For those of you like me who are lovers of the game of cricket you may be thinking from the title here that a game is in progress. You may be thinking that it’s the final innings and the team batting second need 148 runs to win. If like the majority of the world you don’t understand cricket please read on and all will become apparent.
We are at Makakatana Bay Lodge, the only private lodge, on the shores of Lake St Lucia in the iSimangaliso Wetlands. We are at the heart of one of the province’s world heritage sites. This heart beats to the sound of the tropics where the noise of insects, amphibians, birds and animals fill the air. The chirp of crickets, the deep buzz of a dung beetle, the call of the fish eagle and the grunt of a hippo can all be heard around the clock.
The family owned lodge is a cool and relaxed haven out of the summer heat. It’s constructed within the green tropical foliage of the wetlands and is virtually hidden from view. The outer design and layout blend the lodge perfectly within its natural surroundings. The rooms are a short boardwalk away, are all very private, and have views into the wetlands. I loved the sights and sounds from my private deck and almost expected leopards and hippos to wander by. I am also a huge fan of outdoor showers and every room here as one.
The staff were always on hand even giving one fellow guest a lesson on his newly acquired IPad. Bongani had booked my stay over the World Wide Web and was there to greet me with a real smile, not a virtual one. The food was excellent; breakfast and lunch on the lodges’ deck under the shade of a fever tree, vibrant in colour and taste. Dinner was in the dining room, under the air-conditioning, where the highlight was freshly caught and perfectly cooked Dorado.
On our first game drive we set out with ranger Andres to explore the Western Shores and the areas a little off the beaten track. Clause and Inga, guests from Germany, expressed an interest in the areas antelope population. They were not disappointed as we came across duikers, reedbuck and nyala. Without expressing favouritism the nyala are truly beautiful antelope. The males and females could not look more different. The male with spiral horns, golden socks, dark brown coat with shaggy neck and rump. The female is much smaller in size with an even length, rusty brown coat. Both sexes share a white stripe at the top of their snout. They also share vertical white stripes, more prominent in the female, running down their backs from neck to hind quarters. Zulu folk-law tells of birds sitting on the back of the nyala and over time their droppings have stained the animal.
Andres said he had heard of elephant activity in an area and if we were all keen we could take a look. “There are reckoned to be 150 elephants in the wetlands and they are pretty wild due to lack of interaction with people “he told us. I have never seen elephants in the here so I was especially keen. We made our way down sand tracks where green bush often seemed to engulf us. There were the typical signs of elephants: Broken branches, some stripped of their bark leaving only a white stick, and a mixture of dung, some old, some fresh. We made our way to a dam where we took a drinks break. I was sure I could hear the low rumble of an elephant close by as we were served drinks and snacks. As we listed Andres agreed but we could not quite get a bearing on them.
“Please can everyone get in the vehicle now” Andres instructed us in a calm but authoritative voice. Inga was in the front seat in a flash without spilling a drop of her gin & tonic. As I got in I could now see the elephant clearly. He had climbed a very steep bank behind our vehicle and was standing thirty meters behind us. He was huge. After five minutes of him viewing us, as we sat in silence, he made his way around the dam wall and down to the water to drink. We took this opportunity to make our way away from the dam. We passed his friend, another large bull, making his way up the steep bank as we drove to a safer position. There was a laugh from Andres in the front seat breaking the silence. He then said in his Afrikaans accent “Hey Mark, Two down, one hundred and forty eight needed.”