Kate on Conservation

Shamwari Diaries: Act 5 Scene 4 — fleeting memories and final moments

In this week’s Shamwari series an angry white rhino charges our vehicle during a night drive and I spend my final day on the reserve. This follows last week’s trip to Mossel Bay to swim with Great White Sharks. You can read all about that in the last Shamwari Diaries post: Act 5 Scene 3 – Swimming with sharks or, read the series from the very start here.

A close shave

Monday 13th October 2008

After spending the morning continuing work at the erosion site, we were given the night off – to prepare for a night drive tonight!

beautiful sightings on an early morning drive

After lunch, we stopped off at the shops at Alicedale, and I had a bit of a panic, as the ATM wasn’t working and I no longer have enough cash on me to pay my internet bill at Madolas on Wednesday morning, when it’s time to check out.

Stopping by Alicedale

Luckily, however, I had some English money on me that I’d kept on me for the airport – and one of the shop keepers offered to exchange it for rand; giving me the slightly reduced ‘exchange rate’ of 12 rand to the pound, which in this case I was happy with, because at least I would have the money to pay my bill!

The computer room at Madolas, where we record our internet usage time in a hand written notebook, to be billed on our exit

I spent some time sorting out the things that I will be packing to take home with me, and those that will be left behind. I’ve decided to leave lots of clothes, my towels, sleeping mat, rucksack, boots, toiletries, etc. behind – and it seems the weight of my suitcase is half of what it was when I flew out here; which will hopefully mean I won’t need to pay excess luggage fees again!

Packing up my room in Madolas

The night drive turned out to be totally insane! Although we didn’t see a huge variety of different species, we did see the cheetah brothers in the distance, two elephants fighting and snapping down trees in their wake and an angry rhino that chased us and rammed into the side of the truck where I was sitting!

The cheetah brothers

As the animal head-butted the side of the car, it swung the side of its face towards mine (these cars are open with just roll bar and a canvas roof overhead; no windows or protection from the side). It’s normal for us to use our sleeping bags to stay warm on night drives; as it’s so cold this time of year and the temperature really drops at night-time. As such, I was completely bundled up in my sleeping bag, with my seatbelt done up over the top.

Sunset, as we begin our night drive

As the rhinoceros lunged towards the vehicle, my natural instinct was to try to move away and release myself from the seat and shuffle over to the other side of the vehicle – except, with my hands inside my sleeping bag, throwing me off-balance, I couldn’t move myself quick enough! Adrian, one of my fellow volunteers was able to grab me by the shoulder, and pull me towards him – just as the animal bashed the vehicle in a secondary rage!

Happy to have survived the night drive!

Even when Christine sped away, it chased us and bashed its body against the car!

Heavy rains and a heavy heart

Tuesday 14th October 2008

My final day out on the reserve today! And unfortunately for me, the weather was rubbish! It rained the whole morning, and was really cold, too.  

To make matters worse, we had to be up at 5am for a 6am start on the reserve, as our student co-ordinator had a meeting at 7.30 and wanted to do a game drive beforehand for the new students who have just arrived. 

An early start in the rain

However, the heavy rain meant that hardly any animals were out and us volunteers weren’t really given much to do to pass the time during the hour-long meeting – we ended up just sitting around chatting; which was nice, but it felt like valuable time lost on my last day on the reserve!


We then waited and waited for Murray the vet to phone us with news and times for capturing a blesbok with a broken horn – with the aim to saw the remaining stump down comfortably for the animal. But after spending an hour or so moving branches and trees off of the safari trail roads (which elephants had knocked down), we had heard nothing, so decided to go for lunch.


Lunches at Shamwari have always been made and prepared by the kitchen staff at Madolas and are included as part of the catering package I’ve paid for through gap year group Worldwide Experience. They consist of a cooler box of rolls/sandwiches, cheese, meat, salad, fruit, occasionally a biscuit and sometimes a scotch egg – which I must admit I always turn down. Although not terribly inspiring, they’ve become such a familiar part of my life and routine over the last few months that I’m sure I will miss this habitual eating pattern!

lunch out on shamwari game reserve

After lunch, the rain had eased a bit, and we went to visit a female cheetah, which the reserve has only just acquired. 

Consequently, she is being kept in the boma until she is settled.


Finished the day’s activities by about 2pm, which gives me plenty of time to get ready for my last night out at Louis’ Pub tonight.

A mixture of work shirts and hats decorate Louis’ Pub

As is tradition for the long term volunteers, I have one of my two Shamwari work shirts that I was given on my arrival signed and ready to hang on the wall.

kate on conservation wildlife blog logo

Next time: It’s time to say goodbye to South Africa and begin the long journey home! 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

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