Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Friday, April 22, 2011

South Africa safari: Crisis in Kruger National Park

South Africa’s vast game reserves are known for their wildlife yet, as Graham Boynton discovers, its most famous national park is facing serious problems with a surge in rhino poaching, tourist development and an elephant population explosion.

It takes about 48 hours for the African bush to reclaim me. As with many Western travellers I arrive wound up as tight as a tourniquet and in no state of mind to relax and go with the flow.

On my first few drives into the bushveld I find myself sitting upright in the Land Rover, bottom-clenched, purse-lipped and all but demanding that the animals we pass by or stop to watch just get on with it. Hunt! Attack! Kill… anything! The impala, the buffalo, the elephant, even the pride of lions we encounter, all ignore my imprecations and carry on as if I were not there. Which is as it should be.

By the second morning I start to notice that Wilson Masiya, my tracker, who is perched right out on the front of the vehicle, is making almost imperceptible hand gestures, to which my guide and driver, the venerated Juan Pinto, is responding by changing the direction of the vehicle, slowing down, speeding up, or whatever is required.

Slowly the scales fall away and I begin to hear distant bird calls I was deaf to the previous day – the “tink tink tink” of a blacksmith plover and the dismissive call of a go-away bird. Then I pick up the fleeting movements of a female leopard in the thick undergrowth, camouflage on the move. (read more)