I could think of no better way to spend this year’s day of love than with a couple of leathery rhinos and a good book. A friend of mine invited me to join him on a visit to the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve. Armed with fuzzy rhinos suits and many copies of the children’s book Bongi’s Quest, I find James at reception. Situated in the Buffalo Hills about 12 km outside of Plettenberg Bay, this game reserve is the biggest in the Southern Cape. With generous open plains, edged in fynbos, spotting their generous population of animals is not difficult. Black impala, white springbok and golden gnus are impressive and photogenic, but the real reason I came was to see two peaceful giants.
Lying head to tail we find our Valentine’s Day dates. Crusty with mud, their deeply wrinkled skin gives away their long existence on this planet. These two perfect beauties look serene but sad as they soak up the soporific sun. Her chin rests heavily on the grass and the two stubs for horns remind me of a deep ache in my heart. It reminds me of our reality and their inestimable essence.
Dressed in rhino suits we fill the last spaces of the vehicle and our sporting ‘rhino ranger’ introduces herself. The amusement from the British tourists in our group is short-lived as James gives them the heartbreaking truth about rhino poaching in South Africa. The fact that they are completely oblivious hits me the hardest. We find the rhinos 10 minutes into our drive, they oblige and give us a perfect opportunity to appreciate them fairly close up. They look lazy and I switch off from the reel of information for a few minutes to gaze into their eyes. All I want to do is leap out the truck, run over to them and wrap my arms around that big rectangular face. I feel tears glistening and I lower my sunglasses, I am truly moved by the sight of two animals of which I have seen hundreds in my life. I realise it is because my mind is filled with images of death and loss. Here I see peace and serenity, but for how long?
Armed with ‘Bongi’s Quest’ books we hand out copies to the game reserve management and the kids on our drive with much discussion of how to get more to the school’s in the area. The book, ‘Bongi’s Quest’, was written by Chris Daniel and it forms part of a future series called ‘African Educational Stories’. The book was designed to educate and empower our country’s children. Read more about it here.
On writing this, the current statistics for 2012 are 116 rhinos poached, and this is not counting two unborn rhinos that were lost last week. That is one rhino every 14 hours. Staggering.
For more information you can contact any one of the many dedicated groups and individuals who are fighting this fight from every angle. You will find them on Twitter, Facebook or the links below:
We recently hosted James Way-Jones, the CEO of the Smartway Group. James is running an awareness campaign for Rhino poaching. Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve hosted James and his family and a journalist, Colleen Blaine, on Valentines Day and we had a full house of game drives. There were children and adults from various countries on the game drives and all were made very aware of Rhino poaching. Everyone learned a great deal and they were all given media reports on the latest stats and explained the problem of poaching. The tourists from the UK were also told the reasons why global awareness is needed surrounding the problem to prevent further poaching, to pressure the right decision makers into action and in being proactive in the long term education to protect the environment and allowing everyone to be a part of the solution. Everyone who was there was very enthusiastic and had lots of fun in the learning process. Colleen Blaine, a freelance photographer and writer took these awesome photo’s and there will be a short article on the Getaway blog coming out soon.
If you would like to support anti Rhino poaching and be a part of the long term solution in educating children in your local community, order a copy of the children's story book, Bongi's Quest: www.africaneducationalstories.co.za (go to the “How you can help page” and be a part of the solution).
The aim is for mass distribution of the educational books to teach the youth how to value, preserve and nurture the environment they live in. In a very short space of time this booklet has already had a huge distribution reach to countries as far as Canada, the UK, Wales, Australia, Egypt, Hong Kong and many African countries to name but a few. It was recently given out as a free African gift by Rhino activists dressed in Rhino suits to over 200 international mining delegates and key decision makers for African mining projects, at the African Mining Indaba, the largest mining conference of its kind in the world, in Cape Town. Rhino poaching awareness and the problem also had a reach of over 800 key decision makers at the international African mining conference.
It is currently being translated into Cantonese and Mandarin for mass distribution in Asian countries and the plan is to translate the book into Vietnamese too. Sponsors and supporters will be required for the next phase. The book has already been supported, endorsed and promoted by:
Smartway Group and James Way-Jones
Colleen Blaine, freelance photographer and writer
Braam Malherbe of 50/50, extreme environmentalist who ran the Great Wall of China, the entire SA coastline and recently completed an Antarctica trip
OSCAP (Outraged SA Citizens against Poaching) – www.facebook.com/groups/OSCAP and www.oscap.co.za – Non Profit Company/Organisation
"We were on a road trip from Cape Town to Tsitsikamma and compared to the other accommodation we had booked over the internet claiming to be luxury accommodation this was by far the best.
We stayed at the Baroness for one night (would have loved to have stayed 2) and did an afternoon game drive. All in all it was a wonderful experience. The staff were very helpful, friendly and obliging. The food was tasty and home cooked. There were some reviews saying that there was no manager present, however during our stay the manager was there. The rooms were clean and tidy and the sheets fresh.
To us it felt like a real Quaint Kenyan Safari Experience. Speaking from an ex- South African point of view, who lived in the Heart of Safari Country, Kwa-Zulu Natal ,one has to remember that this is Africa and for African standards this IS good. My Partner who is Australian and had never been to Africa before loved the experience, especially the 2 and a half hour private game drive.
Should we return to Plett, we will definitely return to the Baroness."
Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve is busy redoing the lion enclosure to make it larger. The new enclosure will be 35 hectares. The present lion enclosure will become the home for 3 wild dogs and the enclosure next door will have 3 new cheetahs. Permits are currently being finalised but is looking good and within 3 to 4 months, we will be off loading the new species to the game reserve