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Third Quarter

Third week of my month in Dumela has passed as if it was one day, maybe because I do not have weekends off and there is little to mark the passing time. But when I take a look at the itinerary I see the details and the amount of different things we wren able to accomplish and feel very well.

Kruger NP day trip

As I wrote last week I did not plan to have time off on the weekends, on the second Saturday I went on a one day trip to Kruger National Park. This park is a huge wilderness area at the northeastern corner of South Africa. The park is many times the size of Israel. It is a complete wilderness which is not touched by man, i.e. if there is draught no water will be supplied, if there is fire no action will be taken - nature has to take care of itself.

The day in numbers: pick-up at 5:30AM (after breakfast) and drop-off at 5PM, that is eleven and a half hours, we covered about 400 km in a open game truck an I took almost 1000 pictures. Since most the the shots were in ‘burst’ most and the camera can take about 10 pictures per second the number of individual scenes is much less.

The day was very ‘productive’ and we got to see lots of different species - Impala, kudu, Warthog, Elephant, Hippopotamus, Crocodile, Lion, Baboon, Leopard, Vulture, Pearl-hen, Serval and water-buck.

Panorama Route day trip

On Sunday I went on day trip that resembles a regular day in the life of a traveler. A small group of volunteers, packed in a minivan, driven by a tour guide to see the landscape highlights of the area. This trip also brought up lots of memories from a wonderful time in the past. In 1989, some time before Mandela was to be released from prison to become the president and apartheid would be something of the past we decided to tour the disappearing South Africa. I have beed few times in the country and watched it change from hard core apartheid of separate everything, from sections in the bus, separate water faucets, separate toilets to more relaxed and then the blacks takeover. Buki, Rafi and me toured the country in 1989 and one of the places we visited had been this exact area and route.

The landscape is awesome, Blyde canyon displays wonderful sights, from the three round hut shaped rock formation (rundavals), through the beautiful deep carving of the meandering river into the rocks of the Darksenberg mountains, to the amazing rock formations of the Burke’s Luck Potholes created by the sheer power of spiraling water. Wonderful day and wonderful memories.

These two busy days completely filled up a busy weekend which brings us to the third busy week of our stay in Dumela.

Photography Course

Lots of editing time which is really necessary, by the end of the week I was not able even to view all my Kruger Park pictures. We had few photography critique session and I had to just skim through my picture to find good candidates to show my work.

All of us feel that our photography has really improved in the last three weeks.

Community work

We had our share of community contribution this week. We spent few hours in a task called “Dumela Ecology” which is euphemism for house keeping task of cleaning the lodge grounds. The lodge is actually like a small reserve, covered with natural vegetation, mostly Acacia. This tree or shrub grows fast and has to be trimmed from time to time to allow for access to different sections and to reduce fire hazard.

The second task this week was to deliver Conservation Education (ConEd) lesson in a local school. The curriculum was develop with local and overseas university and adapted to the local community needs and ability. We act as co-teachers and have the kids exercise the material and play games that hopefully will plant some of the knowledge in their heads.

As Africa is full of surprises and it is very hard or even impossible to schedule a tight timetable the actual lesson did not happen. We showed up in school on time, to our surprise we found the the bell rang few minutes earlier and all the kids have left school. Instead we did some works at Sasakile gardens and waited for a delivery of river sand needed for the building of the fence around the garden. Since the supplier did not arrive as planned we had to call him and wait for the delivery. Had we not waited it is most probable that the shipment would not have arrived at all. Allowing for enough time for the supplier to go to the river, fetch the send and bring it, the sand actually arrived.

Field Trips

Dumela is fully occupied, every bed is taken and we have many groups of volunteers busy with the various activities. Because of various scheduling issues we got only two game drives in a reserve this week and unfortunately I have to skip one of them because it overlaps with my 3 days trip to Swaziland. One game drive was a night drive. We did not get to see nocturnal animals but had a session of stellar photography. The other was a second field trip to Klaserie nut I missed it.

Kinyonga reptile center

This center resides in Hoedspruit and is a house to a nice variety of reptiles. The photography group of African Impact is given VIP treatment, exactly as if we were National Geographic photographers. The usual visitors in the center can roam the displays and see the reptiles at whatever stage they are at the time. For us the staff arranged a very special demonstration.

They brought out Dragon Spider which we photographed and held in our hand. The feeling is of soft medical cotton touching you. We laid down on the ground (on blankets) much like a shooting gallery and the caretaker brought out a cobra, this one we did not dare to touch and just photographed.

We also saw and touched a chameleon, an iguana, a Burmese python, Black Mamba snake (very poisonous) and few other reptiles. A very special experience and a very special place.

Swaziland - Miliwani reserve

The alarm was set to 4:15 (AM!), I dressed up quickly and quietly not to disturb the other volunteers sleeping in the room. By 4:45 we have a quick check-up drill to verify that each of us has his passport, money and other necessities. 4:58 (2 minutes a head of schedule) all thirteen volunteers and the guide are seated in the van and off we go. It takes over six hours to get to the reserve, including brief stretch-up and refueling stops and the border control.

Swaziland is an independent kingdom enclosed within the territory of South Africa. As such we need to exit SA and have our passport stamped by the Swaziland authorities. Swaziland is the only absolute monarchy in Africa. The king nominates the prime-minister and has the power to overturn any decision as he likes.

Miliwani is the first nature reserve declared in the country, it started as a one man project who decided to try and preserve the diminishing wild life in the area. He contributed his family 640 Hectar estate and since then is has grown ten fold. There are no predators in the reserve and the guest can hike the trails on their own and get very, very close to the animals which are accustomed to humans. Landscape is very much different from the greater Kruger area, it is mountainous, has less trees and multiple different habitats that support variety of wild life.

We travel on low budget so the team booked us at the back-packers hostel. For most guests it is self-catering but we get cooked breakfast and dinner, lunch we eat at the regular lodge which is about 20 minutes walk from the hostel. We have to get to the lodge anyway, since we have to sign ourselves out when we go in a hike and sign in upon our return. Also the lodge serves as the hub for all the trails. I walked about 8KM each day.

The views, the serenity, the peaceful animals, the food, every thing is enjoyable and we regret that we have to leave the place after only two days there.

That’s it for now.

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