What have we been up to?
We had a very exciting start to the year and so far 2012 has been incredible. We have already been privileged to put together some exciting trips together for friends old and new, and with the dry ‘winter’ setting in safari-season is well underway. Most of Southern Africa (barring the Cape) has dry cool winter months where grass fades to brown and the rivers subside to a trickle. The migratory birds that come to breed in the summer have now returned north and it is hard to believe the amount of rain that was falling in January.
The beginning of this year saw a record amount of rain fall over our home province of Mpumalanga. In January we just happened to be hosting a group in the Kruger Park the same time flood waters reached a record high. It was an intense experience and one in which we learned much and gained even more respect for Mother Nature. Good news was that nobody was hurt and our group still somehow managed to enjoy their time in the park, with a few of them getting a complimentary airlift by helicopter when their vehicle was cut off between two rising rivers. We went for a game drive the next day and got to see a beautiful male Leopard, Black Rhino, Lion, herds of Elephant, and plenty of smaller game. It seems the animals didn’t have as much of an issue with the floods as the humans did. For some photos and more detail check out the link below, a blog by Craig Leyenaar
We returned to Mala Mala this month to meet the new managers and chat to the guides about how the January floods might have affected game viewing.
At Mala Mala Main Camp the attentive service, comfortable rooms and tasty meals are overshadowed by the prolific game viewing, and this is just how owners Michael and Norma Rattray want to keep it. Here the emphasis is on the wildlife and how guests can best observe behaviour while not interfering with the natural order of things.
Having grown up hearing stories about Mala Mala and chatting to many of our friends who have worked and guided there, it is always exciting to visit the reserve. The Main Camp is steeped in history and the old photographs on the walls depict its legendary past. We really enjoyed our stay and are looking forward to returning in June with guests from Hawaii. The floods did force the closure of the lodges and one of the main bridges across the Sand River was washed away, but this has not taken away from the experience and the guides say it might actually improve visibility around the river where previously high reeds and grasses have been flattened, making it easier to spot animals coming down to drink.
For more info on Mala Mala Game Reserve and its lodges go to
The situation is desperate. Rhinos throughout Africa are being targeted for their horns and this alarming trend is on the increase. With the price of rhino horn said to greater than gold our precious rhinos are under attack and in serious threat of disappearing altogether.
It’s hard for me to accept that we are unable to protect our rhino populations. It seems that all the Twitter and Facebook hype around the subject has only managed to educate those who care about conservation and the potential extinction of a species. The people who perpetrate these acts are no doubt desperate as they risk their lives to get the precious cargo out of the parks and into the hands of wealthy middle-men exporting to the East for huge profits. It is a classic case of criminals taking advantage of the poor offering them relatively small reward for taking all the risk.
Governments have joined the battle against the illegal slaughter and in South Africa the army had deployed troops to the borders of Kruger Park and other areas where poachers are focusing their attention. This year alone well over 200 rhinos have been killed, and people on both sides of the battle have died. Many arrests have already been made and there is a strong anti-poaching attitude amongst many South Africans. Let’s hope that this bloodshed, of both rhino and people, will come to an end soon, or the reality is that we may no longer be able to see wild rhinos in our National Parks and Game Reserves ever again.
When we were working in Zambia I was always amazed at the stories of how many Black Rhinos used to be seen on a daily basis in parks like South Luangwa. Amazed because today there are zero rhino left in South Luangwa National Park as poachers shot and killed every single rhino that had existed there for thousands of years before man even arrived in the Valley. The last Luangwa rhino was killed sometime in the late eighties and it saddens me to think that when I was going to school in South Africa the last precious rhinos of south Luangwa were busy being exterminated. What scares me even more is the fact that back then there were many people fighting to save their rhino much like the situation in South Africa now. Let’s hope we can learn from Zambia’s mistakes and not let such an iconic animal disappear forever.
Here is a link to show some of the stats about the problem in Southern Africa as it stands.