Today was normal – if you consider being 15 meters away from a heard of elephants drinking out of the lodges pool an everyday sight?
Anyway, back to the beginning miles away in Heathrow airport where for the first time me and my fellow travellers, Tom, Ellie, Sophie and Emily met. Coming from entirely separate backgrounds and areas of the UK it was a refreshing mix of people and we soon bonded over a series of dramatic events –
1. Our plane being delayed. (Mildly worrying)
2. Tom, who is under 18, being held at passport control at Johannesburg and being initially prevented from passing. (Worrying)
3. Arriving in Johannesburg to be told that mine and Ellie’s bags were not on the plane and instead left behind in Dubai. (Extremely worrying)
However, these have all made for very entertaining tales and were sorted out swiftly by the Leap who were in contact with our flight company and made sure our bags were swiftly delivered to the reserve. We arrived late and were greeted by other travellers who we are sharing the lodge with – all of whom were very welcoming. After arriving in the dark and having the beautiful landscape of South Africa shielded by night the next morning boasted a beautiful sunrise and a sudden realisation that we were here!
Since then I have experienced countless beautiful sights and been on numerous game drives where we’ve come face to face with a giraffe, zebras, warthogs and elephants. Whilst the game drives are mainly made up of searching for animals rather than seeing them it’s an opportunity to appreciate nature and anticipate the sight of one.
After witnessing the beauty of these animals an anti-poaching walk cemented my belief that these animals are priceless and as important as us humans. For the walk we targeted areas of the reserve that had been previously impacted by poachers and split into small groups to search the reserve. After half an hour me and my group discovered two wire snares which we removed with help from the ranger. The walk was then focused around the areas where we had discovered the snares and we soon found another eight. It was shocking to see the true scale of poaching in such a small reserve and learn about it’s relentless attempts to harm wildlife.
After spending the week on the reserve we were ready to go and explore South Africa further and prepare for our first trip to the Sudwala caves and Jane Goodall’s chimp sanctuary. The caves were situated past Nelspruit on top of a large mountain where there were plenty of viewing platforms allowing you to soak up the birds eye view of the valley. Animals also seemed to follow us to this excursion as we were greeted by monkeys clambering on top of the entrance building. The caves themselves were breathtaking and filled with so much history that was perfectly explained by our guide who lead us through, offering opportunities to crawl through smaller openings to explore the caves. During the tour we were told about the Swazi people who had sought refuge within these caves and were given the opportunity to hit a flow-rock, a smooth rock reaching from the top of the cave, which was used as an alarm by them as it expels an echoing ring when hit.
We then headed to the chimp sanctuary which housed over 30 rescued chimps whose stories of abuse were relayed to us by our guide. It was hard to imagine the suffering these chimps had faced, seeing them in such a beautiful space. The conditions were outstanding and the recovery made by the chimps amazing. It was an unforgettable opportunity to be able to see them interacting in their groups without human interference.
I must go and get back to the elephants who are currently slurping our pool water and grazing through the camp, see you next time,