This morning we decided to visit the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) where there would be further opportunity to get close to some of the animals that would normally be difficult to see in Kruger. The visit started with a solemn talk on why the HESC existed and some slides showing photos of snared animals. A drive around the centre in an open jeep followed where we witnessed the residents including a pair of juvenile Cheetah who were in a playful mood throughout. Some great shots were available as the pair cavorted about, play fighting, chasing and even climbing trees. There was also a pack of Wild Dogs which were wandering around their large enclosure; these things really do smell awful due to their habit of urinating on each other! There was a small pup with the pack who very much seemed to be the centre of attention for the dogs and for us. Again a worthwhile experience for the minimal cost.
On the return to Blue Cottages we visited the Khamai Reptile Centre where a number of Snakes, Scorpions and Spiders took centre stage. There were talks given on a range of reptiles again with the chance to get up close and personal with these creatures. We were shown Puff Adders and Black Mambas in close detail, the Adders have a bad reputation for biting but are quite docile really, it is only when they are picked up that they retaliate; even stepping on them does not attract any form of attack. The Mamba on the other should not be approached in any way – it will be torches at night in Kruger then! We were shown a variety of Scorpions with a simple lesson; large pincers and a thin tail means that they are relatively inoffensive, however, small pincers and a thick tail is not a good combination for its prey. Another species worth a mention is the ‘Golden Brown Baboon Spider‘ which only exists in the Hoedspruit area, these are protected by law with a choice of 250,000ZAR fine or 17 years in prison for killing them, must be careful where I tread!