Regular readers of my blog may remember that I was in South Africa on business back at the end of the summer. (Their Summer – not ours; I was here in February/March.) At that time, my colleague from the Denver Office who was out in Randberg with me and I went to Pilanesberg Game Reserve (near Sun City Center) on a weekend and I christened it a "Dearth of Game Park". It never prepared me for the Imfolozi Game Reserve.
The weather was foreboding as we got up this morning. It was coming down in buckets and the forecast was for it to continue raining all day. The entire drive up here was misty, drizzly or rainy. We stopped at the last town of any size (about an hour's drive from Ballito and halfway to the park) to eat breakfast: pickle sandwiches, a boiled egg, cold sausages, and coffee. I took over driving at that point and carried on to the park.
About twenty kilometers from the park entrance, the weather relented. Full of hope, I turned off the wipers. A few minutes later, I pointed out to the wiper status to my friends. It would be overly generous to say that the weather was good today, but it seemed, grudgingly to cooperate with us. The skies remained overcast and the air damp. At least it was not hot and it was not raining.
This place is huge! The game here is much more ever-present than at Pilanesberg. Almost immediately, we saw giraffe! It was our first sighting and was within minutes of entering the reserve. It was far from the last. I can't remember all the things we saw, but the number was impressive.
There is something called "The Big Five" here in South Africa. It is a list of the five most dangerous animals to hunt. (The Big Five are: Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhinoceros.) Of the five, we saw three on the first day.
Other than having a great day with good friends, being in an awe-inspiring place, and seeing loads of game in the wild, there are two things about today that stand out in my memory. The first is seeing a grouping of Rhinoceros. They were back off the road only a few feet. The size of them was impressive! Even more impressive is that I am told that this group is a bachelor herd… they are not fully-grown!
Seeing elephants feeding as a family was another cool sight! There was a big male (we took to be the father), a few medium sized males, a large female and a small female. They grazed on the grasses and trees just off the road and sauntered back-and-forth across the road slowly feeding as they pleased. We tried inching past the group after watching them feed for a while. It was obvious from the way one of the bulls flapped his ears at us that we were no longer welcome… he was getting annoyed. So we drove on.
One of the last things we saw was a heard of Cape Buffalo standing around in the middle of the road doing nothing much. We stopped and watched them. Some were grazing; some were just standing there as the oxpeckers combed their coats for mites, bugs and other tasty morsels. One, a large bull, stood in the center of the road defiantly as we approached. He stood us off. We stopped a good distance back and watched a while and then he took a more aggressive stance. It was clear we should leave. We did. Backing off slowly as he advanced to match our retreat. He followed us just far enough to assert his superiority over us. We were the vanquished and he wanted us to know it. It was a Mexican Standoff South African style.
Wherever you are today, I hope you've done something new and exciting.
Don Bergquist – 07 November 2007 – Mpila Camp, Imfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa