Kate on Conservation

Shamwari Diaries: Act 2, Scene 4 – A whale of a time

Shamwari Diaries - Act 2 Scene 4

In this week’s Shamwari series the team (and our car) has a close brush with an elephant and I have the chance to see pilot whales during the breeding season. This comes after an exciting couple of days recovering two white rhinos from Bushman’s River and attempting to rescue mission a stranded gemsbok — as described in the last Shamwari Diaries post, which you can read here if you missed it: Act 2, Scene 3 –The trouble with water.

When the world opens up…

Friday 29th August 2008

An early wake-up call and another busy day ahead of removing alien vegetation on the reserve. But after a bad night’s sleep, I had very little energy for this activity; which I usually enjoy, and just wasn’t up to it. After cutting down 15 small pines I started to feel light-headed and nauseous, so Steph and I found a secluded spot, out of sight of the group to skive off in.

We chatted for about an hour about what we’d like to do when we’ve left South Africa, and how it’s made us both want to change what we’re doing in our career plans. The world seems much bigger to me now, and so much more seems possible.

When it was time for lunch we rejoined the others, and in the afternoon we had the privilege of watching a herd of elephants with several youngsters. The adult bull walked right up to the side of our truck.

We ended the day at Alicedale Care Community Centre, where children with disabilities or those from underprivileged families are looked after. We spent a lot of time playing with the kids and taking photos; which they find hilarious and they desperately want to see the photo preview on the screen of our cameras once we’ve taken the shot – which results in much laughter.

Wildlife on the water

Saturday 30th August 2008

Whale watching today at Port Elizabeth meant a 6.30am start.

We got into the taxi with one guest fewer than planned, as one of the girls felt ill, so the first thing the taxi driver did was drive us to his house so that he could swap us into a smaller vehicle – his other car, however, was falling apart!

The exhaust pipe was tied on with string, the windscreen had a crack the whole way across, there was mold growing on the inside of the roof, stuffing coming out of the chairs and the door handles were broken.

When we’d been driving for about 20 minutes, he realized the tyre was also flat, so we had to pullover and change it, which meant we ended up arriving late for our boat – which was due to depart at 8.15!

Luckily for us, it was delayed anyway, so we didn’t miss it.

The boat ride was brilliant and we ended up seeing a few things I didn’t expect along the way: penguins and a pod of dolphins – then the reward of three pilot whales!

The whales come to the warmer waters to breed, and so there were two males harassing one female. She kept rolling over as an indication that she was tired of mating, which meant I could get some good photos of her rolling.

A female pilot whale rolls over

Join me next time to discover what it takes to move a herd of eland by lorry! Or read the series from the very beginning here.


HAVE YOU HEARD?! This first post of my Shamwari Series features in a 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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