We went out on our first drive at Erindi. It was absolutely incredible. It was a bit of an adjustment since we had to wake up rather early for the 6:30 drive. We quickly ate some food at 6:00am, watched the sunrise up over the watering hole at 6:15, and were ready in the jeep by 6:30. The idea was to enjoy the cool morning before the heat really took over in the afternoon.
We had the absolutely best guide and friend, Uly. We spent almost drive with him, save one, and he really made our trip. That first morning, he asked us what we wanted to see. I suggested that we check out the elephants. And so we were off. We left the secured electrified fence area and entered into the bush itself. It was a bit chilly since the sun had just peaked up behind the mountains. The first thing I remember in the bush was a horned skull, bleached white in the sand. A beautiful reminder that we were in the wilderness.
We were going to find the elephants by tracking device. Some of the animals have tracking devices at Erindi. Now I’ve heard there are some circles that consider this cheating but I think it’s silly to make the distinction. First of all, the guides still have to use their amazing tracking abilities to find the beasts even when we have the tracking system. Second, it doesn’t always work. Rain and cloud cover played havoc with it.
As we drove out to the area known for elephants, we came across zebras. They didn’t let us get to close to them but I didn’t care. They were incredible to see in action – mostly running away. We did get to see some baby zebras! So cute! Uly and Pena, the guides, pointed out a termite hill that had a den for ardwolves, a hyena relative. We saw these little ears e out of the hole. Incredible. We also passed giraffes, sticking out above the trees. It was one of the most amazing sights.
Then we got to see an elephant. My friend had warned me that they sometimes just appear from nowhere. It’s surprising since you’d think they are so large that it would be hard to miss, but it was rather easy. So all of a sudden, there was a giant creature munching away at some trees. We spent several minutes just watching him.
And then we met Stompy. We knew things were going to be good when Uly commented, “He’s a very naughty boy. He likes to chase the vehicles.” I could feel my heart pick up speed. We could get chased? And then we got closer to Stompy so we were actually perpendicular to him. But Uly spoke to him, urged calm. It was wonderfully terrifying to be 10 feet away from an elephant known for chasing the trucks. (Note: Stompy means cigarette butt in Afrikaans but it’s an appropriate name). We went past him with no incident.
Then we proceeded to watch two elephants, a medium-sized one and a small elephant named “Tough Guy” goof off. Tough Guy kept trying to sneak up on the larger elephant. And as they roughhoused, they were knocking trees and bushes over. Absolutely incredible. There were several other elephants in the area, including a small calf. A group of the elephants just wandered past the car. The calf got stuck on the wrong side of the road and ran a bit panicked behind us. It was so adorable.
What an amazing first drive!
We went back to the camp area. It’s a strange period between drives. We had about 8 hours between drives. The next one was at 4:30. So we ate second breakfast (a full English breakfast), napped, read, lounged around for several hours. We took a little walk to the San People village that was currently uninhabited. The San People are a nomadic tribe who were elsewhere during the time we were at Erindi. But it was cool to check out the village that had huts and various antelope skulls marking the area.
That afternoon, we were going to find the lions. As soon as we head out in the truck, it began to rain a little bit. We were there during the rainy season. We saw all sorts of animals: impalas, more giraffes, springboks, oh my! Some of the lions also had tracking devices but the rain played havoc with them. We ended up going up a kopi, a rocky hill or small mountain, and had this amazing view of Erindi. The world is so wide there. The rains came in earnest so we decided to go back since the animals would be taking shelter. We did see some thoroughly soaked ostriches by the side of the road. Totally worth the rain.
At dinner, I got to try Oryx meat, a magnificent antelope. I had it rare. It was amazing.
One thing I will note: the bugs are huge there. Yes, I don’t love spiders and insects but I can handle them normally. At Erindi, the beetles the size of my hand! Then there were these millipedes that were an inch thick and six inches (or more) long. Eeeew. They were everywhere. When we got back to our room at night, we had to develop a plan. We’d open the door really fast and then kill everything that came in. It worked.
That’s all for now!