Beyond my wildest dreams...
Trip Start Oct 31, 2011
137Trip End Mar 16, 2012
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Where I stayed
What I did
The Big 5
We left Johannesburg at 8:00 am this morning, to make our way down to Gomo Gomo Lodge, it was a 6 hour drive, and it was absolutely beautiful. The first few hours, was a little like driving to Brandon, flat and relatively uneventful, but then we drove through the foothills Drakensburg Mountains (Dragon's Back) and the landscape was amazing. As we were leaving Johannesburg, we could see yellow hills everywhere, these were mine dumps, hills made from the soil of the old gold mines, they are now starting to rework these mine dumps, and getting 4-6 grams of gold per ton of soil, they are finding this to be more economical than mining underground. South Africa exports 200 million tons of coal per year to China, they have a lot of coal, but it is not high quality coal, the whole country is powered by coal. On our drive, we stopped at some vendors on the side of the road, they were selling beautiful handmade African wares, we talked for a while with a few of the ladies, and met her beautiful 6 month old son named Jiet (pronounced juet), he had the most beautiful eyes, and by the end of the conversation, she was asking me to take him home to Canada with me
Gomo Gomo is a private game reserve located in Klasserie, it is in the North East corner of South Africa, about 150 km from Zimbabwe, and is 400 meters above sea level. Ten years ago; they dropped all the fences between the private game reserves and Krueger National Park, so the animals can roam freely. Dropping all the fences doubled the roaming area to 14,000 square miles, this is bigger than Switzerland, in fact it is the size of the UK without Ireland. As we were driving sown, our driver being a former ranger had a wealth of information to share, currently they are having big issues with rhino poaching, they are being poached for their horn. There is a huge demand from China for the horns, as they are used in Chinese medicine, and a large horn can fetch as much as 3 million US dollars, of course the poacher does not get this big money, but they are willing to take the risk for the mere thousand dollars they may make. They risk losing everything they own, going to jail for 25 years and being shot on site, rangers do not stop to question poachers, they shoot them on site, as they will not hesitate to shoot a ranger. Since the start of this year, they have already lost 18 rhinos to poachers, and 13-14 poachers have been killed on site
As we were driving, and the bush got denser, before even getting to Gomo Gomo, we saw a giraffe on the side of the road, you would not believe how exciting it was to see a real live giraffe in the wild, it was at this moment that I knew I was going to love this part of our journey. As we kept driving, it just kept getting better, we then spotted two hippopotamus’ in the water, I learnt that hippo’s kill more humans than any other animal in the world, interesting fact. A little further down the road, we come across a herd of female Impala’s, and the Oh! My god, moment was when the huge African elephant crossed the road. I was so excited after the giraffe, that by this point I was in the I can’t believe this is happening, and all this before we went on any game drives, how could it get any better, but hang on it did!
We got to Gomo Gomo around 2:30 pm, and went straight in to have lunch; we were served this awesome meat pie, that we all loved and later found out was not beef but rather Ostrich, I was real happy we only found out after. We then unpacked and headed out for our first game drive at 4:00 pm
Off we go, trekking through the bush in our land rover the views are great, there are beautiful birds, the weather is beautiful, and I am thinking, yeah this is quite nice, sitting back and relaxed, and then you see it your first Big 5, your heart just starts pumping, it is so incredibly exciting, there right in front of us is a huge White rhino. The White rhino has a wide mouth and it’s head is always down, eating grass, currently the rate of these rhino’s is reducing by 1 every 20 minutes, all for their horn, if poaching does not stop, there will be no wild rhinos by 2020. I feel very fortunate to have seen one of these animals, and I mean we do not just drive by, we drive right up close, sit very still, and stare in utter amazement, as long as we do not stand up or move suddenly, we should be fine is what we have been told.
Alright, time to move on, we come across a female Kudu, looks like a cross between a horse and a deer, and as we are watching this one, Alan broke the golden rule, he stood up to take a picture, and guess what the Kudu was gone
Next comes the highlight of the evening game drive, we come across a huge herd of African elephants, I cannot begin to describe how I felt, other than to say I was so overwhelmed I was close to tears, who in their right mind would have ever thought I could sit in a land rover and quite literally reach out and touch a wild elephant. Our ranger just pulled up, turned off the engine and reminded us to stay seated; I could not believe how close they came to us. Apparently the animals only see the vehicle and us as a large silhouette, so they pay no attention to us, unless of course someone breaks the silhouette by standing. So these elephants are all around us eating, pulling down trees, trampling everything in sight, one of them was right up against the back of the land rover eating. In the herd, they are all related to each other in some way, they are all females, a bull is only tolerated until about 18 years of age and then they are pushed out of the herd. Elephants need to learn from their elders, nothing is instinctual to them; they are the largest land mammal on the planet. Currently, there are about 18 000 African Elephants in the Krueger area, which is a problem as there should only be about 7000 for an optimum balance, at this point the elephants are eating the trees faster than they can regenerate.
We then saw White Backed Vultures, which are important to the environment in the bush, because they clean the bush of all the dead animals, which rids the forest of disease, these vultures can see up to 60-70 km in all directions. We also came across a male Impala and a spotted hyena. No cats tonight, but we will see what tomorrow brings.
Back at the lodge, we were served an incredible meal out by the campfire, it kind of reminded me of the reality show survivor; we were sitting in a half circle, around a fire with beautiful place settings, and great food.
What an amazing day! And by the way, in case you are like me and did not know, the Big 5 is Rhinoceros, Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, and Elephant. They are called the big 5 because, they are the five animals in the world, that if you shoot and do not kill they will turn on you, and come after you, so you want to make darn sure you have a good shot.
Well since our wakeup call comes at 5:00am, and supper was just served at 8:30 pm, we are off to bed.