Sunrise was a clear sky, not what I hoped for, however I captured the view from my tent and the gully (Savuti channel) which carries the water to the marsh in the south, both dry at this time. The bushes on the other side hide the road to the airport.
The USA lady & her guide that I met at Tuskers were here a day ahead of us. They offered to sit at the back to allow Ailine & I to be on the 1st row seats – a lot better as Ailine was at the back and I in the passenger seat yesterday. Today David sat in the front passenger seat. A cool windy morning that, as usual, warmed up by 11 when we came back for lunch.
First call was the northern lions again – they were still there, one large male near the road that presented us with some great shots in the low early morning light, as he faced into the sun. He roared once, calling his mate, yawned, became bored, gave us an appraising look, and sauntered off. The vultures and dogs were also watching.
We drove into the marsh to a well visited waterhole, also dry but for the pumped water to encourage the animals, and of course, for our viewing! On the way were copses and patches of trees on slightly higher ground. If you have followed me for a while, you will know I love trees. We quickly passed frequent herds of impala and blue wildebeest, small groups of bored giraffe munching on the thorn leaves, a steenbok, and another small herd of tssebe.
We had several fascinating hours watching a large herd of elephant jealously guarding a waterhole from wildebeest and three painted dogs. The older elephants leave the young ones to do most of the shooing. Sandgrouse flocked there too, checking elephant dung for seeds. It’s entertaining to anticipate the elephant (and wildebeest) reaction as the dogs crept nearer to the water. The blue wildebeest are seldom still, unlike elephants, running from no clear enemy – or is it just fun? From a distance, elephants are just big, but a wildebeest seen against a backdrop of elephant legs shows the massive size of elephants, especially the bulls. Their eyesight is poor, perhaps not surprising as the eye is relatively small. The young are kept close to the herd.
Marabou storks are, I think, the ugliest birds ever. They stand quietly in groups like old men with little to say. Antelope, on the other hand, are always alert, head up, watching for the predators, then bounding away. We watched the skitterish impala against a backdrop of leopard hill, overseen by a perched flock of Cape glossy starling.
Lastly we found the Savuti marsh pride of about 14 lion lying flat in the shade of bushes, from several cubs to a very old (14yr old?) lioness, so thin she looked dead. Apparently the fit eat first so she doesn’t get a lot, and they have not had a kill for some time, unlike the northern pride we saw yesterday.
The topography is interesting; very flat with a few 500m high, bushy, stone (felsic schist) hills where leopards hide, and 5m deep grass channels that carry the flood waters when they arrive in December. They afford easy track access, but one can’t see beyond the bush top edge. The marsh area is entirely grass; elsewhere it is open savannah, tall thorn and acacias, low green bushes. We ended the morning with coffee under a lone tree at a small waterhole. In the distance a large herd of topi galloped over the yellow grass past the smell of the lion pride, then stopped to graze still within sight of the lion – but not the smell!.
Jessica mentioned yesterday that she has a 15 min prayer time with the staff when we are out, but that we could meet after lunch. The USA lady, Ailine and I met with her for 30 mins sharing and encouraging her in her 1 yr old faith (7th Day). It was good to do – my emotions seem to surface rather too easily lately, and she also was affected.
It must be so difficult to manage the camp in such a remote, sandy, hot place. The water was off this morning (pump failure), then the power went off, yet the chef, a large black woman, produces meals worthy of a French chef.
The people remind me so often of the movies (and book) ‘The gods must be crazy’ and ‘The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency’. A great country that manages to live in peace, unlike most on this continent.
I took the lunch time opportunity to shoot a few images of the dining, lounge, and bar, as well as a ‘parade’ of the presidents. Sir Seretsi Khama in the middle is largely responsible for establishing the peace in this country, supported by his UK wife.
After ‘high tea’ at 4 (cake, tea, coffee, cold or hot), we set off again in the hope of seeing the leopard. First off, a tawny eagle and, of course, elephants, followed by the north lion pride; we could smell the elephant kill, so the lions were missing now, replaced by three types of feasting vultures (lappet face, small hooded, and white-back) and a pair of black-backed jackals; a kite sat in a tree waiting for an opportunity.
We continued looking for the leopard, passing leopard rock hill, through and along the channel but still no leopard. Passing many impala, warthogs and a fork-tail drongo, we came to the hyena den, over antbear (aardvark) holes. Our ranger, P-man took us a hundred meters away to a lookout over the channel, here 7m deep and 200m wide, where we watched the sun set in a red ball. Returning to the den we found 10 young hyena lying around in the dusk. Mother was pacing through the bush 300m away, looking for a meal. She must have smelled the rotting elephant several km away because she set off on a direct route to it at a pace we only just managed in the jeep travelling on the sand. We lost her as we approached the camp at last light, as a pink and violet sky rose above the camp dining area.
We had just 30min to shower before the usual amazing dinner, tonight a half avocado with a mushroom filling, lamb chops in a gravy, cous-cous, and vegetables, followed by a half pear baked in a filo pastry. All this is planned 10 days ahead, ordered on Sunday, delivered on Thursday by truck from Maun, an 8 hr trip on these roads, truly a massive operation. And this is not the only camp.
Self-drive campers are parked outside this camp, under trees, An ablution block is available. Since we are escorted to and from dinner by P-man scanning the bush with a large bright lamp, I wondered if the campers were in danger. He said yes if they did not adhere to the rules – whatever they are. I guess staying close to the car and tent, with a fire.
This is my last night in Botswana. We are being serenaded by loud trumpeting and occasionally a lion roar, probably yet another kill is in motion. Nature red in tooth and claw – Tennyson. I hope I can sleep.