Saturday, September 11, 2010

South Africa 06.28-07.29 - Umfolozi and Chimp Eden

Upon leaving Durban went drove north to the Umfolozi game reserve. We were told that there was a high concentration of rhinos, and, seeing as this was one of the animals we most wanted to see we were very excited upon entering the park. We had also heard that locals got discounted prices, much the same as we get discounted rates to our very own national parks. In attempts to get the discount Adam and Dylan practiced their best SA accent and jargon. However, when we arrived at the gate we realized we did not have much hope and just paid the entry fees. At first we did not see a whole lot, mainly a bunch of zebra and the first time we saw many antelope (only to later realize that we would not stop seeing them until we left the gates of Kruger for Johannesburg). Finally, at sunset we saw what we had been searching for, rhinos! As we turned a corner we saw one giant rhino standing in a clearing and were shocked at how large it was! I personally had been scouring the bushes looking for something much smaller and more elusive. To my surprise it was just standing out in the open, the size of a small camper trailer. As we slowly drove around to get photos we also discovered that there was a baby. Fortunately mom was not too interested in us and the pair soon crossed the road behind us heading toward water. This was the closest encounter we had with a rhino and, lucky for us, not the last encounter either!

We left the park content and happy until we realized just how far we had to drive to the next destination: Nelspruit. It was already sunset (5:30ish) and our estimates had us arriving somewhere around midnight. Armed with our maps we took what we thought was the shortest route and ended up on a bumpy dirt road for kilometers. After a while we considered turing back except that we had already come so far on the road that we knew it would take forever getting back. Eventually we reached pavement again and were able to make decent time from there on out. At dinner we asked the waitress how long she thought it would take us to get to our destination and she laughed because it was so far. So far that she had never been there and no one working at the restaurant had any idea how long it would take to drive there! We made it sometime late in the night to Old Vic Traveller's Inn. This was easily one of the nicest hostels we stayed in and I highly recommend it if you are ever over there. 

After getting some much needed rest we decided to check out Jane Goodall's Chimp Eden facility just outside of town. You may remember this from a TV series entitle Chimp Eden which aired on Animal Planet or Discovery (one of the two!). The tour was a bit pricey but well worth it. You hear about the stories of many of the apes and how they came to be at the rescue center. I encourage you to check out the web page to learn more about the facility, the chimps, and even adopting a chimp!

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