In part 1 of my South Africa safari story I blogged about the experience of a safari in Ngala. This is the same camp that Jack Hanna featured on his TV show "Jack Hanna's Animal Adventures". Ngala means “place of the lion” in Shangaan. One of the most interesting, thrilling and scary events happened on Saturday after I had returned from our morning drive. I still had my camera when I saw an elephant walking up to the swimming pool. I took some pictures and then walked around to another area where I felt he might go next. As it turned out he did come my way, but he wasn’t too happy that I was there. He stopped and extended his ears, stared at me for what seemed an eternity, and then started to charge me.
He stopped after a few steps, but I did not run. The day before the ranger had said not to run away but to rather walk away at the right time. He said this after an elephant wanted to charge our Land Rover. One of the ladies who worked the gift shop yelled to me to come into the shop before he decided to come after me. Looking at the giant beast I was forced to agree. The longer he looked the more worried I became. After I walked away he walked over to the lunch area and began to tear down tree limbs and eat the bark. I worked my way over to the lunch area and started shooting pictures again. Some other people started to get a little too curious and he charged them, I shot pictures as they ran past me and fortunately I was safe. He stopped and began to eat again. He eventually pushed down a tree and started to eat it as well. Of course he also deposited a little something extra before rangers shooting shotguns in the air finally drove him off. I , complete with zebra strip hat was then lifted into the air in a chair attached to two poles by the locals shouting “JUNGLE DEVIL”, “JUNGLE DEVIL”. Ok, actually the local rangers commented that I never stopped taking pictures and were laughing that my fellow guests had stumbled over one another to get away from the elephant while I kept taking pictures.
Perhaps of interest to some, my tracker was a local native named Elvis!!! He was 32 and had been tracking since he was 15. He is the best tracker at Ngala. After the elephant incident Elvis must have heard about it because when we went on our evening drive he asked me if I wanted to see the elephants at night. "That would be great!" was my response, and true to his word we saw some elephants that night and they were doing what they almost always do, eat!
One of the best parts of our daily drives was the chance to get out of the Land Rover and walk around and explore on foot. When you are in the private game reserve you don't have to stick to the roads. The private game reserves are built along side Kruger Park and the fence between the two is dropped allowing the animals to expand their territory into the reserve, allowing the rangers to drive off the dirt roads in pursuit of the wild. Which means their guests have a better chance to see more animals and get a closer look. It is well worth the extra money to visit the private game reserve.
As a side note, when I was a kid every movie ever made that takes place in the jungle eventually had the scene were the local natives who are carrying your supplies hear a noise, get scared, throw everything down and run away. At one point both the tracker and ranger left us to look for lions. I reminded our group of those movies and perhaps we were abandoned. At last I felt like I was truly on safari. My experience in the bush was complete.
I have been on a total of 5 safaris but have seen leopards only twice and both times at Ngala. Hunting and loss of habitat has greatly reduced the number of leopards and explains why they are so seldom seen. It is capable of running at 36 miles per hour and it is unequaled in its ability to climb trees, which I witnessed from a cub going after its lunch.
As they say, all good things must come to an end. Sadly I returned to civilization on Monday August 10. Well, maybe not, when you consider the Sangoma, Muti and the Tokelosh, but that is another story.