24 August 2012 by Zintle Mtyeku

A game safari fit for Indiana Jones’s bucket list

From driving through the bush and playing wildlife veterinarian to a helicopter flight, the Mattanu game-capture tour will leave you beaming from ear to ear.

A roan antelope bull at the Mattanu Private Game Reserve

The Mattanu Private Game Reserve in the Northern Cape offers a rare game experience that is definitely not for the faint-hearted – a live game-capture expedition. 

Wildlife veterinarian Dr Johan Kriek during a game-capture safari at Mattanu Private Game Reserve

Game capturing is an exercise that is important for wildlife conservation, and includes game relocation and the assessment of animals for medical and management reasons. The tour I was on involved a medical exercise done by wildlife veterinarian Dr Johan Kriek.

Not only do you get to interact with the animals on the expedition, but you play veterinarian for the day and enjoy an aerial safari.

Visitors have the option of doing the tour via safari van, helicopter or both.

I opted for a combination of on-the-ground tracking and a helicopter tour with Dr  Kriek, a pioneer in the breeding of rare roan and sable antelopes.

The helicopter used during the game capture

The day started with Dr Kriek doing routine health check-ups and vaccinations on 2 roan antelope bulls that were due for routine health check-ups at the reserve. The animals are usually herded and quarantined in a section of the reserve used for medical and 1-on-1 attention, and then released back into the wild once the check-ups are done.

Dr Kriek then took to the air in his helicopter, while the rest of us tried to keep up in a safari vehicle, flying over small dunes, grassland and natural trenches.

Within minutes Dr Kriek had darted 1 of the quarantined roan antelopes. We pressed on to the antelope’s location as Dr Kriek landed and hurried to the animal, medical packages in hand.

The tranquiliser dart took approximately 2 minutes to take effect, forcing the roan bull to kneel in the grass. A slight groan escaped from him as he resigned to the effects of the drug.

Dr Kriek teaches guests how to safely vaccinate a roan antelope

We were then given the go-ahead to get close to the animal; I approached with caution, not making any sudden movements. Kneeling beside him, I touched his fur – softer than I had imagined – tracing the distinct black-and-white pattern on his face with my fingertips.

Kneeling beside him, I touched his fur – softer than I had imagined – tracing the distinct black-and-white pattern on his face with my fingertips.

He had a dusty smell, reminiscent of antique furniture, mixed with the fresh, crisp smell of grass.

After the routine check-ups and vaccinations were done, I returned to Mattanu lodge in Dr Kriek’s helicopter. I really enjoyed the flight, which offered great scenic views and photographic opportunities – it’s amazing how quickly you can spot giraffe, wildebeest and antelope from the sky.

I ended my time at Mattanu with a new love for antelopes, a species I had never previously taken much interest in.

Category: Wildlife

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