Wednesday, February 20

When the going gets tough.....

Summer in the African bush can be tough, especially for those who shudder in the presence of creepy crawlies.
In sweltering, sticky heat, the beetles, spiders, mosquitoes and reptiles are all making the most of summer before the rains depart.

Of course, in these modern times we have it way easier than our forebears did, back a hundred years and more.

Air-conditioning, bug spray, medicines and comfortable vehicles to move around in, can make the whole experience seem quite effortless, until....

Mozambican Spitting Cobra sit down on the toilet, only to look up and see a snake wound around a rafter;


...cobwebs cling to your face and hands as you walk up the footpath every morning;

Golden Orb Web spider enormous dung beetle collides with your face on the game drive;


 ...another beetle catches in your hair under the lights during dinner;

...just as you sit down to eat dinner, the arrival of the stink bugs make the plagues of Egypt look pathetic;

...during some dry days between rain storms, the ants come pouring out in their millions (you should see me dancing the “ant-dance” whilst I'm trying to sort out the vehicles before a drive!!).

A colourful grasshopper

Fortunately for my guests and me, we are only in the real “hot zone” for a few days and for the other animals we get to see at this time of the year, every spider, dung beetle and snake is worth it!

If you are keen on birds, summer is definitely the time of year to be in the bush. Apart from all our locally breeding species we have thousands of summer visitors escaping the winters of the northern hemisphere. In late summer, they are to be seen everywhere as they feed intensively to build up fat stores for their long flight home.

European Roller

Southern Carmine Bee-eaters

The grass is long, the bush thick and morning dew drenches the vegetation. Many animals, including the predators prefer the open road and path ways early on a summers day.

So good sightings of lion, leopard, wild dog, hyena, rhino and elephant can be had........

More difficult to find at this time of the year are the giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest and the more solitary antelope.

To make up for this though, are all the great tortoise, lizard and other reptile sightings.

I won't even start on about the wild flowers, sprinkled everywhere in the golden green grass......

So, the following photos are just a small sampling of some of the great experiences we've had on safari over the last four weeks.


Monday, February 11

Haunting Hwange (2) - Masuma Dam

In Haunting Hwange part 1 (read it here) I described our journey into Masuma Dam, Hwange, Zimbabwe, and our first evening spent there.
Masuma Dam - hide and camp seen from "main" road

In all we spent 4 nights at Masuma Dam. The original plan had been for 2 nights but we realised within the first hour what a special place this was. Radio calls between our camp attendants and the office at Sinamatella Camp established that we could spend an extra two nights provided we travelled to Sinamatella to pay the extra bucks.

Our camp

In Hwange, there are camping “facilities” in the 3 main camps and in addition there are three or four picnic / camping sites based at waterholes. Masuma Dam was one of these.

It was located on the “main” thoroughfare between Robins and Sinamatella Camps in the north and west, and Main Camp and the road out to the rest of Zimbabwe in the east. Admittedly we did not spend all day in camp, but during the three days that we were there we only saw 3 other vehicles come by on that road – of which only one was other tourists.
Meves Starling
A beautiful Emperor Moth

The camping ground, hide and dilapidated shower / toilets were kept spotlessly clean by the two attendants, MyBlessing and Thabeni, with extremely few resources and back up from the Park management. They get paid so little that they cannot afford to buy shoes or much in the way of clothing, and one can't even guess how long it has been since they were provided with uniforms.

Nevertheless they were cheerful and hard workers and a poignant reminder for me of just how different the culture and attitude is generally, north of the Limpopo.

On the evening of our arrival, the water pump for the waterhole had started giving trouble, and lacking any basic tools (like a monkey wrench) they were delighted to see us, so that they could borrow the necessary and sort out the pump the next morning.

MyBlessing & Thabeni off to fix the pump

As mentioned in my earlier posting we had wonderful rain on our first night, obviously the first in a long time, and after that it rained / stormed every afternoon we were in Hwange.

Whether it was the rain, or our noisy, human, presence close to the waterhole, we had no more visits from elephant during daylight hours. One large buffalo herd came in on day 2, but apart from the hippo squeezing together in the small remaining puddle we saw no more mammals at Masuma Dam. We heard hyena and the hippo every night, lion once and the elephants came back for a very noisy drink late one night, but the birds and other creatures kept us entertained most days.

Too many hippos in too little water!

Marabou Stork

Saddle-billed Stork

And of course the sunsets over the waterhole were spectacular every night........