When I got the invitation to travel to South Africa, I remember writing to Arun– what to do I am no wildlife photographer! He replied back- enjoy the things with your eyes! That was one good advice. I tried to follow it too and yet the trigger happy camera finger would go on its own!
If you have visited the national parks in India you can’t help but compare your experience in South Africa. I know it is like comparing apples and oranges but I end up doing the comparison.
Kudu, Manyeleti Game Reserve, South Africa
In a forest they say the animals at the bottom of the food chain are many times more in number than the ones at the top. This is essential to maintain the balance. So you spot deer commonly in India and you spot Kudu commonly in South Africa, they are at the bottom of the food chain.
But in India the forest is thick and it is so easy for the animals to hide in it. They might be 10 meters away from you but so well hidden that they might as well not be there. In South Africa they call it a bush. And it resembles a bush and not a forest. So you see a lot more animals out there in the wild. Or maybe it is the South African magic that makes all the wildlife sightings so easy. What else could explain sightings of lions, rhinos, cape buffalo and elephants (note the plural) in just two safaris. Whereas it took me five years to spot a tiger in the wild in India. The leopard has been elusive to me both in India and South Africa. but then I have patience.
I wonder what is it about South Africa that makes me so nostalgic? Maybe because I was a tourist there, I didn’t had the luxury to take the big beautiful country for granted?
It is a lazy Sunday, enjoy the picture of Kudu from South Africa.
I went to South Africa in May 2013 and it is a rare day when I don’t think about it. More than anything else their wild life is on such a grand scale that it has left me completely smitten. Here are 10 reasons why a South Africa Wildlife Safari will spoil you for life!
The Guys with Outrageous Sense of Humor
10. The South African Sense of Humor: If your safari guides are anywhere near as cool as mine their sense of humor is going to blow you apart. They have a nonscientific explanation for every animal and behavior. According to them Kudus have white lines on their back because they sat on a freshly painted toilet seat! Initially I thought it was blasphemy but I started enjoying it once I was over the shock!
The Walk in the Bush
9. The Walk in the Bush: We did a 45 minute walk on foot in the South African bush. Most safaris would give you this option. This is the only time you will wish that you don’t spot anything big. This is the time to see the pug marks, the trees and other small things in nature.
The Gorgeous Sunsets
8. The South African Sunsets and the Night Sky: As the South African bush is not as thick as Indian jungle, the sunset and the evening light seen to brighten up everything from end to end. One can see a sky full of stars only in a place away from the cities. I still remember the cold evening we spent looking for the Southern Cross and the Scorpion constellations. I wish I tried my hand at night photography then.
The Story Telling
7. The Story Telling: Our guides literally live in the bush. They had years of experience with the wildlife. If you ask them nicely they have stories to tell. Like the time when there were 8-10 lions right behind the lodge going for a Cape buffalo. Then the herd of the attacked buffalo appeared and a fight ensued. I have a queasy stomach and I don’t think I could stand the distress call of the attack but what an story it was. Another story was about the guests who wanted to enter the muddy region to get closer to the lion to get a better picture …
The Generous Hospitality
6. The Generous Hospitality: South African hospitality is warm, and being from India it feels just right. I am fine with the professional tone but I will take warmth any day over professionalism.
The Bush Breakfast
5. The Bush Breakfast and Drinks: The sun was setting and Erick took the jeep toward a water body. Then we saw the drinks and starters right there in the middle of the bush. That is when I discovered Amarula for the first time. I am told it is available on Delhi Duty Free and I am going to put that theory to test very soon. Next day after the bush walk, we were served the breakfast right by the Hippo pond.
4. Bird Watching: My guides considered bird watching a waste. Only the Big 5 fascinated them and that is what they wanted to show. Now that is not strictly true. They were patient with my bird watching attempts but they could not mask there true feelings, which was- what a waste, we might be missing a big cat somewhere!
Waking up in Total Silence
3. Waking Up in Total Silence: We stayed at Manyeleti Game Reserve and there was nothing for miles around us. There was an electric fence around the Manor House, the lavish place we stayed at. And then there was the bush and the silence. It was such a soothing experience.
The Supporting Cast
2. The Supporting Cast: Apart from the Big 5 (see below) the supporting cast includes zebras, giraffes, kudus, wildebeast, vervet monkeys, hippos and impalas. Now if the supporting cast is so fascinating the main actors are of course going to leave us spell bound.
The Big 4 out of 5, South Africa
1. For the close encounters with the majestic Big 5: The big 5 are lions, cape buffalo, leopard, rhinos and elephants. On three rides I saw 4 out of 5. Only the shy leopard remained elusive. And what sightings they were. 9 elephants came behind the deck of our lodge to drink water. A lion walked a few feet ahead of us for what felt like an eternity. We saw two rhinos who were playing rather nosily with each other. With Cape buffalo we saw only two. In many other places two is a big number, not in South Africa.
Usually at the end of a trip I am happy to go home. This was one trip I was torn into two. Half of me wanted to stay back, such was the lure of the bush. I never expected the sightings to be on such a grand scale.
I have a love-hate relationship with bird photography. I love photographing birds and I hate the amount of trouble they give me in taking pictures.
Yellow Billed Hornbill, Manyeleti Game Reserve, South Africa
However I do get lucky sometimes, like when I clicked this Yellow Billed Hornbill (described as flying bananas by our guide Erick) Manyeleti Game Reserve in South Africa. And now that my Nepal trip is wearing off a little, my South Africa nostalgia is coming back in full force!