VOLUNTEER TRIP SOUTH AFRICA
Tembe Elephant Park
Monday, 9th January 2017, 3.30 AM
I’ve entered my 2nd week in South Africa and my last week in Tembe Elephant Park. For the first time I woke up rested at 2.30 AM. Early start as today is also shopping day. And as the closest supermarket is 30 mins drive, we only do shopping once a week.
We were going to track the dogs that we saw yesterday morning, but when we’ve arrived at the north-eastern fence line, we got no signal whatsoever. There are 2 dogs with a collar, Freddy, the dominant male and Albie, the dominant female, who has a more advanced satellite collar and that switches on at 6 AM and switches off at 6 PM, so we couldn’t track her just yet.
They normally stay within the same area, but as there is only a road at the fence and one on the other side of the sand forest, we won’t get a signal if there are roaming in the middle of it. We drove around, trying to get a signal, but nothing.
We were back at camp by 9 AM, and went shopping at 10 AM to Mpunzi, Spar seems to be the supermarket of choice here. You just buy what you can get of vegetables, and I was out of luck, no spinach, kale, cucumber, at least I got mangos and pawpaw (papaya) and lo’ and behold.. coconut water!
Today was working out to be a fabulous day, we asked Hayden if he could drive us to the beach, 30 mins further and he agreed, we are apparently the first group of volunteers who he has taken to the beach, Kozi Bay and it’s a natural park, 75 ZAR per person entrance, that converts to approx. 5 €, we had an hour to have fun! As a bunch of giddy kids we were off and we were to get snorkelling too! Oh what a treat. It’s beautiful there, we entered through a very bumpy sand track, to arrive at the gates of the park. Driving through nature and seeing the stunning blue sea in the distance, suddenly the vegetation opened up, oh wow, I cannot possibly put into words the beauty of it.
In the water we saw what I assume bamboo or similar wood, which are fishing pods, this is how people who used to own the land for 700 years, the same family, before it became government land catch their fish. It’s quite a setup.
We arrived at this idyllic spot, as we didn’t anticipate going swimming, nobody was prepared for it. So I zipped off my trousers to shorts, top off, thank goodness for sports bras, and we waded through the river to get to the sea. The water was warm, clean and very inviting. We had an hour of good exercise and fun, swimming against the stream and snorkelling, I saw some very beautiful colourful fish and a very dangerous poisonous rockfish. When you step on them, you better make sure you get to hospital quick or it is adios and goodbye. It took me back to my visit to Australia, the colour of the fish, nature… Paradise.
Whilst goofing around a bit more on the beach to get a little bit dry not to make the car too wet; no dry clothes remember, Hayden showed off his athletic skills.
Back to reality and to camp, putting away shopping and the girls were going for a rest, whilst I decided it was shower and cooking time, as we had to be ready by 18.00, we were going to the water tower and have a picnic there whilst scanning for lions. And I promised to make lentil and bean burgers.
Shower first, I saw white of the salt…. No water! Oh no, the timing was great. Back to the kitchen, I must have mumbled to myself how was going to prepare food without water, when a voice at the back of the kitchen called back, that a pipe had burst and water should be back on in 30 minutes. Oh glory, fabulous! That meant it took me to 17.00, hmm.. food first. Whilst chopping away, standing in a sarong over dry underwear and wet sports bra waiting for the water to be back, I get Hayden rushing in the kitchen, to hop in the truck as they saw a lion near camp. There I go in my Birkenstocks and newly-invented safari outfit.. my new friends were already seated as obviously I was too engrossed in my cooking to hear and see what was going on.
Literally 2 minutes from camp, we saw this gorgeous creature walking in the middle of the road, a big lioness, we identified as Nyanga. Nyanga is 12 years old and has got 2 cubs, she’s normally in the company of her mother Kampa, age 18. This is very old for a lion by the way. But Kampa is still in good shape. She must have left her cups behind safely to go to the watering hole close to camp. She kept on walking in the middle of the road, stopping, looking back at us, continuing, looking back again as to say.. what’s up with you guys?. We were approximately 10-15 meters behind her. She cut through the greenery and we could follow her on the road driving parallel with her. We followed her quite a while until she disappeared in the forest, where her cups were. We scanned for her and could see she was resting very close-by.
This day was just getting better and better.
Back at camp, continue cooking for dinner! Whilst the last veggie burgers were in the pan, and my cooking companion Heather, took care of them, I went finally for that very quick shower as we were off to the water tower for our picnic and it was already 18.45 by then.
The food was great, the company even better and a view and sunset to die for.
No surprise I went to sleep with the biggest happiest smile on my face.