For me, mountain biking through Hlane from camp to a watering hole 17km was the best way to get a taste of the wildlife we’d see on the game drives and hikes to come.
I was in the second group to go, 8 of us and a guide, during our second day in Swaziland. We set off in the early afternoon heat, through the Big Game sections around the camp. Along the way we met herds of impala in the middle of the track, completely unfazed by our presence before riding on to find warthogs too, although these were a bit more shy. Other animals walked by too, minding their own business.
We finally reached the watering hole after about an hour and a half and most of us had finished our bottles of water a long time before. By now, Sam D had skidded off his bike after no more than 500m of the ride (trying to look cool?) and was riding half-covered head to toe in dust alongside Paresh, who’d suffered a similar fate. Callum and Ben led the pack for most of the way, with our guide bringing up the rear. Just as we arrived at the watering hole, sitting in the wooden viewing station, an adult crocodile that had been resting in the water swam ominously past us, within 15m of us I’d say.
In the distance, we could see groups of impala and wildebeast amble up to quench their thirsts, some of them with their young. No animal seemed bothered by the many other animals drinking within such close proximity of eachother, which surprised me as I’d naively assumed that all animals in the bush weren’t friends!
This was so amazing for us to see, as it was our first real close encounter with African wildlife outside of tourists attractions. It was such a relief when we only had to cycle 10 minutes back to camp, greeted by an ice cold creme soda (bright green! – another new experience that day….).
- George H