Leanne Jones, bubbly marketing maven for Amarula, will need a holiday after three days in the Kruger Park at Jock Safari. A lodge I thought was named after the Jockey brand of undergarments until I found excerpts of Jock of the Bushveld on my pillow, in lieu of a mint. For what a trip chaperoning the winners of an Amarula competition, this was. While the creamy marula fruited liqueur has an image of laid-back luxury and African drums around a camp fire – sort of Survivor without the luvvies – what we got were outtakes from the Bourne Identity. We even had ranger Lyle Gregg, better looking than Matt Damon even, showing off one of the Small Five, below.
Our first activity was to collar an elephant. So on Monday our Land Cruiser full of urban bunny huggers watched horrified as a kamikaze helicopter with an air horn separated two elephant calves from their mother. Visions of the elephant cow dying of heart failure in a replay of the PR disaster when a rhino, darted to be dehorned in front of the media, had a heart attack and died.
Our Mission Impossible was to fit a R25,000 collar as part of a research project on elephant population dynamics. We thought a chip in the ear, like they do with Labradors, was a less stressful, albeit totally ineffective, alternative. Someone even suggested drones from the Israeli Air Force, although they’re probably all tied up in Iran.
On Tuesday, two white rhinos were poached for their horns; shot from the road outside Pretoriuskop. An inside job, it transpired, with SA National Parks people fingered – what a PR disaster! Turns out everyone knew it was the rangers wot done it as during night drives, trackers from the many private lodges in the Park would see SAN Parks desk jockeys “working overtime” out in the bush.
On Wednesday came the nail-biting climax. Big Five spotted in the first hour and then bursting for relief after 5am coffee, return to Jock was delayed while we watched a herd of buffalo take out an old lion (above). That Stevie Smith poem has “not waving, but drowning” as a haunting image. Something the grand paw of the lion, reaching up to deter the stomping buffalo, called to mind. More KWV Wild Africa than Amarula, which is why I’ll stick to elephants.