Thursday, August 16, 2012

South Africa: Inkwenkwezi

Everyone had been looking forward to this day for the entire trip. Today we were visiting the game reserve! We woke up an hour before breakfast was supposed to be served because people from the game reserve were picking us up at 8 to shuttle us over. One of the backpacker workers wrestled up some cereal and toast for us, and we ate on the deck outside the breakfast room. Not a bad view!



We all went downstairs after breakfast to wait for the Inkwenkwezi people. They showed up in safari Jeeps (which fit up Buccaneers's driveway much better than our bus from the day before) and drove us over. Our driver, Byron, had a very lovely accent. Inkwenkwezi was only six or seven minutes away, but my hair was 100% messed up by the time we arrived, thanks to the Jeep's lack of windows.

leaving Buccaneers to go see animals!

Inkwenkwezi's reception building is stunning. They have a restaurant attached to their lobby area where we went to sign our waivers (meaning we couldn't sue if we got eaten by lions) and select what food we wanted to eat after our safari experience. I picked an open-faced chicken tender sandwich and hot fudge sundae for dessert.

They do weddings, can you tell?


After signing our lives away, we got back into the Jeeps (I smacked my shin against the metal edge and spent the first four minutes of the ride discretely trying to make sure I wasn't gushing blood. I wasn't. But it still hurt.) Byron drove us into the game reserve, and I completely forgot that it was an enclosure. It seemed like we were out in the African wilderness. Then he stopped the Jeep and announced we were going to walk with elephants. Everyone started freaking out with glee, and we got out of the Jeep and waited for the elephants to be walked over to us. 


There were two elephants, one boy and one girl. The elephant handlers split us into two groups, one group per elephant. I went to Mubani, the female elephant, and we learned the proper way to behave around elephants. Don't grap an elephant by the tusks; they see that as a challenge. Then we were allowed to pet Mubani. Her skin was warm with bristle-like hairs, sort of like a hairbrush. The handler gave us some elephant treats from his satchel and let us feed her. You pour the food into the end of her trunk (sort of like a funnel), and she twists her trunk around like a scoop and puts it into her mouth. ADORABLE. The handlers were super nice and made sure we all had plenty of pictures of us with Mubani.


Mubani had so many cute little quirks. Our activity was called an "elephant walk," but it took us a long time to actually get from point A to point B because Mubani liked to stop and eat the grass instead of walking. She also liked putting the end of her trunk on the ground and blowing out air, making a dirt cloud puff up from the ground. So we all had a fair amount of dirt in our eyes by the end of the hour.
She's taller in person, I promise. I felt really short standing next to her.
We all said goodbye to the elephants and climbed back in the Jeep. It was time to see more animals! Since Inkwenkwezi is a game reserve, not a safari, there was no guarentee that we'd see a ton of animals. It's like being in the wild, almost. But we saw some cool ones, that's for sure!

Giraffe!

Zebras!
Then our Jeep rolled up to a thick fence. We had to go through two gates to get to a separate section. Byron said, "Whatever you do, do not stand up." And we knew we were in lion territory. What none of us knew was how close we were going to be to the lions.



This was right after Glen started making lion noises at them.

Baby!

Byron told us the lions could easily outrun our car, so we were all nervous. But the lions seemed a little lethargic, just lounging around in the sun. All in all, we saw ten or so lions. I'd gone into the day hoping we might see two, so I was beyond thrilled!

After we left lion country, our Jeep was almost attacked by this beast.
Of course, I was right next to the open window. Me, the one with the fear of birds. But the ostrich lost interest pretty quickly, and there were no tears on my part!

After that, we drove back to the reception area for lunch. My chicken sandwich was delicious, as was the ice cream. The only problem was they only gave me two little scoops of vanilla, not nearly enough ice cream to be satisfying, but they left the pitcher of hot fudge. So my friend Maureen and I poured fudge sauce into our empty bowls, mixed it with the melted ice cream, and ate it with a spoon. It was a fun bonding moment!

Then we ventured into the backyard where there was a zoo-like enclosure. Also known as where they keep the cheetahs. When Byron and the other staff members open the gate and stroll right in, we all got nervous. We knew we were doing the cheetah encounter, but we thought we'd sort of peer in at them through the fence. I felt seriously vulnerable standing in the middle of the enclosure while Byron ducks through some bushes to drag out one of the cheetahs. We kept whispering to each other, "How fast do cheetahs run?" and "Is this actually safe?" But we'd adopted the motto "When in Africa..." throughout the trip, so I kept repeating it to myself. And I'm glad I did!

I didn't want the cheetah to think I was trying to sneak up on it, but I didn't want to be any closer to the teeth than necessary.

The cheetah's fur felt like a super high quality stuffed animal. Except, you know, the cheetah was breathing.
So many once-in-a-lifetime experiences in one day! My mind is still blown as I write this today. Favorite day in Africa by far!

But that doesn't mean you should stop reading these posts. Stay tuned for next time: the day I contract food poisoning in a foreign country.

3 comments:

  1. I still can't get over the pure awesomeness of this. Seriously ... talk about once-in-a-lifetime experiences! Also, that picture of the giraffe is pretty much the best thing ever :)

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    Replies
    1. Believe me, I still can't get over the pure awesomeness of this, either, and I lived it! :)

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  2. Awesome, I'm a live in the area and go there at least 4-5 times a year. Really glad you enjoyed this part of our country!

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