Tuesday, February 28, 2012

South Africa: Close Encounters at Tshkudu Reserve

I really don't want to boast but we had such incredible luck while on safari in South Africa!

I can't tell you how many times my mother, a flight attendant, has mentioned grumpy passengers returning home without seeing hardly any creatures in the wild.

Hearing that breaks my heart a bit, because we had such an unbelievable experience, for the entire trip! Sometimes, I have to pinch myself while looking back on all of my photos.
Honestly, this was the trip of a life time, thanks mama!

While on tour with Viva Safaris we spent a day at  Tshukudu Reserve. The private grounds have wild and rehabilitated animals roaming around, including a very friendly pet cheetah. At first, I thought it was a crazy idea to pet a semi-wild cheetah but she was one of the sweetest animals I've ever encountered. Apparently, she roams the open grounds, befriends the guests and then heads out to hunt on her own.

The highlight of this day was a very close encounter with some elephants! Maybe I'm biased because they're one of my favorite animals, but this was an incrediably special moment. We approached a male elephant throwing a tantrum and tearing down a tree. Watching that felt exciting enough...

Then, suddenly three more elephants came bounding out of the bush, including a a three week old baby! I was sat in the lucky seat that day, these elephants came so close to our jeep that I could have reached my hand out five inches to touch them (of course I didn't!). No joke, they we so close that I had to lean back just to capture them with my camera and one of the females almost stuck her trunk in the jeep at us. Fortuntately, I was able to record most of it, see what I mean about being so lucky!?

We followed them into the bush and quietly observed the little baby learning to use her trunk. Adorable!

We also caught up with a pair of (not as friendly) leopards...

Our guides led us to find a bunch of lions too!

Later we spotted a pair of rhinos...whose horns have to be safely removed to avoid terrible poachers.

As the sun set we came across the old lion again, doesn't he look spooky here?

Heading home as the sun began to set...

It's incredible how much open land is out there, we felt completely lost in nature yet, at the same time I felt so embarrassed for us as a species due to our massive destruction of land, plants and animals.  Where do you dream of going for your 'trip of a life time'?

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