For our last weekend in Zim before heading home, we decided to get out and see something since we haven’t done a ton of exploring. Our friends recommended Imire Safari Ranch, just a 140 kms outside of town so off we left on Saturday morning to make it there in time for tea. What a treat – they even greeted us with a chocolate cake!
What we didn’t realize was that Imire isn’t a traditional game reserve but more like an oversized zoo. They have rhinos, elephants, buffalo, lions, hyenas but they each have their own section of the 40,000 hectacres and don’t intermingle. Our first stop of the drive was the lions, which are always majestic, but there was a fence between us and it made me feel just a little sad to see them that way. Still, the cats are impressive and to be that close to them is still a bit of a thrill.
As were driving along we came across 2 young rhinos and their handlers. Imire is actually known for their protection and breeding of black rhinos. Poachers have almost killed the entire population of the black rhinos for their horns, which are valuable because they are thought to be a potent aphrodisiac in places like China. Here, they try to protect the rhinos by shaving off their horns every 3 years – sad but if it keeps the amazing dinosaur-like creatures alive, then necessary. Sadly they had a horrible slaughter 2 years ago and lost 4 rhinos plus one in utero. They have successfully introduced a few rhinos back into the wild which is nice.
On our way to lunch we came upon the 3 elephants and 7 month old baby elephant – they were so close t o us! Just like with the rhinos, they have handlers and to see these behemoth animals allowing someone to get so close is really amazing. Both are a part of the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant) and a common misconception is the reason for why there is the Big 5. Evidently these are the most dangerous animals to hunt and that’s why they make the list, not because they are the most impressive animals. So to see these beasts very close and able to pet them, it’s an amazing awe inspiring feeling.
After a nice relaxing lunch, we came across the buffalo herd. What’s really unique about this herd is their dominant leader – she’s an elephant. 30 years ago when she was introduced to Imire, she went straight for the buffalo and ended up becoming the matriarch of their herd. She’s clearly a bit confused because even though she’s almost 30, she’s never given birth to a baby elephant – evidently when she’s in estrous signals are crossed and the bull elephant never gets friendly with her. She goes everywhere with the buffalo and is clearly in charge.
The last fun highlight of the day was going off to have sundowners and snacks while watching the sun set. Because it’s not actually a free ranging reserve, Imire provides food most of the animals and even pen the rhinos and elephants at night to protect them. On our way out we stopped by the pen and we got to feed the baby elephant! It was amazing!
And then I also tried to feed the rhino and that was crazy – the black rhino is different from the white rhino because of their lips. They have a prehensile lip that helps them eat; where as the white rhino has a wide, flat lip (they aren’t actually different because of their color, that’s just a miscommunication).
All in all, a great fun last weekend. We had a delicious dinner then sat and watched the stars and talked about life. A great send off for now – and a good tease to bring us back. Other game reserves are a bit wilder without any fences so the elephants, lions and hyenas actually prowl around the camp at night! That’ll be an experience!
This was the cat that befriended us, stayed up watching the stars with us, then snuck into our room and slept with us. On the floor that is. We woke up to loud purring and thought maybe she was outside...nope, she had joined us in our room.
These were our night watchmen outside our room. Cute little buggers.