Mkuze Game Reserve

It’s been years since I last went to a KwaZulu-Natal game reserve, but the three days I spent in Mkuze (part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park) were bliss.
The most unexpected part of the trip was the lack of fences around the camp (bearing in mind that the park has all of the Big Five).  This meant that on two out of the three nights we were there, we had enormous bull elephants munching leaves right next to our tents. So close in fact I could hear their teeth grinding and their bellies rumbling.  It was quite wonderful!
The park teems with delicate nyala and impala, and you’ll be visited at night by delightful bushy tailed bush babies. Another highlight was a teeny weeny rhino, still wobbly on its short, fat legs, and glued to the side of a very wide, very protective mum.
The KwaZulu-Natal parks seem pretty under-resourced and are, like all of SA’s parks, under attack by poachers.  Two rhinos were killed the week that we were there, and a large male lion was caught in a bush meat snare (and thankfully rescued and repaired).  That little rhino was such a lovely sight, but so bitter-sweet.  It’s hard not to feel a little hopeless when you look at the stats, not just of poached rhinos, but elephants, lions, and just about every walking, climbing, swimming creature.
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Fever trees everywhere

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Hello little one!

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Fancy hairdos from the resident crested guineafowl 

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Spot the kudu!

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Bloody Marys in the bush 

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Four days in the Kruger

Is there anything better than time spent in the bush?  I love big cities and I love travelling to foreign destinations, but the quiet serenity, expansive space and clear ebb and flow of life found in a reserve like the Kruger is impossible to beat. I love the excitement of driving around the park, never knowing what you might come across around the next bend (spindly legged impala? lumbering rhino? clucking franklin?).  I feel like an utterly privileged guest in a place teeming with life.
I’m a sucker for the SAN Parks camps inside the park.  The smell of the thatch bungalows, the green tiled bathrooms and the SAN Parks emblem on the sheets and tiny teacups all invoke such strong memories from my childhood, and I still prefer to stay in camps like Letaba, Shingwedzi and Shimuwini than in the camps on the edges of the park.  This time though I stayed at Ngwenya Lodge, which looks out over the Kruger (and the Crocodile River, which attracts a huge amount of game), and is a 10 minute drive to the Crocodile Bridge gate.
My goal for this trip was to take as many photographs as possible.  I have a bit of a thing for elephants – the more time I spend with them and observe them, the more I want to integrate and interact with them – and this trip was all about elephants! I saw more ellies than I think I’ve ever seen in my life!  Over the course of the four days we must’ve seen about 300 elephant in total, and some really huge herds with lots of babies (you’ll notice plenty of different sized ellie bums in my pictures!). It was quite amazing, and has further entrenched my wish to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya … as soon as possible!
Amongst all the large eared and liquid eyed antelope, some highlights were seeing rhino – less than normal though, which makes me so incredibly sad and indicates the extent of the rhino poaching crisis in the park – and three lionesses with very distended bellies on a wildebeest kill.  The Kruger remains one of my favourite, and one of the most soul soothing, places on earth and certainly one of the best wildlife destinations in Southern Africa.
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Rhino bags

A while ago I wrote a post about the scourge of rhino poaching.  It’s been hitting the headlines all month, with some major arrests made today.  Woolies has got involved making reusable bags.  All funds from sales go towards anti-poaching initiatives.  I like.  Let’s get proactive.

Rhino poaching

I feel like having a big cry today.  There was a discussion on the radio this morning about rhino poaching and the use of rhino horn in Vietnam for medicinal purposes…although the medical efficacy of rhino horn has again and again been proven to be invalid and completely factually unsound!  ARGH!  It breaks my heart.  You just have to see the images of these poor butchered beasts to feel unadulterated hatred for the big business behind the poaching.

Check out these little noodles:

And this furry guy is already extinct:

So sad.  I’m going to donate here.  There’s also a Rhino Foundation blog with lots of info.

This is the kind of image that makes me want to hide under my bed:

Sorry, graphic I know.  Sometimes I feel like it’s a never-ending list; the animals that need saving, the people in distress, the world under attack.

Sheesh, think I need some tea, a rusk and a packet of Chuckles.  (Despite my ‘no-sugar day’ today!)

xx

Images via the International Rhino Foundation, Chud and Ben Parr.