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Surprises left, right and centre

By Holly Chapman 3 years ago
Categories Limpopo and KZN

The GVI wildlife research internship has been an experience of a lifetime. I had always wanted to venture to Africa and see the incredible wildlife it is home to. I have just finished my Zoology/Ecology degree so I thought Africa would be the best place on earth to get some experience working with animals. GVI has given me the opportunity to literally live and learn in the bush with all of these animals on the front lawn (no joke, we frequently have elephants, waterbuck and baboons stroll across the front of the house!) I didn’t know what to expect when I heard that there was no fences and we were living in the middle of the reserve, but now I can easily say that there is no better way to experience the bush. Surprises pop up left, right and centre. For example, the elephants having a ball pulling up water pipes for an innocent bath, the local waterbuck asleep in her favourite spot on the volleyball court, and even the mysterious hyenas calling before sunrises.

One highlight for me was the first sleep out in the bush. We got cooked an amazing braai (BBQ) by the one and only Kutullo and played UNO until our eyes could no longer stay open. After being asleep for a few hours we woke up to the group on watch alerting Jess (rifle master) of the hyena eyes in the bush watching us. Soooo many emotions! Scared, excited, nervous and now wide awake, I could not believe we were standing so close to these curious creatures. I felt totally safe and just wanted to see more than just their eyes. Staying out in the bush with a bunch of awesome people was unreal and I will never forget it.

My favourite drive on the reserve would be when we stumbled upon two male hippos fighting over territory. The dominant male chased the inferior one out of the water many times and opened his huge jaws in preparation to be challenged. The clashing of teeth was enough to send chills down your spine. The brutality was unbelievable, both males were left bleeding from the mouth. Due to the limited habitat when the dams start drying up, hippos are put under pressure and must compete with each other for resources and mates. A hippo’s life doesn’t look as chilled out as I once thought!