There was an 0630 AM SAST morning game drive on the agenda today. We had already told the group that there was a great chance that we were not going to join in so we could sleep in. Mostly due to being a little tired of getting up at 0530ish each day for morning drives as well as the plan to hit the Emdoneni cat reserve at 1000 AM. Once we got up around 0800, we headed down to breakfast and had the usual morning fare. Each and every day they had some different kind of meat, like impala sausage, lamb sausage, etc, as well as the standard eggs, bacon, yummy beans (thats what I called them), and fruit.
Once 1000 SAST rolled around, we were ready to go to meet some cats that are being rehabilitated, such as the Serval, the African Wildcat, the Caracal, and the Cheetah. We rolled down the highway to the reserve and found ourselves with two really large parties of around 20 people each. We split in to groups so that we were a little easier managed and had more time to pet the kittys. :)
The first set of cats we came upon was the Serval. Likely around 20lbs and the longest legs, proportionally, to any other cat breed. The ears were long but they appeared ok with humans interacting with them, with the exception of the one they just got out of the wild. He/she did not like anyone to come up near it, but let us alone overall.
We then went to the African Wildcat, which looked mostly like the domestic US house cat - though its not one you would want in your house. Not a whole lot of excitement with that one, but once we got over to the Caracal, it was game on. We entered in through the front of the caged land and approached to the back where the cat was. Zee, our guide, approached the cat calmly, with us a little ways behind him. Once he got the cat to smell him, the cat hissed and swiped at him, in a non playful manner. Zee reminded us to just stay calm and he faced the cat through the whole process so that the cat would not get him from behind. The one thing I recall about this breed is that they can jump around 6.5 meters from a sitting position. The fences were 2.5 meters. Didn't make much sense to me, but Zee said they don't jump the fences since they are fed in the afternoons (they know where their meals are coming from).
Once those three cats were showcased, we then went over to the large cheetah area. There were two in the fenced in area, which made up around an acre or two. These are the long, sleek, and uber fast cats that can go up to 112 km/h and can turn on a dime. Zee instructed us to stay as a group and not to go along solo. We found out why pretty quickly. Once we got back to where the cats were, he separated them so that we could get photos with one of them. If there are two in a pack, they gang up on their hunt, and are pretty much indefensible. He got one of them to lay down and a few people out of our group of 20ish were able to take photos with it. But, the other cat kept coming around, so we exited the area and went next door where the smaller cats were at.
Once in the other area, the trainer kept the one cat away while we sat and posed with the other one as folks took photos. The other cat came over briefly and one couple who was with us most of the trip, Sandra and Dan, were able to get a photo with both of the cats at the same time. Pretty cool. Then, some other friends that we met back at JFK for our inbound flight to Africa, Jim and Yana, sat and posed with the cat. However, Jim had sat his hat and camera case down on the ground before he did that. The cat noticed, and went over to get the hat, pretending it was a meal. The cat dropped the hat and picked up the camera case, and sped off with it. There was no catching that cat either. Hilarity ensued as Zee and the trainer continued attempting to get the camera case, which was believed to only have a luggage key and a blank memory card in it. However, soon after we left the area, Jim realized that the camera was still in the case. Zee sprung in to action and took some meat out to the Cheetah so that he could entice it away from the case, which he did. That case had so many bite marks, but the camera was still intact. Whew!
After that fiasco, we headed back to Zuly Nyala, where we ate some lunch at the bar while we had some beers. I edited photos, updated the blog, and generally enjoyed the company of the barman and barlady (thats what they call them over here). It was Princess’s last shift for the weekend, so we said our goodbyes, friended each other on Facebook, and she went her way as we stayed in the bar and sipped on beer. Some noon’s (newbies) came in fresh off their flights and we gave them some down low intel on what we thought was the best experiences and what we wished we would have tried. We didn't have much going on in the afternoon, since we were planning an 0530 PM SAST game drive, which they call the Nighttime Game Drive.
Cooler in hand, we headed for the parking lot where Welcome was to meet us to take us on the night game drive. We had requested a cooler with 12 beers in it for the drive, which is the only time that Zulu allows the passengers to take beer. We really didn’t know what was in store, but heard that we would likely see ant eaters and other nocturnal animals that we would not see during the day time. We also heard that the hippos would likely be out of the water as well. Welcome didn't go too fast on this trip, but he did take us to a part of the park that we had not seen yet. The ridges were steep and the view was incredible, even though it was an overcast evening with zero sun. As the seven of us guests drank our beers, we talked about the week’s events and reminisced. We took several photos of each other as well as some with each of us with Welcome. Naturally, it was sprinkling for most of the time it was dark, but that was ok. We all had rain jackets on and the beer was flowing nicely - so we didn't much care.
Once done with that bit of the trip, we headed back to the lodge, said our goodbyes to Welcome, and tipped him for the fantastic guide work that he did for us. At the lodge, it was nearing dinner time, but of course we dont like to eat right away, cause there was more beer to drink. Of course, we had to go to the bar and meet up with some of our other friends, tell stories, talk about next plans, and drink more beer. We headed in to dinner around 8:30 PM only to learn that Tom, the father of Andy and Dan, had a birthday, which was celebrated similar to Kathy’s the night prior. We ate cake, again, which was fantastic, again. Once done with dinner, we all said our ‘see-ya-laters’ instead of good byes, and retired to our room.
Check out was to be at 1000 AM SAST, so that means we had to be out of th room and on the road by then. Its been a great stay at Zulu Nyala. This day was another one for the books!
|African Wild Cat
|Zee getting personal with the Caracal