DISCOVERY INTERN: INTERN ON SAFARI!
Taking on a life-changing experience.
Here I am, in South Africa for Discovery Australia & NZ as their Global Intern. While here, I was given the opportunity to take part in one of the most popular and time-honoured African activities, and a ‘must-do’ for anyone visiting the continent – go on safari.
I was heading to Aquila Safari & Private Game Reserve, just a couple of hours drive from central Cape Town, where I’d be staying overnight and experiencing both a sunset and a sunrise game drive.
Sitting in the car, driving out the Aquila, it was pretty amazing to think that in just a few short hours, I’d potentially be coming face to face with some of the largest, most powerful, most majestic, and sadly, most endangered, animals in the world.
Suffice to say, that car ride couldn’t be over quick enough!
It wasn’t long after checking in that everything got underway. I was so excited! My first safari, taking place pre-sunset, saw me trekking across the rugged landscape in the back of an all-terrain truck with camera in hand chasing the most beautiful golden light. Here are a few of my favourite shots from the evening:
Aquila is proud to provide a habitat for each of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ (lion, elephant, rhino, cape buffalo, and leopard). During my stay, I was lucky enough to spot four of those five, only leaving out the elusive leopard. Some of the rangers told me they haven’t seen the leopard for over 2 years as it is mostly active at night, and is extremely camouflaged, but every now and then an animal carcass is found indicative of a leopard kill, which provides the evidence that one is still lurking around.
On a similar topic, the lions are separated by a fence from the rest of the land, to avoid the possibility of other animals being eaten. Instead, meat of various kinds is provided in their enclosure and left for the small pride to scavenge. It did feel a bit sad seeing these highly tactical hunters not being able to practice their instinctive skills as often, but that didn’t make them any less majestic! (or dangerous).
The land area that forms Aquila is quite open, lacking vegetation or dense bush. As a result, the staff have to place food in specific locations to help some of the larger animals maintain their daily intake. Giraffes must have it the hardest, only being able to lower their necks to the ground to graze for around 15 minutes at a time. I noticed some of the more ingenious giraffes feeding on a hillside, where their necks only had to extend horizontally to reach the vegetation on the ground. The rangers also help the situation by attaching bundles of leaves to some of the barren trees scattered around the park so the giraffes can roam further.
My sunrise safari the following morning was also an incredible experience, and I’d 100% recommend it. The animals we saw were either in different moods, or were different animals altogether from the previous day. This allowed me to encounter a family of cape buffalo for the first time, and elephants at a closer distance.
My highlight from both safaris at Aquila was definitely the baby rhino though. It was adorable! Sadly, rhinos that aren’t kept in private reserves and protected are vulnerable to poaching. It’s become a real problem as they are targeted solely for their horn, which is harvested illegally and sold on the black-market for medicinal purposes.
Heading back to Cape Town, I knew this excursion had created some life-changing memories. I felt so inspired to explore more wildlife reserves, and help in some way to bring awareness to the poaching crisis. I’ll definitely be planning another African adventure soon!
Pro tip for South Africa: It sounds like a pretty obvious one, but if you’re self-driving, make sure you have enough loose cash handy to cover any toll roads. In this case, some enthusiastic tipping and a broken ATM had left us one rand short of the full fare for the way back.
I paid for my mistake with a walk of shame to the debit kiosk, crossing the highway through a barrier system spanning around 8 separate toll gates. Each time I walked past a gate, the staff member escorting me would call out to the operator “It’s ok! He’s from New Zealand!” followed by a chuckle. At least everyone was able to have a laugh about the awkward situation!
– Kaleb Anderson
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