No monkey wake up call this morning! Just the standard iPhone alarm and tired eyes at 4:30am! With the van packed full of people and food we set off for the day at around 5am to make our way to the Game Reserve.
It didn’t take long for the noise in the van to drop and for most people to fall to sleep including myself. However, I did wake up at around 6:00 to see the sunning sunrise across the sugar cane fields. Orange sky mixed with green fields. Gorgeous!
After an hour of travelling, we stopped off to pick up our guide for the day Logan and we were back on the road to travel up to the game reserve.
We arrived at the Game reserve at about 7:30am and had the opportunity to jump out of our van and stretch our legs. This proved to be a good call! Apparently, it isn’t that safe to get out of the van for a 10 minute walk in a game reserve. Something about getting eaten? I had my doubts but took the advice.
The game reserve we went to was called Hluhluwe pronounced “Shus Louie” and is set across 250,000 acres of pristine reserve land. Much of the land has remained untouched by humans and as such represents how the land would have looked when the first British colonials landed in the last 1800’s. It sure makes for a spectacular back drop!
Our guide for the day, Logan, was superb! He gave so much detail and insight into who all of the animals interact and how the land adapts and changes to provide for all that need it. He has been coming to the reserve for the last 38 years. If anyone knows 250,000 acres of land like the back of his hand then it is him!
So with the briefing we were off in the van, eagle eyed to spot the big five animals which are, lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino! I confess and I am sure my wife will agree that I’m not the most observant person in the world. Spotting animals is not my strong point! Thankfully, there were 19 other people to do that job for me!
Within the first 15 mins, we had our first animal sightings wart hogs and impala! From quiet observation to excitement in two seconds flat! I don’t think as a group we would be the best bird watchers in the world! Also, as it turns out my iPhone isn’t the best camera device when attempting long range shots of moving wild animals. I know that this will raise a smile with a few people back at work who recommend a “proper” camera.
As we went deeper into the forest we saw our first river or what should have been a river. As mentioned in an earlier blog, the country is currently in the middle of a severe drought. There is no better way to illustrate this than looking at a completely dry river. We were told that last year the river was half full and flowing. Fast forward to today and not a drop in there.
Logan told us that over the last year the area had only received a maximum of 60mm of rain across the whole year. Water is at a premium!
After a short break for breakfast, the animals began to roll in! We saw a number of Buffalo and then a major spot, four giraffes! I must confess that giraffes are my favourite wild animal. To see animals in their natural habit is a real pleasure and you get an up close look at how big they are! As we headed toward lunch we had hit a little bit of a lull and then bang! A small herd of both Zebra and Elephants! Pretty special.
We had lunch in a restaurant called Hilltop which had stunning views of the park. Not a bad place to have Sunday Lunch. A world away from a Toby Carvery! Also, we had the pleasure of watching a number of buffalo approach the watering hole. Not something that you get to see in a carvery! Lunch gave me the opportunity to speak to Logan about our plans for the University and our own project. This proved extremely useful and is definitely a step forward for a potential programme.
We had a final two hours in the park and they certainly were action packed. We saw a large number of Rhinos, impala and hogs of which a couple got quite close to the van. Finally, something that my phone could handle!
As we were leaving the park, we were forced to wait for 10 minutes due an obstruction. That obstruction being around 30 buffalo, mixed with a small group of Rhino who were all over the road. After much excitement/fear we decided to edge forward to see of we could get the animals to move. Thankfully they did, it also allowed me to hang out of the window and get myself a quick buffalo selfie! Thanks to Elliot for the idea!
So after the wake up at 4:30am and being in a van all day is quite tiring. However, I really enjoyed the journey home as I got to know a number of the St Mary’s students a lot better. We played games and chatted, I will reiterate what I have said throughout my blogs. They are a quality group of people and also highly intelligent! I have had to dip out of a few conversations as not to make myself look silly!
Hopefully a few will see the light and make the University of Leeds their home in 2016! I’m always looking for people to join my leadership programmes.
Back to the serious stuff tomorrow, we will be returning to Mnyakanya High School via Eshowe High School and a primary school local to Mnyakanya. We will be working on sports leadership prior to our sports festival on Wednesday. The St Mary’s students will also be delivering curriculum lessons to the South African learners. These lessons are varied and include economics, physics, biology and further maths. Told you they were smart!
We will also be handing out our first section of football shirts to our South African Leaders.
Now to sleep and hopefully a monkey alarm!