Thursday, July 31, 2014

Napi Wilderness Trail

On Wednesday, July 23 we embarked on a three-day wilderness trail out of Kruger’s Pretorius Kop camp.  After an hour’s drive along with the other six guests, we arrived at our home for the next three days, a camp site situated on a small river with four tents and a common area for dining, as well as a kitchen and tents for our guides.

Day 1

Rifle in hand and in a slightly militaristic tone, Raymond – one of our two guides – explained the trail rules.  “If I say move right, you move right, understood?”  And for good reason; not five minutes into our walk, six white rhinos slowly trotted into view towards us, abruptly interrupting our predetermined path.

As directed, we quickly scrambled up a rock where we could safely admire the rhinos as well as a panoramic view of the surrounding bush.  The rest of the walk was more predictable, including sightings of elephants, impala, and kudus from a safe distance.

Following a 3-hour hike, we stopped about thirty minutes away from our return to camp and lunch, where Saul – our second guide – enthusiastically pointed out a large herd of buffalo in the distance – “about 3 km away,” he estimates.  “Let’s take a vote, who wants to hike over there?” he jokes.  Due to the unanimous response, he (less enthusiastically) concedes, “OK, but we shoot straight there and back.  No stopping – does everyone have water?”  After a double-time one hour hike straight out (straight meaning no stops, not a straight line, as we were always following meandering animal paths rather than fixed hiking trails), we were treated to the close-up site of a massive herd of buffalo, who seemed to be just as intrigued with us as we were by them.

Day 2

Once again, our hike started promptly at 6:30 am.  A less exciting day overall: only some baboons and a herd of wildebeests.  The sound of a few lion roars in the distance set our path for the day, but the rangers were unable to find the pride’s tracks and the roars eventual dwindled, so that we were unsuccessful at finding the cat.

About thirty minutes away from camp we noticed a bull elephant on our left.  This was not a problem at all until two rhinos came into view on our right.  The rhinos quickly changed direction and aimed straight at us.  Fortunately, as Raymond vehemently directed us to get closer together and stand behind a bush, the rhinos turned around.  Heart racing, we completed our walk for the day, always on the lookout for rhinos.

Day 3

Our last day, we were allowed to “sleep in” until 6 am before a hearty breakfast and drive back to Pretorius Kop.  Unfortunately, still no leopard sightings on our final game drive, but we did see more rhinos!  Overall, it was an amazing three days, with extremely capable guides and a great group of cohorts on our trail (one South African couple, a British university student and a German family).

Updates from our three days in Swaziland soon!


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