The Last of Umlani

honey badger

Moses is just as excited on the last run as he was on the first, especially when he spots a strange black creature with what looks like a white cape thrown over its head, back and tail. “This is the first time I’ve seen a honey badger here,” he laughs out loud. “The fiercest of hunters.” This little guy pays us no mind as he digs furiously, the dirt fanning out behind him as his head disappears down the hole and comes up with the prize, a big juicy scorpion.


And to top off our Umlani game list, in the waning daylight a lone hyena lies in wait. For what? Hendrick points at something big, high up in a nearby tree. “It’s a dead warthog.”

“How’d it get there?”

“The leopard we saw must have killed it and dragged it up there for safe keeping,” suggests Moses, “and the hyena is waiting for it to return.”

“The hyena can kill a leopard?”

“Yes, it’s one of the few big cat predators.” It might be the fiercest, but it’s certainly not the most appealing, with its large rounded ears and sloping back. Its intense gaze never wavers as we head for home. I bet on the leopard.

As dark sets in we arrive back at camp to the glow of lanterns and and frenzied excitement. Moses shushes us. A lion roars close-by, then a clatter of many hooves. Giles appears. “Stay in the boma.”

Irish Clare runs in, wild-eyed, “A lion’s attacked one of the water buffalos right here at the waterhole!”

Irish John: “now they’re stampeding!”

Giles orders, “Stay here around the fire. Don’t go to your rooms.”

He doesn’t have to worry. We eat dinner, our hearts in our stomachs along with the food, listening to the continual growling of three lions looking for a wounded buffalo, then we’re escorted to our flimsy huts by an armed guide. The lions’ grumbling  interrupts our fitful sleep. What an adrenalin-rush ending to an extraordinary week!


We are taking a limousine back to Johannesburg to see some of the South African countryside before we fly to Malawi and our Water for People tour. Jerry, our Afrikaans driver, gives us another perspective on the multi-faceted South African landscape and its people. As we drive, the dry bush lifts into mountains. The weather changes to mist then fog as we cross the divide through “God’s Eye”, other-worldly round-topped mountains above a very green river valley.



The landscape is spectacular, but I can’t say the same for Jerry. Everywhere we stop, whether park, vista, restaurant or shopping – he’s charming to the whites and surly to the blacks. I can’t take it without adding my two cents. “Well, Jerry, what do you think of eliminating apartheid?”

“Had to happen.”

That’s a generic answer, but as the day progresses I see his bent. To the blacks: “Hurry it up, boy. I want my coffee right away. Can’t you make change? Don’t argue with me.” Even when they weren’t.

To the whites including us: “Isn’t this marvelous. You’re so kind. Can I help you?” Obsequious. Too bad we have to spend eight hours with this guy. But it’s our reality check. Now I see why it took until 1994 to break apartheid. And it still goes on. Guess it’s time to move on from our fun touristy vacation safari to a completely different adventure – saving not animals but people.

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Jill Green

I’m a lazy writer trying to get tech savvy. I’ve blurted into blogging to get some of my thoughts, cravings, interests, writings out into the web world. I live in Costa Rica and Florida. Most of my somewhat autobiographical writings are about those places. If you’re interested check in.

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