a morning game drive
ending with a walking safari
There was a starlit sky and we were having dinner in the boma. From previous experience I knew that the suggestion I was about to make would spark a discussion like a veld fire in dry grass. I waited for all my guests to complete their dessert and decided that on this sweet note I would test the waters:
"I have already given tomorrow morning's game drive some thought and I would like to suggest that we end our game drive with a walking safari"
Needless to say we then ordered another bottle of wine for the table, sat around the boma fire and discussed my suggestion in detail.
Guests are always enthusiastic about the adventure of a walking safari, but are a bit apprehensive about the idea of starting their walk, of actually getting out of the safe and confined space of the safari vehicle. The morning's game drive was a success and the spirit on the vehicle was one of great anticipation. My plan was for us to be a comfortable distance from the lodge when we stopped to stretch our legs and have a cup of coffee or juice; to fuel the idea that we would be continuing the rest of our journey back to the lodge on foot.
Walking in the wild and being on the same level, even lower than some of the animals, is a completely different experience from being in the vehicle. You focus on the smaller details of the bushveld that are driven past while on a safari. After explaining the safety procedures and rules of a walking safari we headed off in single file like a line of commando ants.
It was not long before the guests relaxed and became more and more aware of their surroundings. They noticed the ground that was pushed out of the earth by termites. We stopped, picked and smelled the wild sage that was breaking under our feet while walking through the bush. I pointed out a Leadwood tree and explained its immense wood density and weight, and how ash from the burnt wood can be mixed with water to create a white paint. Even the men could not resist appreciating the detail of a small Blue commelina flower.
At the beginning of the walk there was great concern in the group about how the animals would react to us. They quickly discovered that a herd of impala could spot us long before we even noticed them. The impala stood still just long enough for us to have a quick look at them before they ran away. Finding animals on foot is a lot harder than my guests thought. Tracking plays an intricate role in guiding and finding animals. We were fortunate to come across some lion spoor, and by assessing the signs surrounding the tracks we came to the conclusion that they weren't fresh - the lions were long gone. Now that we weren't driving we could better listen to the sounds of the bush. I found a beautiful Black-headed Oriole by identifying and following his call. I noticed a commotion in the group when we passed a sickle bush tree and immediately stopped. One of the ladies in the group had spotted a big spider's nest. I took the time to explain the importance of all spiders, and more especially community nest spiders like this one, in the ecosystem.
Just as we started feeling the increasing heat of the sun we saw the thatched roof tips of our lodge in the distance - and much to my satisfaction the guests were disappointed that we were nearing the end of our walking safari.