November 18, 2012
We apologize for not keeping everyone up-to-date. We think of you often and apologize that we don't keep you more informed as to what's happening here. We are at the tail end of Spring and it is getting very hot and punctuated with huge thunderstorms. Since it is the best time of the season to visit game reserves, we'll share some ANIMALS we've seen with you.
There are two basic types of game parks or reserves, self-drive and private. Self-drive means you drive your own car. Our little Nissan TIIDA has felt like it was more of an SUV than a compact car sometimes. On a self-drive, one pays a low entry fee, 20-50 Rand/person ($2.50-6.50) and drives throughout the the dirt roads hoping to see some game. Self-drive exclude, lions, cheetah, leopard, and usually elephants and giraffe. It's enjoyable but limited. Private reserves have converted Range Rover with big tires, heavy duty springs, and a raised 9 passenger seats up above the driver (about 6 ft off the ground) with a canvas canopy. The cost is much higher in a private reserve but the chance to see the 'BIG 5" is much better. The BIG 5 are those animals most dangerous to hunt because they turn and attack as a defense. The BIG 5 are Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Cape Buffalo, and Elephant. The most dangerous is the cape buffalo.
We've gone on a couple of game drives in May, one in July, September and November. It is a thrill to go with the other missionaries. This past Monday we went as a zone and the young Elders were crazy and ecstatic. Usually the Elders don't get to go on a game drive, let alone a private game drive. I think we are running a test cast here. We subsidized the game drive since it cost about twice as much as the Elders were permitted to spend. We went in the evening. We won't bore you to tears will all the photos but some shots from the times we went. Our first time was the best since we spent two days and nights sleeping in luxury tents and listening to the animals at night, particularly those that hunt at night (lion, hyena, jackal, most cat family animals). The lions roar to each other.
Most drives were close by and we went to the coast once on a trip to Durban and went to a wetlands sanctuary. Lots of hippos, crocodiles, and birds. In holding a hippos tooth, it is about 15 inches long and about the circumference of a lemon. Most people are killed by hippos. If they get between the hippo and the water or a mother and it's young, they charge and bite about everything in half. They can bite a croc in half. They look playful, but beware.
On the game drives, when we get near lions or some large, potentially dangerous, game, we go silent. No talking or whispering. Also we can't move much or stick our arms, cameras or whatever outside the periphery of the vehicle. The animals see the game vehicle as one large animal and they are used to it. If they can discern that there is something else, they will attack. We saw two lions stalk and then attack some animal in the tall turpentine grass in May. They were about 50 yards apart and then bolted to the animals in the grass. It was just a split second until we saw paws and heads pop up to the top of the grass. In about 4 seconds, it was over. Hardly any noise on that kill. THESE ANIMALS ARE FAST, ALL OF THEM. The slowest ones run about 60 km/hr or 36 mph. The warthog can go from a stop to a full run in 2 lengths of its body. Enough stories. Now for the pictures. Oops! Not so fast. In looking through the animals we ended up with way too many for one post. Animals are about 30 and birds will be the same amount. So we will provide the Big 5 and a few more on this blog and send out another couple to capture some of the rest of the animals. All in all we have taken about 5000 pictures so far. It is hard to narrow the search to a small number but here's our best shot at it.