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The day that Melany saved a Safari

Field guides do not have it all their own way all the time. Sudden changes in the weather, a low flying helicopter, even the phase of the moon influences the movement of the animals that we like to show our guests.


Case in point was our last safari.



A day before our guests’ arrival a major cold front came over Cape Town, drenching the drought-stricken city with much needed rain.

Photographs on the local news showing the jubilant local population in their winter woollies dancing in the rain were priceless. So were the news articles covering the snow in the higher parts of South Africa.


To us in the bushveld it meant cold. Lots of it.


The Waterberg does not really experience cold snaps that often. When asked if our bare legs are not cold, we reply that we have put on 2 pairs of underwear. With a wool jersey and a cup of good coffee, who could be cold?


Well, this cold front had even me reaching for a pair of long trousers.


Day one, game drive one went well, all the normal suspects; blue wildebeest, kudu, impala… they were on the plains as usual doing what they do best. After a sundowner, we were full of hope for the rest of the safari. In the morning we would quickly get some shots of a big bull elephant and then move over to find the sable antelope and buffalo. Maybe even a leopard for good measure. All in a morning’s work...


The weather and animals had other ideas. The clouds rolled in, and with a lazy wind that blew right through your soul, we attempted a game drive. No self-respecting animal would be found out and about in this weather.


We decided to focus on crocodiles instead – the theory being that, being cold blooded, these ancient reptiles would be sunning themselves on the sand banks on the riverside. Well…that was the theory anyway. We did eventually find a crocodile doing its best dead tree stump impersonation in the river a few feet from the boat.


Back at camp we decided to have a quick lunch and then hit the trail again. We did not see a semblance of an animal for at least an hour. And then we saw an impala. Now don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful animals, highly evolved and very interesting.


But we were looking for elephants!


Driving back with the spotlight we had our first success. We had a brief sighting of a caracal. This very rare sighting lifted our spirits immeasurably! It was not an elephant by any means, but we could live with that!


The weather was not done with us. At night the rain came down softly. It cloaked the bush with a thick, cold mist. Even the typically sprightly impala were standing heads bowed beneath the dense bush. We did, however, have a stunning sighting of an aardvark. In broad daylight. It was too quick for a photograph I am afraid...


When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Lemonade in this instance being a visit to our stunning Pride Rock rock art shelter. For a moment the sun broke through to light the ancient art. It was a beautiful experience standing there in the same spot as these ancient artist, mixing colour and movement on the rockface to freeze a little bit of time for us to appreciate many years later.


But it was not an elephant...


Last morning, last drive. The mood on the vehicle mimicked the weather. It is cold and damp. We try to stay positive and follow every possible lead; every possible track into the bush. They all end in failure. Thus, we decide to call it a day. We stop for a cup of hot chocolate. The steam and sweet aroma of the hot drink lifts our damp spirits. The weather too breaks to illuminate the majesty of the Woodstock Gorge and the silver slither of the Mokolo river far below us.


But it’s still not an elephant... yet.


With a heavy heart I declared that we should head back home. Our guests need to eat and pack for the next leg of their South African tour. And besides, Chef Anna was waiting with a sumptuous breakfast with a mug of good coffee.


The two-way radio crackles to life. Jacque (our reserve manager) calls me in. Melany, his wife, saw an elephant outside their house. Melany interrupts and tells me to get to her as soon as possible; the elephant may disappear into the thickets...


Ever heard of a Ferrari safari? This happens when a guide races from one Big Game sighting to the next, ignoring all the beauty of the bush around him. A Ferrari safari, however, is frowned upon. Especially on Kaingo.


I broke my own rules. I raced after those elephants with all I had. I did not break the speed limit; the road would not allow it. I did ignore a herd of big eared kudu. I did ignore a snorting herd of blue wildebeest. And an impala. Two minutes to the area that Melany saw the elephant the radio crackled again. One elephant has disappeared into the bush, the other was still standing in the road. “Where are you???”


Just then, at the last possible moment, on the last day of the safari (and with the help of Melany, of course), we saw...


An elephant!



Bushveld greetings
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