October 17th – Day Twenty Three
We woke early for the morning activities. A number of us were heading off for a early morning park walk and three people were going back into the park for another driving safari. Keryn, Maria and John were all set and ready when the vehicle arrived and soon departed. Those on the walk were greeted by our guide and after a quick shirt change for Tina and Roger (their selected shirts were too bright) we followed the guide and our guard (Patrick, the man with the gun just in case we came across an aggressive animal) into the woods that surrounded the camp.
A short walk away from camp we stopped and the guide gave us a talk about safety and what we would be doing and might be seeing. We were to walk in single file and in the event of an animal charging were to follow instruction and let Patrick deal with the issue. We were told that this was a nature walk more than a wildlife safari, so we may see some large animals but nothing was guaranteed. Talk given we walked on.
Patrick, our armed guard for the morning wildlife walk
The first hour or so saw us identify a number of different animals by their droppings (more interesting than it sounds) and tracks, animals such as giraffe, puku, elephant and hyena were all identified as being close to camp in recent days. We also came across the bones of two different giraffes, one which contained a skull and complete neck vertebrae which was interesting to see. There was also investigation of some of the local insect life, a larvae bug that creates pits to entrap prey and a preying mantis that looked like a stick being the most memorable. Early on we came to a large open swampy pond and while we were looking over at the birds we saw a small group of elephants come down to drink. They would have been at least 100 meters away but its a completely different experience to seeing these animals from the back of a truck or jeep. They didn’t appear to notice us so we watched them for a while before continuing.
With Impala passing by we came out of the wood into a more open area. Walking on past more tracks we looked at a number of different plants and trees, saw some more birds including something that may have been a hawk or kite fly past with a small mouse like creature in its claws, and then saw a giraffe in the distance. At this point the guide asked us if we wanted to try following the giraffe or first wanted to visit a colony of birds. There was a discussion and we decided to see the birds first so we headed away from the giraffe and this proved to be a good decision as we shortly found George.
George is a giraffe. He’s not tame but he has a tolerance to humans so we were able to get quite close before he became uncomfortable and started moving away. Again it was great to be in the wild with a magnificent animal and we had a great time taking photos and just watching George for no more than 30 meters away.
Giraffe encounter over we then set off again and after a while came off the open area onto the dry banks of the Zambezi. Coming down onto the long sandy banks we walked along and came to the bird colony, an area of nesting for the Common Bee-Eater. There were a few hundred of these brightly coloured birds either clinging to the short sandy cliff around the nesting holes or flying between the river banks and the nests. We managed to get quite close and take lots of photos while the guide talked to us about some of the other wildlife that could be seen from our position. There were impala and puku as well as wading birds and hawks flying above. We drank water and took more photos before the guide called time and it was onwards again. We climbed the bank and wandered along the top following the river. We continued past well worn tracks of hippo and other animals before heading back inland a way into more woody areas.
Nearly immediately we saw a group of giraffe but these individuals were more elusive and secretive so we didn’t get any photos to go with the encounter. We surprised a young puku and then came to an area of dried mud which I’m guessing is a pool in wetter times. On the far side of this area were a large number of baboons and it was with this view that we continued. There were more giraffe in the distance and the odd impala but this was our last wildlife viewing, we soon came back out onto the Zambezi banks to reach the end of our walk at the Wildlife camp restaurant area. We said goodbye to our guide and Patrick while having tea, coffee and muffins. We had a group photo taken by one of the camp staff and then we were off back to our camp for a very late breakfast and then packing and preparing to leave.
The safari drive crew arrived back shortly after us. Apparently if was an animal holiday as they didn’t see many animals. New varieties they did see were mongoose and also the retreating back of a leopard. They were watching something else and turned around to see the retreating spots. By the time anyone had their camera the cat was gone. The only other thing to be found was apparently the tsetse fly – we’re told that the fly in this area don’t carry the sleeping sickness but they are still persistent and painful when they bite.
Back together we all packed and ate and tidied up, leaving around 12pm it was back towards Mama Rula’s. This time it was over three hours of dust and bumps but we didn’t have the airborne adventures of last time, Charles finding a better route. Mama Rula’s was free of other trucks so we had a quiet afternoon and evening with another nice evening meal before an early exit to our tents, tomorrow being the longest driving day so far and an early start with a 5am breakfast