Kate on Conservation

Shamwari Diaries: Act 1, Scene 5 – Surviving an elephant charge and a 216 metre jump!


In this week’s Shamwari series I tackle the world’s highest bungee jump and get to go wildlife tracking on foot for the first time — some much needed fun after the hard work of battling against the elements, as explored last week. In case you missed that, you can catch-up here: Act 1, Scene 4 – building and rehabilitating.

Love at first sight

Friday 8th August, 2008

Wow. Spotted a mother rhino and a 1-month-old calf as we drove through the reserve first thing this morning. Beautiful, moving sight!

Rhino and calf photography by Kate on Conservation

We only had a half day of work today, as we are all going to Jeffreys Bay this afternoon. Jeffreys Bay is apparently a big surfer’s town with lots of night life, so we’re going there to have a good time, staying in a backpacker’s hostel on the beach for the weekend.

Another morning spent clearing wire fences (find out the importance to this task here, if you missed it) – lots to do, but I think we’re all getting to be a dab hand at it now, so the work was completed pretty quickly. On the way back to Madolas lodge we saw two giraffes up on a hill, looking as though they were kissing on the horizon. A great photo opportunity!

Arrived a Jeffreys Bay safely, shown around Island Vibe (the beach house complex we’re staying at), a Mexican feast for dinner, then clubbing. Arrived back at the beach house at 4am. A good start!

Saturday 9th August, 2008

Despite the late night last night, I got up early this morning to go horse riding along the beach. After being saddled up and given the right horse for our abilities (the two friends from my group who I joined for the excursion were much more experienced riders than me), we spent about an hour exploring the forested area, cantering most of the way.

All of a sudden we reached a clearing with some huge sand dunes and my horse got up to a gallop – my first time on a galloping horse! – an exhilarating experience. Crossing the beach back to the stables took another half an hour; meaning we got a good, long ride for our 250 rand.

Early to bed tonight, as tomorrow I’ll be doing my first bungee jump. The world’s highest no less!

Sunday 10th August, 2008

Started the morning off with a cooked breakfast at Island Vibe. Mr Yenis, our regular taxi driver, picked us up at lunchtime, driving for about an hour and half until we reached Bloukran’s Bridge, the site of the bungee jump. Weirdly calm. I think when I sign up to do these crazy things, my mind just slips into a state of denial.

10 of us had signed up to do the jump, and despite the obvious nerves on show throughout the group, no one backed out. I was the third to jump. At 216 metres, this is currently the world’s highest bungee jump, and I’m proud to say I embraced it with zero fear. Utter inner peace, especially as the world seemed to whizz by and gravity disorient from its axis.

Long journey home, but we were buzzing the whole way!

What to do when an elephant charges…

Monday 11th August, 2008

Back to work at after yesterday’s adrenaline hit – and I still don’t think I’ve quite come down.

Brilliant day on the reserve! Started out by tracking and identifying rhinos using the notches on their ears. We found 5 rhinos in total, recording their ear notches and matching them to the ID sheet we’d been given.

On our way around the reserve, we also encountered a herd of buffalo – the first time I’ve seen them since arriving here – meaning I’ve now seen all of the ‘Big 5’ (lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo and leopard – albeit at a far distance).

A day of firsts. After lunch, Jaco; our student coordinator, took us tracking on foot for the first time! We were divided into two groups; mine was the second to go tracking, and we managed to get within about 10 metres away from an adolescent bull elephant. Then it charged us!

Jaco had to yell, wave his gun and throw sticks in the animal’s direction to get it to back down — which it did fairly quickly — while we all hid, as still as possible behind some bushes. (Turns out that daft gift from my brother, listing what to do during an elephant charge has come in handy after all!).

It was so exciting – and incredibly impressive, to witness someone going up against such a huge animal to keep us safe. As we were beckoned to make our exit back to the vehicle and the rest of the group, one of my friends tripped down a hidden ditch and I had to pause to help pull them up. Talk about another adrenaline hit!

We also managed to track some hippos and stood just across the river from about a dozen of them, including a baby calf! Took some amazing photos.

Spotted a tortoise on our way back home. Best day on the reserve to date!

Join me next week as we go in search of ancient cave paintings and I wake up on a beach to some exciting news! Discover why I’m revisiting this time here.


HAVE YOU HEARD?! This first post of my Shamwari Series will feature in a brand new book, The Wildlife Blog Collection: a compilation of 70 amazing stories celebrating some of the most memorable, entrancing and exciting wildlife moments as told by top nature writers from across the globe. Order your copy here

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3 thoughts on “Shamwari Diaries: Act 1, Scene 5 – Surviving an elephant charge and a 216 metre jump!

    1. Pletternberg Bay and the surrounding area is a pretty awesome area of South Africa, hey?! Can’t recommend the bungee jump enough, if you ever find yourself in those parts again… though I must admit, I’m glad I did it when I did. Don’t think I could stomach it nowadays!

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