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MIXING AND MINGLING WITH THE WILD

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I traveled the road less traveled to South Africa’s Eastern Cape as a guest to South African Tourism last week.

(1)An unforgettable experience, elephant walking safari (2)Cheetah interaction (3)King of Inkwenkez (4)Xhosa women singing cultural songsi

To say the organization knows how to treat its guests will be an understatement as we were given more than just royal treatment.

The experience left me with lifetime memories and with more pride as not many tourists embark on this journey to discover the hidden gems of the Wild Coast in the Jikeleza Route.

The nine day tour took me and other travel media practitioners to a patch of paradise, Inkwenkwezi Private game reserve. We arrived in Inkwenkwezi to the beautiful sounds of jubilant Xhosa women singing welcome songs with sounds of bird species backing up their vocals.

As the sun went down behind the jungle of the magnificent hills and hillocks, we embarked on a night game drive stalking different species of antelopes, rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, zebra, warthog and squirrels. Night game drives offer a different view as the wilderness can be explored under the illumination of moonlight or the million-candle light power spotlight with an experienced guide.

After the tour I retired to my luxury meru tent after a hefty feast of South African dishes.

The next early morning was a bit chilly due to the cold front from the coast as we embarked on another game drive. Our mission was to go to the lion enclosure and view the kings of the Inkwenkwezi, pride of lions safely kept in their own space that also allowed them to roam within vast amount of their jungle. These lions are different from lions I have seen such as the Kalahari black maned lion because they are white in colour. We were cautioned to keep our hands and feet inside the vehicles by our guide who was armed with a pistol should the lions charge at us.

The short experience left me amazed not knowing that there was more to come. It is after photographing these lions that we embarked on another quad biking adventure through the reserve. What made it even more thrilling is that I am passionate about the bush.

The one-hour ride came to a halt as we were told that we will be going on the next adventure, an elephant walk. Butterflies started flying in my stomach as I have been eating elephant biltong for the past couple of months. I wondered if these intelligent giants would be able to pick up a scent of one of their own from me and seek revenge.

A brief history of these mammals and assurance of our safety did not keep me at ease but within a few minutes of walking and feeding the gentle giants, I found myself loving every minute of it with sense of regret that I had eaten one of their own. I got to walk with elephants and had them eating from the palm of my hand. Words can never describe how I was feeling in the process as I felt there was a bond forming between me and indlovu as they are commonly referred to in most South African native languages.

Saying goodbye to the giants was just one of the sad moments of my escapade in the Eastern Cape.

Quad bike trail activity

The adventure continued with a cheetah interaction. Having loved the elephants and knowing that the herbivores were not dangerous, the cheetah experience did not only make my knees go weak but left my heart pounding as if it will drop on the ground.

In the back of my head I thought, they could be tamed but they still eat meat and I might be their afternoon snack. The cheetahs can actually hunt for themselves though tamed and will someday be released into the wilderness. I was again assured that cheetahs are not known to attack human beings and reluctantly made my way into their cage with a guide. The three cheetahs came around and in no time I had them next to me. They were so relaxed and I found myself patting and brushing them like domesticated dogs while they would occasionally licked my hand.

A part of me was left at Inkwenkwezi as we continued the journey along the wild coast because I had one of the best experience ever since I fell in love with travelling. Enkosi, ngiyabonga, SAT for this experience of a lifetime.