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Sean's Blog

Kruger/ Tshukudu

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ok, so we are now done with our South African bush adventures, which were great! I actually have been able to access email and internet, but I decided not to do any updates and just enjoy the time. I guess I will start at the beginning and just work through our few days in the bush!
We drove for hours to get here (near Hoedspruit if you want to know) from Joburg. We got to the place in the evening and met ours rangers, Jakes and Ian (one of the brothers that run the place). The very first night, after only a few minutes in the camp, they took us out for a drive, and it was one of the best of the stay! We saw elephants, lions, cheetahs, and I don't know what else. It was dark out, too so it was even better with just the truck headlights and a hand held spotlight. Now I will mention the food at the bush camp. It was awesome! It was all homemade, and everyone has pretty much decided that it was the best food of the trip.
Our sleeping situation was very rugged. The male students all slept in bunk beds that were above the bathrooms, with short walls that didn't reach the ceiling. There were only nets to close the gap. At night we could hear lions, monkeys, hyenas...
The first morning, we met Ikillyou (that's how they said it was spelled, pronounced akeelah). She was a very big, 2 year old lion. We walked around in the bush with her. Ian and Jakes were even playing with her! At one point, she ran through the group of us, which was pretty exciting. We got to touch Akeelah if she went by, so now I've touched a lion! We went for some more drives, and saw hippos, rhinos, buffalo, wildebeest, as well as many antelope type things, like impala. We learned a lot about the bush and how to survive, but most importantly, how to spit poop. (The action should rhyme, but I'll skip that) Some people tried the giraffe poop and failed miserably. Later, though, on one of the roads, Ian found a pile of impala poop with a few giraffe pellets. He drew a line while jakes marked out the record, and we had a competition. I tried 3 times, giraffe, impala, impala, and won! I even beat Jakes's one try! So I got a free fanta as a prize. By the way, the pop cans in SA are bottom heavy! Oh, and I was the one to spot the only rhinos that we saw! I actually became one of the best spotters, if I must say. Later that day, we met Savannah. We had seen her in a video already, lounging by the lodge pool. We also met her three cubs. These cheetahs were very, very fun and nice. Everyone touched her, but we weren't to touch the cubs. Not because Savannah would reject them or anything, but because we might give them cat flu from domestic cats. Later we got to touch a cub at Ian's brother's house. Near the cheetahs' enclosure was a lion in another, a wild dog, and a leopard in each their own. Also that day we saw more elephants, and they put on a great show, posing and even coming up to the vehicle allowing us to touch them. Elephants feel weird!
The last full day we got to experience something very unique. We were able to assist in a leopard release! They first darted her, which didn't really work, so they ended up giving her about 3 or 4 shots of the stuff, which doesn't hurt, only lasts longer. We got to touch her, and I helped carry her out of the enclosure to the release spot. Also yesterday, we saw giraffes finally, also a caracal (look it up, it's cool). The best thing was when we went to the lion breeding project that they have and listened to lions roar. The lion was right up by the fence probably less than 2 meters away from the truck! It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen, and is such a unique sound that no recording device could do it proper, especially with the echos by other males and nearby females. Another male we saw started getting mad at the few people up by the fence, but it was pretty exciting. On our last drive last night, I was holding the "torch", and we saw some elephants in a clear area. It was really fun when Jakes started irritating the bull, and because it was dark, I was to keep the light on it to make sure it didn't charge us. At the same time, a female and baby were at a distance, on the other side of the truck! I forgot, one morning we walked with two very large nine month old lion cubs, the same way we did with akeelah. And got to touch them.
I am probably forgetting hundreds of things, since we did so much, so if I happen to remember something, I will add it. This trip has been great, but I can't wait to get home and eat normal food, sleep in my bed, and have my cell phone back in my right pocket where it belongs. So many times on this trip I have gone to my right pocket just out of habit, only to realize that it isn't there. I already remembered something... I am wearing a bracelet that I made out of the fibers from a plant called something like mother in law's tongue. The fibers are incredibly strong, and they said it's great for bush ropes. I also have a bracelet made of the hair at the end of an elephant's tail, although Jakes was trying to tell me that it's actualy giraffe. I confirmed with Ian that it was in fact elephant. Giraffe is thin, but the elephant is about 2 mm thick, and feels like a plastic wire. Ok, done for now

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Essential Programs Details

Duration 12 days
When June 2nd - 13th, 2009
Focus Wildlife Research/Conservation
Political History