AZUSA Pacific University – Groups 3 & 4: Imfolozi Game Reserve

It is always a pleasure guiding Azusa Pacific University and this trip was no exception. Group 3 were there first and, although they saw some great animals, didn’t do as well as group 4. Having said this they had different, more exciting and frightening experiences, just no cats which group 4 managed to get.

As a guide it is so nice to hear the students commenting on how blessed they are to be on-safari and to exhibit this enjoyment especially during periods where game sightings are few and far between. They loved the bush, the smells, the views, sunsets and sunrises and the wide open spaces that Imfolozi offers; even the few spots of rain and biting wind couldn’t dull their enjoyment.

All groups want to see lions, why they want to see lions is beyond me as all they do is sleep, or, if you are exceptionally lucky, they may twitch a tail or a round furry ear. Presumably it is their undeserved reputation of being man-eaters or ferocious beasts that attracts people to them? Group 4 were lucky with two separate sightings – both of two male lions; the 1st far down the river and the other fairly close to the road, but in quite concealing bush; group 3 sadly saw none. Stef’s group had the best sighting of a lioness with two tiny cubs as they scampered across the road in front of their vehicle.

Encouragingly white rhino were very prolific so many good sightings were had of these threatened beasts; with my group being lucky enough to be ‘charged’ about six times by a white rhino! Lucky? Yes, as it was a very young calf with more bravado than sense. The students loved him and all wanted to get out the vehicle for a hug.

Generally we all did very well with game viewing; large herds of elephants, buffalo, impala and unusually high numbers of zebra and giraffe. My group even managed a sighting of a black rhino from Sontuli Picnic site.

Hyena, true to form, made an appearance at the two evening braais much to the delight of the students – but not for Rejoice! I’m not sure if it’s a deeply rooted fear instilled from the Zulu culture or if she simply harbors a good old-fashion fear of this cunning nocturnal beast? (Zulus believed that witch doctors rode on the backs of hyena and some of the better ones even transformed themselves into them). Whatever the case, she doesn’t have much time for them and especially when the one ran at her when she threw out the water thinking that she was about to feed it. My hyena experience on this trip was almost having my shirt ripped off by one of the female students when one sauntered around the corner! We were trying to identify a photo of an insect that she had taken when it made its appearance. The first I knew of its presence was when she demanded “what do we do now”? while yanking me brutally between herself and the hyena; for such a slip of a girl it was quite an impressive and forceful maneuver that left no doubt to exactly where she wanted me! Walking towards it while clapping my hands had the desired effect and it loped off quickly melting into the surrounding darkness.

I am intrigued by hyena as they portray no emotion; their eyes are large, dark and expressionless. They skulk, they stink and they are silent as they wonder the camp on padded paws. They are able to eat rotten meat with absolute impunity, fearless as they challenge lions for scraps, yet excellent hunters should the need arise, and their bite is far worse than their ‘bark’, crushing solid bone with ease whilst carrying digestive juices potent enough to dissolve steel; a formidable opponent indeed.

elephant blog

Elephants cannot be beaten when it comes to exciting encounters and only a fool challenges one for the right of way. On our way to drop group 3 at Nyalazi Gate we met a musth bull on a narrow track who  demanded the road as his own forcing me to reverse up a hill between the palms and the stream. He wasn’t overly aggressive yet still managed to portray an air of superiority; staring at us with beady eyes, just waiting for me to reciprocate his challenge so that he could show who really is boss. Sadly for him, I gave him right of way and he eventually wondered off the road into the surrounding bush. The students loved the encounter as it got the adrenalin pumping from being so close to this smelly seven ton power-house.
But it’s not only the musth bulls that demand respect, mothers with calves can also turn a car into scrap metal should they feel that their calves are in any danger so I was dismayed as the one visitor sat motionless as a cow displayed aggressively towards her. All’s well that ends well I suppose?

Five days in the Imfolozi bush is far too short as there is so much more to be seen but, I believe that we did rather well overall seeing snakes and spiders, terrapins and elephants with a peppering of everything else in-between.

It was a pleasure guiding the Azusa students with Matt and Stef. Susi and Rejoice excelled themselves as always and again I’d like to thank Reg for giving us this opportunity to share and enjoy the bush with your fantastic students.

Nigel Anderson