South Africa: The Second Safari
I was excited for Tuesday morning and its promise of a return to nature. My destination was a unique mix of ecosystems that hosts exotic animals both on land and in the water, thanks to Lake St. Lucia. Called iSimangaliso (and you have to love a name whose second letter is capitalized), my destination was about three hours north of where I was staying in Durban.
When making my plans, I had been given two choices. I could rent a car and drive myself, or, for not all that much more (thanks to my strong dollar), someone could drive me. Apprehensive about driving on the wrong side of the road for so long in a foreign country where I might be unaware of local customs, I had opted for the driver. And I’m glad I did.
He picked me up around 9:00. We stopped at the Kwazulu Natal Society of Arts for some (amazing) gift shopping, and then headed north to the animals.
It was a gray, rainy, day. But my driver was able to offer running commentary on the changing landscape, and intriguing conversation about South Africa. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
For reasons that are not clear to me, it took four people to staff the secluded and remote entrance to iSimangaliso. Eager to see more wildlife, I signed in, and made my way to Makakatana Bay Lodge — the only privately owned safari lodge on the banks of Lake St. Lucia — where I’d be staying. The next thing I saw was a sign warning of elephants, crocodiles, and hippos.
I checked into the lodge.
Then after a truly delicious lunch I set out for an afternoon game ride. The weather limited our visibility, and, I knew, would detract from the quality of any photos I took. Still, I lucked out. I was the only one who had arrived in time for the ride. I had a guide and a car to myself for a few hours.
The immediate highlights were some close encounters with zebras, giraffe, and rhinos. Because it was just me, I was even allowed out of the vehicle. Unexpectedly, I was particularly taken by the zebras.
But I had primarily headed to iSimangaliso to see Lake St. Lucia, as a contrast to what I had seen in Pilanesberg; I was hoping for more than just a scaled-down reprise. So we made a decision. Instead of hanging out with the animals we could see, we would try our luck and head to a large watering hole around dusk, in the hope that something would come by. We knew there was a good chance that we would see nothing. But there was also an outside chance that we would see something.
And did we ever. We arrived just in time to see a whole herd of elephants! Once again we carefully dismounted the vehicle, then stared in awe and wonder at the magnificent sight of the pachyderms standing ankle-deep (?) in the water and drinking. Within minutes the huge creatures were in retreat, then, impossibly, gone.
What a way to bid farewell to the last rays of sunlight.