Thursday, 1 March 2012

Duba Plains (2)

Tuesday, 21st February 2012

We set off around 6.00 a.m. and followed our previous track away from the camp, initially over the watery sections, eventually coming to one of the islands, dry at the time of my visit, where there are wide-open savannah-like grasslands dotted with bushes, stands of trees and tall palm trees.

There were frequent Red Lechwe to be seen, antelopes who can perform amazing leaps when running (which is particularly helpful in the often-waterlogged Delta). These handsome creatures were sometimes alone, sometimes in small groups but we also found groups of more than thirty.

A group of Red Lechwe.

Spike spotted the buffalo herd in the distance but navigated downwind to an area where he expected lions. We came up behind a couple of young lions, lying in the long grass but intently watching the movements of the buffalo. I was amazed that the lions didn't even turn to see what was approaching, but remained intent on their task. Leaving the lions to their vigil, we moved away to find other animals passing a group of elephants, a number of red lechwe and finally closing in on the buffalo themselves, with their attendant army of birds.

Part of the large herd of Buffalo.

After studying the buffalo for some time - a very peaceful scene when they are not on the move or threatened by lions - we moved back to the elephants. The group included a number of young.

Elephants quietly grazing.

Warthogs make a rather curious sight, but I find them appealing. They move with a high-stepping gait like a rather enthusiastic, oversized dog. We found a group of three adults with two young. Like all the animals we'd seen, they appeared untroubled by our proximity.

A group of Warthogs.

We decided to go back to the lions, passing a solitary tsessebe on the way. This time, we found a large female lion stretched out on her back, legs in the air, enjoying the warmth but shaded from the direct sun by the shadow of a large bush. Presently, the female went for a short walk before returning to lie down with the young cubs who seemed very sleepy. There appeared little prospect of lion activity for a while so we left them to it.

I saw two warthogs scampering through the grass, tails held high - a warthog peculiarity when running. We successfully came through a deeply waterlogged section of track but a radio message informed us that the Land Rover following us on the same route had become stuck. We turned around and returned to the waterlogged section to help the other vehicle. Spike stopped facing the Land Rover, connected a towing strap to the front of his vehicle and passed the free end to the driver of the Land Rover. Once attached, Spike did a powerful reverse and, on the second attempt at a 'snatch' pull, the Land Rover moved and was soon clear of the waterlogged section.

Our vehicle tows the Land Rover out of the waterlogged section.

In the afternoon, we went for a boat trip. A wooden pier next to the outside dining area had two aluminium speedboats moored. A narrow creek led to the main channel a few hundred yards away. Once afloat, we found the whole area criss-crossed with waterways, some broad channels, some narrow passages where the reeds brushed against the sides of the boat.

Our boat in one of the broad channels.

In some places, Peter the boat driver accelerated, throwing the boat from side to side as he expertly zig-zagged through the available spaces. As far as possible, he avoided the water lilies which grow freely but tend to foul the propellors of boats. A form of papyrus grows widely here, tall spines terminated at the top in a delicate fan of pale fronds. The papyrus is popular with the weaver birds and we found a number of the tall spines arced over with the weight of the carefully-woven nest.

A stand of Papyrus, some carrying Weaver Bird nests.

We saw a lone buffalo on the bank who watched us incuriously for a few moments before lumbering off into the bush. Then, we passed a pod (yes, that's the Collective Noun, I learned) of hippopotamus, almost submerged but with all members carefully watching us as we passed, occasionally sinking and re-emerging in a surge of water. After cruising for a few more minutes, we came to another junction of waterways and found another pod of hippos waiting in ambush, or so it appeared. Peter manoevred the boat into the reeds and we waited to see whether the hippos would move away but they seemed quite content to just stare at us.

"...the hippos ... seemed quite content to just stare at us".

Eventually, Peter gunned the engine and took the boat around the impassive hippos at high speed and back towards the camp, passing a buffalo and a pair of elephants foraging. By now it was becoming dusk but, as we approached another junction in the waterways, we could see yet another pod of hippos. This time it was easier to quietly slip past the hippos and complete our journey back to the Camp, tired but happy.

Pictures of the morning game drive are here.
Pictures of the boat trip are here.