After we got back to camp from Ralf’s lecture, we spent the evening and the following day going on game drives. We paid for an evening drive with a park worker and that was kind of a waste, we did not see anything exciting really.
But that is the way it works. Wednesday we got the real game drive treat. We spent all day driving around and saw a lot. Unfortunately, we saw two poached rhino corpses, driving the reality of yesterday’s lecture home. Ralf told us that at 9 am, noon, and 5 pm a rhino would be poached, and we saw the corpses at 9 am and noon. Fortunately for us, we got to see a lion scavenging the second corpse, making that our first wild lion sighting.
Thursday we packed up camp in the Kruger and started our drive to the next location. We were close to an exit and could easily have left the park and gotten on a highway, but we decided to stay in the park for as long as possible. It’s a good thing we did this, when we were about to leave the park we had two leopard sightings. This was lesson on camouflage in action. We only knew they were there because there were tons of other cars parked pointing at a bunch of bushes and grass. Eventually, we were able to find them through binoculars and camera zooms. While watching one of them get up and walk around, we kept losing sight of it as if it magically phased out of existence, and then it would take another step and reappear right next to where we lost it.
We got to our next destination, Swadini, around mid day and had the opportunity to explore the location and hang out for the evening. Swadini was the most beautiful location to camp at since it was set in a valley in the Drakensberg Mountains. And better yet, they had a heated pool for us to go into at night.
Friday was more game capture. We went to meet the regional specialist, Andrei and attempted to capture a wildebeest. We tried for about half an hour but they couldn’t get a good shot on him and we had to move on to the next activity. We went to another farm maybe 20 minutes away to move bunch of sable. This was impressive. The vet we were working with, Rita, was loading darts with sedatives in the back of the truck while they were looking for the sable. The drug being used is strong enough to kill a human with one drop, and she was just straddling a bench in the back of the truck, bouncing around, loading the darts like nothing. She was insanely impressive. We then tried for another 2+ hours to catch the wildebeest and it just didn’t pan out. He was in a very large boma with a lot of trees in it, so the vet couldn’t get a clear shot on him. They only had so much room on the truck so a few other students and myself stayed behind and ended up playing hangman for a while.
The next day, Saturday, we went back to Moholoholo go volunteer and I had a great time. We Got to pet another cheetah after watching it run down a strip of land. The sound of its feet as it ran sounded like thunder, it was absolutely incredible. We then broke down into teams and got to help with the daily tasks to see what really goes into running a sanctuary. Most of it was cleaning poop and cutting meat, but it was fun and there were a few animals that wanted to interact, making it worth while. We took a break from tasks to do some falconing with a tour guide. I was completely awed by this experience. First we just had a small eagle fly to us and we all got to partake in that. But after, a few of us got to go in with a… nutty… vulture. The dude was so big, his wingspan was MUCH longer than I was tall. And he was so nutty that I had to “play” with him by batting him with my glove a little bit before he was happy enough to fly to me. I’ve done falconry with owls and hawks before, but this was a completely different experience. He was so massive that the guide had to help hold my arm up because I was not expecting the weight, and I was definitely a little intimidated the whole time I was in his enclosure. Over all though, it was a great experience.