Written by Katie Amey & Sarah Anderson
Photos Courtesy of Katie Amey
Following months of anticipation, we finally arrived at Ulwazi Lodge for three weeks of sun, surveys and spectacular sightings. We were immediately immersed in our African surroundings, and awoke the next morning to the sound of lions roaring on the camp perimeter.
After some practice at camp, it was time to head out to the bush and partake in some real life conservation as research assistants. We began with an early morning transect across the misty morning hills, driving towards the glorious sunrise as it peaked over the striking African landscape. Once we arrived at our coordinated point, it was time to start a bird count, the sounds of nature arresting our ears. Within a few days we began to be able to identify the characteristic calls of some of the native avian biodiversity.
Later in the day we started our habitat assessments to identify elephant damage. It wasn’t always easy work, but it’s something that needs to be done in order to protect this magnificent elephant and the surrounding ecosystem.
There are also many perks to being in such a fascinating environment. On our journeys to our sites we often encounter some of Africa’s greatest gifts, including cheetah, giraffe, lions, elephants, zebra, and antelope. All sightings were spectacular in their own way but some are truly breath-taking.
One example is while during a bird count on our 2nd morning, a member of the group spotted something through the thicket of grass surrounding us. It was a lioness! Our safety officer Sarah was alerted and in this critical situation we had to quickly but calmly move back to the truck. Once out of harm’s way, but with pulses still high, we could truly appreciate this remarkable encounter. We followed the lioness down the road for about half a mile, down to a watering hole, where we watched her lap up water; birds and antelope scattering in every direction.
Our afternoons are spent doing game transects, game drives, and bush walks, where some of us have been lucky enough to have close encounters with some beautiful but also dangerous animals, such as elephant, cheetah and rhinoceroses.
It’s hard to believe that in a few short days we will be leaving Thanda but it is safe to say this has been the trip of a lifetime that none of us will ever forget.