Travel – The warthog wonderland

2012-08-11 21:25

On a sho’t left to Pumba Private Game Reserve and Spa in Eastern Cape, Lucas Ledwaba is surprised to see hundreds of ugly piggies – and even more surprised when they end up following him home, to laugh at him

I woke up to a spectacular view of a table cloth-like layer of clouds lying sweetly on top of the hills.

The king-sized bed where I had rested my tired bones the night before faced a big sliding door, overlooking a spacious balcony with a wonderful view of a lake and the mountains.

At first, I thought it was just one of those dreams, you know. But when my hand accidentally touched the half-empty glass of sherry from the previous night’s indulgence, I recalled with pleasure where I was.

I had retired to my room at the Pumba Water Lodge after a sumptuous dinner of kudu stew, and relaxed with a book and a generous helping of sherry by the fireside in my large suite. The rain fell softly against the windows, while the firewood crackled as the fire burnt.

In no time, I heard the distant call of sleep, calling me to rest after the rigours of travelling and work to finally get here. It had started with breakfast and lunch at airports in Joburg and Port Elizabeth earlier that day.

This was followed by a drive through pelting rain to Grahamstown for interviews; and then, as dusk fell, a 30km drive, part of it through slippery, muddy roads, to Pumba Private Game Reserve and Spa.

Someone at the reserve had warned me over the phone that the drive could be quite rough, owing to the rain, and it was no understatement.

In the few hours I spent there the following day I saw more warthogs than I have ever seen. They were just about everywhere – on the winding, soggy roads around the reserve, under the trees, in open plains and near waterholes. Some emerged from their burrows to stare at our game truck before bolting quickly into the bushes.

And for some strange reason, they seemed to enjoy making a run for it at the appearance of humans. They looked quite comical: their short, wiry tails facing the sky, their grey, short, tiny bodies shooting through the land like bullets.

It’s little wonder they feature on the logo for the reserve.

I wondered if perhaps they were running away from us because they thought we, the human species, are an ugly lot. No offence, but I think even the warthogs would agree that God was probably off form or in a very bad mood when he made them.

Anyway, we jumped onto the game truck on a very wet, slightly overcast and chilly morning for a three-hour game drive. There were also two German women who made the drive all the more fun with their wicked sense of humour and interesting questions.

Our driver and ranger, Freedom, turned out to be knowledgeable and funny, stopping often to share important and interesting information about the fauna and flora.

Though I did not see the famed white lions that Pumba is renowned for, I wasn’t complaining because I saw plenty of eland, the elegant and largest of antelope that ranks among my favourite species. We also saw plenty of blesbok, wildebeest, impala, vervet monkeys and lots of elephant dung.

The beauty of the surroundings more than compensated for the disappointment of not spotting any of the big five.

One of the buildings on the property used to be the house of Piet Retief, the Afrikaner leader who met his end at the hands of Zulu King Dingane in 1838.

Apparently Retief lived here for a while in the early 1800s before his fateful trek north into the land of the Zulus. Pumba Private Game
Reserve and Spa also offers personalised activities such as birding safaris, bush walks, night drives and stargazing.

The Msenge Bush Lodge, which is also located on the reserve, offers a top-of-the-range spa.

Back home in Joburg that night, I dreamt of warthogs, rolling in the mud with laughter, saying: “You are back in the concrete jungle while we remain here in our lovely home, bwahaha.”

» Ledwaba was a guest of Pumba Private Game Reserve and Spa 

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