June 2022

A memorable walking safari


A memorable walking safari

We left camp just before sunrise, and drove north along our western boundary towards the central depression area. As the sun peaked out from the Lebombo mountains, it quickly disappeared again behind a mist belt that formed a blanket over the concession.

We spotted giraffe along the way and watched as they stood tall, reaching for the highest branches of the knob thorn trees that were covered in dew drops. As we took time to watch the giraffe feeding, the sun managed to peak out just long enough for us to notice the golden orb webs sparkling like diamond jewellery, as they too caught the moisture drifting along. It was difficult to leave such a sight, but we still needed to reach our destination from where we would start our walk.

After arriving in the central depression area, we disembarked from the vehicle, and did a final equipment check before heading off on foot. We started off by finding fresh impressions of spotted hyena tracks, and were hopeful that we still had a chance to see them on our walk due to the cooler morning temperature. We continued north, and spotted two male impala in the distance.

Rather than being alert to our presence, and running away, they were engaged in trying to size one another up for an impending battle. While we stood watching the impala, we could hear a male wildebeest snorting, and decided to take in our surrounds for a moment. Less than a kilometre to our west, a very deep and powerful roar of a male lion started, shortly joined by his brother to form an awe-inspiring duet.

We all looked at one another and could not believe how fortunate we were to experience such a display of raw power whilst on foot, when their calls were answered by their pride, merely a few hundred metres ahead of us. We used available cover and favourable wind conditions to get a closer look at the pride, and found a total of sixteen lions, lying in the clearing ahead of us. We left the pride, and had to change our route so that we did not disturb them.

Our new route took us through longer, wet grass, and soon our shoes and trousers were soaked through. We managed to push through until we found an area with shorter grass, where we came across herds of zebra, wildebeest, impala and a family of warthog. We managed to spot a family of five elephants feeding on the outskirts of the riverine forest. We watched as they moved closer to us, and finally walked past us towards a pan where they most likely would quench their thirst. By this time, the sun had managed to burn away the mist, and the temperature was starting to rise rapidly.

We headed back towards the direction of the vehicle, and managed to find tracks of a small group of buffalo that had moved through the area the night before. We made sure to look out for them, but found another group of giraffe feeding close to where we had parked our vehicle instead. After such an eventful walk, we decided to stay off the vehicle a little longer, and enjoy a cup of tea while watching the giraffes slowly move away.

We finally decided that it was time to start driving back to camp. We were all engaged talking about the amazing morning we had, when we spotted a big bull elephant in the middle of the road. Before he moved off, he shook his head as a warning to us not to get any closer. We could see that he was displaying signs of “musth” and left him to pursue finding the herd he was trailing.

What an amazing morning we had!

By Chantelle Venter
Senior Guide Mentor