Walking trails is my passion and to have another opportunity to do so in Somkhanda Game reserve with my team of interns just made my week. We had a very successful walking trail based at Scotia camp from the 18th to the 21st of February 2015 with Imo, Ursina, Umpile and Kieran. This walking trail was specifically for the interns to get to know each other and focus much on our bush school leg of their internship with less disturbance from the civilized world. This was the first time for this team to do something like this as a group since their arrival on the reserve and I was very pleased and impressed with their team work, enthusiasm and dedication.
As a team, they set up camp. Setting up camp is not as easy as the word sound, it involves pitching up tents, pumping water to a big ‘jojo’ tank, collecting firewood to mention a few. I deliberately let them run the whole ‘show’ and the results were impressive. The camp was properly set up and was ready by the time we did our trails briefing, well done guys!
For 4 days we walked the valleys and plains of Somkhanda game reserve and what a beautiful place it is, we felt so blessed to live and learn on foot in this wilderness. Every day at 0530hours we left our base camp and on wildlife trails, we follow and disappear in the forests. Every day was a new day and we learned something new. The reserve is so rich in wildlife, unique animal behaviour viewed on foot, different habitats presenting new trees, birdlife, among other interesting things.
Every day we walked a different place, coming back to camp for brunch and leaving again late afternoon. Mid-afternoons were very hot so we spend time in camp relaxing and identifying new trees and birds.
During these walks, old snares and wires were removed, and reported to the reserve management. On our first night at the bush camp, a big male leopard walked less than 50 metres from our camp calling as he carried on with his patrol routine. We saw tracks in the morning and our camera trap that was placed near us confirmed by having a beautiful photo. The camera trap forms part of the scientific leopard monitoring study which is part of the interns’ project during their stay at Somkhanda.
Animals viewed during the 4 days trail included 7 white rhinos, 3 black rhinos of which the sighting of a black rhino cow and her calf was the high light of the trail (Some clear rhino photos will be sent to the reserve management). Zebras, blue wildebeest, impalas, nyalas, red and grey duikers, steenbuck, bushbuck, giraffes, warthogs and some interesting birds such as the crowned hornbills, European rollers, red chested cuckoo, wattled starling among the other lovely birds were also sighted.
With time permitting, walking trails with interns will be incorporated in the intern schedule to be done often. This will present an opportunity to know the reserve better on foot and to explore different habitats which the reserve has. It also provide a basis to learn as a group especially for our bush school theme and to have a camping experience.
I really appreciate the help we get from the Reserve manager, Tourism managers, the anti-poaching unit team and the wildlife monitors for coordinating with us when we were out there.
Till next trail, stay well.