Perfect luxurious quietness. A soft breeze rustles the leaves of the Jackalberry Trees accompanying a bird’s song. A herd of impala graze in the long dry grass, their gentle faces looking up to stare at me. A pair of young warthogs chew on the sweet green grass near our hut. In the distance the clink of glasses, the splash of water in the pool, and happy laughter. I nestle further into my deckchair, enjoying the tranquillity.
It’s mid afternoon on another idyllic day at Jackalberry Lodge, and I am sitting on the veranda of our hut, looking out across the grass to the bush beyond. Soon I will rouse myself, collect my camera, and go to join the others for afternoon tea before going on our evening game drive. But not just yet.
OR - Adventure.........
Suddenly he was in front of us. His massive grey bulk emerged, ears flapping, from behind a thorn bush. Amazing how something so big could be so well hidden by a few bare twigs. He pawed the earth with his foot and shaking his head, crashed through the thorn-bush towards us, stopping 10 metres from our vehicle.
Lifting his trunk he tested the air and then showered us with a cloud of sand. Ndlobu, the elephant.
The elephant crossed the track in front of us, and faced us again, still pawing the ground and flapping his ears menacingly. He tested the air again with his trunk, leant his weight against a small tree bending it over, then trampled on a broken off tree stump. Grant, our guide, said the elephant was demonstrating his strength to us.
Mario, our native tracker, calmly sat on the front of the vehicle, a bemused expression on his face.
When our guide Grant, moved our vehicle slowly down the track, the elephant immediately came onto the track, following us and quickening his pace to a trot. As the vehicle pulled away, the elephant stopped, and threw up one last cloud of sand. Flapping his ears, he clearly believed he had won.
It was only one of the many incredible experiences we had during our stay at Jackalberry. I cannot begin to describe the feeling you have when a lion at close quarters stares directly into your eyes. You just have to become submissive and look away. You cannot hold that intense gaze.
We travelled to Africa and stayed at the Jackalberry Lodge at the Thornybush Game Reserve near Kruger National Park in September 2002. Our hosts Grant, Angie and Noleen gave us an incredible experience we will never forget.
Read the "relax" edition of this story in Australian Vital magazine May 2004, or for the story with the elephant intro read Australian Photography-Back page November 2004