South Africa: Day 2

After sleeping a full 10 hours I was ready to Safari. Pretty sure mom and I were the first ones to the restaurant for coffee. We don’t mess around when it comes to coffee.  

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The mist was dense this morning which Ashley said meant we would have a good day. Off we went to track some cheetahs and see some more animals. The lions took a bit longer to spot this time around, but being outside in the crisp morning air was just what this girl wanted and needed. It’s amazing that the grass stays green despite the drought because of the humidity and the dew at night.

This morning we learned that lions have an extra organ (maybe it’s not an organ...) in which they lick a female’s urine to tell if she’s in heat or not. Needless to say it’s a good thing humans don’t have this organ.  

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After the lions we sped off to see a cheetah that had been spotted. The cheetahs have GPS on them, but also can be tracked with something that looks like an antenna and the guides call telemetry (not the telemetry I know)...I think it picks up motion. The mom cheetah was out hunting for her young, otherwise she doesn’t leave the cubs and she won’t waste energy unless she’s hunting. Cheetahs are opportunistic.

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Ashley helped the wildlife manager find the cubs to see how many there were since we knew mom was away from the den. Momma cheetah looked great for having FIVE babies! They were born Sunday or Monday and are still blind, cute things.  Once they reach 2 years old the babies are sold to other reserves because cheetah have such poor genetic diversity. Basically if they stay and inbreed there is too high a risk of genetic deformities. Wild, literally wild. 

Next up were the giraffes. South African giraffes grow to about 4 meters compared to the tallest which grow to 6 meters. Unlike other animals we’ve seen these are in danger of the changing climate because they need brush to be high enough to eat. They also chew their curd, swallow it, and regurgitate it to chew again. Gotta love biology. 

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Finally it was the moment I’d been waiting for, the elephants. I love elephants. They look like giant teddy bears to me and if I can ride one someday I will. Ashley said that the lodge has had so much trouble keeping elephants. One killed a rhino by pushing it into a dam where it drowned and then a rhino killed an elephant by fatally stabbing it multiple times in the back legs. Another time a mom died giving birth and then it’s baby ended up dying. How sad. I’d raise a reserve of elephants only if I could. 

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Those were the main animals we learned about this morning, but we also saw a buffalo, a zebra crossing, and some eland (I think it’s like elk).  

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After breakfast mom and I showered and went for a walk. It turned out to be a gorgeous day to explore, seventies and sunny. Mom went in the reptile center while I had a panic attack when I looked over a fence and saw an alligator too close for comfort. Reptiles are NOT my thing.

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We spent a good chunk of time at the pool swimming and sipping some white wine of the region, Chenin Blanc. Mom even got in the water! I’m so proud.  

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After swimming I did a quick workout on the deck before reading my book. It’s about the difficulties of dating and relationship. Don’t worry, I also have a self help book about loving myself and being the lioness that I am (safari code). Before we knew it it was time to Safari again!

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This time we had a new guide named Gerrit. He was a sweetheart and made my entire life...stay tuned.  

We saw the giraffes again and learned that if they lie down they die because the blood rushes to their heads! And they don’t have a voice box because their necks are too long to support it! Holy crap. 

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We kept looking for the cheetah but instead saw some zebra, springbok, gemsbok, and eland. Honestly a lot of the deer-look-a-likes blur together. 

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I’m so glad we got to see the zebra again. Gerrit has actually been bitten by one, he showed us the scar! They have a puffy belly at all times and when they get scared they fart! How funny is that?! Also a zebra crossing is a real thing...I still don’t get it.  But they basically trot along. 

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It was a gorgeous night to drive the reserve and take in the beauty that is nature. The Garden Route Game Lodge has over 2,000 hectares...that is equal to about 5,000 acres. Unbelievable! 

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When we stopped for our drinks our group chatted a bit. The whole time we had the same group of tourists: my mom and me, a couple from outside Philly who have been to Africa 3 times, a couple from Cape Town expecting twins and who have four other kids, and a family of three from Holland. The family of three didn’t join us this night, unfortunately.

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Since it was a bit later after our drinks Gerrit suggested we feed the elephants. Interestingly, he used to work raising baby elephants and cheetahs and then reintroduce them into the wild.  He said in all the time he “subbed” as a guide at Kruger he never saw a cheetah, they’re that good at hiding and look just like leopards. He’s excited to work more with cheetahs in the reserve. Seeing him with the elephants you can feel just how much he loves the animals. The people who work at this reserve truly take animal humanity and land preservation to heart and it was a beautiful thing to see.  

We washed our hands and got down and dirty with the elephants. I couldn’t get enough of Moya (and nobody else was jumping up to the dinner plate - pun intended) and so I just kept feeding him. At one point Gerrit gave me a bucket of food and Moya got hold of it and Gerrit had to help me pull it away. Those trunks are STRONG! All in all it was the best moment of my life. Our group loved how much I loved it and kept asking if I would dream of the elephants. You bet I did.

Being up close to my spirit animal, the elephant, feels like it was a dream. He’s so big, but so gentle and eats up to 190 kg of food per day!! That’s wild! Such beautiful creatures inside and out. And don’t worry, they aren’t caged in, that’s just keeping their food rationed because they would eat it all. They actually willingly sleep in there because they prefer a roof over their heads. Cuties.

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Mom and I celebrated this enormous life event with a bottle of Pinotage, a South African wine. We stayed at the restaurant well into the evening chatting and reminiscing. There’s something special about getting one on one time with your parents.

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