Kwantu Elephant Sanctuary, Nanaga Market, and Schotia Game Reserve
Today was fantastic! In the truest sense of the word. I had not imagined I would be allowed to ride elephants and experience them up close as I did on Sunday. I was inspired for this day adventure trip by a blogger I follow who is currently in PE as a student teacher. On her blog she raved about the trip and so I took her at her word and booked the day for me and three of the other girls from SCSU.
We were picked up at the hotel by Joel, our amazing Freewalker Guide. We all needed coffee and so we stopped at McDonald’s for coffee and the other girls also needed breakfast. We asked Joel if it was ok, his reply was always “TIA, This is Africa.” He reminded us over and over that South Africa is flexible. I really enjoyed our ride out to Kwantu because I rode up front with Joel where we discussed the political history of Zimbabwe, which is where he is originally from. I also enjoyed the view! Leaving Port Elizabeth we drove out to the Addo region, where we were surrounded by mountains and pretty meddows.
By the time we pulled up to Kwantu we all needed a pitstop before we would enjoy the elephant experience. The main building was huge! Big ceilings and a huge dining facility. There wasn’t any soap in the bathroom and so I asked for some at reception. Then it was sitting on the floor just outside the bathroom door when I opened it again. It was just kind of a funny little moment.
Then we were taken down the path to the elephants. We were all momentarily distracted by the ducks and bunnies in pens. The ducks were loud and the bunnies were huge. Then we went around the corner and the elephants we were about to ride were in full view. They really are just amazing animals! The night before our trip I’d read a Salon article about the new understanding science is gaining of elephants and their intellegence. I felt humbled to be in their gentle presence. I chose the older elephant, it just seemed fitting *smiles* We all sat behind a handler and they guided the elephants as we rode. The scenery was beautiful and my guide answered all of my elephant related questions. There were a few other animals on the ride like zebra, boks, and interesting birds but really it was all about the elephants.
After our ride was over we went back to the coral to spend some more time with them. Once we each got off of our elephant we were able to touch each part of the elephant. I felt her ears, trunk, feet, belly, and tail. Then? I was allowed to feed her! I must admit that the very first time I fed her I was overcome with emotion and cried a little. She just seemed so vulnerable at the moment as she reached her trunk toward my hand and waited for food. I know the food I was giving her was not her complete sustenance for the day, but it called to mind the link between animals and humans. This animal that could easily kill me was instead, genially reaching her trunk towards my hand and patiently waiting for food.
The guides then took tons of pictures of us with the elephants. We got pictures individually and some group pictures of us with the elephants. Then we were able to feed all of the elephants. The guides lined them up and gave us a bucket of food. We fed them by putting the food in both their trunks and mouths.
After we finished feeding them that was the end of our elephant experience. On the way back up to the main building we stopped off at the bunny pen. The guide let us go in and take photos of the bunnies. I thought it was funny because the bunnies wanted absolutely nothing to do with us. The bunny pen had two fenced in yards with a hole in the fence between the two. After only a couple minutes of us being in there with the bunnies they started escaping into the other yard.
As we piled into the car with Joel we were on a natural high from our elephant experience. I rode in the front and the three girls in the backseat were busy reviewing pictures from our time with the elephants. When we pulled into Nagana Market, I was surprised. When I’d read about it, I thought it was a roadside stand not a roadside market.
Then it was time for Schotia Game Reserve where we were going to have our safari game drive. It was only about a 5 minute drive from Nagana and when we got there we ran into some other international students from NMMU. They ended up in a different vehicle from those students but it was still seeing them periodically throughout the afternoon. Prior to the property being turned into a game park it was a family farm (now in its 6th generation) and they turned it into a game park during the 1980s when the farming economy took a downturn. Our drive schedule started at 1500 with a break for tea at 1630 and then a braai buffet in the lapa at 1900.
The drive started out like gangbusters with a lion sighting right away! They have a full-grown male lion, 2 females, and there were 4 cubs. Joel, our personal guide for the day who was on the ride with us, had the best eyes in the landy. He spotted the female lions laying under a tree and then he spotted the cubs under a cactus. Then we drove up the hill and saw the male lion, he was laying in the sun panting from the heat. There was a carcus of a zebra that they’d killed two days prior. Our guid for the drive told us that was the reason why we were lucky enough to see the lions. They were feeling fat and happy, which made them seem very much like cats at this moment. We drove through the park and saw giraffes. Again, they had a family. We saw a lot of daddy and baby bonding on our drive.
I just love this pic of the giraffes kissing, it was a daddy and baby. We stopped for tea, which I just love that bit of the culture here. After we loaded back into our landy we got word that the male lion had gone for water and was now walking back to his pride. Our driver quickly drove over to the spot and we could clearly see him down the hill. He was huge! When he was laying down it was not clear how tall and majestic these animals really are.
I was just enthralled watching them. As we continued our drive Joel’s eyes struck gold again by spotting the elephants off in the distance. Our driver quickly radioed the other landies and the trucks made their way closer to the elephants. We were able to get closer as the male went over to drink water. One of the trucks got chased a little bit by this elephant as he seemed to get tired of the trucks being so close. It was pretty exciting!
But this time the sun was setting and time for dinner. When we got to the lapa I could not believe how pretty it was. They had tiki torches lit and a fire in the firepit. We all got glasses of wine and found chairs around the fire. Then the guys got a little carried away with putting more logs on and it was too hot. A bunch of us pulled our chairs back from the fire and waited for dinner bell to be rung. And we were ready to eat! The food, per usual, did not disapoint. On the way back they had the spotlights on the truck turned on and a spotlight to scan the trees and bushes. We did not see the hippo out of the water, which was a disappointment but only a minor one considering all of the animals we’d seen. I could not help but look up and oh, the stars did not dissappoint! I could easily and clearly see the Milkway and the constellations were so clear. I wished the top that had protected us from the sun during the day could be popped off so we could get a clear view of all the stars. I just wanted to lay down and sleep right there, on the earth beneath the heavens.
When I return home and start a new routine with school, I need to remember this day because everything we did and experienced was less than 24 hours. So, when I think I don’t have enough time to get something done, I need to remember how much one can actually accomplish in a day.