South Africa’s first game reserve, Imfolozi was declared a protected area in 1895, and for many conservationists it is an icon of conservation. Famously, it was here that the last remaining African white rhino were saved from extinction. Numbering just 600 rhino in 1960, this species has staged a remarkable come back, and now thrive in many different areas of Africa, although recently they have been increasingly targeted for their horns by poachers. Most southern African wildlife species are also found here, and the isolated wilderness sections of the park rank as the finest in Africa. Size: 66 000 hectares. Situated in the eastern interior of South Africa.
During my recent trip to the protected areas of northern KwaZulu-Natal, I had the fantastic opportunity to photograph the incredible scenery and wildlife from the air, with the pilots from Zapwing (Zululand Anti-Poaching Wing). I'll soon be penning a blog and few articles about the awesome work these guys do, together with some of the photos.
While I was up in the air, photographing from either a chopper or light aircraft, I was using a Canon 100-400mm lens, first with my Canon 5D Mark 2, and then later with my Canon 1Dx.
At first, while shooting with my Canon 5D Mark 2, I was pretty disappointed with the sharpness of my images, even though I was keeping my shutter speed above 1/2000 of a second, or higher. So I got in touch with Read more »
It didn’t take long for the ancient creatures to show themselves. We had just started the Imfolozi Wilderness Trail, when two white rhinos rose up in a cloud of dust from where they were sleeping in the shade of an acacia tree.
A mother and her young calf, thirty metres from us. Rhinos have poor eyesight, but excellent hearing and smell. The mother could sense the presence of humans. Her ears turned like radars on her head, listening intently. The calf stayed close by her side. Both were clearly nervous.
We were also nervous. Nothing can prepare you for this. Seeing rhinos from the safety of a car in a wildlife reserve is one thing. Being on foot, and coming face to face with these huge prehistoric-looking animals while walking in Africa’s oldest wilderness area is entirely Read more »
We woke early, and took in the mysterious misty scene. After breakfast, Nunu called us together for the last time.
“Thank you again to all of you for coming on trail. Thank you again to our brothers and sisters the animals for letting us pass through their home. Today we go back to our home…or at least, we think it’s our home. But do we really belong there….or do we belong here, among the animals?”
We started walking back to where we started our trail several days before. I felt sad that the trail was coming to an end. I didn’t really want to go back to ‘normal’ life. I told Niki, and she said she felt the same way. Others in the group were quiet too. The wilderness had stamped its eternal mark on our souls.
Along the way, we had to cross the river one last time. As we got to the Read more »
Our last full day in the bush. We headed off across the river from our campsite, to go back to one of the lookout points, to see if we could find some lions which were calling in the night.
Nunu gathered us together before we started walking, and read from his notebook: “Man will realize that he is an animal, and as such, he must abide by the laws of nature, and must not destroy God’s creation.”
“We’ve used all our senses so far: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Today, I want you to find another sense. Your sense of feeling. Let’s go find our brothers and sisters.”
We walked to our lookout point from the previous day, and as we got there, two anti-poaching rangers on patrol greeted us. They immediately pointed out a pride of nine lions in the distance, across the river. Read more »
We started off after breakfast, leaving our heavy backpacks in the camp. We felt light and free without them!
As we headed down onto the river bank to start our walk, a hyena drank from the river, and trotted off in the distance, passing our camp which we had just left. I asked Nunu whether it would try take our food which we had left at camp, but Nunu explained that all the animals in the wilderness area – including the hyenas and the baboons – are so wild that they stay well away from strange human smells. “Most of the animals here have never seen a human.”
Nunu called us together on the river bank. “Let’s give thanks again. Especially to the animals, our brothers and sisters, the elephant, the leopard, the hyena…for letting us visit their home. Today is Sunday, so we will go to Read more »
We woke as the sun creeped up over the treetops. We swopped stories from the night over tea, coffee and breakfast. We packed up, and got ready to go. Nunu was tireless, cleaning pots and pans, and making sure that the campsite is spotless before we leave. “No-one must know we have been here,” Nunu explained. Someone had spat a little toothpaste on a rock. Nunu didn’t say anything, went to the river, and scooped up some water to wash it off. Then he called us together.
“Let’s give thanks to the animals who visited us and who let us sleep here. I’d like to begin today with a short prayer,” Nunu said, reading again from his notebook. “Always think of the universe as one living organism, with a single substance and a single soul.”
He passed his notebook to someone else to read again. Read more »
A few days ago I finished the primitive wilderness trail at Imfolozi Game Reserve. For five days and four nights we were led by trails ranger Nunu Jobe through the dedicated wilderness area in the south of Imfolozi Game Reserve. We walked every day through the bush, along the trails made by the animals. We slept on the ground under the stars. We drank from the river. We ate simple food. We cooked on a fire. We swam in the river. We woke up and went to sleep with the sun.
There are no roads in the wilderness area. No telephone poles. No huts. In fact, nothing man-made exists here. More than 30 000 hectares in size, the Imfolozi Wilderness Area belongs to the animals. Ian Player instigated it’s declaration in the 1950s, and it’s thanks to him and his friend and mentor Magqubu Ntombela Read more »
Imfolozi Game Reserve has many stories to tell.
While I was exploring the western part of the reserve today, I thought how concerned conservationists created it to save the last remaining white rhinos in the world. Hunters had wiped out thousands of these charismatic animals, and in 1897, there were only a few left. Today, there are more than one thousand in the reserve, and it’s easy to believe, because today I came across close to 50 of them at different times! They seem to be everywhere, and it’s wonderful. Thanks to the conservationists of that era, who had the foresight and wisdom to fight for the protection of wild animals and the natural landscapes.
It wasn’t only the colonial hunters who sought out the wild animals. Imfolozi was considered one of King Shaka’s prime hunting Read more »
Seven white rhinos and two hyenas welcomed me to Imfolozi Game Reserve in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. It’s great to be back in the bush! As much as I’ve enjoyed the landscapes of uKhahlamba Drakensberg, with their towering peaks and endless vistas, I’ve really missed the smells, sounds and sights of “real” Africa. And as I drove into the reserve just before sunset, I came across two hyenas which were setting off on their nocturnal hunt (they were too quick for my camera!). Then a few minutes later, seven white rhinos were grazing in the grass just a few metres from my car. Wow!
Imfolozi is the start of my sojourn into the classic wildlife areas of South Africa. From here I make my way north, through the adjacent Hluhluwe Game Reserve, then iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly St Lucia), Read more »