There are situations when what you don’t know could hurt you. This was one of those situations.
The good news is: you won’t be worried about what might hurt you unless it actually hurts you. The foot safari on the last day of the three-day stay at Thornhill Safari Lodge provides an example.
Dawn Walking Safari Through the Bush
It was before dawn, cold and still very dark when my guide, Dyson, and I exited the gate at the lodge to begin our two-person walking safari in the Guernsey Nature Reserve. The nature reserve is fenced off from Kruger National Park and does not have lions, rhinos or elephants roaming around.
I was looking forward to walking through the bush outside the fences that surround the lodge. On the drives in and out of the lodge very little wildlife was visible. Driving back from from Kruger National Park, we had a brief glimpse of a hippo. That was my only Big 5 sighting near the lodge. I remember the driver’s remark very clearly: “If you run into a hippo, he will kill you for sure.” Original emphasis. Statements like that tend to stick with me.
Giraffes in the Dark
Right outside the gate we ran into several giraffes. These giant animals were barely visible in the dark as they moved silently among the trees.
The giraffes let us approach to within 15 feet. If we came closer, two or three slow but giant strides restored a respectable distance.
Later in the walk we found an abandoned ostrich nest.
Ostriches on the Move
Several adult ostriches were out and about. These birds were six feet tall. When we moved towards them, they would takeoff at an easy trot that would be hard for me to keep up with running full speed. The ostrich is the world’s fastest two-legged land animal.
Local Flora Was Included In The Safari
Dyson showed me how locals used to turn common plants into personal hygiene items.
There is also a plant for toilet paper. (No demonstration).
The Trek Continues
The walk proceeded along some of the dirt roads surrounding the lodge and across grassy fields. It was fun just to walk around enjoying the landscape. We came across more wildlife from time to time.
We could get fairly close to zebras but not as close as to the giraffes earlier.
We came across more giraffes.
These giraffes were more skittish than the ones we came across at daybreak. We could not get within 30 feet of them. Standing 17 feet tall, they move slowly, covering a lot of ground with each stride however.
I Prefer Knowing About Potential Dangers But Being Misinformed Can Be A Blessing
So what was it that I didn’t know? Well I knew that there were leopards in the reserve. The proprietor at the lodge said she had even seen them inside the lodge compound on a couple of occasions. Leopards are tree climbers and can get over the fences that way. She said leopards would not attack people. So I was hoping we would see leopards.
Contrary to what I was told, I later learned that leopards do attack people although that is very much the exception. We didn’t see leopards, and since I didn’t know they posed any danger, during the foot safari, I wasn’t concerned. Had I known, however, about leopard predation on humans, I would have been a little less cavalier.
It is great, and sometimes necessary for safety, to see African wildlife from a vehicle. Walking next to them, including 17-foot tall giraffes, is even more fantastic. I would have loved to spend more time walking around outside the fences of Thornhill Safari Lodge.
Other posts on the trip to South Africa: