We were sitting on an anthill, and watched someone drive away. We could not even wave as there was a very wonderful rufous-maned male lion lying in the golden grass, watching us with curious eyes…. read on….
We had the most amazing experience this morning- I’ll call it an “anthill hopping morning”…. We were sitting on one anthill, quite near the camp, listening to reverberating lion roars, when we spotted him lying in the grass. We crept to another anthill and there he was, just getting up and stretching before disappearing into the thick bush, a big grey, gold shadow, moving into the shade. The trackers and I were just deciding on a strategy as to where we could walk next to find him, when a very beautiful bushbuck materialised in the long golden grass. He was almost invisible until the rising sun gilded his horns. He was looking intently at WHAT? There was our big lion, again watching us with pale golden eyes. He had walked in a silent semi circle and was lying about 150 metres away, looking very majestic, and special, watching us and something on the horizon. Looking in the same direction we saw our zebra prodigy, Neddy, who lives with a herd of impala. He is a VERY clever zebra who must have got lost when quite young and imprinted on a herd of impala, whom he has lived with for about a year now. He seems quite content to stay with his smaller companions. We see them so often around the camp.
Rufous was watching Neddy intently and after a while he vanished as a silent ghost into the waving gold of the grass. There was no sound, and we could not see him at all. Then, another silence shattering roar, and he appeared at the other side of the plain, right in front of the campsite which you had all just left it.
With a lumbering, but quite fast gait, he started to chase Neddy, who ran with his impala chums towards us. I admit to a bit of hand clapping and whistling as I really had no desire to see Neddy killed. The lion again vanished into the thick bush at the Campsite and we decided to amble on.
As we were walking, we heard a loud commotion in a nearby tree and decided to see what it was all about. There were about fifteen birds clustering around and scolding a beautiful, tiny barred owl, who sat and blinked at them in a bemused fashion. He was undisturbed by us and we managed to get some lovely photos .
We ambled further into the golden rays of the rising sun, which lit up all the dew laden grasses and leaves like diamonds and the jewel like spider webs, perfect, back lit with their little spider centre-pieces., while listening to the rather comforting deep duh-duh drumbeat sounds of the Ground Hornbill. We sat and had a drink of water next to a magnificent termite mound, which houses a very large warthog family and watched a grey hornbill do his hornpipe dance to silvery songs, answered by another not far off. We heard another lion roar in the distance and decided to track the ground hornbills which had not seen us and were busily walking through the grass towards us, visible by their bright crimson faces, Of course, when they saw us they were most alarmed and clumsily took flight just above our heads – a noisome and dramatic sight. We watched a duet of colourful black backed barbets with their scarlet heads bobbing and chattering. A beautiful winter flowering cassia with it’s startling yellow flowers sparsely blooming, gentle faced puku watching us with dark-eyed enquiry as we crept past them, and a crowned eagle sitting in the top of a tree, raising and lowering his crown with his wings held at half mast for some reason, probably in irritation at the incessant and truly African sound- the call of our resident nesting fish eagle pair, who sound annoyingly triumphant as they raise yet another chick.
It started getting warm, so we ambled back through the golden grass, our backs getting hot, and finally got back to camp for a most welcome cup of coffee.
Honestly, it is such a wonderful early morning – dew laden, dawn laden golden sunrise. Walking into the rising sun lights up all the dew on the myriad grasses, spangled spider webs, golden lit, tiny spiders sitting in the middle of perfect webs, which tremble as we pass. Two sullen vultures survey the dawn with gloomy hunched coldness. Then a splash of colour as a black collared barbet lands on a tree, soon followed by his chum, and they start their lovely duet as they bow in polite scarlet splendour to each other. The shrill call of the scarlet chested sunbird who swoops past like a ruby jewel, with his tiny wife. They sound so full of joy. Most of the other birds are sedately sitting, catching the warming rays as the sun rises. We see a little sparrow hawk, thoroughly enjoying a mousy feast. We can see him clearly, with the mouse tail hanging from the branch as he consumes his delicatessen meal. Two crowned hornbills sitting in military neatness on a dead branch, dramatic on the dawn gold sky with their heavy red bills.
We hear lion roars up stream and monkey alarm calls just over the Mushingashi, but the grass is too long to see what is causing his worry although we stand and scan every inch of the other bank. A kudu alarm barks over the river as well. We should have crossed!! But we didn’t and we were constrained with time as our lovely, appreciative guests hae to leave later in the morning.
So on we wandered, enjoying the bird song, the leaves rustling, and the puku watching us with gentle eyes and curved, sunlit horns. We disturb a water dikkop, who flew off on silent, spotted wings and landed near to an elephant who was like a silent ghost standing about 220 metres away, totally oblivious of us. Hhhhmmm… we had not seen him, so many thanks to the dikkop!! We just side-stepped, checking the wind, and went away as quietly as we could with the rank elephant smell staying with us a while. We heard the motor sound of his tummy rumble, so walked a little faster through glades laden this time with the ruby red combretum seeds. it is beautiful as the sun touches them all. We disturbed a shy bushbuck, who put her head down and ran away, as we watched meyers parrots fly, shrieking joyfully, across our path.
Slow amble back to camp, enjoying every moment of the wildness, and silence and starting to warm up slowly (the start of our walk had been VERY, very cold).
There is much happiness, as our resident warthog, Webster is back, on his knees, enjoying a delicious grubbing in the short grass in front of our hut. He has gentle, sleepy eyes, and watches me with almost a wink every now and again. He seems fascinated by the solar panels and is rootling right next to one as I write.
This morning was the last morning before our lovely Americans guests left camp to wend their way on to Mfuwe, and we have had such a nice time, seeing leopard on four occasions, glorious sunsets, gentle days drifting down the river, catching and eating fresh Kafue bream. But, today was a beautiful, crisp very chilly pink dawn, and we had been surrounded all night by dramatic and loud lion roars around the camp. We set out early to try to see them, but I guess they must have seen us first, whilst lying in the dew laden grass, because all of a sudden the only sounds we heard were the alarm calls of kudu over the Mushingashi and impala alarm calls going towards Spring number 3. Chris and three of the guests went off in that direction, and Nicholas and I went in another direction. We walked quietly through the golden grass, slowly thawing out as the sun touched us and then stood and watched some impala and puku grazing relaxedly nearby. Suddenly a tree started shaking in quite a boisterous fashion, about 50 metres from us, and then we saw two very big grey feet, and an explosive tummy rumble. We were very close to a very big elephant. We crept away, tip toeing through the bushes, and decided to come back to camp and collect “Eric”, the game viewing cruiser, to fetch the others.
Just on the off chance we decided to go to Spring number 3 for a drive, and there we saw the elusive lion, lying watching a group of fat and happy warthogs! He ignored us and proceeded to stalk the warthogs. it was very exciting to watch. When he finally made his charge the warthogs ran away. He did not seem to mind too much, just got up and sauntered to the road where he ambled along, marking trees and bushes with face rubbings and urine sprays. He totally ignored us as. we watched a large herd of impala watching him walk along, their faces bright with curiosity, big ears sharply pointed in his direction.
We returned for brunch feeling very special with a lovely farewell for our guests and a delightful end to a beautiful morning.