In this week’s Shamwari series, I visit South Africa’s only wolf sanctuary, and back on the reserve, I face the challenges of digging up bluebush! This follows an exciting night drive, where we found ourselves face-to-face with a lion, and discover the rarest mammal on the Amakhala reserve! You can read all about that in the last Shamwari Diaries post:Act 4, Scene 4 – Highs, lows and watering holes. Or, read the series from the very beginning here.
Walking among wolves
Saturday 27th September 2008
Nothing quite like getting up at 5.30am on Saturday!
Today, the adventure takes us to Storms River; the area near the world’s highest bungee jump. A four hour drive away, it gave me the chance to once more walk across Storms River Bridge walk, which is the second highest bridge, after the one you bungee jump from.
Our group then separated, with four heading off to do the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour, which I’ve already done, leaving myself and Shira to visit rescued wolves at a wolf sanctuary.
Shira is American-Israli and certainly the fellow volunteer that I’ve gotten to know best since moving to Amakhala from Shamwari game reserve.
It was nice to have some time to chat to her as we explored the sanctuary, which is run by five female volunteers and home to 40 wolves, housed in big enclosures in packs of 8 and 9 animals.
The sanctuary apparently gets the wolves from private owners and zoos that no longer want them. The poor creatures.
We stopped off to see the biggest tree in Africa, before re-grouping with the others for lunch. These days cram so much in, it’s quite remarkable.
Shira and Paul (another of our volunteer group) wanted to go to Tenikwa Big Cat Centre, but given that I have recently visited — and see no sense in paying 350 rand to do the same thing once again — I opted instead to stop by Monkeyland and Birds of Eden; which works out at just over half the price and is essentially two sanctuaries for the price of one.
I ended up seeing many different bird and primate species from my previous visit, making it all the more worthwhile.
I went by foot meet the others once my curiosity and lust for photographs of beautifully coloured birds was satisfied. Although Tenikwa was 1.5km away, it was a lovely walk in the sunset and upon my arrival, the man who owns the big cat centre let me go in for free and play with the cheetah cubs!
2019 Note: Today it is well known that cheetah cub petting has links to the canned hunting industry. You can read what that means here.
Sunday 28th September 2008
Today was a beautifully hot and sunny! I spent the morning sunbathing on the lawn with the rest of our group, and I think that my tan is coming on really nicely.
By about midday we were all feeling quite energetic and wanted to go into the ‘high street’ area for a walk. (I use the term ‘high street’ rather loosely!).
We took Odie (the Sand Flat‘s house dog) for a walk with us, and it was so pleasant — although we had to avoid several cows and bulls walking along our path.
We went into the local garage for ice creams, and when we came out we found that we’d lost the dog! He’d wondered across the road and into the local township!
So we had to extend our walk to try and find him. Which fortunately, we did!
On the way home we stopped at ‘Fashions’, a clothes shop, which was really weird and sold the most random things! Including dusters, plastic masks, and frying pans!
Monday 29th September 2008
A civilised start today, as we didn’t have to leave the house till 8.00am as opposed to the usual 6.00am!
The first task on the reserve was to monitor the lions for a short while, but they were just resting beneath a bush.
We then had to do some physical work — something that’s become a rarity of late — digging up bluebush.
The weather was absolutely boiling though, so it made it real hard work! And these bushes were much bigger than the others that I’d dug up before and I found I struggled quite a bit.
We then collected plants for a herbarium, and had to be photographed with them.
When we got back to the lodge in the early afternoon, we had to identify the plants that we had gathered (mine were white milkwood) and research and write a paragraph or so about them.
On the way home we stopped at a coffee shop for a drink and bite to eat, which was really nice, and feels somewhat closer to my life back home than my life since arriving at Shamwari.
The remainder of the day was spent packing. I’m afraid my time at Amakhala has not quite presented the experience I was hoping for, nor has it felt true to the motivations that have brought me out here in the first place. After more than a few international phonecalls and some ferocious planning on behalf of my mother back home; I’ve secured a place back at Shamwari’s student programme, and shall be returning there tomorrow.
Next time: I return to Shamwaris student programme to find some familiar faces, conservation work gets physical once more, and I find myself in the middle of a herd of 26 elephants! 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