Early morning… The rising sun creates a glow of apricot melting into the still star filled indigo sky. The cold is amazing. Everything is crystal clear. There is frost on the ground and grass, so as the sun rises it glitteres like jewellery.
A golden lioness walks along the camp road, looking as if she was walking on diamonds as the sun touched the frozen grass. It is a magical sight.
The birdsong cuts through the cold air. A few birds huddle on branches, alll fluffed up, to catch the warmth as the sun rises and becomes gold and warm.
Lions are roaring all around, the sounds carrying loudly on the crisp, cold air, as a still, slow, puku stands in the sunlight,his usually smooth coat all fluffed up against the chill.
Walking through to the kitchen as the sun was rising, and walking carefully as we now have to do, in case poor Lucas is asleep next to the path, I heard a slight rustle and turned around expecting to see him. (Lucas is a young hippo who is being chased out of the pod by the bully boss hippo, Welheim, so he has taken to snuggling into a grassy nest next to our hut, and lies there, occasionally blinking a sleepy eye, or twitching an ear, otherwise totally immobile, hoping to escape the notice of Wilheim). However, Lucas was not in residence, but there was this enchanting bushbuck mother with her young one standing under a tree. The suns rays were just touching her with gold,so her white spots were lit up. It really was an amazing sight. Her big ears were twitching, big dark eyes watching me, the youngsters tail flicking. They were warming up in the now brighter sunlight. It was a lovely start to the day, although I now am keenly interested to know how our poor Lucas fares, when he is not in his “spot”.
We had an exciting evening. After just getting back from an idyllic boat drift, the sunset engulfed us in amazing golds and cerise and mauve as a flock of Open Billed storks flew over us, black etched against the fire hued sky. A loud cracking of a branch made us stop on our way from the boat to camp… hhhmmmm… and then we saw the shape of an elephant behind Sunset House, so we did a quick march to the front only to hear loud lion roars very close.
Chris got us all bundled into the car… (‘no time for drinks’!!) and off we went. At this stage it was very chilly. We drove along to Spring No 2, stopped and listened. As we came around the corner, there was this great grey ghostlike creature with white tusks, very close by. The elephant had left the camp and was walking in the same direction as we were going. He turned and flapped his ears at us as we we edged forward slightly, then he trumpeted at us – a very unnnerving sound so close by. We waited again, but he did not seem keen to move, so we waited some more. His delay was purely to save face,but eventually he turned and walked off a few paces, then whisked round to see what we were doing, then set off again, a few more paces. We waited until he was a safe distance away, then he and we trundled off in different directions.
We concluded that the lions were walking towards Spring No 3, so we drove there and sat waiting for them to arrive. It was a lovely, clear night with slight moonlight from the newish moon. We heard the occasional call of an owl, saw a pretty, trotting jackal, intent on his business. Just like a domestic dog, he lay on something smelly and rolled in it, before trotting off busily on his way. The lions did not appear to be moving from the original sound of the roars, so Chris tried his bvrilliant “call up”, which often works. but we think the lions were too far away to hear. We decided to call it a night and were trundling back to camp when we saw Chesterton lying in the grass. What a massive lion, body and grass blending into gold in our spotlight, the big gold and black mane standing out in bold relief. He was on a mission and kept walking, roaring and marking his territory. What a lovely sight. He went into thick bush and we returned to the road.
Next saw a really special sight. A big elephant with two little ones following close on her heels. They looked like twins…really little and obviously not used to lights though… as they rushed past, little tails in the air. That was really a wonderful sight and we all felt satisfied and happy. We returned to camp for a late dinner and then off to bed, sleeping like logs.
As many of you will know, our present resident hippo, called Lucas, has been hiding from the big bully hippo pod boss, Welheilm, who has been chasing him unmercifully. So our dear Lucas has taken to hiding in a snug, grassy nest he has made just near our hut, and it is often that we creep along the path and see his sleepy head snuggled into the grass on the pathway. He is a great favourite of our guests and has got to the stage where he just lifts a lazy eyebrow as we peep at him over the bush, with an occasional ear twitch. He is a delightful part of our camp-life at the moment, but we have seen him being chased by Wilheilm, and he really is terrified of the much bigger hippo, and rushes across the front of the “dining” looking very harassed and nervous. Once he is in the long grass Welheilm seems to lose interest and retires to the river snorting and puffing in a very bullish, braggy and mean way.
This morning when we were checking the rooms we saw a Lucas-like hippo lying on the pathway near Mushingashi Hut, looking quite dead. On closer observation an eye twitched and we could see he was breathing. He has some big bites on his body. We have presumed that it is Lucas who has been injured by Welheilm. We have watched him most of the day but he really has barely moved and I was very worried that he may have been mortally wounded, but he disappeared at about 4pm. I haven’t seen him since, but Wilheilm is puffing and snorting just nearby, so I hope poor Lucas is out of sight.
I do feel sorry for Lucas as this is his natal area and his mum and aunts and cousins are all still in the pod, but I believe that as soon as a young bull reaches sexual maturity they are chased by the pod male, so I think this is what is happening here. I just hope Lucas gets some sense and moves away before he is really harmed by the bully-boy!
The evenings are really beautiful at the moment. I suppose all the bush fires are a contributing factor to the amazing colours. There are truly beautiful golds, reds, oranges, mauves and the sun looks like a ball of molten gold…really huge. As I was walking back from the “dining” the five remaining teenage francolin ran away. We have burnt a firebreak around the camp so their grassy hideaway no longer exists and they have retreated into the camp, hiding under a bush. Should one walk past the bush a little briskly they shout their annoyance in a very vocal way, making me jump out of my skin. They fly across the open bit at the front and in a huffy sort of way make their bedtime clucks and calls. I do enjoy their company. I imagine no 6 must have been taken by an eagle or a genet. Its a shame as they have been six babies for ages and I thought they would all make it.
Its a reasonably new moon, but still shedding quite a lot of light and I am sitting at my computer listening to the nearby whoops and wails of a Hyena. Wilheilm is snuffling and snorting and chortling in a nasty way in front of the hut and I have just watched an elephant shrew hop past me in the moonlight. It is such a delightful little creature. We are so lucky to share our camp with so many special creatures and of course, guests.
I went for a short walk in the middle of the day today. I think we are in for a hot summer, because although the evenings and early mornings are cold, the middle of the day is HOT!. Anyway, I had heard a series of alarm calls over the Mushingashi, mainly puku, but sometimes an impala too, so I thought I’d go and check. I didnt see anything much, and despite scouring the bushes, saw nothing like a predator, but an enormous croc slid into the water in a menacing sort of way and I decided not to go any closer to the waters edge. Those big crocs scare me.
As you will have read, I was really concerned about poor Lucas last night, but early this morning I tiptoed along “his” path to peep over the bush,just in case he was there,and imagine my joy at seeing that big, bulky body back in his grassy, snug nest, one eye just visible over the grass. I am so pleased and will look again later to see if it was indeed Lucas lying next to the Mushingashi yesterday. I should be able to telll by the slashes and bites on his back (Definitely inflicted by another hippo and most assuredly Welheilm, the big bully). I was so pleased to see the big shape I did not stop to check.
I am now having a lovely hot cup of tea, which is steaming in the chilly dawn. The hyena wails and whoops continued late into the night and Tommy, our resident jackal gave his sharp barking call several times during the night too, as did the leopard on the other side of the Mushingashi. I imagine it must have been him walking around yesterday lunch time when the puku and impala were making their alarm calls.
Chris has a bowl of sugar on his bedside table, about a foot from his nose. The ‘bird dawn patrol’ are there as the sun rises, chirping and chattering excitedly. I suppose as enjoyable for them as our first cup of tea is for us. Next they come over to me (at this stage I am on the computer) just to see if I have anything snacky for them as well. My relationship with them is chatting as they sit on my computer. I assure them I will not forget the bananas later, but have nothing tasty with me right now. Those bright, enquiring eyes, heads on one side are really enchanting. There is Linda, a yellow bellied bulbul, (new name greenbul), Jane, a black eyed bulbul, Marty, the hueglins robin and her many brothers and sisters, and now the tropical boubou is getting very tame and joining in the morning sugar meeting. Of course,one cannot forget the BadBoy Gang, the arrow marked babblers, who, with no compunction at all, move in and with babbles and chatters and shouts they take over. One almost imagines them with cudgels bullying their way into the more elite and ladylike crowd, who eventually sit back and watch the babbling mass with disdain.