.
When my Dad finished barbecuing we set down and ate, keeping a close lookout for hyenas. While we were eating we saw the same hyena a couple more times, which didn’t help my fear. Afterwards we headed back to our tents and went to sleep.
The next morning we got up early and headed for Giant’s Castle in the Drakensburg mountains.