The Magic of Africa
Living in South Africa means that I’m spoilt for choice in this regard. The Kruger National Park is famous world over as a destination of choice when viewing wildlife in its natural environment. There, from the safety of your vehicle you can see quizzical zebra, embarrassed wildebeest, elegant sable and a whole host of other antelope. And you’d be pretty unlucky not to see at least two or three of the famous “Big Five” of lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard.
The term ‘Big Five’ (according to Wikipedia) was apparently coined by big game hunters for the animals that were the most difficult to hunt on foot. I’m not suggesting this isn’t true. Personally, I love seeing these animals from the safety of my car, but do a random search on Youtube and you’ll find any number of videos that will convince even the bravest amongst us why it would be a terrible idea to come face to face with one.
In any case, it’s always seemed like a rather random term to me, and I rather preferred the ‘Secret Seven’ (natgeotv.com/asia/africa-secret-seven/about), which are the most secretive (and therefore most hard to find) animals of the African veldt. These include the serval, aardvark, pangolin, genet, African wildcat, civet and porcupine. I have visited the Kruger National Park on over twenty occasions and I’ve only seen five of the Secret Seven and I count myself lucky to have seen that many. It probably has something to do with my husband who is an expert spotter of wildlife, able to beat out even the most canny-eyed game ranger.
In fact, we were once on a night-drive with some tourists from Germany and the Netherlands and during the course of the two and a half hour drive, my husband managed to point out many rhinos grazing in the dark, some black backed jackals out hunting and finally a leopard. At the end of the drive, one of the tourists turned to my husband in wide-eyed wonder and thanked him, telling him that he was even better than the game ranger! Now, this was perhaps a bit unfair as I’m sure the game ranger would’ve spotted all of the animals, he was perhaps not quite as quick given the fact that he had to actually drive the vehicle…
On top of all the four-legged animals, the Kruger is filled with a variety of beautiful birds. The call of the fish eagle will always be, in my mind, one of the quintessential sounds of the African bush.
We are lucky today to be able to see these wonderful animals in the wild, and hopefully we will continue to do so long into the future. However, there are those whose efforts in conservation are key to our continued enjoyment of these animals. I have been lucky enough to visit some of these:
- Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (www.moholoholo.co.za): A home to many injured and rescued animals and key in educating the public on wildlife. Perhaps its most famous resident is Stoffel the Honey Badger (have a look at his amazing antics here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c36UNSoJenl)
- Eagle Encounters at Spier Wine farm (www.eagle-encounters.co.za): Promotes conservation and education related to birds of prey.