Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shamwari Game Reserve

Continuing our road trip across South Africa and about 5 more hours, our final destination was to the Eagles Crag Lodge at Shamwari Private Game Reserve. Getting to the lodge was half the adventure, as we had to drive literally through the game reserve in a vehicle that could not stand up to the bumps, narrow road and possible animals we would pass. Needless to say we survived the terrain, met our ranger Mushi, and went out on our first game drive just as we arrived at the lodge. We were completely spoiled and saw lions and a leopard on our first drive! In the middle of each game drive our ranger Mushi would pull up to a scenic view and we’d have some drinks and a snack. Once we finished our “sun downers” we’d take a few pictures and head back out into the wild. It’s an amazing feeling and slightly nerve-racking to get out of the land rover in the middle of the bush. After dinner and a few drinks our first night, we headed to bed early to prepare for our early morning drive the following day. Between the morning and afternoon drives on our second day, we saw elephants, zebra, giraffe, white rhinos, wildebeest, blesbok, hartebeest, springbok, impala, gemsbok, kudu, eland, warthog, baboon, monkey, a few cool birds and a lot of plants and trees. We saw two more leopard our second day, making that a record for Mushi. In his entire career he has never shown a group three different leopards in 24 hours. We were lucky!

In the afternoon of the second day, we began searching for something not many safari goers get to see. The cheetah. Considering the luck we’d been having I was confident our man Mushi would be able to find it. Well, he did. And when he did our car came to a complete stop, Mushi grabbed his rifle and came to open our doors. Yes, we were getting out of the safety of our vehicle and walking to greet the two cheetahs at a much closer vicinity. If I remember correctly, before I stepped out of the car I looked at Mushi and said, “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?” Naturally, he completely ignored me and gave us our instructions to stay in a straight single file line, walk very slowly and to not make a sound. As I’ve discovered through my bungy jumping experience, when facing death I simply stop breathing. I had my arms and hands clasped in front of my body and sandwiched myself between the two boys in hopes that if the cheetahs sprung to kill us, I wouldn’t be first. In case you are curious, the cheetah is the fastest animal in the planet… but since the headline in the NY Times in the past week has not read “American Volunteers Die From Cheetah Attack”… we’re good. I don’t know how many feet or meters we were to these two large cats, but we were close enough. And even to my own amazement, I have to admit, one of the highlights of the entire safari experience. Surprisingly enough I didn’t pass out from not breathing and made it back to the car safe and sound. And to quote my travel buddy, I am the biggest brave chicken he’s ever seen.

On our last morning drive we were in search for 3 out of the “Big Five.” The big five are the five toughest animals to hunt on foot in Africa. It consists of the Black rhino, leopard, lion, elephant and cape buffalo. We did not do too badly. In fact, that last morning we found a Black rhino, (which are one of the most rare animals to find in Africa), over ten hippos, and the cape mountain zebra which is also a very rare sighting. Unfortunately, we did not see any cape buffalo, but to be able to see four out of the big five in 48 hours is pretty amazing. Good Karma. J

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