It’s the brightest moonlight at the moment. In fact, last night I got a fright as I thought someone was shining a torch in my face but it was only the moon rising, shining right on my face for a few seconds. There were no animal sounds, possibly because of the full moon?
A relaxed old elephant is haunting the camp. He just stands around eating a few leaves and, thankfully, not knocking any trees down. He seems so relaxed and tame. He stood right next to me the other evening, only about four metres away, and was obviously aware of me, but just calmly carried on eating.
I went for a walk last night. It was really lovely. The hippos had come out a bit early and we had to dodge around them to get home, but the colours of the sky reflecting on the hippos backs was an amazing sight. The sunset was one of those that defies description, just soooo beautiful, with amazing colours. It just felt like one was living in an endless world of colours, cloudy textures, and depths – really wonderful!
It was truly freezing this morning. I sat in bed until the sun came up and then moved into the rising sunlight, just like a bush animal or bird. I must say it was not very warm, but it has improved and is now quite warm as I joined the black backed barbets, black eyed bulbuls, doves and brown hooded kingfisher as they sat warming themselves on the dried branches of the dead leadwood tree near our hut.
Later I went through to the ‘dining’ and watched the rather self satisfied smirks on our family of hippos as they lay in the water, their heads and backs showing, tinged with the lovely golden rising sun rays. You could see that they were really thoroughly enjoying the warmth and the fact that the river has dropped enough for them to lie in their favourite spot and soon be able to bask in the sun on their “beach”. I’ve just gone through again and there is a veritable party going on out there. Three pied kingfishers sitting on a hippo back, and flying in noisy excitement back to the bank and then back to the hippo’s back. A family of red-billed oxpeckers have descended onto the world of hippo backs and heads too and are looking comfortably settled into tick feasts. Two exquisite white throated bee eaters are doing an amazing ballet over the whole comfortable scene. It is really very beautiful. Two african darters have arrived and witch-like stand with their wings outstretched. All this is accompanied by lion grunts over the Mushingashi to a backdrop of gentle but persistent puku alarm calls. I wish I could fly and see what is going on, just like the three vultures flying overhead now. Now and then the sun shines through their wings. One is a white headed vulture which has a very distinctive wing pattern. They have drifted out of sight now, sadly before I had been able to get my trusty camera.
It really is a lovely time of the year although this year seems chillier than ever before. Everything is tinged with gold, and the grasses are changing from green to dusty golds and browns, leaves are whispering and rustling, as they fall, and walking through the bush is no longer a silent affair. One crunches leaves and dried grass however carefully one treads, but it does not seem to disturb the puku, impala or waterbuck.
We are still without e-mails and so I am just keeping the e-mails going. it seems strange not to have any communication with the outside world until Chris gets back to the bush with a new e-mail system, but it seems a shame not to record some of the bush happenings so here goes (hopefully when the new system arrives I will be able to send you a photo or two of what I see as well).
I went for a walk yesterday afternoon with a ‘new’ tracker (my favourite tracker Nicholas who was well known as a leopard spotter, has sadly recently died), Steven, who is really our boatman, and been with us for 7 years. We saw lovely bright red Combretum seeds, which look like jewellery with the setting sun behind them. I took photos, but they are not that clear for some reason. We were looking for three youngish male lions which Steven had seen early in the morning. We had no luck, but it is really a beautiful time of the year with the grass turning from green to dusty gold and brown. There were a flock of guinea fowl, their blue heads jewel bright as the sun caught them as they scuttled through the long grass, clicking and clucking. I felt like a bird shepherd as they walked and scurried in front of us. A fork tailed drongo was doing his acrobatic swoops as he found invisible flying insects, beautifully backlit by the setting sun. We also found fresh leopard very fresh elephant spoor. We could see where the elephant had scraped away some sand and I could smell him, but thankfully, did not see him.
Late yesterday afternoon was amazing. I went whizzing down to the Fly Camp in the Banana boat. It was lovely as the spray dampened us with rainbow flecked water. The birds flew overhead and the sky was brilliant blue. We went down to swop staff, two were to go off for a few days break, while the other two had to hold the fort down there for a while tocut some thatch and some reeds in order to tidy up the bathrooms and things.
The river is so stunning at the moment as it drops slowly, leaving a brownish band along the tree-lined banks. You can actually see how quickly it is dropping as it starts to expose the mystical root patterns that eventually look like fantastical lace designs. The trees root systems are often interspersed with animals coming down to rest in the shade and drink as the inland waters dry up and they all come to enjoy the river.
We saw three really old and very big buffalo standing in the reeds. One had both his horns broken, so he will be easy to identify in the future. We have got to know one with a single broken horn, but I haven’t seen this chap before. A lone elephant was standing tall on the plain, gently flapping his ears, while several puku were at at the water’s edge drinking as many fat, open yellow mouthed crocodiles basked on the banks.
When I arrived back at the main camp, Patson was waiting for us to “come and see some lions”. We piled into Eric, our game drive vehicle and drove to just behind the camp, near the dambo and campsite. There we saw two lions heads watching us through quite long grass. We got closer but they were completely undisturbed. As we drove behind an anthill, we saw all four of them. It was a beautiful time of day, sun setting, everything tinged and gilded with that lovely soft apricot colour, and the 3 lionesses and 1 youngish male which were just starting to wake up. A few licks and greetings and two of the lionesses sat up together. It was a lovely sight with some puku in the background. I got some nice shots of that. The lions were obviously hunting judging from that “ears back, eyes slitted, high shouldered, tail flicking” leonine walk. The three lionesses walked through shoulder high grass, occasionally showing themselves as they stopped and scanned the horizon. The youngish male was much shyer and more hidden. Anyway, they were undisturbed by us following them by vehicle, giving us an occasional curious glance, but they had some puku in their sights and they were set on a certain group of puku. There were several groups of puku and Impala dotted about as well as some bushbuck well hidden in the undergrowth on the anthills, but all the animals seemed aware of danger and the evening was noisy with the alarm calls of the various groups of antelopes. The lions were silent and stalking, heading right towards the camp. As they crossed the road we had lovely sightings of them, despite the rapidly sinking scarlet sun. We radioed the camp to tell the staff not to walk about as the lions were heading straight for camp. One group of puku in front of the camp lost their nerve and exploded into action, rushing towards us. We heard a shrill cry and then saw two lions, each with a part of a small puku in their mouths as they finally disappeared into the gathering darkness. It was a wonderful afternoon of colours, sounds, visual excitement and much beauty although the death of any animal always makes me sad and sorry (sad mainly).
A strange thing happened to me this evening. I was walking round the camp with my rifle, which I felt, at the start of the walk, I ought to take, and singing while I was walking. No-one was around and it was a lovely clear, windless evening. As I approached our house from the north (I had been up to the campground, about 400 m. away), I looked up and noticed something to my left some 200m away. I couldn’t see exactly what it was, so I went into our hut to get the binoculars. I returned and searched for the object. It was a lioness, not more than 150m away, just across the little creek which is now dry, but that we have to boat across in the summer. She was lying down, seemingly quite relaxed, looking at me. I continue singing and occasionally looking away at something else. She was perfectly relaxed and seemed mildly curious. After about half an hour, she got to her feet, stretched, front paws lowered, and slowly and sinuously walked off, away from me, northwards along the entrance road.
I think it may have been Sinikka, a lovely round-faced, golden lioness
A Log Entry From Chad Schubert
We had hardly set up our tents when two elephants walked within 50 feet of our campsite. Later in the day, after spotting a leopard from the boat, three lionesses crossed our path as we were returning to our campsite. The wildlife seemed completely at home around the camp, and we enjoyed our time immensely. –
I am on a very frightened level right now. It’s 10 pm, and for nearly half an hour an elephant has been breaking branches, eating them, breathing, making gurgling noises literally 1-2 metres from my head. I went to the furthest part of the room, clutching a rifle, and stood dead still until it appeared to have moved off. What a huge animal.
I know you will appreciate the last twenty minutes, so I thought I’d tell you about it. The bush is looking so beautiful. I call this the ‘golden’ time. As the sun rises and sets in winter it lights everything up with the most splendid glow. Everything is tinged with gold, really pure gold, and although it is bitterly cold the air is crystal clear, and everything takes on jewel like qualities…. But to get back to the last twenty minutes or so.
There is a big, half moon rising. So there are silver-lit shadows everywhere. I heard the tiniest, whisperiest sound outside our hut so I got up and shone my torch in the general area. There was a truly beautiful young Larger Spotted Genet, sitting totally unconcerned by the torchlight. Well, why not? He was obviously quite confident of his beauty and happy to be in the lime(torch)light. I think he was on the prowl. He got up and stretched and then nosed his way towards me. Honestly, he came right up to within a couple of feet from my foot, then looked right at me, sat down again, and I could see his splendid markings, beautiful dark eyes, and twitching black nose, delicate small feet, and wonderful striped tail. We communicated. He silently, and I, telling him how beautiful he was. He sat and chatted for a while then crept on silent little paws towards our bathroom, but he must have enjoyed my company, as he came back and sat down again for a short while, before going slowly away towards the kitchen. I heard the little feathery footsteps and he wandered away. I even tried to take a photograph. He was so unconcerned, but I could not get my camera to focus. It is a pity because I’d love to have got a photo of him, almost like a pet, yet a totally wild animal.
Watching the hippos on their winter beach is always a joy. I took a photo of them going into the water after a long, lazy day, where they had snuggled together on the water’s edge, looking alternatively like boulders and big grey/pink cushions. The two babies look like little spuddy buddies. As they went into the water they were highlit bronze.
Otherwise the camp is looking great, and we have a new lounge area outside the “dining” which is a lovely place to sit. We have a trail camera photo of an elephant standing right next to it one night.
I woke up very tired this morning, and decided to do a few chores and then go off to the Fly Camp to see what has been happening down there. I packed some tomatoes, rice, onions and long life milk and, taking Edward, who looks after the Fly Camp, went down in the Banana Boat, armed, as always, with binoculars, camera and rifle.
Its a miserable day. Cold, grey and full of short, blustery gale-type winds, and the spray from the boat kept blowing onto me. We would have to slow down before we got soaked which would have been horrid on such a cold day. There were lots of fat pink hippos basking on the banks all the way down. Trumpeter hornbills were undulating across the river, being blown off course with the wind. An enormous crocodile was grinning evilly at us from a high vantage point on the bank. He did not do the usual belly flop into the river, but just lay grinning, with that awful yellow gape showing brightly against the mud.
Three very big buffalo bulls with huge curved horns silhouetted against the grey sky, ambled along the river bank, just above the reed level, and then three big elephants, slowly munching their way through thick patches of reeds, legs half submerged in the water. I got a great photo of one testing the wind with his trunk and looking quite alarming with his ears spread out at full mast, as it were.
All this and it is only 11.00 o’clock… I will see what the rest of the day brings. I’m off to make myself a rice and vege lunch on the open fire near the kitchen shelter. The wind is a nuisance but at least a watery sun is now appearing, thank goodness.
I am alone at the Fly Camp now. You would love this time of year, the ‘golden time. It is really chilly, but the colours are to fill an artist’s heart with joy. A black headed oriole is sitting in the fist rising sun’s rays. It is so beautiful it takes your breath away looking at it through binoculars. The eyes, with their reddish tinge are rimmed with gold, the feathers which are bright yellow are tinged golden and the black head is highlit with gold. Everything at this time of year is touched with gold as the sun rises and sets. The air is so clear and there are no sounds except for some monkeys chattering alarms over the river. I have walked up and down looking through my binoculars, but cannot see what is causing their alarm. It is still very early, and mist is rising everywhere. The staff are not up yet, so I am on my own in a silent, special world.
Last night was very exciting. There was something was behind my tent, sniffing loudly. I do confess to feeling a little scared. Then the lions started roaring upstream. There must have been about three roaring. Two started roaring over the river, right opposite the camp, sounding as if they were next to me. The nights are so brightly moonlit, one can see anything moving. Iimagine my alarm when a puku walked past and I could see him clearly. My first thought was “lion” as I saw the movement. However, it was a male puku, walking sedately past, the bright moonlight shining on his horns. Wild dogs started calling. At first I thought it was a zebra, but it went on for a long time, with different calls, coming from the direction of the compound. I will hear from Edward and John what they heard when they come to make the fires.
Both Edward and John have come to tell me that there were ‘weeld dogs’ in the compound last night. So I was right. They are quite excited about it, but even more exciting was that a male lion had walked through the camp right up to their compound, then around the camp. I’m pretty sure it was him that was sniffing so loudly behind my tent last night. I am going to take a photo of his tracks now, but unfortunately there is grass and hard ground behind my tent so I will not be sure it was him, although by the sounds there is little doubt in my mind.
I have now taken some photos of the tracks and also tried to take a shot of the path and the lounge in the background. The photos look ok on the camera, but I will only be able to see if the tracks came out when I put it on the computer.
I will probably be “riding the rainbow” back to Main Camp later as we have some guests due in this afternoon.