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A Day in the Reserve

Volunteer Trip South Africa
Tembe Elephant Park

Wednesday 4th January, 4 AM

We are on the move in Tembe reserve, I’m wondering what type of animals will be awake in the middle of the night? Bugs making a lot of noise, it’s a bit of a cloudy day and rain is in the air. I’m not really looking forward to that as sitting in an open truck you are exposed to all the elements and rain is my least favourite of all.

sunrise Tembe Elephant park

The sun is coming up, the sky is very dramatic, beautiful, the landscape is lush green and here and there is the remains of a tree. What has caused the destruction of these trees, can be anything from porcupines, elephants, lightening..

The first ones out and about are the regal giraffes, I just love their pretty faces and funny ears, gorgeous. I don’t care how many times I see them, I find them breath-taking.  They just stop grazing and look at you, they’re not too shy, very inquisitive.

Giraffes Tembe Elephant Park
Giraffes Tembe Elephant Park
Giraffes Tembe Elephant Park

We are driving along the bumpy road and just behind another bend in the road, we stumble upon a herd of female elephants, and one of them has got a baby elephant with her. The motor of the truck goes off and no noises or sudden movements, as they seem a bit agitated by our presence. Ears flapping, trunk going up and down.. One of the females is making a move towards us, and is then joined by her 2 ‘sisters’ making an impressive front. You definitely don’t want to be on the wrong side of them. In the meantime mother and baby have just been absorbed by the vegetation. Amazing how such huge animals, are just there one second, and gone another. They just have the art of vanishing. Accompanied by the elephants are hordes of dung beetles flying around them. These beetles are as big as a small egg and feed off.. yes the elephant dung.

Back to the elephants, once we saw they were a bit more relaxed, we went on our way.

Elephants Tembe
Elephants Tembe
Elephants Tembe

Hayden, the wildlife monitor, wanted to check on the African Wild Dogs, as they haven’t been seen or heard of for 4-5 days. With the telemetry, we tried to see if we got any signal from their tracking collars and we went up to the last place they’ve been seen. Alas! No luck. We went up to the beacon to get a higher point in the reserve, to see if the signal was reaching us. But nothing showed up.

Whilst moving around, we encountered a big tusk elephant. Big tusks are elephants whose tusks weighs a minimum of 45 kgs each. He wasn’t really bothered by us and just went on doing what elephants do best, eating.

A beautiful male kudu came peeping out of the woods and just stood there, I first thought it was a statue as nothing was moving. After 5 minutes suddenly one ear moved, he turned and elegantly jumped into the woods. Their horns are just a piece of art, so beautiful.

Big tusk male Tembe
Alisa - Telemetry Tembe
Kudu Tembe Elephant Park

A curious male nyala looked from under the tree, the males are stunning with their black coat. We’ve seen a lot of young male nyalas and their colour is the same as the females, they do change colour around the 2 year mark. Again their horns are a piece of art, very beautiful. There are 2000 nyalas too many at the reserve as they don’t have a breeding season, they breed like rabbits. Just the thought they’re being killed because of overpopulation.

I think I’m going to add another pet to my family, an impala, they are so gorgeous looking. Their faces are sculptured, their ears seem too big for their cute face and their coat is shining clean. It’s a breed of antelope that cleans each other, and that little white/black tail that’s constantly moving is just too adorable.

Impalas and Nyalas, both are quite inquisitive and not too shy of the vehicle. I love it when they pose.

Young Impalas - Tembe Elephant Park
male impala - Tembe elephant park
male nyala - Tembe elephant park

The afternoon session, was a bit dreary, the rain started to come down around 15.00 and we got soaking wet. The rain jacket and trousers weren’t that weather proof after 3 hours in the pouring rain. We were tracking some lions, but weren’t particular lucky. I wouldn’t come out either in this weather if I had a choice.

Back at camp by 19.30, some food, a hot shower and some sleep.

About The Author


Hi everyone, I'm Dagmar and I'm born in Belgium, at 27 I moved to the south coast of Spain, initially just for 6 months, however 22 years later, I'm still here. I have a big passion for animal welfare. I have 3 dogs and a cat, all rescues. In September 2015, I turned vegetarian and over the course of that year, I have leant more and more towards veganism. My aim is to eat as 'clean' as possible.

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