Linyanti Au Revoir

Linyanti Au Revoir

A movement in the shadows of the huge Jackalberry caught the guides’ eye…..he looked through his binoculars…..’Painted dogs’, he smiled. We had been staring at the leopard who didn’t wish to be seen….and now the ‘dogs’ were a scant two hundred yards away.  No question…we set off following our ‘sister’ vehicle.

he remained motionless until he realized we had seen him

He remained motionless until he realized we had seen him

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They had killed an impala about twenty minutes ago…in fact whilst we had been trying to find the leopard!  They looked in great condition, and were filled with meat. To see Painted dogs was a bonus…to see them on a kill was the ‘cherry’!

The dogs had killed the impala whilst we had been searching for the leopard

The dogs had killed the impala whilst we had been searching for the leopard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That afternoon we went on the river, on the Linyanti Queen…a cliche…but a great lazy boat experience. Birds, hippo, elephant and views across the Linyanti ‘Swamps were our reward. The sky was particularly good that evening, and we watched the night herons heading off as silhouettes across the marsh.

An afternoon boat trip was a welcome change from the vehicle

An afternoon boat trip was a welcome change from the vehicle

We sipped our drinks, saturated with colors, comfort and goodwill.

The Last few Days…

Kings Pool was our final tented ‘home’, and no-one expressed disappointment at the choice of venue!  Landing in the middle of a dry, silent mopane woodland, one has had the benefit of at least catching sight of a ribbon of green some way away to the west.  Several small herds of zebra were drinking at two of the remaining pans in the mopane, their stripes at odds with the greens and yellows of the mopane leaves.

Zebra families were using the remaining pans

Zebra families were using the remaining pans

The fabulous views and calming ambience of the Linyanti river was magical. Namibia was just a horizon away, a line of dark trees a few kilometers away over waving reeds and grass. Hippo, crocodiles and elephants moved in the river and around the camp continually. Warthogs rested in the shade of the cabins and under the walkways during the heat of the day.

 

 

Game drives focused along the riverine belt, such as was left of it. Decades of years of elephant feeding effects had destroyed the riverine vegetation and the majority of the trees. A few massive jackal berry and fig trees remained among the dense, scarred Croton thickets. Impala were abundant providing an important food source for leopard and Painted dogs.

 

 

Calm and peaceful, the view over the Linyanti.

Calm and peaceful, the view over the Linyanti.

 

One afternoon we sat entranced as a herd of elephants crossed the river in front of us, coming over to Botswana. Fabulous! In all, we counted about 150 animals, and there was another stream crossing further downriver from us. That’s a LOT of elephant tummies that needed feeding that night!

 

Warthogs rested in the shade of the walkways and the cabins..unafraid of humans

Warthogs rested in the shade of the walkways and the cabins..unafraid of humans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Zimbabwe first stop…Land of the Giants!

Bulawayo receded into the smoke-hazed distance as the Pilatus climbed steadily to a safe 20 000 feet, above the layer of brown haze thickened by the seasonal bush fires that proliferate in July and August.

The patchwork subsistence cultivation patterned the dry bush below us and we dozed in companiable silence. I glanced out of the oval window and recognized some of the local landmarks of this national park, which is an area the size of Wales. The waterholes that lay like carelessly scattered coins across the bush had tiny dark dots clustered around the edges…..I smiled as I recognized them for what they were….elephants!  I leant forward and tapped one of the ladies on the knee as she dozed…’Hey Diane, we have your first elephants..’. Immediately, her eyes sprung open and she peered out of the window.

We spent three nights at Little Makololo, and saw possibly 1000 elephants in that time!

We also saw a respectable number of other herbivores and carnivores as well, but first, let’s land and drive to camp. The aircraft flared and landed perfectly, the bumpy runway announced a Zimbabwe touch-down. The pilot had thoughtfully banked over a waterhole on the approach, exposing about sixty elephants drinking there! The first antelope we saw were a goodly herd of eland which skittered off a short distance as we slowly approached, the elephants ignored the vehicles as they drank and pushed and squealed at the round concrete trough.

Matriarch and calves at a waterhole

Matriarch and calves at a waterhol

 

 

I looked around at the faces in both vehicles…..a rewarding sea of smiles and excitement. I sighed happily….THIS was going to be good!

Pamberi ne Zimbabwe.

 

 

 

 

 

Lolling, replete lions ignored us as we drove by.

Lolling, replete lions ignored us as we drove by.

We spotted a group of lions at the next waterhole en route to camp. They lay replete, confident and ignored us too…later we discovered they were full of sable meat. A female by the look of the mane we found in the bush.  Whilst we watched the lions in awe, a large roan came strolling warily out of the bush and immediately spotted the lions. He stared fixedly at the cats, and then trotted off a distance before turning briefly once again to stare at the lolling lions.

 

 

 

 

 

The warmth and soft glow of the fire.....

The warmth and soft glow of the fire…..

The campfire held us all in its soft glow that evening, as the temperatures slid down the scale to minus 2C!

 

 

 

The Mara Experience

Nairobi was the first stop and there was no trepidation at spending a couple of nights in exquisite comfort at Hemingways, tucked away in fashionable Karen. The day was filled with interest, starting with the Giraffe Centre….filled with young school children from several local schools…..and there we fed the the giraffe and listened to the resident guide informing us about the different species of giraffe, notably the Rothschild’s giraffe.

A visit to Karen Blixen’s house/museum was next. Expensive but interesting and our guide was terrific.

Feeding the Rothchildee's giraffe....a close acquaintanceship.

Feeding the Rothchildee’s giraffe….a close acquaintanceship.

The restaurant at the Karen Blixen Cottages, formerly her brother Thomas’s house as farm manager, was a fine choice for a lunch break.  The staff very rapidly took our orders and brought lunch in the nick of time before we had to rush for our next appointment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Touching the elephant calves is life-changing for many guests!

Touching the elephant calves is life-changing for many guests!

 

The afternoon was the pinnacle of our visit to Nairobi! The Daphne Sheldrick Elephant and Rhino Orphanage hosted us with a private viewing of the baby elephants, and we wandered amongst them, getting squeezed between their red dusty hides, petting them and generally getting acquainted with them. For everybody, (including me) this was a wonderful hour that went by way too quickly!  The upshot of this was a number of baby elephants were ‘adopted’ by ‘Team Freeman’ and many little hearts made happy.

 

 

The next morning we journeyed on to the Mara itself!  Another adventure to be had!

 

Day 1. First Safari…Safari Sisters..Nairobi.

The day started well, and we managed to find a critical piece of camera gear without which no keen photographer should depart on her first african safari………a battery charger. Viva Ibrahaims Camera Centre!  Whilst we were negotiating the wretched traffic which moved like a one legged snail through the crowded streets, we chatted about the history of Kenya, and some its’ characters like Ewart Grogan, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the role of the British in Africa and some of the other countries that were colonised. History 1.01. Read more…

Tan and Pang Family Safari

First stop, Serengeti!

The Caravan banked and turned at last, curving down towards the tiny strip, a smudge on the sketchy green of the plains, just inside the sinuous curves of the Grumeti river silver and smooth, that winds its’ way across this part of the Serengeti.  The two Singaporean families who were my guests on this trip chattered excitedly in Hokin and English as I pointed out animals, and suddenly the dark ‘dots’ took form. ‘Gavin, Gavin….THESE are wildebeest??………….’  A dark mass of animals walked  along the edge of the river, some of the herd rested amongst the scattered flat topped acacias, like carelessly scattered toys.  The dark ‘cloud’ of moving creatures represented for me one of the earth’s most unique and wonderful spectacles.

They had traveled across half the world to see this…the annual migration in the Serengeti.

A tiny percentage of the population feeding quietly in northern Serengeti

A tiny percentage of the population feeding quietly in northern Serengeti

The bulk of the herd had moved on ten days previously, but there were still A LOT of White-bearded gnu, as they are correctly named.  Thousands upon thousands of these bovids still remained…the vanguard of the million or so that perennially make this trek across the plains. The pilot grinned to himself. He had heard this excitement many times as flew travellers in to the bush strips at various points of entry in the Serengeti, and still he smiled…excitement of this nature is infectious! Read more…