Last night was a rough night for me, personally. If this post seems like I'm moving all over the place, I blame it on being sleep deprived. I was unable to sleep until about 5 a.m. and our wake-up call was right on the money at 6 a.m. I didn’t hear the phone ring, so Ranger Ross came to my door to wake me. Even though he was knocking forcefully on the door, Ross called out to me in a very proper and calm English voice. I couldn't help but laugh. We soon left for our four-hour tour of the Kwandwe Game Reserve. Did I tell you that it was 45 degrees Fahrenheit or about 17 degrees Celsius this morning? It was pretty cold but we were excited about seeing the wildlife, so we just bundled up and went on the ride of a lifetime.
When we checked in at the reception area of the Kwandwe Game Reserve late yesterday afternoon, we were reminded that this is a dangerous place and at no point were we to travel to and from our rooms without an escort. They didn’t have to tell me twice. When we drove by the reception area during our game tour, there were elephants, white rhinos and giraffes hanging around the facility. There were close enough for us to actually touch them. I can't explain how many different species of wildlife we saw but it was truly amazing.
Before I left the U.S., someone remarked that this game reserve may be like going to Disney's Animal Kingdom. At the time I agreed and we laughed about our vision of the lions being told, “The tourists are here. It’s time to go show yourselves." That was all in good fun and I know now that vision was completely inaccurate. These animals are in the wild and there were not trained. They eat what they kill. I know that first-hand because we came upon a lioness that had just started eating her fresh kill of a warthog. This wasn’t staged, folks!
I should point out that you have an opportunity to go on a game drive in the morning, after lunch and in the early evening. Most of us elected to go on every tour that would could. In Africa, the big five game animals are the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. Our goal was to see the big five before we left the reserve. That morning we saw four of the animals we were looking for but not a leopard. But, we have one more game drive tomorrow morning, so we will try again.
I wasn't feeling well, so I didn’t go on the evening ride. The other four members went without me and wouldn't you know it, they saw some more amazing sights. They actually encountered a pride of lions and heard a male lion roar. Katie mentioned that she could feel the vibrations of the lion’s roar throughout her body. According to Ross, this particular roar was only about half the usual volume.
When I looked at the video of their experience, I counted about ten lions who were running around playing and doing what lions do. I think that Ross and Stuckey, our assigned Tracker, gave the night light to the wrong team member. Vonceil was just pointing and flashing that light all over the place. Perhaps she was trying to shine it all around because she knew the truck was surrounded and her adrenaline was probably pumping. It was funny that Katie was trying to point her video where Vonceil was shining the light and as soon as she caught up with the light, Vonceil had moved the beam yet again. Even though I’m sure this was one scary experience for them, this will also be an experience they will cherish for life.
After that last game drive today, we all met up at the lodge to have dinner. The ladies had such a grand ole time laughing it up that a couple sitting next to our table asked me join them for some quiet time. Again, it was just pleasant fun and I knew they were just being kind as well as poking fun at me and my fellow ambassadors. Pam, Tangela and I called it a night after about 9:30 or 10 p.m. But Katie and Vonceil closed the lodge down talking with a gentleman that works for the owners of the reserve. His name was Shiloh and he is from Texas. I guess he took special interest in our group because we were from the U.S. and he probably just wanted someone to talk to that sounded familiar.
We had another incredible day! We all have pictures but I don't have them ready to send. I will have them updated later this week so that you all can see some of the sights. Until tomorrow...
Haven Hospice Chief Information Officer Arthur Clark is one of five Haven Ambassadors chosen to travel to Grahamstown Hospice – our sister hospice organization in South Africa. The experience will provide an opportunity for the Haven Hospice Ambassadors to learn about end-of-life care in South Africa and to bring insights back to Haven Hospice to share with their colleagues. The selected Haven Ambassadors come from a variety of career paths and will bring a wide-range of experiences to the exchange experience: Pam Giebeig, hospice nurse; Tangela Wilson, respiratory therapist; and Vonceil Levine and Katie Alphahando, clinical social workers.