My normal post-trip report format is to detail the whole trip however this time I feel a change is needed and a slightly different approach will be made in this report, including the parts which were not-so-good.
The first not-so-good is easy and happened on Barnsley’s arrival day. After an overnight flight they landed, collected their luggage, packed the trailer and off we went to the Pretoria Zoo for the day – another hour’s travel! The 20 students and two teachers were exhausted as airplanes are not made for comfort, economy class in particular. Being an educational group we were shown areas of the Zoo that is off limits to the general public which included the aquarium and a quarantine area housing some critically endangered frogs, Pickersgill’s Reed Frogs Hyperolius pickersgilli. From here we visited the reptiles and gorillas before the students were given free time to watch the animals of their choice before heading back to Sun Rock Bed and Breakfast in Johannesburg.
Following a latish breakfast we repacked the trailer and headed for Moholoholo’s Mountain View Camp where we stayed for the next three nights. Moholoholo is central to three ‘rehabilitation’ facilities so an ideal location to stay.
Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre is always a hit with the students and lecturers alike as they go out of their way to show us around their Centre which includes many ‘behind the scenes’ areas such as the clinic and presently, a time playing with the lion cubs. Amongst other things the reason I like Moholoholo is because they give the facts which are often rather unpleasant to face – unpleasant but true and Brian Jones and his team have a policy to say it as it is. (This, in my opinion, also applies to Donald Strydom at Khamai Reptile Park).
The following day was two trips, a morning at Khamai Reptile Centre and the afternoon at the Hoedspruit Cheetah and Endangered Species Centre (HESC). Khamai wasn’t very well received by the students as a young guy showed them around and they felt as though the talks were too basic and would have suited six-year olds. HESC was well received by the students and they all enjoyed their afternoon.
It is always very interesting to get feedback from the students about how they found the various Centres as the student’s opinions are always different and often/usually not what we expected. The Centres are totally different in their approach to rehab, enclosures, sales of animals etc. A sure gauge is to ask the students which Centre they would revisit and normally Moholoholo comes up tops. A further probing question is if Moholo’ had the same financial backing as HCESC, would it change and look like HESC? Invariably the answer is ‘no’.
Day 5 saw us off to the Kruger National Park (KNP) to Lower Sabie in the south east of the reserve. Both Marc and I were very excited about going there as it isn’t a camp that we are usually able to book into due to its popularity. We both expected great things but this expectation was over-rated. This is not to say we didn’t see much, we did, starting off with an elephant bull in musth which forced us to reverse for kilometres as he had claimed the road as his private domain. Sane people do not fool around with bull elephants and bull elephants in musth are a thousand times worse. An animal that can easily flip a vehicle straight over from boot to engine leaving it on the roof without even getting short of breath deserves respect!
Leopards and Lions were beasts to find despite getting feedback on their locations. My vehicle was lucky to get a glimpse of a leopard and Marc really went the extra mile (or 50) to try to locate lions but failed. One amusing incident Marc’s group experienced while on one of his lion hunts was the demise of a dung beetle. A tour guide was showing his group the dung beetle and explaining the life-cycle of these fascinating creatures. Marc sat patiently waiting so that he could show his group but when the other guide had finished he drove off flattening the dung and beetle.
Two of my highlights were the sighting of a side-striped jackal, which I mistakenly took to be a juvenile black-backed jackal. This huge blunder only became apparent when I downloaded my pictures at home, and the sighting of two Honey Badgers that kindly kept to the road for a long time allowing us ample opportunity for photographs.
All in all it was a great trip and we thoroughly enjoyed hosting you and look forward to your next South African visit.