After our elephant experience in Kruger safety around animals has been on my mind, so when I saw an article in a nature magazine entitled “animal safety” I flipped to the article. The advice was basically this: hippo, rhino, elephant, lion- stay away and if you can’t stay away get away quickly and quietly before it notices you. Well that’s helpful. With no specific advice to follow, I crawled in our tent each night planning what I would do if say a hippo disturbed us in the night. Hippos it seems kill the most number of people every year in Africa, so when I heard the hippos calling to each other at night in Mlilwane Nature Reserve in Swaziland I was a little anxious. The campground was surrounded by a fence, but when your mind wanders, well it can really get going and the first night I dreampt we were trampled by hippos in the night. Awaking in a cold sweat I was thankful to see only monkeys in the morning light. Until my thoughts turned to other recent warnings about monkeys taking off with stuff… like our sandals which lay not more than 6 inches from me outside the tent. Quietly I pulled them into the tent and fell asleep.
Five days hiking in Malolotja Nature Reserve, climbing execution rock in Mlilwane, and surviving four nights camping in the Swazi bush without an animal attack, that’s our time in Swaziland in a nutshell. Packing up our car at dusk I rummaged through the trunk looking for passports when I heard a rustling noise beside me. Searching quickly for the source, I was confronted by a male ostrich not more than 10 feet away. Having seen him by the swimming pool earlier that day, I figured I could shoo him away without a problem. Waving my arms and screaming shoo shoo, I looked like a lunatic, and the ostrich treated me as one. Looking at me with his head cocked to the side, the ostrich wasn’t even bashful about stepping closer. With visions of being cut open head to toe by an ostrich nail (have you seen the size of their feet) and warnings of their nasty temperament ringing in my head, I dropped everything and ran into the car, locking the doors. With the hatchback still open I continued my shooing from inside the car, a bit braver this time. Without so much as a glance in my direction, the ostrich began pecking at things I had left scattered on the ground. Unable to see him, only hearing him peck at our wordly possessions in the back, I resolved to get him away before he destroyed something. Truly, my thoughts ran to the clif bars, which I knew were left on the ground. Not knowing what else to do I honked the horn, which made absolutely no positive impact on the ostrich. Instead he began to rustle things in the back. So I turned on the vehicle and reved the engine. Again, he poked his head from the trunk and looked at me, practically daring me to continue my nonsensical actions. Finally I leaned out of the passengers seat of the car, waved my hands and screamed as loud as I could at the monsterous beast. From the lodge area a game warden, finally noticing my situation came running waving his arms and shooing the ostrich out the fence. Safe at last I climbed out of the car, thanked the warden profusely who was laughing with (or more likely at) me and headed back into the lodge.
Barely looking up from his book Danny asked me where I had been… needless to say that night as I crawled into the tent I wasn’t so worried about the hippo attack… I was dreaming of the ostrich sausage we grilled in Kruger…hmmm….karmic payback.