We took a long bus ride to our next destination: Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, Swadini Forever Resorts. This matched Imbambala as far as beauty goes. We had the afternoon to ourselves and we took advantage of it. There was an hour long trail that went along a branch of the river. The entrance sign warned us to be aware of hippo and crocodiles while we walked through the fence. It was the greenest place we’ve seen so far (due to the river) and the trees acted as a canopy over us. The water was clear so you could see the bottom as we crossed the bridges with broken boards. The trail had termite mounds that were way taller than me (I’m 5’3” by the way) and evidence of wildlife everywhere. We spotted monkey tracks that matched the screeches above our heads and tracked a family of kudu.
The next day was spent at a rehabilitation center called Moholoholo and at a reptile park called Khamai. The rehab center showed us the animals they currently are caring for and showed us some of the cats that could never be released. A cheetah that was captured in a snare for killing sheep was trained and used for demonstration. They had him run to get his food so we could watch his speed then sat him on a table so we could pet him. He vibrated because he was purring so much and licked (out of affection or hunger, I’m not sure) our hands. In the same area was a baby rhino that had been saved from being stuck in mud. They told us that if he was walking toward you, move out of his way. He approached me and when I moved to the right, so did he. I backtracked and started left, he followed. I asked the little guy where he wanted me to go and looked at me like I was nuts. He may have been one of my favorite animals so far. We were also showed wild dogs and hyenas along with many vultures and eagles.
Later on at the reptile center we had a lecture on reptiles and eventually got to dissect a snake. We played with some chameleons by feeding them worms and got to hold scorpions and tarantulas. Our guide brought out both the most dangerous and most venomous snakes, the puff adder and boomslang. We were told why this was the case and then we were showed how to actually lift them. The puff adder is most dangerous because it doesn’t move fast so when people try to kill it it cannot run away and must defend itself. It can strike within .25 of a second both forward and to the side. The boomslang’s venom is hemotoxic which alters the blood’s ability to clot, meaning without antidote, you will simply bleed to death. It was fun to be sitting on the ground next to them.
Our next adventure at Swadini was to see the baobab tree, also known as the “tree of life” (Rafiki’s tree!). Even our entire group grasping hands could not wrap around this massive tree.