This blog extract has been republished from Scott Ramsay’s “Year in the Wild” blog. Scott is a photo journalist who has spent the last year and a half exploring and documenting Southern Africa’s most special protected areas. Read all his “stories of African parks”, illustrated with amazing, award-winning photographs here. In this blog post he explores the complex interplay between wilderness, ecotourism, development and history. Read the full article here, and also check out this article published in the Cape Times on the mining issue.
It didn’t take long for the ancient creatures to show themselves. We had just started the Imfolozi Wilderness Trail, when two white rhinos rose up in a cloud of dust from where they were sleeping in the shade of an acacia tree.
A mother and her young calf, thirty metres from us. Rhinos have poor eyesight, but excellent hearing and smell. The mother could sense the presence of humans. Her ears turned like radars on her head, listening intently. The calf stayed close by her side. Both were clearly nervous.
We were also nervous. Nothing can prepare you for this. Seeing rhinos from the safety of a car in a wildlife reserve is one thing. Being on foot, and coming face to face with these huge prehistoric-looking animals while walking in Africa’s oldest wilderness area is entirely different.
White rhinos are huge, weighing just over two tons, standing two metres tall, and of course, there’s that horn. And rhinos can run faster than the fastest man. Besides, when you’re carrying a 15kg backpack with five days of food and gear, there’s no point in trying to outrun them. Human kebab, anyone?
But our Zulu trails ranger Nunu Jobe calmly gestured for us to walk slowly to the rhinos to get a better view. He had done this a thousand times before – literally. We followed him, placing our feet as gently on the earth as possible.
We walked closer, when another rhino – a huge bull – appeared without warning to the side of us, fifteen metres away.