Published: November 6th 2011September 19th 2011
After dumping our stuff in the Nsele chalet we added even more deet and headed off with Olaf for a sunset game drive to Thornybush reserve. The vehicle was a big 4 wheel drive, completely open with the windscreen flat against the bonnet. The seats were elevated to get better game view and there was a tracker perched right on the front. The sides were a bit battered and I wondered what all the dints and scrapes were from... I was about to find out. Olaf apologised in advance for the bumpy ride we were about to experience which was a little unnerving and we headed for Thornybush game reserve. Within minutes our tracker spotted the footprints of white rhino and sure enough there they were peacefully grazing on the grass a few yards from the track, hidden by the glistening white thorn trees. Suddenly, Olaf turned the wheel and we flew off through the bush, flattening trees that sprung back up behind us and ducking to avoid white thorns gorging out our eyes. Olaf parked a mere 5 metres away from the 2 ton beast and we all sat dumbfounded that we were so close. The rhino looked at us, seeming puzzled and then put his head back down to continue chomping the grass - we could head his teeth grinding together as we sat with open mouths. The rhino continued to graze... closer and closer to the jeep until I could have reached out and touched him - I sat there feeling awestruck and completely vulnerable at the same time - in seconds he could flip the truck with his mighty horn and we could easily be crushed! Instead he forgot we were even there (rhinos have very poor eyesight) and was about to walk into us when Olaf turned on the engine to remind him of our presence he looked up again and we edged slowly away exhaling! Olaf proceeded to drive off tracks with the tracker pointing out areas we were less likely to get the jeep stuck and within minutes we spotted lion - a young male with the early fluff of a mane and his sister - relaxing in the final drops of sunshine for that day. The gazed intently at us and I began thinking of the manouvres Olaf would have to do in the jeep if they decided to come and investigate us further. Olaf reminded the German lady at the back to sit down, the lions interest increased when she stood to take a picture as the outline of our vehicle changed. Olaf advised us that the lions see the truck as one whole object when the form of it changes eg people stand and move around it sparks their interest and puts the group in increased danger - luckily they did not notice this moment of stupidity and were more interested in relaxing, we left them in peace and continued exploring the reserve. A herd of buffalo grazed in front of the jeep, the huge horns shining in the light, we startled a hippo sun bathing as we came around the bend and caught a glimpse of a huge saddleback stork on the waters edge before he swooped into flight.