Vet Tails Excerpt

Vet Tails Excerpt – To read more about my adventures, read Vet Tails available as a book or e-book from
A trip back to South Africa was great, especially enjoying the natural wonders with a trip to the game reserve and some spectacular diving off the Natal coast. The warm and rich waters of the Indian Ocean provided us with incredible experiences and memories of a lifetime. The routine was to be fitted with all of our dive gear before we left the beach, except for our oxygen cylinders and buoyancy devices which were tightly secured in the boat. Usually a group consisted of eight divers and we would all help push the zodiac / rubber ducky boat off the beach and climb in and be skilfully manoeuvred through the surf, often over waves that were a few metres high, and out to the reef a kilometre or two offshore. This part of the trip was exhilarating and sometimes scary especially to newcomers to the site, frequently demonstrated by foreign tourists who would swear in a variety of different languages!

As we motored out to the dive site beyond the breakers we regularlt had the privilege of encountering pods of dolphins or a whale shark or whale if we were really lucky. I loved this part but once we had arrived at the dive site, the boat stopped and started to bob around as we kitted up, my challenge began… Since I was prone to seasickness, would I be able to contain my queasiness until we jumped into the water where it all magically resolved or would I not!

One particularly rough day at sea I was struggling to contain my nausea. Ash was a wonderful support and although he couldn’t take away the ghastly feeling, he would look over at me with a huge amount of sympathy and lovingly asks how I was doing. On one occasion I replied quite descriptively with “blaaaaaah” and fed the fish my breakfast, possibly contributing to the great wealth of fish life that we saw on our dive! My behaviour was commonplace amongst our group of divers that that but the exquisite life that we observed moments later under the ocean as we began our decent into the magnificent blue depths of bliss made it all worthwhile!

One dive trip when we were visiting Australia, both my brother and Ash joined me being severely sea sick. I remember both of their faces looking a ghastly green as we returned to shore and literally lay on the ground for a few minutes until our nausea settled. In true hospitable Aussie style, the delightful president of the local scuba diving club invited us to join him for a barbeque. Aside from feeling a little under the weather, not wanting to put this lovely man to any more trouble than he had already gone to trying to find us a good dive on such a rough day, we declined.

He persisted with his invitation, insisted and eventually we had no choice but to take him up on his kind offer and had to inform him that Ash and I were vegetarians. Obviously someone who thoroughly enjoyed his barbeques, he looked at us in disbelief exclaiming, “Mate, why do you do that to yourselves!” Ash replied with his quick wit that it provided us with the opportunity to flash a special dive card to the sharks “We don’t eat you so please don’t eat us” at which we all burst out laughing! As divers, sharks are more scared of us than we are of them and being in the ocean with them is a very humbling and harmonious experience.

During winter, one of our favourite dive sites, Aliwal shoal, had an abundance of ragged tooth sharks. To many, they can be scary looking but they are very docile and beautiful to observe. Seeing a dolphin underwater was definitely one of my favourite encounters, my world seemed to stand still as these elegant and joyous masters of the sea would swim past or interact with us on our dives. Diving a reef is very rewarding as even when you haven’t spotted larger life like a gorgeous turtle, shark, whale or dolphin, there is always more to see with a huge variety of fish, corals, tiny crustaceans like shrimps and crabs and I find great delight in finding little shells and even sharks teeth! It is such a privilege to be part of the peaceful yet busy community of creatures under the sea, an incredible feeling that always warms my heart.

So too, visiting the many exquisite game reserves in South Africa is a delightful and humbling experience. It was so incredible to be in the wild and rugged African bush again. The sunsets (and sunrises) were breathtaking…. with a huge glowing ball of sun sinking gently in the dusty sky giving off incredible hues of pink, red and orange. There were elephants, giraffes, lions, leopard, cheetahs, hippos, baby crocodiles, turtles, a little tortoise crossing the road, monkeys, zebra, buck such as springbuck, kudu, waterbuck a vast array of birds and of course impala who virtually litter the landscape in some spots of the Kruger National Park. In the African bush, when there doesn’t seem to be much to see, just stopping the car in the middle of the bush and observing for a few moments generally allows for a wealth of life to be revealed.

From the little squirrel scurrying up the tree, the butterflies flying around, the Bateleur eagle perched in the distance devouring a snake to the elegant male Kudu standing dead still watching from his vantage point on top of the termite mound. Then there’s the magnificent fish eagle with its haunting cry – that touches the soul as it swoops down over the river and catches a fish with its talons and of course there are the amusing little dung beetles who laboriously attend to their work rolling all sorts of poo…. The bush is so alive!

One day we were driving along and spotted some elephants in the thick bush just ahead and to our left and stopped to watch them browsing the trees. Suddenly there was a rustle in the trees to the right and a very young little elephant suddenly appeared and cautiously stepped onto the road in front of us. Watching us carefully, he proceeded across the road and as he got to the middle, he turned to face us head on, quickly stamped his front foot, trumpeted as loudly as he could and then dashed into the bush to join his family on the other side – it was really cute.

Observing majestic animals in their wild environment has always fascinated me and being back in the African bush was such a special and soulful place to be very well described by J. Livingstone ”Not a recollection of the mind, but a tingling, prickling participatory kindling of the flesh. For a precious instant I have rejoined. For one moment of arrested infinity, my human alienation dissolves. I am home and when I feel it I recognize it instantly. I recognize also, with terrible sadness, that I had forgotten to miss it”.