October 2006

01 October

We went on a walk yesterday with some guests to an inland waterhole – the rains were so good last year that there is still water quite a way inland. We set off quite early, well supplied with lots of water and Vetkoek, and decided to re-organise an anthill overlooking the waterhole. We cut a few logs to sit on and put them under the thick canopy of thorns that covered the anthill. We cleared a few of the more dangerous thorns, so that we were not constantly being impaled and pricked, and we ended up with a cosy little hide, downwind of any animals coming to drink. We sat and waited. An Arrow Marked Babbler had made her nest in the thorns (clever bird!!) and she made vociferous complaint, but soon settled down on her eggs when she saw that we were no threat.

It was quite quiet for a while, whilst the bush settled down after our “building operations’ and eventually some monkeys came down to drank, little heads down, lapping, drinking like puppies, some with tiny babies clinging to their stomachs. The water looking extremely unappealing – a uniform murky, muddy grey pool! Eventually a Maribou Stork came down, big wings beating, and landed as daintily as a ballet dancer!! He gave us a show, as he walked through the waterhole, scything his great big beak through the water looking for some unfortunate barbel or frog. He was unsuccessful, but we enjoyed the view.

A procession of Warthogs, of all shapes and sizes, some pretty, some very warty appeared with some delightful, parent-copycat babies. One was so amusing as he/she kept rubbing her backside on a little tuft of grass, obviously having a most annoying itch, but so funny to watch. They had no idea we were there, so they were very natural, mud bathing, grunting, snorting and having a marvellous time.

A very large herd of Impala came to drink, shiny, fatly sleek, such beautiful animals, with markings and colours so dramatic in a group. They drank, always watching, ears twitching, then moved into areas of shade and just stood, quite still, resting peacefully …and beautiful. The monkeys suddenly rushed up a tree making their alarm calls and which was joined by the alarm calls of the Impala.

We thought we would be lucky enough to see a predator, but finally gave up as we had an hour and half walk back to camp. We left our “spot” at about three thirty and started ambling home, making a longish detour as an elephant was making his way to the waterhole. As we came through the trees on the West bank, just prior to crossing a dambo, I saw a movement in the long grass, and there was this beautiful leopard. He looked at us and ran away, not fast, but in a sort of walk run. He stopped on the bank and turned and looked at us…a magnificent male with a dark coat, and very golden, hot honey eyes, staring at us, rather disdainfully, before walking off….a lovely end to a very relaxing day!!!

06 October

We have just returned from a lovely visit to the Fly Camp. The river is dropping quite rapidly, and there is one place where it is very shallow, so we have to navigate with great care and caution, allowing us to enjoy the beautiful river banks. There are a number of ‘star’ trees (the Wild Magnolia). It is such a lovely tree- looks just like a tree filled with stars. All the colours on the banks, with no wind at all, made a nice change. We were drifting along the river in a mirror image of the wonderful sky, banks and tree colours….the images only disturbed by the snorting, pop-eyed hippos as they ducked down, making snorts, circles and waves. We saw a lot of vultures hunched in the proverbial dead tree…and some lovely Crowned cranes on an island. We arrived at the Fly Camp and, as everything is now based at the camp, all we had to do was sit down and enjoy a cold pink gin and some freshly roasted peanuts, whilst the staff unloaded the food boxes and prepared dinner. While we absorbed the bush ambiance we heard a Screech Owl, then a Scops Owl, then a Barred Owl – an owl-hoot night as the moon rose slowly. A leopard grunted quite close by, causing the guinea fowl to set up their chirring alarm calls, while a hyeana started whooping over the river…

Suddenly the most wonderful, momentous roar from a male lion. We all sat up as it was fairly close…silence….then some far off roars, then suddenly another very loud roar…the lion was walking in our direction, and roaring quite often. I went to the staff and told them that if it got any closer we should all retire to the boat…which we duly did….as he seemed to be very close. Shortly after we had all got onto the boat, he stopped roaring so we all returned to the camp and sat down to a delicious roasted rosemary chicken dinner by candlelight and moonlight. Not another roar was heard as we went to bed, but the other night sounds continued.

While returning to the base camp we saw the same hunched bunch of vultures sitting in the tree. We decided to investigate, so we moored the Fish Eagle and crept up the bank. Some vultures sat in the tree, but some were on the ground. There was such an awful whiff. We crept to the anthill behind the vultures, some of which flew off to nearby trees. On the ground was a very large dead Buffalo…mostly eaten, with a huge boss and horns, and on closer, very smelly inspection I discovered it was an old bull whom I had got to “know”, or at least recognise. He had a pronounced limp, and when I checked his left back leg I saw that he had an injury to his back hoof. I felt sorry to see him dead, but he was very old, and alone…Poor old thing…and no sign of the lions…but they had obviously been roaring from the kill the night before.

Leave a Reply