An early rise, and on this rain cloud morning we departed for Hluhluwe and our accommodation, Hluhluwe River Lodge, just an hour and a half north of Richards Bay.
The red marks our trip to our accommodation, the blue the unexpected exploration we had on the Saturday.
Eucalyptus plantations – the trees originally brought in from Australia, Zulu villages, pineapple and sugar cane fields. What we view as green is considered overly dry in this resource rich country: a reservoir that was 100% full this time last year is down to 37% and the powers that be are ready to bring water restrictions into being if the ground drenching rains don’t arrive.
Our accommodation was hidden in amongst the bushland, where deer and monkeys roamed free. Driving into this one was held in awe.
Hluhluwe River Lodge (http://www.hluhluwe.co.za/), we truly enjoyed our time here. Gavin, the owner went out of his way to ensure wheat free food was available, going so far as to search for a recipe in order to make wheat free bread. The food was superb, pork and steaks succulent and mouth – watering.
Late afternoon and into Hluhluwe Bob and I drove in order to meet the tour guide who would take us into the Hluhluwe Game Reserve (http://hluhluwegamereserve.com) , the aim to sight the Big 5: this ‘ancient’ term relates to the five most dangerous animals to hunt with guns, as they would hunt and kill men rather than run.
The path our explorations took us on in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve.
The feeling that swept through us as we entered this dull green savanna was insurmountable. Mostly dry river beds, with occasional sun baked, mud caked ‘waterholes’, the animals one could find remained close to the few water sources available to them.
The fauna to be encountered within the region. The red marks denote those we saw.
Unsure of space available in the vehicle, my trusty all rounder, the 18-300mm was the name of the day. (With the animals quite some distance away, my one disappointment was not taking the 400mm – an extra bit of range can make quite a difference).
Warthogs meandered, whilst a family of gorillas ambled on by.
Hunting birds soared, whilst game birds hid within the tall grasses.
From the look out we gazed upon the tranquil scene below. Not viewed from this position, a croc lazily sun – baked upon the sandy shore.
Zebras grazing peacefully upon the grassland, were most relaxed as we passed them by.
What a laugh we had as we observed this horny beast a – chasing a most unimpressed female. Back and forth in a game of hide and seek they trotted. For a short while the female disappeared from sight, only to unexpectedly reappear from a new direction. Through the undergrowth, onto the road and back into the density of the bush. Totally unprepared for this, the male didn’t stand a chance he raced to catch her, to no avail.
Watchful deer, were ready to flee at the first hint of danger.
A pride of 12 lions whose range of land was the full game reserve – 960 square km: with two brothers leading the pack, this group were so successful that the cheetahs who hunted by day were rapidly decreasing in numbers as the Lords of the Jungle found them taking their peaceful slumbers in the light of night. In desperation to save the critically endangered cheetahs, the lion males were neutered to prevent further population growth of their prosperous herd.
The highlight of the day? Sighting the pride of lions lounging lazily. Looking at these majestic beauties so beautifully camouflaged amongst the undergrowth, highlighted to us how difficult finding the ‘Big 5 ‘ would be.
The red arrows point to three of the five lions visible to us this afternoon.