Kibworth and Smeeton WI – March 2024

The speaker at our February meeting was Julie Harrison who, with the help of her husband Ian, gave us a fascinating talk about their holidays in South Africa. Their love of the country and its wildlife began when friends invited them to stay with them. That first visit changed their lives as they fell under South Africa’s spell and they have returned many times since to the Kruger National Park. Covering an area of more than 19,000 square kilometres, the Kruger has very few fences to restrict the animals’ movements, except small ones around the safari camps where visitors are accommodated.

There are many roads and dirt tracks throughout the park, so the best way to see the animals – especially the ‘Big Five’ – is to go on an organised game drive. This is usually in an open jeep with tiered seats, accompanied by an expert driver and a guide, who acts as a ‘spotter’. Julie emphasised that the guides are so experienced that they know how to retreat from potential danger very quickly! Julie and Ian have taken wonderful photos of the ‘Big Five’, namely elephants, rhinos, lions, buffalos and leopards, the latter being Julie’s favourite. She showed us superb photographs of a family, and others of leopards high up in a tree with their kill. Julie played us her recording of elephants communicating with each other in a deep, deep rumble!

They also saw many animals at night, despite the almost total darkness, with some very close encounters, resulting in one of Julie’s most stunning photographs of a lion. How did she manage to keep her camera steady for that one? Some of the animals’ names are deceptive, such as the white rhino. The name has changed from ‘wide’, referring to the wide upper lip which is adapted to its diet. Another is the honey badger, which can actually be extremely ferocious, as they go for the genitals of other animals! They are also immune to the venom of some deadly snakes. From their lovely camp accommodation Julie and Ian could observe and take beautiful photographs of the stunning scenery and of a variety of other animals and colourful birds. She mentioned African painted dogs, named for their beautiful markings, unique to each one. They are very efficient killers, having an 80 % success rate. Then there were the vervet monkeys, little terrors which can steal food – bread, garlic and mangoes for instance – because their skinny arms can squeeze through narrow bars.

Julie’s and Ian’s obvious love for South Africa pervaded this most interesting talk and we could understand the call to return time after time.

We will be making Easter Wreaths at our March meeting, guided by Margaret Cathie and Lois Parker. On 11 April at 7:30pm in the KCH we will have a demonstration and talk on Japanese Food.

Pat Sharman