Tigress production in association with the Discovery channel arrived in April 09 to film a series with Austin Stevens. After chatting to Austin I discovered his passion for this area and the fact that he had grown up here brought him back to include iSimangaliso in a reptile series. In his youth he spent many blissful hours in and around lake St. Lucia. An ideal area, as he is passionate about anything cold-blooded. Most of the filming took place at Catalina Bay. Although the film crew did visit other destinations on the Western Shores. My responsibility was to fetch the film crew and transport them out of iSimangaliso after dark. The crew needed to shoot a series of camp fire sequences, not possible in the day. The Park Authority has fairly strict regulations regarding after hour activities. Therefore night drive concessionaires were contracted to assist.
Well, since I have some largish night safari vehicles I thought I would impress the whole film crew with the size of my vehicle. My philosophy in these instances was "go big or go home", out came my biggest. I nearly embarrassed myself. When I arrived to pack-up the crew I discovered that three vehicles had delivered the filming equipment. There was even a 'portable' camera crane. The three delivery vehicles were then driven out of the Park before dark and I was then responsible for getting the equipment out. Eish, in the end we just managed to fit everything on the vehicle and seven crew with Austin perched in the front seat. I nearly "went big and home" to fetch another vehicle! But we managed. The first night I delivered a canoe, but left it behind on the shore of Lake St. Lucia. This canoe was the unintentional harbinger of a futile operation.
That night all hell broke loose. The presence of a canoe was reported to anti-poaching. After Austin had "paddled" this canoe across the lake to access the Eastern shores for his adventure, the film crew abandoned the prop (canoe) and we went home to delicious dinners and warm beds. The canoe was spotted lying on the shoreline about 600m west of the Catalina Bay jetty (local knowledge). During the night word went out that poachers had arrived on the Eastern shores by canoe. APU or the anti-poaching Unit exploded into action and arrived to investigate, bristling with arms. After a lengthy search along the shoreline they found Austin's Hammock and fly sheet, and the camp fire where the film crew had filmed before we departed. Nothing else. Finally they received news that it was a false alarm, by this was near 02h00 in the morning. The following night we made sure the canoe was well concealed deep within some reeds. What surprised me was that the canoe was not used for target practice by APU. It remained unscathed.
The follow two days the canoe was put to good use. Although weather conditions proved difficult on one of the days, with strong winds making it impossible to film. So for those that grace the couch from time to time it will be possible to see Austin Stevens catching pythons, cobras and adders in iSimangaliso. This program is scheduled for the end of the year. And you will also be able to see the truant canoe. At the end of the filming, we had a good session with Austin at Braza Restaurant. The whole film crew were impressed with St. Lucia. But when you realise that Discovery Channel film crews see the best of the World, you realise they mean it.