Safari Camp Stories: Close Encounters

by Jaff Malapane, guide at Garonga

Some of the best safari camp stories start in a mysterious location with a mysterious cast. On this day I was actually lost and it doesn’t get more mysterious than that! I was coming from a part of the reserve called Harmony 90 (a remnant from when most of the area was owned by a mining company called Harmony), I had spent the morning looking for an elephant herd and after finding them, in a location that remains partly a mystery to me, I was making my way back to chartered territory. Ahead of me I could see a group of giraffes staring at a tree – completely ignoring us. Now this is unusual behaviour, giraffes are naturally curious and will normally focus on a game viewer when it is driving towards them, when their attention is elsewhere every guide worth his salt will stop to see what has caught the giraffe’s attention! So we went closer to investigate and when I followed the giraffe’s gaze I spotted a boomslang!

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Giraffes demonstrating their far more typical behaviour of observing us carefully © Sophie Barrett

It was a subtly coloured grey female moving slowly in the tree. Quite possibly the giraffes had disturbed it whilst they were feeding and were wisely waiting for the snake to move before they carried on with their feast. Boomslang have huge eyes and with them excellent vision, which is its main way of locating its prey. Once located, it will freeze with its head at an angle finally swooping onto the prey, grasping it firmly in its jaws and moving only its fangs in a chewing-style motion. The prey will soon succumb to the venom and is swallowed whole! Fortunately for the giraffes this means they are not on the boomslang’s menu.  However, boomslang can open their mouths as wide as 170 degrees allowing the venom fangs that sit at the back of their mouths to deliver their potently haemotoxic venom. Snakes will try to avoid using their venom unless it is on their prey but if they feel sufficiently threatened they will bite as a last line of defence, so the giraffe were wise to give the boomslang her space! Luckily the boomslang is typically a shy snake and prefers to move away rather than to instigate conflict with people. We watched her for a while and she started moving as though heading for the ground, despite their aversion to conflict we played it safe and moved away before she could get there!

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The ultimate stare off, us watching the boomslang who is using her impressively large eyes to watch us right back! © Jaff Malapane

Expect to encounter wild South Africa in its various shapes and sizes when you book your stay with us.

Safari Camp Stories: History in the Making

by Sophie Barrett, guide at Garonga

A game reserve is a place where unique moments happen on a daily basis. At any time seeing a particular creature, behaviour or interaction might be a first for either guest or guide. A game reserve is a place of wonder, a place where the definition of impossible is ‘it could happen tomorrow’. In such a place how do you decide which moments are everyday wonders and which are wonders for the history books? Usually this is a topic of hot and heavy debate, but recently here at Garonga we were all able to agree that one first was truly a first that will go down in the history of the reserve…

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Safari Camp Stories: The Legends of Tomorrow

by Sophie Barrett, guide at Garonga

I suspect almost everyone reading this will be familiar with Sir David Attenborough and Dame Jane Goodall, but I don’t know how many of you will have come across Greta Thunberg. I like to think of Sir Dave, Dame Jane, and Greta as our wildlife warriors. Their work helps to inspire conservation and to raise awareness on a scale otherwise unseen. They open our minds to the wonders of nature and our eyes to the terrible impact we are having on our environment and they give us a reason to fight for the other creatures who share this incredible planet we call home. What has been particularly concerning, however, is that we are currently in the stage of the greatest threat to our environment and wildlife that we, as humanity, have ever seen yet our only renowned wildlife warriors are in their 80s and 90s.   We are trying to fight a war without any soldiers or allies, a method that has not, historically, been wildly successful. Greta Thunberg looks like she might be starting to change this and to be fair Leonardo DiCaprio probably deserves a mention too.

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Safari Camp Stories: A Zebra Walked into a Bar…

by Sophie Barrett, guide at Garonga

Certain guest questions, like certain guide jokes, can be considered to be a staple of a visit to the bush. For a guide, watching a zebra go from one side of a road to the other we are overwhelmed by the urge to call out “zebra crossing!” and only very rarely do we successfully repress this urge. In our heads each repetition of the joke is met with raucous laughter accompanied by general agreement that your guide is a sterling human and probably has a decent back-up career as a stand up comic. In reality, the joke is often met with a raised eyebrow, possibly even a roll of the eyes, and if the guide is really lucky a polite titter. Nevertheless, I can assure you it is a joke that never gets old. Similarly, when presented with our equine pals guests’ lips start to twitch, they glance sideways at one another and finally ask the immortal question: “So, are they black with white stripes or white with black stripes?”, quick as a flash our lowveld guides will fire back, “ah but what about the grey stripes?” which are a distinguishing feature of the Plains zebra found in the area. In general this tends to stump guests and we all move on from our guilty game drive giggles to enjoy the animals themselves. Despite this battle of the comic wits zebras are a firm favourite with guests and guides alike and never fail to delight on a drive as we rediscovered on a morning not too long ago…

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Safari Camp Stories: (Near) Death on (Just a Bit South of) the Nile

by Sophie Barrett, guide at Garonga

To be well suited as a Field Guide and a Tracker you need to have different parameters on danger. A scream of terror causes a flood of adrenaline in a Field Guide and the overwhelming urge to run to the source clasping a camera in one hand and a snake wrangling kit in the other to see what excitement has been uncovered. Something in the development of our survival instincts went astray. We are drawn to creatures that most humans consider deadly and downright disadvantageous for a long and healthy lifespan.

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