It’s true what they say; every traveller has a unique experience no matter how many times that ground has been trodden. This was true for myself during my time on Safari at Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve, one of the biggest game reserves in South Africa, and originally a royal hunting ground for the Zulu Kingdom.
Our adventure began at the park entrance, where we jumped into our own private open jeep to begin our search for the Big Five. The word on the trail was that there had been a lion kill on an impala that morning, so of course it was the first location we headed to. It’s very rare to see a lion kill and it was so close to the road too, so of course we weren’t going to miss the opportunity. It turns out, we weren’t the only visitors that day that planned on taking snapshots of this unique find, so we left the tourists to it, with the aim of coming back at the end of the day.
Bouncing our way along the dirt track roads, we spotted many of the expected animals including rhinos, impala, giraffe, buffalo and wildebeests but no elephants. This was a must in our books, so we shot down to the south end of the park where they were expected to be hanging out that day. As the jeep screeched to a halt we were faced with the huge back end of an elephant, casually making his way through the trees, pulling and stamping on branches as he went. Lots more appeared after that and we were satisfied that our safari had a brilliant ending.
Checking the time, we began to make tracks in order for us to visit the lion kill before heading out of the park before it closed. We were told that they don’t wait for anyone to get out, they shut the gates on the dot of 5pm and you’re left inside if you’re late.
We arrived at the kill soon after, and there he was, a great golden lion guarding his meat. We were the only human beings around, so spent plenty of time sitting in awe of what we were experiencing, although we were soon reminded that we had outstayed our welcome as the lion reared it’s head and roared directly at us. This was our cue to leave, for sure!
It turns out, that it’s pretty easy to lose track of time whilst on Safari. Our guide looked at his watch and realised we were running out of time. As the sun started to set, we raced at full throttle, leaving dust in our wake as we hurtled towards the gates, our fingers and toes crossed the entire time, hoping not to be trapped in the vast African wilderness overnight. Darkness set in extremely fast, leaving us vulnerable to roadside surprises, but with our fists wrapped firmly around the metal handles of the vehicle, we continued to bound our way along the open road. Then the heavens opened. Over high ground looking down on the valleys below we could see the oncoming storm. Lightening struck and thunder pounded as we raced through the oldest nature reserve in Africa, full of wild and dangerous animals. With no waterproofs to protect us from the weather, we sat like a soggy mess, clinging on to one another. It was like a scene from Jurassic Park, and it truly did feel like it in those moments.
The rain attacked us with full force as our driver put the pedal to the metal and drove at top speed in order to return us to civilisation on time.
After half an hour we finally reached the entrance gates, having been the last people in the park.
It’s a fact that we all breathed a sigh of relief as they opened and we departed with a new found respect for the delicate and un-relentless balance of nature – and the importance of time keeping.
Written by Jo on the Go