Met by Martin Bornman – delightful chap – who gave all arrivals an excellent talk on what we could expect and then set me and my companions on our way to Richard’s Bay. We were met by a taxi driver, who, after a chance for a luxury supply purchase delivered us 2 hours later to Swilley’s Camp, (north Phinda), which would be our home for the next 4 weeks. Basic, but very comfortable accommodation – we would be responsible for our own cooking, using wide-ranging, generous and well-balanced provisions delivered weekly – you make what you will of it and we did very well! (A delightful lady will take care of most of the cleaning and laundry, but again expect some of these chores when she has time off, etc.). No sooner had we arrived and, having been met by our young, enthusiastic and very knowledgeable monitors, we were off on a drive to see 2 adult male lions spotted at a nearby water hole.
While the monitors do their best to plan what/where they will be taking you, things change all the time – so expect the unexpected, go with the flow and you will have an extremely rewarding experience, as I did. You are likely to go out on a drive twice a day and, at the time of year that I attended, this was typically 06.15-11.30 and then 14.30-18.30, but again expect changes, including night drives for example, when opportunities arise. You can expect to see a huge range of wildlife on a regular basis and most drives are about tracking various species, notably the major predators, elephant and rhino. You may be involved in locating/identifying and recording their location and you will also likely get the chance to assist with such things as rhino dehorning/trimming, relocation of animals to other reserves and cheetah call-back studies. There is usually one day off each week when there is likely a chance to go off the reserve for a meal and/or to shop for luxuries, etc. Also there is great camaraderie amongst the staff and evening/lunchtime invitations to picnics/meals, sharing provisions, are also delightful breaks to routine.
As someone who is well-travelled and particularly well-versed in adventure/adrenaline-fuelled activities, I found the whole experience truly rewarding, especially as it gave me a chance to give something useful back. My daughter, Sarah, had spent an equally rewarding 3 weeks at Phinda 9 years ago and it was on her recommendation that I ‘followed in her footsteps’ – I’m extremely glad that I did!