A Drive on the Wild Side

We all had a very exciting and enjoyable time in St. Lucia this past weekend. After a three hour drive to the north of Pietermaritzburg, we arrived at the Zulani Bed and Breakfast Friday afternoon. I was completely astounded by our accommodations—we had the whole place to ourselves, and the building was absolutely beautiful. There were two pools, one in the middle of several suite-style rooms and the other in the courtyard of a three bedroom house complete with two huge bathrooms, a full kitchen, and an huge bar! While the girls got to stay in the house, I was lucky enough to be put up in the rhino-themed room (very appropriate since we would see many the next day). The rest of the day was pretty low key; we went to lunch and dinner in the village and watched the sunset from the deck of a bar that overlooked the St Lucia River (while marveling at the hippos and crocodiles in the water).

Saturday, we headed off to the Game Preserve for our long-awaited safari. The preserve is one of many maintained by the South African government; for a small fee (“conservation levy”), visitors can drive through the natural, undisturbed eco-system. While this means that you can get very close to animals in their natural habitat, you are also on your own and without any protection from their whims. We soon would discover how exciting (and terrifying) that could be.

Driving through the beautiful valleys and mountains of the game preserve, we were able to spot in the distance some rhinos, giraffes, buffaloes, zebra. It was really surreal to see them in the distance living in their natural habitat undisturbed by humans. After a late lunch at a mountain-top restaurant inside the preserve, we continued our drive. However exciting our drive was before our lunch stop, afterwards, it was even better. First, we came upon a giraffe feeding on a tree right next to the road. Then, we found two rhino about 20 feet from our van, eating on some grass. Our close proximity to the rhinos—who are huge and extremely dangerous—made us all a little uneasy. Luckily, we were able to get away.

As the sun began to sink, we all were lamenting the fact that we had yet to see an elephant. I really wanted to see one too, and it felt like our safari wouldn’t be complete without it. All of the sudden, as we neared the exit of a park, we spotted a huge elephant in the middle of the road before us. We got our wish…and then some. The elephant continued to lumber its way slowly down the road, blocking our path for some time (providing lots of time for great photo ops). Eventually, it made its way into the bush, and we finally were able to drive past. Without a doubt, it was an action packed day.

Early Sunday morning, we boarded a boat to take a ride of the St Lucia River to get some up close views of hippos and crocodiles. For about two hours, we cruised down the river and got up close and personal with these two animals. I was really surprised that hippos have huge ivory teeth and can move very quickly. In fact, they are so dangerous that more people in Africa die from hippo attacks that from lions!! After the boat ride and a walk on a beach, we drove back to Pietermaritzburg.

Today was a rather uneventful day at PACSA; I continued my work on the website. Progress is being made, and hopefully it will be finished by the time we leave PMB next Friday. More updates to come later in the week…

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