Dukandlovu rustic camp was underutilised. Parks Board wanted to increase its use and were looking for new ideas. It was a walk-in or cycle-in camp and they were reluctant to open it up to drive-in access, so wanted to try other ideas first.
Rustic, but splendid, it’s a four hut, eight bed camp with basic kitchen facilities and cold water showers. The widows were openings with roll-down reed blinds which would keep about half the wind out. The beds had mattresses, but bring your own bedding. It was doomed, so few people want to rough it! Not long after this they actually did open it to vehicle access.
But first they tried us: “Let’s test the feasibility of adding canoeing-in to the access menu!” they said. So Robbie Stewart, Bernie Garcin and I (and others – who?) took our kayaks to False Bay, launched and headed south towards the mouth of the Hluhluwe river on the Western Shores. Right from the outset we could see this wasn’t promising: We touched bottom often. Our draft was mere inches, but the lake was that shallow in places. Great for small worms and other marine creatures and wading birds, but not good for paddling. Oh well, we had tried.
After staying a night the rest of the guys went home Sunday and I stayed over with Parks Board Rangers Dick Nash and Trevor Strydom. Monday morning I woke, eagerly looking forward to my day of ‘rangering’. What derring-do would we get up to as ‘ranger-for-a-day’?
Paperwork at a desk, that’s what. As head ranger, Dick first had a whole bunch of admin to sort out! Not what I’d imagined.
But later we got going on their regular bird count in the wilderness area in the north-east arm of the lake. We set off in their spacious craft with a Hamilton jet propulsion system (an impellor rather than a propellor, it sucked water in the underbelly and spat it out the back). This was fine in clear water, but when we nosed up the Mkhuze river we soon sucked up waterweeds and came to a halt. Dick pulled rank and ordered Trevor to jump overboard and remove the weed from under the boat. On the bird count we had seen at least fifty thousand and ten Nile crocodiles, so the thought of jumping overboard was not inviting! Anyway, before Trevor could remove his shirt Dick was already under the boat doing it himself. A bit disconcerting when you looked at his hand as he chucked the weed away: He only had two fingers and a thumb. Did a croc take the other fingers?
We got going again in fits and starts and after a few more stops to clear, we turned back to the lake and continued to count birds. And crocodiles.
So go to Dukandlovu. You can drive there now. Wimp.