What a wild ride it’s been! Long over due for a post on what we’ve been up to, but everyday seems to be filled with life. Whether it’s crazy animal encounters, extreme trips, chilling on a river, or doing bundles of laundry, I don’t seem to have had a moment to pull my thoughts together and give you all the update you deserve. So here goes…
The Call of Africa
A poem by C. Emily-Dibb
When you’ve acquired a taste for dust,
The scent of our first rain,
You’re hooked for life on Africa
And you’ll not be right again
Till you can watch the setting moon
And hear the jackals bark
And know that they’re around you,
Waiting in the dark.
When you long to see the elephants,
Or to hear the coucal’s song,
When the moonrise sets your blood on fire,
You’ve been away too long
It’s time to cut the traces loose
And let your heart go free
Beyond that far horizon,
Where your spirit yearns to be.
Africa is waiting – come!
Since you’ve touched the open sky
And learned to love the rustling grass,
The wild fish-eagles cry.
You’ll always hunger for the bush,
For the lion’s rasping roar,
To camp at last beneath the stars
And to be at peace once more.
That about captures it. We spent a magnificent 2 and a half weeks in Botswana, and if Africa wasn’t well and truly settled in our bones before that, there’s no doubt about it now.
We were quite selective in which parks we wanted to go to because Botswana will break your bank if you stay too long. So we used Maun as a base where we could restock between adventures, and bounced between national parks along the delta. First was Moremi, a park situated along the east of the delta with some very diverse biomes. Of parks we’ve been to, I would put Moremi on the top of the list. This isn’t just because we saw an abundance of wildlife; the park itself is beautiful. Being in the delta it has a lot of wetland, which in turn leads to magnificent forest. After many weeks of bone-dry bushveld, desert, and Mopani land, being in a kind of bush-forest, surrounded by water, was the bees-knees. We camped in an unfenced reserve, and had ellies visit us all through the day, and hyenas visiting at night. As beautiful and majestic as ellies are, there comes a point where you would prefer them not to come and hangout in your campsite however. On more than one occasion we retreated from our camping chairs, abandoning books and drinks, because the approaching ellies wanted to graze on the trees right above our van. There were occasions when they tossed our chairs around, not out of anger, probably just because they could, and other occasions when they just came to stand around in the shade. On all occasions we were cautious, giving them plenty of room, but out-waiting an elephant would be a futile attempt – these guys invented staring competitions! – so on some occasions we simply went and hung out with our neighbouring campers. As gentle as these giants are, if you got under their feet, you probably wouldn’t make it out as a 3D object on the other side.
The hyenas were certainly more sneaky, keeping us on our toes at night, and had us scuttling into our van/tent area as darkness fell. Looking into the bush and seeing pairs of eyes staring back at you in your torch-light is a very unnerving experience.
From Moremi we went into Kwai, an area revered for its leopard. As this is what we have been searching for our entire trip, we simply couldn’t miss it. Lola was on tenterhooks. We were only there for 2 days, as the price is unfortunately not made for South Africans, which didn’t leave us much time to spot the secretive cats. After being so unlucky in the past we weren’t holding our breath, so we spent the day hiding in the shade from the 40 degree weather, and went in search of great river spots for an evening bath. Bear in mind all these rivers have crocs and hippos, so finding the right spot is key to your survival. On our second night, the right spot happened to be just a short distance away from a rather large commotion… while Shaun was standing sentry on the roof of the car, he noticed a couple of cars in the bushes down the way. He decided this was obviously too good to miss, so we quickly abandoned washing off the dust and went in search of whatever was lurking in the bushes…
Two leopards and their kill. Right there. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience! Beautiful, sleek, and by far the most well groomed animal I have ever seen – we sat and watched them for hours. Climbing up and down the tree. Snacking on their dinner. Having a snooze. It was a perfect sighting. We left feeling elated, only when it was too dark to appreciate them any longer. What a feeling of accomplishment. I realise some of you may not appreciate the magnitude of this sighting, but that is only because you haven’t seen Lola’s wardrobe, or her drawings, or the countless stories she’s written… all leopard fanatical. Suddenly our game viewing experience felt almost complete. Lola could at last tick her favourite animal off the list, and the rest of us could breath a sigh of relief. Lincoln has been lucky in that we seem to attract lion wherever we go, so he has seen plenty of his favourite. We are still chasing the energetic and endangered wild dog, but that too will come. For now it’s enough that Lola still believes in leopards, for a while there we were worried she was putting them in the same category as the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny.
Some more images from Kwai.
Some more images from Moremi.