I have been in South Africa for over 2 weeks now and am absolutely in love. First of all, the weather here is pretty awesome. Have fun with your snow because I got sunburnt last week! We started out at eZemvelo Reserve, an easy introduction to South Africa. Because there is no large game there, we were able to roam freely during the day. There are leopards, so we had to stay in camp at night. There we had a lot of introductory lectures and recovered from jet lag. The first morning I was up at 2:30am and couldn’t go back to sleep. There was another girl who couldn’t sleep either so we watched moths for a couple hours and then went for a long walk as soon as it got light. At eZemvelo we saw Kudu, Waterbuck, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Springbok, geckoes, scorpions, and the really weird looking Widowbird. I got to go horseback riding and it was probably the most amazing trail ride I’ve ever been on. The horses were really great, the guide let us canter, and there were zebra and wildebeest grazing on the side of the trail. Another highlight was when we went up into the hills and I discovered that flipping over rocks yielded geckoes and scorpions. Very cool! The other students on the trip are a really fun group and the professors are awesome. We stayed at eZemvelo for a little over a week before heading on.
The next stop was Witts Rural Facility. It focuses more on culture than ecology and was much smaller than eZemvelo. It didn’t have large game either, but it was bordered by reserves with large game so we could walk the game fences and keep an eye out for big stuff. I didn’t see any predators, but I did see my first giraffe! There were also several impala that grazed right in amongst the huts we were staying in. The focus of this stop was community outreach. We designed a lesson plan and then spent a day teaching in a local high school. It was a very rewarding experience as well as a lot of fun. After the school day ended, we played soccer against the school team. Apparently female players are rare in the rural villages and all of the guys were really surprised when I gave them a run for their money!
Yesterday we entered Kruger National Park for the first time and then drove for about 8 hours to get to the camp we’re staying at for the next 2 weeks –Shingwedzi. It was amazing. There was wildlife everywhere! As soon as we drove in we saw a huge herd of impala and a couple of wildebeest. There were zebra, kudu, waterbuck, steenbok, cape buffalo, hippos, giraffes, tortoises, fish eagles, tons of vultures, and lots and lots of elephants!!! We startled a young male and got trumpeted at! And best of all, because the seasons are opposite, everything has babies right now! I saw so may amazing critters that it’s really hard to say which one is my favorite. We missed the lions yesterday, but did see jackal and will be going on game drives in the next couple of days that will hopefully yield some big cats.
I am not including any pictures in this installment because the amount of data we can send over the net is limited. 2 weeks from now I will be changing camps and will have unlimited access so my awesome pics will have to wait. Until then,