On our second day at Richards Bay we visited the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. The park name is pronounced nothing like the letter combinations look. It is Shoo sloo wee-Um fō lō zee. I can only remember this because it was so unusual I made a point of learning it. At one time there were too different parks with a corridor in between. Hluhluwe was mostly for game and Umfolozi, since it was on the wetlands, had mostly birds. The corridor lands were acquired and the parks joined together. It is government owned and managed. Once again we had a lengthy (90 minute) drive to the Reserve. Our guide, Helmut, was a one-man South Africa bashing team. For the entire trip (there and back) he regalled us with all the reasons people should not come to South Africa; the crime rate, unemployment, lack of education, issues with tribal areas, AIDs, big factories, brain drain (skilled doctors, engineers, etc, leaving for work overseas), currency de-valuation, inferior housing, power black-outs and illegal users. I think he covered just about every aspect of the economy and life-style. A really cheerful fellow. Not really a good spokesman for his country. He also spoke insensitively about the black population even though our driver was black. The common name for the fruit of this plant is “Old Man’s Testicles.”
The driver of our truck at the reserve did not seem too motived to locate any animals and for the first part of our game drive he stuck to the paved roads – but we still saw animals. When he moved off onto the dirt roads, though, we saw more. These zebras were enjoying the shade at one of our pit stops. I noticed that they usually stand like this, one facing one way and the other right alongside facing the other. I am sure it is a survival instinct so there are eyes and ears on the lookout in all directions.
This old Cape Buffalo moved along very slowly. I don’t think its remaining lifetime was very long.We had been warned that all animals have the right-of-way in the reserves and when we encountered an elephant snoozing in the middle of the road all the vehicles just stopped and waited to see where he wanted to go. By the time he moved there were five tour trucks, a dump truck and two private cars sitting at a standstill. There was another bull elephant off in the brush somewhere that was calling out and the fellow in front of us did not like what he was saying. Eventually he wandered down the road and then off into the bush to investigate and we were all able to resume our drives. There was quite a large herd of Cape Buffalo crossing the river. We saw a herd of Gazelle wandering down the road, another Nyala Antelope, and some more giraffes and elephants before we left the park and headed back to the ship.
All in all it ended up being a pretty decent critter day.