Monday, May 25, 2009

African Safari Part 2: The Big Game

During my last trip, it became a wonderful animal adventure. I finally took the time to see some big game. It is usually the objective for the traveller to Africa to see the Big 5: Lion, African Elephant, African Buffalo, Black or White Rhinoceros, and Leopard. These Big 5 are not the biggest necessarily (although they are quite big), but are the most valuable game for hunters because they pose the greatest challenge to hunt. Many of the big 5 are endangered or protected species now so mostly shot by the cameras of the tourist. Unfortunately, senseless poaching and killing of these and other magnificent African fauna still occur. I was able to see 3 of the 5 during my month long safari: Elephant, Buffalo, and White (& Black) Rhino.

They didn't make the list, but two of my favorite animals were the hippos and giraffes. The hippos may seem cute, but they are ferocious causing many more deaths by unwary travellers then the members of the Big 5. The hippos I observed at Lake Naivasha in Kenya and in Swaziland. In addition, I tracked down the warthog and family, white rhino, zebra, impala, heron, and other birdies.
Now my excursion over the borders of Mozambique to Swaziland was quite an adventure into the wilderness. Swazi is so small that it would take about 45 min to cross the entire country, but it has great heart. It is a kingdom and more than 80% of the population is Swazi. They have wonderful game parks and the culture is rich in the area. Tragically, Swazi with all its natural beauty is being hard hit by HIV/AIDS with 40% of the population infected. This statistic is the highest in the world. But the statistic in reality means that when you look upon a Swazi, he or she probably has HIV. What I always find heartening, is that surrounded by hardship whether sickness or poverty, there is still survival and there is still laughter in their lives. Through African eyes I have felt the strength and tenacity of the human spirit. If one can smile in a place where only tears should be, I have no cause to cry in the face of my complaints.
My reason for visiting this new place on the map for me was to go to Mkhaya game reserve that was a private reserve that housed endangered animals. It was definitely a back to nature experience with a luxury edge. There were no cats but plenty of other beautiful wildlife to see. Once you entered the reserve, you were taken to the camp which was about 20-30 min ride into the bush. At the camp, I was ushered down dark paths to my cottage which could best be described as a stone gazebo with a thatched roof. Literally, there were no real walls or windows. When you sat on the toilet you saw Mother Nature staring back at you. Lovely. The beds did have nets to keep out the little buzzing critters and a gate to keep out warthogs. None of the dangerous animals came to the camp though, which was good. You were aroused from your sleep at 5 a.m. each morning by a Swazi with a tray of coffee, tea and a bit of morsel on her head. There were three rides during the day to see the animals: morning, midday walking tour, and just before dark. I met some other travellers including two pediatricians from Ohio who were doing a 2 month internship in Swazi. They were fun. The meals were delicious and quite decadent. This would definitely be a must do if you are in the area.

On one of these trips though, I must check out the cats. Until next time, remember that you are only limited by you.

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