From the banks of the dry Msunduze river bed it is hard to imagine looking down from the lodges wooden deck that the river below had ever flowed. Yet the towering yellow glowing, fever trees bare the scars of the rivers once raging torrent. The bent and twisted trunks grow at the most peculiar angles. However they are still magnificent specimens that shine in the sunlight and truly live up to their Zulu name, umKhanya-kude. Which translated means “the light that can be seen from afar”.
Situated in the southern section of the 23,000 hectare Zululand Rhino Reserve is the Rhino River Lodge. The lodge comprises of both family and double thatched rooms. There is a dining room with bar, a separate lounge and swimming pool. Plus there is a boma with open fire for dining or simply relaxing and looking up at the mass of stars above.
After being greeted by Lauren on arrival I took a seat on the deck with ranger Isaac before lunch. We talked about the reserves flora and fauna all the time looking at the surrounding fever trees. The next bonus was lunch, babotie served with rice & salad followed by carrot cake. (Babotie is a favourite of mine!)
I am always amazed at how small a world we live in. I spoke with fellow guests post lunch. Tim, Leeann, Katie & Amy made up the Long family from Bedford a stones throw from me in the Uk, with a mutual acquaintance. Then when Tim spoke with Alistair & Laurie from Durban, it turned out the men knew each other from their youth! Now we were all to spend our game drives together.
The first dam we arrived at was home to a solitary crocodile who lay on the dry mud bank soaking up the last of the afternoons sunshine. Behind him a pod of hippos, only their heads above the water, looked back at us watching them. The occasional grunt, roar and splash breaking the noise of the bush. It was special here to see a mother hippo with her ten day old calf resting on her back giving us a glimpse of him every now and then.
When we reached our second dam it was time for a drinks break. Here next to the game viewing vehicle Jason, our ranger and driver, pointed out the remains of an ostrich. The bird like us had probably stopped for a drink only to become a meal for lions. Jason had been very good during our drives and kept his young guests, Katie & Amy, interested at all times with facts, figures and questions. He even challenged the girls to an impala poo spitting competition. This he won hands down, obviously an expert.
I have been on many drives after dark and have rarely seen anything. Here was different, firstly the white circles on the behinds of waterbuck stood out in the beam of light from Jasons spotters lamp. Then it was like a scene from ‘the hills have eyes’ as a large breeding herd of buffalo’s eyes glowed red in the dark. Jason then stopped and pointed out a scrub hare sitting upright on the road in front of us. The hare sat in vehicles headlights as we looked at him through swirling dry dust and our warm breath in the now cold night air.
The Zululand Rhino Reserve is home to the Big 5. There is also a Little 5 and as Jason explained another group known as the Secret 7. This subject was discussed after the highlight of my evening and a first for me from a game viewing vehicle. A pair of porcupines, one of the elusive secret seven, was spotted leaving the road and heading down a track parallel to the dirt road we were on. Their distinctive spines flashed black & white in the spot light as they disappeared into the darkness.