Rebecca Bower: close-up of a pangolin

Elephant close-encounters on the ranger courses

Thursday 5th July 2007

Today I woke up at 6.20am with the exciting thought of going elephant tracking! As soon as Johnan arrived just after 7am we left in the Land Rover and made a very long journey near the mountains very far west to the edge of the reserve. Johann was in contact with another ranger so we could locate the position of an adult bull elephant which had been found feeding. On our way we came across zebra, waterbuck, yellow-billed hornbills, an eagle and a black-backed jackal!

We stopped where we saw elephant tracks. Johann got out of the vehicle and went to search on foot. Just as he did this we saw the back of the elephant and it was moving away from us. Johann came running back and asked the back 2 rows in the Land Rover to go single file behind him in search of the elephant (why was I sat near the front I was thinking!) After doing a loop the elephant wasn’t found.

However we managed to locate the other Land Rover and there a little distance away through the trees we spotted an elephant, a female staring right at us. We repositioned and I’m sure each one of us had the same tingling feeling of fear and excitement down our spines!

We were metres away from an adult bull feeding – a fine animal, so docile and gentle and yet so powerful and dangerous! Then we discovered that we were in fact surrounded by a family of elephants! There were about 15 in the herd. What an awesome first sighting of elephants!

Thursday 12th July 2007

Around 4pm we headed out on foot before it got dark at 6pm. We walked towards a giraffe and as we approached we were instructed by Johann to lie down facing the giraffe. She was quite wary of us and we had to keep completely still and not make a sound. Johann made some sounds towards the giraffe. She stood staring and even came walking towards us, only 30m away. A very special moment, connecting with nature.

Sunday 15th July 2007

After completing practical and the theory part of the exam we were going to have a little celebration. Some of the boys went to have a game of rugby and the rest of us drove to a beautiful spot overlooking a lake with a clear view of the mountains. We sat and watched the sunset and felt very relaxed.

Suddenly the most exciting thing occurred. It started with a rustle in the bush below. This led to an incredibly excited Johann who ran down the steps and did several jumps in the air! What could it be that Johann was ecstatically excited about? Johann had spotted a pangolin! None of us knew straight away but Johann quickly explained this is an extremely rare animal and that many guides have never seen a pangolin in all their years in South Africa! What a privilege! The pangolin is a beautiful creature made up of scales, a long tail and a lovely face. It can roll itself up into a ball and is very shy. The excitement spread and we all took lots of photos!

Thank you Johann for such a wonderful Game Ranger Course!