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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Transitions – Tshukudu (and the big five)

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Tshukudu, “rhino” in South African Sotho, is also the name of the game lodge that became more than a mere item on Roger’s and my bucket list. It was a place of profound and unique experiences. We missed seeing a leopard, but were fortunate to encounter the other “big five” – the elephants, with their imposing size; the regal lions; the hulking rhinos; and the cape buffalo. Surprisingly, the last is considered the most dangerous African animal, but all left an indelible mark on us. 

Instead of a leopard, we saw cheetah brothers – endangered animals purchased for $100,000 each by the reserve. Having just consumed an impala, these cats lay in the road in their food comas, panting and digesting. (An impala would be a mere appetizer for a lion.) The rhino loitered with one family in the morning and then ambled to the other side of the reserve to be a watchful patriarch to his other family. I wonder if the two families met.

Our safaris were a thrilling adventure, always within the safety of our open-air vehicle. As long as we remained seated, we were perceived as non-threatening and as not food ourselves. This allowed us to get within ten feet of the majestic creatures we encountered. The lion and cheetahs, though awe-inspiring, did not instill fear. However, a one-ton male buffalo nearby left us very uncomfortable.

We learned amazing things. For example, elephants only have four molar-like teeth which are replaced six times in their lives. Once the last set wears down after 50 to 60 years, starvation follows.

Giraffes mourn their departed for weeks, and a year later return to eat the bleached bones for essential nutrients.

Termite mounds can be over a hundred years old and 60 feet deep. Termites are not harmful to man, and the more enormous mounds are impressive.

And the entire trip was a reminder how good it is not to be far down the food chain.

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Barbara Blomquist
Barbara Blomquist
Barbara Blomquist is a Naperville resident, wife, mother, quilter, and screenwriter. Contact her at BWBLomquist@aol.com.
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