In this week’s Shamwari series, I say goodbye to Shamwari student lodge and move to neighbouring Amakhala Game Reserve, where I learn the ropes of volunteer duties on a relatively new reserve. This comes after a week of encountering storms and forest fires, and ignorantly make my second big animal welfare mistake of the trip. You can read all about that in the previous Shamwari Diaries post: Act 3, Scene 5 – The winds of change. Or, you can read the series from the very beginning here.
Tuesday 16th September 2008
Today was quite emotional as I said goodbye to Madolas Retreat, the students and co-ordinators I’ve gotten to know these past few weeks, and the wonderful Shamwari Game Reserve itself.
I got to go out in the Shamwari Land Rover one last time, and on the way to the breeding centre (where the others were headed for the day), I was met by the Amakhala student co-ordinator (David) in the Amakhala safari vehicle.
When I reached the lodge, which is a converted old railway station close to Patterson township (an area I’ve been to before, as it’s where the taxi drivers fill up on petrol), I was shown to my room to drop my stuff off quickly, before joining the other students — three of whom arrived yesterday.
We travelled to the local day care centre, and joined the children with painting, Play-doh and outside games, as part of a community project, before going to the reserve to track their five lions — all of which we located successfully.
Next on the agenda was digging up shrubs that were alien to the area, and I got chatting to an American girl, with whom —on our return to the student lodge — I ended up making sock puppets with for the orphaned and disadvantaged children in the area.
Although I feel quite sad to have left Shamwari, and presently very unsettled, it’s not too bad, and we have to drive between the Shamwari northern and southern reserves to get to our student digs — so it’s not like I’m entirely detached from my beloved Shamwari life.
Wednesday 17th September
My first early wake up call at Amakhala!
We had to get up at 5.30am and leave the lodge by 6, to go out on an early morning game count.
It is now coming into lambing season, so we had to count and record the number of males, females and new calves in herds of wildebeest, impala, red hartebeest, zebra, etc. so that we can monitor how many animals are out on the reserve.
The reserve staff and management want to know this information because Amakhala — a fairly new game reserve — has only just obtained a pride of lions, whom they are keeping separate from the main reserve area for the time being, until they can ensure the ecosystem on the reserve can handle the predators.
We went through three of the zones on the reserve, which took from 7am to 2pm, as it is actually a very large and populated reserve. We saw herds of elephants, buffalo, giraffe, rhinos, waterbuck and a few bushbucks.
When we had finished, we were supposed to drive back to the lodge for while and go out again later, to try and get a sighting of the lions hunting, but the truck broke down on the way home, so we had to have an evening in. I cooked dinner for the group outside on the BBQ and over the campfire.
Next time: I have the incredible opportunity to stay in one of Amakhala’s guest lodges and the exciting task of assisting the vet with darting a lioness! You can read the series from the very beginning here.
CHECK IT OUT! The 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