Babies of Africa
Ok, so if you know me, you’ll know I have the biggest weakness when it comes to babies….seriously though, who doesn’t? There is nothing more infectious than the smile of a toddler playing in a crèche trying on your sunglasses or a mother lion giving her cub a bath or a young elephant stretching their trunk to reach for the higher leaves. This is why I made the easy decision to write my blog on babies….the babies of Africa that I have seen so far here on Karongwe Reserve and in the local community. I’ve been in South Africa just over a month now with GVI and it’s been nothing short of spectacular. I would never experience the things I’ve seen here back home in Ireland. The only baby I have at home, if you can call him that, is my 6 year old German Shepherd. Obviously I’m missing him but the youngsters over here are certainly helping with my longing.
I’ll start with the most important babies of Africa, the local children from the communities, The Oaks and The Willows. We have been fortunate enough to work with the infamous Kutullo here at GVI who is originally from The Oaks and plays the key role in helping the community. His selflessness is inspiring and has encouraged us to help out a crèche from the Willows. Since this crèche has such little facilities, our aim is to build a classroom, a proper bathroom, a fence surrounding the crèche and hopefully a playground. We have started building a fence around the perimeter of the crèche already. A few of the children got to leave their mark by painting their hands and leaving handprints on some of the fence posts. It was adorable to see them get involved which inevitably increased our enthusiasm to help build this crèche for them. Some of us made a side trip to the other crèche GVI helped in The Oaks and it was amazing to see so many children smiling and playing in the garden with the teachers. That’s what we want for the children of The Willows. I know I won’t be here to see the final result but hey, isn’t that just the perfect excuse to come back to South Africa.
When I’m talking about the babies of Africa, I am also including the amazing animals from the bush here at Karongwe. There are so many different species, I had to pick a few of my favourites or else we’ll be here all day. Lets start with the Royal Family, Karongwe’s pride of lions. The King and Queen are the happy parents of four mischievous young cubs. It’s incredible to see how much they’ve grown in the past four weeks alone. They are just over six months old now and are often seen happily crunching down on some zebra or kudu with Mum and Dad. Even with their full bellies, they still make time for playtime. Watching them pounce on each other or testing the waters with their father, they’re generally up to no good. Don’t be fooled though by their furry teddy bear ears and playful ways, they’re still top of the food chain here on the reserve and will be perfecting their hunting skills soon with the help from their mum.
Next on my checklist are the rhino. Here at Karongwe we have white rhino, the gentler souls compared to their relatives the black rhino, who can suffer from a bit of temper. Rhinos are the second largest animal here on the reserve after the elephant. Baby rhinos are always a delight to see as their parents are substantially larger than them. This doesn’t seem to bother these growing little boulders as they are happy to keep up with mum. I don’t know what’s cuter when it comes to these beautiful babies; is it their growing horn or their messy face from nosing through the dirt. I am yet to get a picture of the newest little lighting flash here, but I’ve a good stretch to go and will hopefully be lucky enough to snap a picture when its not looking.
Next up, it gives me great pleasure to talk briefly about my favourite antelope, the waterbuck. I love them. They’re fluffy, they’ve heart shaped noses like Care Bears and they’ve white circles around their bum. They’re just such a funky animal and the babies are even better. The waterbuck, like people, leave their young in a creche. It’s the most magical little thing ever. The parents leave 3-4 or more little ones together while they go off and eat. They don’t stray far, but it’s too cute driving across a little group of young waterbuck by themselves just looking at you amazed, trying to figure out should they move or not. I know they’re not your typical stunning mythical kudu with magestic horns. but they are the great confusion between a donkey, a bear and a reindeer.
Giraffe have to be included purely on their awkwardness. These tall models are born at a height of around two metres, so they’re pretty much born ready for the runway. The mothers give birth standing up, making it a bit of a drop for at first, but surprisingly, they are ok. Being this tall, they have interesting running abilities. It looks like they’re running in slow motion and the very young ones here at Karongwe don’t know what to make of our squeaky trucks so they either run to mum or run away. However, you do get the odd staring competition from them and believe me, you will lose. Their diet will consist of between 40-60% Acacia nigrescens (Knobthorn) to help them grow big and tall, well…taller.
Finally the elephants; the big guys. Here on the reserve, we have a herd of twenty elephants, with two large males, Flippy and Fumbe. When you catch a glimpse of the younger elephants compared to these big guys, there’s a distinct difference as a full grown male can weigh up to 6000kg. The two dominant bulls are on a contraceptive, so unfortunately no tiny baby elephants are wandering the reserve. However, we still have much smaller youngsters still by mum’s side. By far, being surrounded by the herd of elephants in the truck has been one of the most memorable moments of this entire trip. To be able to get so close to these magnificant creatures was mind blowing and seeing the curiosity of the younger ones was so wonderful as they lift their small trunk in the air to sniff us.