Mount Camdeboo Safari, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Luke had just returned from scouting the animals and knew exactly where a beautiful family of dehorned rhinos were grazing. Camdeboo dehorn their animals to deter poachers and make it very clear locally that there is no value in ivory. Horn or no horn, watching the rhinos graze and move together across the veld was extremely spectacular. For one of the strongest animals in the world, it was incredibly special being around a fellow plant eater...
We watched a few of them from the safety of the vehicle, slowly moving in the sunshine, aware of our presence but utterly calm.
With all of our eyes fixed on the beauty of these animals, we we were in a world of our own.
That was, until Luke warned that if we're wearing any shiny jewellery to lean into the centre of the van... This beautiful lady was making her way down the centre of the track, sauntering with flamboyance I could only dream of having.
As she passed the van we stayed still, cautious not to lift the camera lens that she was incredibly intrigued by.
We continued a little further and caught sight of a land feeding King Fisher. I have always loved these birds, watching them on the Umkamaz river which flowed through my grandparents farm in Kwa Zulu Natal, or on the banks of the Katse Dam Reservoir where I grew up, they have always held a special place in my heart.
Seeing this beautiful guy up close was spectacular.
The little guy was intrigued by a bird moving just nearby. It was a Hadada Ibis, or a ladeha, or a hadela. It's name aligns with the cry it makes.
If you've ever been lucky enough to spend time in Southern Africa you'll know the exact sound I'm talking about.
Driving along the track, Like slowed the vehicle and begun whispering.
He told us that he was about to share something very special with us - a group of Giraffes looking after a group of very young baby giraffes just a few days old.
We held our breaths and waited for them to appear from behind the trees, moving in our direction.
The older females arrived first to check us out. While the younger ones were comforted at the back of pack.
Once they had made their evaluation about us and judged that the young were safe, they shared a glimpse of the babies with us.
Luke advised that the youngest was just a few days old and my heart melted. I watched in awe, shocked a enveloped in the beauty of it all.
The whole time though, this beautiful lady watched us. Luke advised that she's one of the older Giraffes out there, distinguishable through her collapsed right hand ossicone, or horn to you and I!
Spending time watching them, observing them, reminded me of the choices we make daily, the choices to protect and support our environment.
With the group of Giraffes moving away from us, Luke invited us to step out of the vehicle onto the track to catch a final glimpse. We were all keen to find out so much more about the great conservation measures which Camdeboo have put in place, he shared details about the great growth which has allowed so many species to thrive.
I couldn't help but wonder about the past and history of these mountains and hills.
These mountains would have been a key pass from the flatlands on the way from Cape Town, being the start of many enormous mountain passes. For many of my distant ancestors, they were practically refugees from their home countries, fleeing persecution and seeking survival for their families. I've always imagined them as people close to the earth, having to learn so quickly how to read a landscape and climate. Imaging them in small ox wagons, with bulky wheels, crossing the mountains through no set route by simply disassembling the wagon and carrying everything manually up the mountain.
While I stood watching the horizon, wondering about my ancestry, the shadow of a huge eagle passed over on the ground. It shook me back to the reality before us.
It soared high along the thermals.
We moved further along the tracks, passing rocks which I couldn't image anything better than one day climbing...
As we turned the mountain corner, we were met by a buffalo herd grazing.
With horns pulled back in dense they ceased grazing to carefully watch us. Family on safari with us warned that this sign is that of a warning, a potential for a charge, it is the move they make when listening with intent. In that moment, our vehicle felt not so big, but I was grateful to be travelling with someone trained to deal with these situations.
It didn't take the herd long to loose interest in us, deciding that we were of no risk to their young calves and proceeding with their dinner.
We breaked a few hundred meters from beside these beautiful strong plant eating animals, taking care to give them space.
The sun quickly begun to dip and Luke advised that he was about to show us something we would never forget... we all leapt into the vehicle, strapped in, and started chasing the sun.
It's probably a little too woo-woo but as we ascended to the escarpment chasing the sun, I could feel the same emotions of my ancestors hundreds of years ago. The closer to the sunset, the louder I could hear their pounding hearts, sense of adventure and pure determination for survival.
Luke stopped the vehicle, turned to me and tears were gushing down my cheeks with complete overwhelment.
I hugged him in gratitude and took solace in the arms of my family.
We watched the sun dip below the horizon, arm in arm, in silence, in awe.
Sunglasses on to disguise the tears, we returned to the lodge, quiet, overwhelmed, and utterly appreciative of one of the best moments I could ever imagine.