Wednesday, January 30

Haunting Hwange (part 1)

As many of you know I went on a 4 week overland trip through Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa in late 2011. I promised then to post more about that trip, so this is the first in a series of postings about our stay in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, a very special place, full of ghosts......

It was just past noon on a baking day in November that we finally cleared the border posts at Pandamatenga and entered Zimbabwe.

We had packed up camp in Kasane on the Chobe River earlier that morning and had had a fairly smooth drive south, until we hit the Zimbabwean border post.

I've learnt, from long experience, that border posts, especially in Africa, are best approached in a relaxed and patient manner. There is never any point in being uptight or aggressive with officialdom - they have all the "power".

Well this time, we had a small escalation over a minor problem, but fortunately after a bit of stress on everyone's part we got through with only a slight delay.

This was the first time I had been back to Zimbabwe in 4 years, and the first time back to Hwange National Park, (on Zimbabwe's western border) since 1987. So I was very excited!

Facing us was a 100 kilometre drive on dirt roads of unknown quality, so once we were well out of sight of the border we found a patch of shade to stop and have a leg stretch, drink and lunch.

Hans and Bud

Until we got to the Nantwich Gate into Hwange the roads were not too bad, a few rough rocky patches here and there and some stretches of corrugations. The landscapes were beautiful and where they hadn't been burnt there was still quite a lot of vegetation to be seen.

We were also very lucky to spot a distant herd of Sable antelope plus giraffe and impala.....

Lala Palms in the Matetsi Hunting Area

Approaching the Nantwich Gate


the north west part of Hwange was originally the Robins Game Sanct.

Checking in at Robin's Camp we were struck by the dilapidated infrastructure. Windows broken, thatched roofs slipping off, no working toilets. At least there was running water at an outside standpipe. We didn't explore further into the Rest camp as we were running out of time to make the final 40 kilometers to Masuma Dam, our camp for the next 2 nights.

The roads were only washed out in a few places, road signs were still in place at most intersections and the elephant, impala, kudu and buffalo we did see were not blocking our way, so we pulled into Masuma Dam camping/picnic site just two hours later, soon after sunset.

All plans of setting up camp were immediately postponed as we saw a herd of elephants jostling at the drinking trough immediately in front of the hide.

They were gaunt, obviously very thirsty and totally oblivious to us sitting just a few metres away.

We were also thirsty (maybe not so hungry) and we enjoyed our "sundowners" whilst watching all the action.

As the eles silently drifted off into the gloaming, we got back to our hastily parked vehicles and started setting up camp before the night got totally black.

A couple of hours later after enjoying our supper cooked over the camp fire, the heavens opened with a mighty flash and crash and we dashed for our tents.

Plans for the rest of our stay in Hwange could wait until the morrow......

Thursday, January 10

Summer Action in Kruger

The last two summers I had worked in Mozambique as a DM and I hadn't realised how much I had missed Kruger in high summer, until I got back there 2 weeks ago.

Ten days on the go with three safaris back to back, temperatures soaring from cool damp days of 22 degrees to sunny, steamy highs of 35 degrees, and the animal action was just amazing!

In addition to the wonderful summer bird life and despite the dense, lush greenery we had multiple sightings of lion, leopard, cheetah, rhino, elephant and hyaena. The only animal of the "big 5" that we struggled to find was the African buffalo, being limited to distant views of the odd "dagga boy".

And of course, all the babies! Impala lambs skittering on long awkward legs, wildebeest calves lazing in the long grass, and "warthoglets" racing away with tails held high.....

I thought with this posting I would try to post some slightly "different" photos from the more normal classic poses, as with the impala lamb scratching his ear above;

This giraffe delicately wrapping her tongue around an acacia twig;

A young Grey Heron wobbling and stretching on it's perch;

A baboon mother enjoying the first of the marula fruit;

This young leopard uncomfortably perched in her marula tree;

PS check out my favourite photos of my favourite animal - the leopard at Coral Wild Snapshots

Maybe this rhino should be called Mick Jagger?

This pair of mating lions had been in the road for most of three days. Obviously oblivious to the continuous traffic jam around them.

When we were there this time the male was having to really encourage the female to get into the right position!

On the third safari we didn't see a single elephant in the first 24 hours, and then they seemed to be everywhere!

Kruger in summer is truly a magnificent place, so all of you out there who only visit during the cool dry months, you don't know what you are losing out on!