Elephants, and MORE elephants!

Elephants, and MORE elephants!

The first elephant herds would arrive at the camp waterhole at about ten in the morning. The last animals would leave at dusk……and in-between these times, there would be a constant stream…like ships or barges moving through a canal….interspersed by dazzles of zebra, impala and loping baboons who would drink with pursed lips, shifty eyes and bottoms much elevated.  Piles of dung lay scattered around resembling a myriad termite mounds on a gray plain, literally scores of them on the well trodden, flat gray soil around the waterhole.

Elephants at Somavundhla Pan

Elephants at Somavundhla Pan

Wherever we drove there was sign of elephant feeding behaviors. Broken shrubs, debarked trees of several kinds, dung piles, pathways like smooth two foot roads crossing the sandy track either leading to or from a waterhole, even a distant one.  Shuffled sandy crossings were common on the road, and silent gray forms often stood like shadows, motionless except for a periodic ear movement during the heat of noon. The younger members lay down to be rounded lumps amongst a cathedral of pillar legs.

The best part was at sundowners.  We would be drawn to the larger pans like Somavundhla and Little Sam’ to see what animals were there….apart from elephant. Sable, roan, buffalo and baboons were the common creatures found there. Lions too, once. Then herds upon herds ….family upon family, each lead by a matriarch would either be marching in or be there already, sucking the water up through their trunks and blowing into their mouths with gusty, watery sighs.

 

 

Drinking herds

Drinking herds

The smokey atmosphere created ideal conditions for photography, and I made the most of it, despite the limitations of my small camera.  All three evenings we stopped to enjoy G&T’s at waterholes, and each event was memorable for some particular reason. The reds of the sky, changing hues with time or the proximity we allowed ourselves to be to the bustling, skin-rubbing, dribbling animals. It was a great privilege to be able to be so close to them without their concern.

Water was far more important!

 

 

 

 

 

Last sundowners with elephants

Last sundowners with elephants

 

Broken tusk

Broken tuskAt one waterhole we found a piece of tusk, broken during a tussle perhaps or digging for minerals, lying on a bed of dung and sand. We left it there….part of the scenery in this wilderness of elephants.

At one waterhole we found a piece of tusk, broken during a tussle perhaps or digging for minerals, lying on a bed of dung and sand. We left it there….part of the scenery in this wilderness of elephants.

 

Lewa Safari Camp

Up the next morning and away we went. Two of the group decided to stay behind with a mix of ‘needing to recover still’ and a brief tummy upset. So, we took off into the expectant morning with the air fresh and the day ahead full of surprises. Spotted hyenas returning home after a night’s hunting. Not commonly seen here, and so we followed them to a waterhole where they slopped around noisily, getting their fill and then lay in the mud briefly. A herd of zebra watched them warily from a short way off.  A herd of Cape Buffalo wandered in and took over the waterhole and the muddy area around the pan too.  We carried on.

A picnic breakfast had been set up for us on a hilltop…..what a view!

Giraffe, elephant, gazelles, oryx, zebra and some great birds filled our morning well…….and the most unusual of all….the bright blue scrotum and red willy of a male vervet monkey!  This attracted a LOT of mirth and ribald comment.  The poor chap was quite taken aback with all the photography.  Another surprise was a female cheetah with her 8 month old cub!

Back at camp a fabulous lunch was served in the ‘pool house’, amidst superb starlings, weavers and a cloud of doves. They all had their own ‘table’ set way away from us humans, but they were fun to watch.

Neat and simple

Neat and simple

Simple, but very comfortable

Simple, but very comfortable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea was at 3.30pm, and then set off again.  Black rhino with a calf and then the biggest herd of Grevy’s zebra AND Common zebra feeding in the same proximity but with towering fever trees as a back ground!!  The afternoon light was gilding on this picture and we enjoyed it to the max.  After a gentle drive through the forest we stopped for a sundowner with a steel-blue gray sky, and a hadeda ibis silhouette.

Nightjars flitted across the road on the way back, and as we approached camp seven lions appeared in the headlights gamboling and chasing eachother across the dusty track into the grass on the left….fading into the night like dust in the wind. A green eye glowed briefly in my small flash light and the shapes were gone. All was quiet.

 

Mana Pools: One of Zimbabwe’s gems.

Mana Pools National Park is a World Heritage Site, located on the Zambezi river, opposite the Lower Zambezi National Park, in Zambia.  This wonderful park is one of the only national parks where casual visitors are allowed to walk about in the park at their own risk. Read more…