Monday, September 15, 2008


Kariega Game Reserve (sorry for the large post - did a lot)

A bit of info on Kariega Game reserve (it means steenbok in Xhosa which is daft as there has never been any steenbok found here). Its touted as a 'Big Five' reserve as it has Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhino and Buffalo, but the chances of seeing leopard are very remote. Seeing the others is virtually guaranteed. Its really 3 small reserves of 3000 hectres each. The main section contains a single small pride of lions (2 male, 2 female) and a single herd of elephants (17 in total) There is not enough room for any more than that. It does have a lot of antelope and other game (lion fodder). The lions have been there 4 years and have been given periodic contraception to stop them breeding. Somebody, however, cocked up somewhere as one of the lionesses has just given birth. Nobody has seen the cubs yet as they have gone into hiding. Hopefully we will see them before we leave.

Our volunteer centre is right in the middle of this section of reserve - surrounded by a fence which is NOT electrified. The reasoning behind this is that the animals should be conditioned to associate any fence as being electrified and so should not try to climb over (or just barge right through in the case of elephants). I hope we never have to put this conditioning to the test! It does also mean that the centre is completely safe from robbery - who needs a 'muti' when you have a pride of lions as guard dogs!

The other main section of the reserve is where all the paying guests stay and has the buffalo, rhino and other game such as hippo, giraffe eland etc. It even has a single gemsbok and two female ostrich. There were a lot more ostrich but they were originally placed in the lion section and the lions basically had KFC any time they wanted it.

The last section has just recently been purchased and is not completely up and running yet although it does have some stock on it.

My last two weeks as a volunteer have been very varied and rewarding in work, leisure and socialising

Here is a quick rundown of what I have been doing (in a vaguely cronological order)

Game drives: Basically every trip here is a game drive - even going over to reception or the workshop means that you go through lion or rhino country. Most days have consisted of at least 2/3 hours of animal watching. This has included some great views of the lions, rhino, zebra and some fantastic birdsightings.

Black wattle removal: Black wattle is a non native tree from Australia which is invading areas all along the Eastern Cape. Part of the work the volunteers carry out is to remove both large trees and saplings. For chopping down the large trees we were given machettes. YES they let me loose with a machette! Ok it was blunt, and a saw would have been a lot better but I still felt like a real bushman (Ray Mears eat your heart out!)

All that 'Maddog Machette Ray' would say about the Kariega Masacre was 'The mouse made me do it!'

Braai Night: Saturday's are reserved for town trips and on the 6th after our trip to Port Alfred for internet and shopping for essentials we had a braai night. As this was Ingrid's last weekend it quickly degenerated into a boozing session which included springbok cocktails and drinking some Hakkiesdraad, a drink distilled from lychii. The bottle has barbed wire wrapped around it which is a good indication of what it does to your throat. At 4am having drank most of my 3 days supply of booze (and some of Jacques) I retired to bed.

Things I have learnt: Its a great feeling to have a drunken piss, out in the open, looking up at the stars while listening to lions roar in the background.

Said bottle being held by Ingrid - it was perfectly in focus whenI took it honest!

Canoe Trip: Our Canoe trip on the 8th was not as pleasant as it could have been. This was partly due to the paddles which seemed to have been designed to transfer as much water as possible from the river into the canoe but mostly because of the crosswind which kept blowing us into the bank. Still it was enjoyable and I got good views of some birds. Kariega also have a boat for more sedate cruising but its being fixed at the moment which is a bit of a bummer.

Things I have learnt: DO NOT try to take photos of flying birds in a canoe as you tend to try to follow the bird rather than keep an eye on the canoe's balance. Luckily after several wobbles the canoe steadied itself!.

Nightdrive: One of the advantages of being a volunteer (over guests) is that Jacques can take us on nightdrives which we did on the 9th. Everything was going great, we seen a jackal scavenging on a lion kill, got great views of the elephant herd on the top of a hill (we nearly missed them!) and cornered a genet up a tree. Then just as we were about to enter rhino country we heard a noise from the wheel which turned out to be a long length of barbed wire caught around the cv joint and axle. Jacques and myself had to get out of the vehicle and cut the wire free. Luckily this did not happen on the lion part of the reserve. Ingrid (the Scottish wannabe volunteer) had already told us about another breakdown of the volunteer vehicle, this time on the lion section - with the lions lying 3 feet away. Apparently they had to wait for another vehicle to come and shoo away the lions before they could be rescued which took over an hour (with one male volunteer lying terrified in the front passenger seat and one female volunteer texting her mother to say 'I love you!'). This could possibly explain why, once we had removed the wire, Jacques drove the broken vehicle back through the lion section like a rally driver. One good thing to come out of this is that we got a loan of a better vehicle for the rest of our stay.

To compound the bad luck after the night drive, we also discovered the next morning that Jacques 4x4 had a flat and we had to change to the spare tyre.

Things that I have learnt: 4x4 spare tyres are very bouncy and my chin is not.

New Section: Another advantage of being a volunteer is that we got to see the new section of Kariega which has a lot more vegetation but also has a riverside drive and a footbridge put together with wire strands for handrails and badly holed chickenwire for walking on. I went as far as the middle before reversing back (turning round on the bridge was not advisable!)

You want me to cross that!

'Stalking' (sort of!):
The day before our return trip to the school we went hunting for of all things trees! It was arbour week in South Africa so as part of the community initiative we were going to plant 4 trees at the school. We initially looked for wild plum but the elephants are very fond of this tree and had eaten any saplings. Instead we went looking for wild olive. We did eventually find one sapling which we proceeded to dig up in double quick time (we were in lion territory after all) the rest of the trees we were able to get from the volunteers own nursery. All this leads me on to...

School II - the revenge!:
I have to say that after my first attempt at teaching I have a new found respect for any teachers I know. Myself and Claudia were to do the same class as last time and this time we thought we were better prepared. On the Satuday town trip we had bought new colouring books and toys for the playground. As we arrived the children where lining up to go into their classrooms. They then proceeded to sing! It was all very african harmonic and it almost brought a tear to my eye. We just about controlled the classroom for the first hour with the colouring. Then the real teachers came and ushered the kids outside to help plant the trees. The headmistress made speeches to the kids and Jacques took photgraphs as we helped plant each of the saplings (right beside the dead twigs from previous plantings). Then it was back to the classroom for more colouring. This time we totally lost control and soon took the kids out to play.

We had bought a football, a hulahoop, a frisbee and 3 tennis balls to help try to keep the kids amused. Claudia tried using the hulahoop and tennis balls for educational games like 'what is your favouite animal'. I just grabbed the football and along with half the kids went kicking and screaming around the playground (to hell with education - kick a football!) After 10 minutes of running around the kids had managed to burst the football and bent the hulahoop out of shape. After another 15 minutes all the other toys had disappeared never to be seen again and the kids started getting bored again - which meant they started punching and kicking each other (and me).

Finally 11:30 they lined up to get their free food and it was time for us to go. I have to say that I woke up that morning dreading going to the school but I was sad when we left - but I'll get over it!

PS Ingrid - if you are reading this all the kids in your class passed the exam you set them so well done!

Things I have learnt: Its no good shouting at kids in English when they only speak Xhosa - you just look stupid.

Prickly Pear Spearing:
I thought that this was going to be fun but I was wrong. Prickly pear is another invasive species and the way they deal with it is to spear the stem and then inject poison into the holes. I had this vision of me, spear in hand, masaai warrior like, attacking these spikey plants. I even started humming 'The Bare Necessities' on the way. As well as us volunteers Jacques also had to pick up two high school kids who were on work experience at the reserve - both in short shorts (what the hell is it with these people!). We were doing the spearing near to the buffalo so Jacques had to find out where Kariega's 4 Buffalo where before we could proceed just in case. I had already figured out that if the buffalo were to charge us, a well placed tug by me would render one kid running with his short shorts round his ankles. So I was safe!

It was when we started spearing the cactus that it ceased to be fun, They were all about to flower. This meant that as well as 3 inch thorns sticking out the plants were also producing hair-like miniature needles that got on your clothes and hands and proceeded to embed themselves into your skin. You never told us about that Ingrid! (in your defence Jacques said that you had not worked on flowering plants).

After doing one section of cactus - which resulted in needles sticking in everywhere (I am still removing them now two days later!) we were to move on to another setion. Instead we ran into the buffalo (almost literally) in the middle of the road and a stand-off ensued which we lost resulting in us having to reverse back up the track as the buffalo nonchalently advanced. We went and did some black wattle sapling pulling instead (Thank you buffalo!)

Horse Riding:
Last Saturday we went horse riding near Kenton-on-Sea. My bum was only just getting back to normal after the quad madness of Enkosini but it was still one of the best experiences of the trip so far. We first picked up Jacques girlfriend Monique who was coming with us. Then we went to meet Jono the guide and get kitted out. We started off riding up through dunes until we came to an absolutely fantastic looking beach which we trotted down onto. Once on the beach Jono got us all to start cantering down the shoreline. Over a year ago I got 2 lessons on horse riding. The lessons showed me the basics like how to sit, how to hold the reins, how to turn and how to trot. Of course when my horse started going like blazes down the beach all that training went out the window and all I could think was: Oh shit! Oh shit! Don't fall off! Don't fall off!, Ouch! Ouch! Me arse! Me Arse! Great fun - once it was over!. Afterwards we went to Homewoods - the pizza place in Kenton-on-Sea and proceeded to have some cheesecake washed down with draught beer while watching Rugby (Tri-nations Final). A great morning's entertainment.

Well more of a tree platform next to the volunteer centre which is a great place to watch the sunset while watching antelope feed beside the house. I only did this once - on the Saturday night after the horseriding (with aching legs) due to the weather but it was a very memorable experience.

As I said its been a great two weeks except for the weather.

1 comment:

E* said...

Remember to braai on heritage day - 24 September and celebrate with the rest of the nation. For more info (you look like you'll be a fan) visit