Camping Chat: August 2010

This article appeared in the August issue of the ‘Caravan and Outdoor’ Life magazine:

To me, the most ideal camp-site is one that has game roaming freely (Botswana, I WILL get to you, I promise).  There are a few like that near Pietermaritzburg – which we call home – and staying at Albert Falls Nature Reserve usually delivers a few excellent experiences.

Some years ago, a crowd of us camped there for a weekend.  We’d get together around the fire each night to braai, tell stories and laugh.  On our second evening, we were sitting in a ring around the fire, chatting and listening to the game in the distance.  The eerie howls of the jackals carried across the water, and the sound of grazing animals got louder as the herd of impala drifted closer to us, feeling safe in the dark. 

The chomping got louder, as the animals moved closer to the fire-light.  My husband and I suddenly got the feeling that the grazer was really close, when someone on the other side of the fire said, ‘move very slowly, and look who’s behind you’!

We turned carefully and slowly, and there, not half a meter (I kid you not) behind us, was a rhino, still busily cutting grass.  I could have touched the horn, it was so close, and that huge eye, lit by fire-light, was beautiful!  We kept perfectly still, until this wonderful creature realised she was a little too close for comfort, and with a loud snort, spun around and moved off.  She and the other three rhinos were comfortable around us, and grazed nearby for the rest of the evening.

Early the next morning we were awoken by a loud commotion – the rhinos where in the campsite, and some crazy woman camper was chasing them away from her caravan by running behind them, banging on a pot.  Wow – the sheer insanity of that!  These magnificent creatures can run and spin around at incredible speed.  But to see them running away, with their tails in the air, like huge misshapen pigs, was pretty funny.  Great good-natured beasts, gotta love them!

Albert Falls Nature Reserve has since put up rhino fences (a thick steel cable about 15 cms off the ground – really – all that’s needed to keep them out) and so the rhinos no longer roam freely in the campsite. 

But here’s a secret – if you camp at Spioenkop Dam Nature Reserve, during the week, you will be the only people there, and I promise, the rhinos, giraffe, zebras and other creatures will all come to visit!  It’s part of the Ezemvelo Wildlife parks, along with the Drakensberg reserves, very rustic, and worth a visit.  I have heard recently, the rhinos play tag in the campsite around your caravan at Spioenkop Dam…….I’ve started packing!

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