Photo by Christian Sperka
“What the wilderness does, is present us with a blueprint of nature as it was after the creation, when all plants, trees and animals came straight from the hands of whatever it was that created them.”
Reading these words by South African writer Laurens Van Der Post for the first time, I was deeply moved. But it is only now, while flying over the nature reserves of eastern South Africa in a small plane that I suddenly realize that they really ring true. This is no time for restraint – gliding over a herd of galloping zebras, wallowing hippos and huddling flamingos, looking over wide stretches of savannah, lakes, marshes, sand dunes and the intense blue of the Indian Ocean. The horizon seems further than ever.
In the reserves, game drives are organized twice a day: around sunrise and sunset. Most animals sleep in full daylight hours, making a safari in the middle of the day rather pointless. Getting woken up that first time at 5.30am to find yourself sitting in the dark, in a 4x4 only half an hour later after a quick glass of orange juice, a cup of tea and a muesli biscuit comes as quite a shock. Sleepily, I allow myself to be taken through the hilly savannah landscape of Phinda Private Game Reserve.
It doesn’t take long before the sun starts to come up. The sunrise itself happens more quickly and is more spectacular than I have ever seen before. It is like watching a film on fast-forward: the pinkish-red ball shoots to the heavens. Shortly afterwards, the tracker sitting in the front of the 4x4 notices elephant prints in the sand. With our ranger Kevin at the wheel, we keep our eyes peeled for more elephant prints. In an open patch in the bush a short distance away we see a consort of three male elephants trying to rip a tree into bite size chucks with great gusto. I am immediately awake.
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