Last week I went on safari at Ngala, a private reserve that borders the Kruger National Park in South Africa without fences. It was another amazing African experience!
My 24yr old guide, Andrew, has worked at the park for a year. He says it started as his ‘year in the bush’, but he’s not planning on leaving any time soon. That’s a relief for future guests because his ability to chat to guests of all types and ages is impressive and he’s more knowledgeable than I could ever hope to be.
Andrew could look a bird flying so high that I couldn’t tell if it was brown or black and say, “that’s a brown snake eagle” or “that’s a yellow billed hornbill”.
How he knew what he was looking at is a mystery to me and if we hadn’t had Englishman Gordon (who’s spent his life chronicling birds of Africa and the Middle East) in the vehicle I’d have thought he was spinning sh*t.
Our tracker was Herbert. How he managed to differentiate between the hundreds of indentations in the sand it beyond me. Apparently it’s easy to tell if a track is fresh in the morning – there are insects pressed into the dew within the footprint.
I spent around 8hrs a day in the safari vehicle starting a morning game drive that at 5.15am and allowed us to see the sunrise.
On the first morning not only did I gain an appreciation for birds of prey and see some great zebra, including a male who had had his tail bitten off by a lion, but we were surprised by the Ngala staff. Being served pancakes in a dry river bed after searching for the wild dogs we’d seen the night before made up for the fact that we hadn’t seen these highly endangered animals in daylight.
Over the course of the 4 game drives I went on I saw all of the Big 5 (Rhino, buffalo, elephant, lion and leopard). Of them all I think elephants are my favourite and the lion and leopard cubs were definitely the cutest.
Having stayed at the Giraffe Manor in Nairobi a few weeks earlier I thought it’d be hard to be impressed by giraffe… I was wrong. Spotting them across the plain with their heads poking above the trees felt like I was watching a scene in a movie. Almost missing one less than 5m from my side of the vehicle also confirmed just how effective their camouflage is (and that I shouldn’t consider giving up my day job to become a tracker).
Here is a selection of photos from Ngala… thank you to Andrew and Herbert for spotting this amazing selection of birds and animals, I wouldn’t have seen 1/10th of this without you!