Let’s start this off right at home – in the grounds of the resort you are staying in. Look around when you go outside. Wow! There are some buck grazing right near the chalet! And look! Over there are some warthogs! Let’s go and have a closer look. They must be tame…
Stop right there, dear visitor! They are not tame. They are habituated to humans. In other words, they are wild animals that have learnt that humans pose no threat to them and that there is often good grazing around the buildings. Sadly some people insist on feeding them and this often leads to an animal becoming aggressive in its demands for food. Sooner or later the animal might have to be destroyed when it’s demands become dangerous to visitors. So when that warthog comes trotting up to you in iMfolozi’s Mpila Resort or at Mantuma in Mkhuze Game Reserve, please know that it is not Phumba from the Lion King and it’s not coming over for a chat. You are a human and humans are often a source of nice things to eat. No more no less. The same goes for the hyena lurking in the shadows while you braai some tasty steak and chops. The same thing goes for an elephant that smells the mouth-watering aroma of a newly peeled orange coming from a car parked near it. Elephants LOVE oranges. Our advice about oranges in a game reserve with elephants in it? Don’t take oranges. Take some other fruit if you must. Or leave the oranges in your accommodation unit. The trouble there of course, is that someone has fed a baboon an orange and now it LOVES oranges too…and baboons are very, very clever…
Ok – so try not to take food that sends enticing smells out to animals that can actually take it away from you.
Take a good pair of binoculars – or better still take two pairs. The tussle for the TV remote pales to insignificance beside the tussle for the binoculars between the adults and kids… If you don’t have a powerful lens on your camera you can improvise by taking a photo with your cellphone through one side of the binoculars – once your have wrested them away from the kids, of course. Practice this one though. Focus the binocs on your subject then hold the lens of the cellphone camera against the small end of one side of the binocs and move things around until you get a good image.
Do close the windows of your car when there are lions or other big cats prowling around your car. It can save a lot of anguish later. Wild animals are generally extremely well behaved people – but, as an American friend of ours once observed “They can be mighty notional critters…” And lock the doors. There was recently a cam clip on Facebook of a lioness hooking open the door of a car. That caused a great deal of excitement inside the car. We don’t know just what an animal is thinking. It may be curious, it may hungry, it may be annoyed. Don’t find out the hard way.
Occasionally too, an animal will take you by surprise and pop up in an unusual place. Hippos are usually seen in water, and only leave the pans in the evening., but they are sometimes seen in the late afternoon kilometres from water.
Silence and patience are your greatest allies in game viewing and particularly, bird watching. No wild animal will come near a car that has music blaring from its sound system, or people having loud conversations.. Keep it down, folks! Respect the right of other visitors to peace and quiet and they will respect the same right for you. This applies equally – and perhaps more particularly to noise around the braai fire back at the resort.
The important thing to remember is that all our visitors have made an effort to leave the hustle and bustle of city life and the office behind them for a few days. So do yourselves all a big favour and leave that hustle and bustle where it belongs. Come and renew yourself, give yourselves a new lease of life, refresh your outlook.