Shamwari Head Ranger Andrew, at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa, has lessons for visitors about the four-legged rulers of the savannah. Er, we mean viewers. Along with his assistant Jason, the dapper Andrew hosts the ‘Lockdown Series’—an sumptuously visual daily safari at the click of a mouse. Clocking almost 20 episodes, it introduces viewers to the denizens of the Reserve: monkeys watching you, an amorous leopard, pod of hippos in the Bushman River, “very dangerous if you meet them in the river”—his voice is low and soft at times when he is in the bush, as if the animals would leap out from hiding into your TV room.
Starting with the King of the Jungle, Andrew tells you how lousy lions are at social distancing. Sure enough, following freshly dug pug-marks on camera, you spot an entire pride lazing in the sun, rubbing and nudging each other after a very generous meal. An aside: lions are never obese because they know when to stop. Andrew gamely zooms in to show the half-eaten carcass of a zebra.
Speaking of carcasses, the cheetahs too at the Reserve like to walk away once full, leaving the available scraps of meat for the ever-grateful jackals. If jackals feasting over dead animals are not your idea of visual pleasure, carry on with Jason as he introduces you to elephants that weigh between 2,500 and 6,000 kg. Maybe because of their humongous size, these gentle beings are experts at social distancing. But be careful how close you want to venture, the gentleness changes into a herd stampede within seconds of sensing danger. Small mercies for virtual tours.
Speaking of stampedes and size, the one animal that can maybe pretend to give the elephants at Shamwari a run for their money is the white rhino. Andrew on one of his rambling walks takes viewers to a long-dead rhino, the head bone bleached white in the blazing sun. The backstory of the drought is visible on the shore among the wild grass. He shows how his palm fits snugly in between the eye sockets with space to spare! Just like in humans, the teeth are all intact. Giraffes arch up their long, slender necks to munch on the juiciest leaves of trees, staring at you intently as Jason manages to get you a closer look. Giraffes can grow over 18-feet in height. Even as you digest the fact, he throws you a surprise—a giraffe’s heart weighs 11 kg.