After lunch, we opened our bottle of Brandy blended with late harvest Zin from the Blaawklippen Vineyard (www.blaauwklippen.com) in South Africa. We shared a glass with our ranger while we all looked at the pictures we had gotten from the lions on our morning drive.
We finished our afternoon drink and climbed into the jeep…this was our last afternoon drive with Rhulani lodge. We have one more morning drive and then will check into a new lodge for the next couple days. After seeing a herd of zebras at the watering hole while we ate lunch…the first thing we saw on this drive was another zebra standing in the road. Not too much further, we saw a giraffe by himself sitting amongst the bushes. The ranger said Giraffes really don’t just sit like that, but they do that when a storm is coming…or it could have been sick.
We took a fairly long drive to a different part of the reserve where the wild African dogs were known to run around. On the way we saw tons of Impala grazing together before we finally pulled up and saw a few of the dogs lying around, there were about 5 of the 7. The dogs are highly endangered due to various factors…humans, disease etc. They kind of look like wolves but have very distinct ears. They are carnivores and hunt together, although all have a hierarchical place in their clan. We thought it would be cool to see them hunt for their food, but the ranger explained to us how grueling the hunt actually is…they basically chase the impala or kudu or wildebeest until it literally runs out of energy. Then, they grasp onto the animal and start to eat it alive…sometimes the animal is still running as its guts are falling to the ground. Sorry, I know…it is so awful…but it’s nature.
Supposedly…the dogs are very active, but we must have caught them on a lazy day. Since they were lying around, we were able to get some great close-up pictures but were soon kind of bored with them and continued our drive. Before stopping for our evening beer in the bush, we saw a giraffe couple walking around together as they ate leaves from the trees. We could easily tell the tall darker colored male from the smaller lighter colored female. How cute…they were on a dinner date and we got to watch them!
We enjoyed our beer as the sun was setting in the bush…we chewed on beef jerky which is a specialty of South Africa and savored the delicious dried pears. Why don’t we have dried pears in the US? Or are they secretly in some random state we don’t know about…they are so yummy, I will be requesting them for my birthday!
Back in the jeep, we saw two rhino’s…number four of the big five! The rhino dates back to an era millions of years ago. They are definitely dinosaur-like, massive, dark grey and have wrinkly skin. The horn on the top of their head is sharp and pointy and they do use it when they charge. It is so sad that people are poaching these animals into extinction. The rhino population has decreased 90% since 1970 and now there are only 5 species left…all of them endangered. The poachers shoot the rhino and remove its horn to sell on the black market in Asia…traditional Asian medicine believes the horn holds powerful healing properties. The going rate for 2.2 pounds of rhino horn is somewhere in the ballpark of $55,000. The rhino is left dead…all they take is the horn, so sad. We got some pictures although not as close as we would have liked…they didn’t stick around too long for a photo shoot. We were really excited to have seen 4 of the big five…we have two more days at the new lodge, maybe will we see number five…the leopard.
On our drive back to the lodge, we saw the black backed jackal (go ahead…say it 10 times fast), it looked like a fox with a black back…he was cute and quick but we managed to get his picture. We got back to the lodge where they showed us to our table for dinner. It wasn’t on the patio by the fireplace, instead we were led to the Boma. The Boma is a fort-like structure, it was a large round open space…the “walls” were made of simply sticks tied together. The ceiling was the open sky…with big beautiful stars looking down on us. There was a big bonfire in the center and tables set for dinner surrounding it. We all sat down…ate dinner, drank wine, enjoyed each other’s company and the amazing moment of sitting under the stars in South Africa.