JULY 2012 NEWSPAPER COLUMN

BUCKET LIST TRAVEL TALES
ADVENTURE #9


The final day of our Safari had arrived and we were heading into Sweetwater Game Reserve, having no elephants or lions checked off our list, as of yet, the group was getting a little anxious. Rachel had assured us having seen several elephants on her previous trip here that we need not worry. Off we started in the early morning, it was a clear, hot sunny day perfect for game spotting. What’s that someone quickly yelled, oh, it’s a wart hog came the reply. Sowa Sowa to our driver Sammy meaning it was okay to keep going. What is THAT? It was a large grey spot on the horizon and much too big to be a wart hog, as we crept closer it was confirmed. They had spotted a white rhinoceros out in the field another checkmark to add to the list and a pretty impressive sight for our first animal of the day.

As we drove deeper into the park anticipation was high, we headed to the watering hole where the elephants liked to drink and bathe throughout the heat of the day. We held our breath as we rounded the corner and caught our first glimpse of the pond, we quickly scanned the banks and water, nothing. We popped the roofs up and waited for a few minutes hoping something would emerge from the foliage but no luck. We spotted some birds in the tree but that wasn’t going to appease anyone in the group.

Back out onto the main park roads we went with another favourite elephant area on our radar, the tree trunk scratching posts they liked. However , it was empty, as we waited and scanned the area, that’s when we heard and saw it. Thwack, thwack, and thwack we looked up and saw a helicopter flying over the park fairly low to the ground. We figured they must have been scanning the park looking for poachers or tracking the animals?

As we headed over to the orangutan sanctuary, for a tour and to have a closer look at these incredible human like animals, we learned they were tagging the elephants and had been for the last two weeks. The helicopters would find the herds and the

grounds crew would go in, run their tests and tag the elephants. The absence of elephants became much clearer to us now, they had gone into deep hiding which for an elephant must be a little tricky. We knew the chances of them leaving a lush leafy hiding place were pretty slim and our hopes were fading.

The daylight hours were slowly fading away on us, we had to do one more pass of all the popular spots just one last time. We spotted an ostrich doing a very interesting wing flapping dance as he made his way over to another one. We quickly realized it was his mating dance and as we moved closer we scared them from out behind their rock.

Everyone was a little deflated as the sky starting turning into that twilight pink colour and we were told we had to start heading to the gates. We heard shouts and excitement and saw a few other safari vehicles heading quickly down the road in front of us. Then one of our group pointed and shouted and that’s when we saw them, two lions standing on the crest of the field scanning the horizon. The coppery, pink twilight behind them was making it even more breathtaking. I said a little prayer of thanks, they got their lion, as the camera shutters clicked away furiously. The second lion suddenly caught the scent of something, perked up, and we thought we may witness a hunt. She slowly surveyed the area, but we had no time to wait and see what unfolded if we wanted to get out of the park before dark. The watering hole was on our way out and as we got closer someone in our group started staring intently into the distance. Afraid to call wart hog they waited until they were 100% sure it was an elephant. It was, we got it in the last 10 minutes of our safari, on our way to the exit gate. I must say Rachel and I said a few more Thanks Yous to Mother Nature and wiped a few tears of joy away. We were so relieved and happy to hear the group say that the safari was a success as we headed back to the campsite. With that chapter of our trip closed we were excited to head into the Rift Valley and embark on our day in the life of a Massai, join us next month for highlights from this next adventure.

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