lördag 22 januari 2011

Entabeni Day 1, the Lions

The following day, very early in the morning, we set off for the airport and a two-hour flight to Johannesburg. The conference is over and I have done my part with grace and style (so I am told, at least…). Now there are two days of safari at Entabeni game reserve ahead of us!

Entabeni is located just under a four hours’ drive north of Johannesburg. It is actually quite close to the famous Kruger National Park, something I only discovered back home. Anyway, Entabeni promises sights of all “big five,” i.e., lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephants, as well as many other animals. The compound is also classed malaria-free, which makes visiting it easier.

Anyway, we get off the airplane and I collect all of my 37 kilos – my laptop, my luggage, all the South African wine I could not resist, all kinds of computer cords and adapters, various important papers on key ratios, and, my newly purchased vuvuzela. Luckily the airport personnel did not check my weight, but I tried my best not to look bothered by the crushing mass.

A charted bus takes us north, we stop for some leg stretchers and snacks at a No 1 stop some 20k south of Mookgopong. Anyone in Sweden interested in making a fortune should import this passion fruit soft drink from Liqui Fruit. It was fantastic!

Anyway, at last we arrive at the gate to Entabeni. The charted bus heads down south again, and we are greeted by Trevor and Simon, our rangers.

We hop on modified jeeps and shortly after that we arrive at Lakeside, our lodge. On the short trip to the lodge we saw giraffes and countless gnus – this promises not to disappoint! We also saw an anthill, or a termite mould which I believe is the correct scientific term. As a child we used to dig those, searching for the queen…

At Lakeside lodge we are greeted by Jonas, the lodge manager, and refreshed with some orange and passion fruit juice. Very nice. The luggage is being taken to our rooms and we are given little over an hour to relax, then we reassemble in the lobby for our first of four safari tours.

Half of us get on Trevor’s jeep, the rest on Simon’s. The jeeps are open and we are given instructions – the animals will not mind the car as long as we sit down and do not wave our hands. The animals will then think of the car as “one unit.”

The landscape is very beautiful – savanna, green trees, interesting mountain, beautiful animals…

The quest of the evening is the lions. We leave the upper plateau and drive down a gorge to the lower plateau.

The two jeeps split up but we hear Simon and Trevor talking to each other over the radio, searching for the location of the lion family. After driving on a big road for a minute or so, Trevor takes a right turn and we are on a small dirt road. Then, after a few minutes on this road, and some stops followed by radio discussions, he goes straight into the bush. “Hang on!” he shouts. The jeep slows down and we stop. There, on an open space the lion family rests. We sit absolutely still in the jeep and just watch. The other jeep with Simon is just behind. Trevor whispers that these are white lions, and that the family consists of two grown males and some females. The younger male has recently challenged the older male and won, which makes him the leader of the pack.

I am filled with a deep feeling of closeness with nature, just sitting there watching the lions. So profoundly touching. Quietly we move out of the bush and head for an open space on the lower plateau, where we watch the sunset.

As darkness closes in on us, the African night being very dark, we drive up through the gorge and back to the lodge, where we have barbeque dinner. Very nice! The others stay for drinks, but I stumble back to my room, exhausted but filled with joy after seeing so many beautiful animals. The morning tour starts at six, but I want to watch the sunrise so I set the alarm for half four.