The good, the sad and the ugly

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Posted on:September 20, 2014

It is an early morning game drive, and we are restless with anticipation as we settle onto the high seats of the open game vehicle. A British couple is with us, breathy with excitement, repeating “We have never been on safari before.” We are led by experienced guides Charlotte and Kyle Preston, the newlywed managers of Isibindi Zulu Lodge who are both qualified nature guides, and who are clearly protective and passionate about their beautiful part of the earth.



Newlyweds and experienced nature guides Charlotte and Kyle Preston

Our first sighting is a wildebeest or gnu, in my mind arguably the world’s ugliest animal. Even their babies are gorgeously ugly. The British tourists are very excited, having read about these animals since childhood – clearly to them these beasts are things of great mystery and beauty. I start to look at the wildebeest with new appreciation.

Our next sighting is a dark male giraffe, exuding dignified goodness. We alight from the vehicle and he lets us walk right up to him, receiving only a gentle stare. I have never been so close to a giraffe on foot and it is a rare privilege. We enthusiastically take photographs of the British couple standing in front of the friendly giraffe.



The kindly giraffe who allowed us to walk right up to him

After seeing zebra, impala and kudu, finally we come across an old male bull giraffe, high on a hill. He is 25 years old, while most giraffe only live to 24. He is too old and arthritic to bend down and drink water, and tries to satisfy his thirst by eating the bitter Aloes, his face twisted in distaste. He has chosen this koppie (stony hill) for his confinement, in which to live out his final days.

Greatly vexed by this story, I cannot help thinking of devices to alleviate this great animal’s suffering – plotting buckets hoisted up into trees and siphon bags strapped to Aloes. But, while we are saddened by his fate, we agree that it is important to let nature take its course, and to leave the old gentleman to his final resting place.



The bitter indigenous Aloe plant, from which we extract Aloe Vera

When following the golden threads of happiness, one almost always comes across a silver-white thread of sorrow. It is not bitter or murky like depression sans origin, but a cool, clean sadness which brings depth and meaning to the moments of joy and beauty.

We drive back a little quieter, out little hearts full of awe and gratitude for this spectacular natural setting and the protection it offers to those who live out their days there in perfect balance.


Views down the valley with morning coffee and rusks in the bushveld

Views down the valley with morning coffee and rusks in the bushveld


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