The day started with a 6:00am wake-up call that came too early. This will only be getting worse due my project and having to check live Sherman live traps before breakfast time for the next week and I will have to be checking my traps at 6:00am. This morning in particularly was exciting as we would be going to a game reserve to see a white rhino darting, in order to update the radio collar and batteries. The overall process of getting a quick orientation from the wildlife veterinarian, finding the correct area and then darting the animal successfully took around 3 hours. In South Africa there are a lot of issues with poaching so the details of this experience are meant to be kept vague. This was an experience of a lifetime and not something that I will probably ever get the opportunity to do again. The exhilaration of being so close to such a powerful animal made me speechless and I felt like I was in the presence of a celebrity. The words to describe this do not give the memory any justice to what anybody from the group was experiencing.
At lunch we had a new food nobody had tried before called umgqushu, it is called ‘samp and beans’ in English and is maize cooked soft with kidney beans. It was amazing in my opinion, especially with some chutney on top to add some sweetness too it. As soon as my belly was full Dr.Gray took me out to the two sites near the classroom for checking the Sherman live traps as to help orientate me with how to check them and identify the mice correctly. The site checks led right into the lecture time with Mark Palmer, the manager of the Amakahala Game Reserve, where we discussed the topic of managing animal population on small reserves. It was very enlightening to know how much of a balancing act it is with the vegetation, herbivores and carnivores to keep an ecosystem successfully function as well as keep the economic side of the reserve to support the animals. It is a fine line between tourism and conservation. The lectures lasted around 2 hours before we had to head to our secret location on the game reserve and to do our 4:30pm live Facebook feed for all of our lovely family and friends. Hopefully everyone enjoyed the view on top of the ridge and introduction to our projects. However on the way up we caught a lucky siting of 3 white rhinoceros one of which was a calf. It was quite exciting to see so many spectacular animals in one day.
Just after the live stream the two vehicles (Toyota land cruisers) drove to a cheetah sighting. The entire group saw 5 cheetahs which included 4 cubs and their mom. The sun was just setting behind them so the light hitting them was breathtaking moment. The cubs were play fighting with one another and sneaking up behind their siblings as their mom was slightly ahead standing watch. The day was very exciting one from the moment we woke up because we can all say now that we have seen 4 out of the 5 from the Big 5 list , the leopards have being very shy since we arrived.
The group including Janine and Sarah had a very tiring but full day of amazing events and we will be back at it bright in early tomorrow morning to explore our surroundings even more.
Ashley out for now…hope you enjoy our day as much as we did!