Wilderness Walk – Imfolozi 2: The Big Six

Lunchtime high on the Momfo cliffs overlooking a great bend in the Imfolosi river. Our guides prepare their traditional lunch of thick fresh tomato and onion sarmies and freshly-brewed Five Roses tea.

The mighty Mfolosi River 

From our vantage point we had already seen a buffalo in the river bed, a rhino on the far bank and a lioness hiding behind the reeds on the opposite bank. As we watched she stalked across the sandy bed towards some zebra. She lay down and waited once she was on the near bank. A few more lionesses and a lion walked across the sandy bed to our left, crouching and flanking the zebra, who panicked and dashed off straight towards the first lioness. She pounced in a cloud of dust and she and her target disappeared behind the thorn bush. We strained to see what happened. Did they get their lunch?

After a while they all walked out looking a bit disgusted with themselves. So no.

While scanning with my telescope I took a good look at the rhino and called out excitedly to the rest. Hey, come and look! It’s uBhejane, not another white rhino like the many we have seen. We all had a good look and confirmed the jizz and the hooked lip of the rarely-seen black rhino. What a fortunate sighting!

Scoping well left of the river up an adjacent valley I noticed baboons in two sycamore figs. Suddenly they started barking and swearing and a magnificent leopard appeared in view, staring up into the tree above him. I got the scope on him and called the others. He was most obliging and waited till all nine of us, including the two rangers had a good look before flicking his long tail and bounding up the tree, to increased pandemonium from the residents. We heard loud shrieks and then much barking and I watched for a long while to see if I could spot the leopard again. But we never found out if he had got his lunch either. So far we could only confirm that our lunch was ready, that we definitely ate ours, and that it was delicious.

Four of the Big Five for lunch. On foot! Actually, sitting on our bums at lunchtime. What a day! And the rhino was the real Big Five member, not the more placid white rhino. The big five idea apparently came from the days when they were considered the five most dangerous animals to hunt. The days when the way you “got” the big five was to kill them, not just to see them. We joked as we packed up to walk back to base camp that we now needed to see an ele on the way home to round off our lunch. Well, we did. It was almost ridiculous. But thrilling. And that was not all . . .

The next day our walk took us on a different route. As we crossed the low Imfolosi in the blazing sun we asked our guides if we could swim. Well, you can wallow, they said. It’s not deep enough to swim. So wallow we did and that’s how we came to spot the Big Six, adding the rare Pink-faced Ceramic-white Freshwater Whale to our tally of wondrous things spotted in that very special place, the wonderful Imfolozi Wilderness Area.

The sixth of the BIG SIX: Two whales emerge from a dip in the Mfolosi

Dressed again after our wallow.

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