Wildlife Act, a night stop-over and Somkhanda

We eventually arrived at Richards Bay at 2.30 on 24/06. Africa is WARM. It’s a sad fact that their winter is nicer than our summer. By this point, I had met the two other volunteers who I would be staying with for the next month: Alex and Victoria who are from York (quelle coincidence!) and Alabama. There were other volunteers also, who were heading off to various reserves where Wildlife Act operates.
I should probably explain what Wildlife Act do. They provide a free animal monitoring service to game reserves who are unable to do so themselves, operating in reserves across Zululand in South Africa. Their main animals of focus are African wild dogs, cheetahs and black rhino, although they also monitor a wide variety of other animals. They rely upon funding from volunteers, which is where I come in. If anyone is interested, their website is http://www.wildlifeact.com/ – I would really recommend checking it out, it’s a good cause.
The first reserve we were meant to be travelling to is Somkhanda game reserve. However, the trip from the airport and dropping off other volunteers at their various camps meant that we couldn’t drive all the way to Somkhanda in one day. So we were driven down a long, dark, bumpy road, with no clear idea of what we were actually doing (this was exacerbated by the fact that we’d had very little sleep for 48hrs). We were dropped off at a reception building with a merry ‘until next time’ from our driver. With that, he left us there, without saying when they’d be back to get us. We were rather confused.
It turned out we’d actually got really lucky. We were staying at a luxury safari lodge called the Rhino River Lodge, which we reckoned must have been five-star. The prices per guest pretty much confirmed this when I went on the website later!! Check it out if you want a South African safari experience and have the cash – it was LUSH http://www.rhinoriverlodge.co.za/index.php. There was a lovely three-course dinner and champagne in the fridge. White mosquito curtains floated around a huge double bed and the warm shower was beautiful after the long journey. The hot water bottle as you got into bed topped it off. I am really hoping we do not get a bill for this at the end of the trip.
We were woken up by a knock at the door telling us our driver was here, and we set off on the last part of our journey: Somkhanda Game Reserve. Shortly after being pulled over by the police for speeding, we were met on the road by Brett – the Wildlife Act guy who we’d be with for the next couple of weeks.
Getting from the main road to the reserve is probably the bumpiest road I have ever driven on. You have to hang on to the handrails on the side of the truck for dear life as you’re thrown up and down. It’s something I still haven’t gotten used to!!
When we arrived, we were shown the house where we were to be living for the next two weeks. It’s basic, but nice. There is pretty much unlimited hot water for our shower, which was a luxury I didn’t experience last time I was in South Africa, so I was very pleased!! There are two kitchens which are pretty well stocked (huge pot of peanut butter = SCORE), a brai area, an office to collate the data we collect and several decks which look over a big watering hole.
After a brief intro, we made sandwiches (peanut butter and jam) and set off for our first drive into the bush.Image

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