Greater Kruger Area, big game
Time for action again. Each villa has its own Land Rover, a driver-guide and a tracker, a track finder. ‘Land Rover Jockeys’ is their nickname. In our case they are called Marlon and Glass. Together they have more than thirty years of experience and form a close team. Marlon controls the open Land Rover with one hand, the gaze permanently aimed at the environment and the right hand of tracker Glass, which determines the direction through firm directions. “We have a network of more than a hundred kilometres of dirt roads here, of which I could ride most with my eyes closed,” Marlon says without a hint of pretension. A fleece blanket and a hot water bottle are waiting on our chair. Glass sits impatiently on the tracker seat, hat far over the ears, with thick gloves and two coats on. Gas pedal, a black cloud: here we go again. Glass works according to the known principle; read traces (often excrement), progress, observe. “Hima, hima (stop)”, he beckons. He saw elephants and zebras in the distance.
The sun has only just risen, the air still feels freezing cold. We see a large herd, only elephant cows and their calves. A small specimen is still unsteady on the legs. We have never seen them so young. “How old do you think he is?” I ask in a whisper. “Less than four weeks”, he answers. The calf looks cartoon-chubby. Rubbery too. “Elephants are like whales, but different,” Marlon joins the conversation. “Gentle, powerful and intelligent.” We continue driving and immediately pass a whole zoo: zebras, hippos, impalas, monkeys. “Every traveller wants to see the Big Five: lion, rhinoceros, buffalo, leopard and elephant”, says Marlon. “And that’s basically no problem. The only one that’s harder to find is the leopard. Especially because it is a nocturnal animal.” Our first day was already a hit, even though ‘shot’ is not really the right word in a nature reserve where they do everything to keep the population up to standard.
In the afternoon we settle down at our pool and we enjoy the dosed winter sun. A few hours later we are ready for the afternoon ride. Even now the animals are numerous. And that’s pretty unusual.“The actual bush area is much larger than about twenty years ago, so one has to search longer. And this produces stubborn rumours,” says Marlon, who is again dressed in a perfect safari shirt. “But that there are generally fewer animals than in the early days is a fable. Although there are animals that are in (great) danger, such as the rhino, the rest of the population remains constant.”
At sunset we choose a large, thick tree and we stop for a gin & tonic. Glass spreads his table: white linen, crystal glasses, an oil lamp at the lowest branch. We eat some old cheese and toast, nobody says anything. We enjoy each other’s company, the golden evening light and the silence of the vast savannah. This is the pure, wild Africa. “Life is so beautiful in Kruger Park,” muses Marlon. “Not for a million bucks would I want to live anywhere else.”