Our recent journey to South Africa opened our eyes and our hearts to a new world. In Cape Town we walked in the footsteps of former President Nelson Mandela and learned of his struggle for freedom and the true definition of leadership (click here for my previous posts on Cape Town). On safari in Sabi Sands we spotted the Big Five and the Magnificent Seven in all their four-legged glory. (Click here for my articles on Sabi Sabi).
The next leg of our adventure continues here… We flew north by bush plane to Manyeleti, another private game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park, which is located in the northeastern part of the country, bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe. We were met at the dirt airstrip by our guide, Alister, and tracker, Pardon, who whisked us off into the bush to our lodge, Tintswalo.
During three days of game drives we caught sight of lions, buffalo, kudu, nyala, zebra, wildebeest, and fox and absorbed lessons in all manner of flora and fauna. The most important, but tragic animal fact we learned? That extreme poaching continues to run rampant in South Africa.
After dinner one evening in the lodge, Alister showed us a heart wrenching video that portrayed the devastating realities of this slaughter. Rhino poaching has escalated in recent years, primarily driven by the demand for its horn, specifically in Vietnam. Often associated with traditional Chinese Medicine, it has evolved into a status symbol displayed to mark success or wealth. Poachers are funded by international criminal organizations that provide sophisticated equipment and substantial bounties to track and kill rhinos. The animal is tranquilized and then the horn is brutally hacked off its snout – the animal left to die a slow and painful death, often in full view of its offspring.
One afternoon, we visited the nearby Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center to learn more. This unique facility focuses on the conservation and sustainability of rare, vulnerable and endangered species in South Africa. Through education of surrounding communities, tourism, breeding, rehabilitation and anti-poaching initiatives, HESC aims to make a difference in the long-term survival of the planet and its animal inhabitants. The rhino, second largest land mammal after the elephant, specifically has borne the brunt of poaching, which has led to near extinction.
In between our excursions and twice-daily game drives from Tintswalo, we relaxed in our two-bedroom Baines Suite, named for the nineteenth century English artist and explorer. The suite includes a living room, kitchen, dining room, and chef. Our boys were delighted when creatures great and small visited the suite’s backyard plunge pool. On occasion, the front desk rang our rooms to alert us that a herd of elephants had arrived for their daily drink at the watering hole located in full view of the restaurant terrace.
On our last morning, we bid a sad farewell to Tintswalo as we joined the other guests for a “bushveld” breakfast. Our lovely al fresco buffet, laid out along a dry riverbed under the tallest of olive trees, was a symphony of sights and smells — the brewed coffee and roasted bacon mixing pleasingly with the aromas of the surrounding dried brush grasses.
As we boarded our safari vehicle and headed back to the landing strip to await our flight to Johannesburg, we reflected on our safari experiences, pondered the interdependence of humans and wildlife, and recognized the impact this intertwined relationship has on the world’s survival.
Check out my son Harris’s video, below, of a herd of Cape Buffalo we encountered during one of our evening game drives. (You can watch all of his adventure and travel videos on his Vimeo Channel – The Suburban Sportsman)
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