Thursday, 1 March 2012

Duba Plains (3)

Wednesday, 22nd February 2012

In the morning, we set off before sunrise to take the main track from the Camp into the bush. As the sun came up we found a solitary elephant and then a whole group, including a baby. All the elephants seemed unconcerned at having us in close proximity. The elephants had clearly been in the water recently because the lower half of their massive bodies appeared darker where the hide had not yet dried out. We found a solitary buffalo, with a warthog in attendance. Both animals were carrying birds on their backs but the warthog found the birds irritating after a while and dislodged his passengers by spinning very quickly through 360 degrees!

"We found a solitary buffalo, with a warthog in attendance ..."

We soon located the rest of the buffalo herd spread out across the broad, grassy plain. We followed their activities for some time, studying the buffalo from different positions. Individuals would slowly wander from one area of lush grass to another, munching slowly. Many would be lying down, huddled together with other herd members in groups of ten or more. But, most often, we saw buffalo just standing motionless in the sun almost as if they'd forgotten what they wanted to do next.

"... most often, we saw buffalo just standing motionless in the sun ..."

Buffalo herds are always accompanied by large numbers of birds of various species either on the ground or riding on the backs of the animals. There didn't seem to be any general movement of the herd nor did we see any lions on this occasion. With the weather still hot, we returned to Camp in time for Brunch.

More pictures on the morning game drive are here.

I'd not previously seen Vervet Monkeys around the camp but, this time (perhaps being a little more observant), I discovered that the huge tree which overhung my tent had lots of them. Unlike the mischievous Vervets I'd encountered around the Royal Livingstone some days before, the Duba Plains Vervets seemed very timid. They would balance high in the tree looking down on you, with an amusing habit of moving their head from side to side in a jerking motion, as if to better see you.

Vervet monkeys, mother and baby, watching from high in the branches overhanging my tent.

In the afternoon I had a fabulous Game Drive with Spike. This time, I was the only guest. We saw lots of the brightly-coloured birds of the area and a solitary buffalo. Males frequently leave the herd temporarily to build up their strength in isolation before returning to challenge the Dominant Male. We spotted a single elephant but soon he joined up with a small group of elephants nearby.

A mature, male elephant.

Then, Spike located a lioness accompanied by a younger lion trotting along a well-beaten track in the long grass. Two more young lions appeared and, in single file, all four animals continued along the track until they found a suitable vantage point where they fanned out to observe the buffalo herd, a couple of hundred yards away.

Four lions in single file.

Spike then found an adult male lion, with full mane, lying in the grass in the shade of a large bush. He was sitting up but so relaxed that he didn't even glance round at us as we approached from behind. We drove round to the other side of the bush so that I could try to photograph his face and found the lioness and cubs lying near the bush on that side.

It's around 6.00 p.m. but still too warm for this adult lion to do other than relax.

It was a very peaceful scene. The lioness scratched behind her ear with a paw and one of the young lions rolled on its back with its legs in the air. It was hard to remember that these animals are determined killers when hunting food. Well pleased with what I'd seen, we made our way back to Camp, passing a family group of elephants, male, female and young.

On the way back it became dark. Quite near the camp, we met a group of baboons who scampered for the nearby trees, a couple of Kudu and, undulating from the track to a convenient bush and visible only for a few moments, a Genet. I didn't know what a Genet was and had to look it up in Duncan Butchart's book 'Wildlife of the Okavango' (ISBN: 978-1-86872-538-0) but the ever-useful Wikipedia has an article here.

My pictures of the afternoon game drive are here.