Roads are not just for cars in these parks
January 2013: Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Park, Natal, South Africa:
Even before we entered the park, we were driving carefully round small herds of African cattle with pretty markings and/or goats clustered on the roads by the tiny Zulu villages on the way to the park.
Once in the park, on many different days we drove around on our self-drive safari, with our “animal-spotting” eyes wide open. And we did spot many different wild creatures, large and small, in spite of the lush summer-rains vegetation that hides the animals much more than the drier winter vegetation.
We saw creatures in the bush, near ponds, and wallowing in mud pools. But, we also saw many just standing on the road or ambling along the road or foraging right at the edge of the road. Here, animals reign, so vehicles must stop and wait…and sometimes it’s a long wait! For the smaller animals, such as a troop of baboons, or a herd of impala (type of antelope) it’s sometimes possible to inch forward and slowly the animals move off. But, for the large ones, like rhinos and especially elephants, it’s potentially dangerous. The rule is to keep at least 50m between your vehicle and the elephant, because they can become bad-tempered, change direction and decide to chase the vehicle. You’d then be reversing at a great rate, possibly uphill and on very bumpy roads. Not an ideal situation, so better to wait.
We waited about an hour for an elephant one afternoon, and eventually it moved off the road and back into the bush. Late another afternoon, my husband and son had a rather scary experience, as they got stuck behind a pair of elephants, which did eventually move off. So they drove forward and soon got stuck behind another pair, and then another, so there were elephants both ahead of and behind them. By then it was dark, and park rules say everyone must be back in camp before sunset. But, the game rangers know the habits of the elephants and were monitoring the situation—-by then there were 3-4 other cars stuck too. All ended well, but they said it was a bit stressful (an understatement I think!).
Anyway, here are a series of pictures of what we saw actually on the road. It’s amazing, and we feel very honored to have been so close to these wonderful African creatures in the wild, just doing their own thing and living their animal lives.