Sunday, 26th February 2012
I was 'paired' with a very friendly couple from Denver for the Game Drives. On Sunday morning, we set off at about 6.30 a.m. and soon encountered a profusion of birdlife, including a good sighting of a mature, male Saddlebilled Stork.
Od, our guide told us about an injured hippopotamus that had not moved for a few days and was expected to die. The conservation practices adopted in these areas mean that there is a strict non-interventionist policy. If animals are injured, they are left to die in their own time. The hippopotamus was almost hidden in the bush, some distance from water, still alive but collapsed and not moving. There were various visible wounds around one eye and the animal was presumably seriously dehydrated. Only the occasional blinking of the eye confirmed that it was, in fact, still alive. Despite its weakened state, no other animal had yet preyed upon it. The sight triggered a lot of musing about death and our attitudes towards it.
We made our way through the bush, passing a small group of Kudu, to the river where we found at least nine hippopotamus almost submerged, carrying out their usual watching brief. The large dominant male occasionally displayed his massive teeth and other hippos would rise up, take a breath, and sink down again. This can go on for ages and yet it is quite difficult to break away and leave them to their languid rhythms.
Next, we passed a herd of about twenty Impala. This must be one of the most photographed species in Africa. They are handsomely-proportioned with attractive red and white colouring marked out with lines of contrasting black hair.
Next, a family group of elephants appeared on our left and slowly crossed our track, pausing briefly to observe us, before moving off into the woodland on our right.
A little later, we found our track blocked by another herd of impala. They moved to one side, in a rather grudging fashion, so that we could carefully pass. On our right, two giraffe were quietly working away in the trees, stripping the leaves. Suddenly, our guide Od stopped to point out a tiny Terrapin, only about 50 m.m. long. With its grey shell matching the colour of the sandy track, I was amazed that he'd spotted it from his driving position. Whilst we were stopped, he pointed out some of the tracks left by animals moving up and down the primitive 'roads' which the guides use to help them locate game.
After a number of bird sightings, Od stopped again, to point out the widespread damage done to trees by elephants stripping the bark to access the internal fluids. Remembering that elephants are also largely responsible for the creation of 'Pans' which help to provide water for many species, they can be regarded as real 'Terraforming' animals.
As we returned to Camp, we passed a family group of Warthogs, plodding through the bush in their customary, rather self-important way.
After the morning Game Drive, we had a very leisurely Brunch. One (pronounced 'Oh-Knee'), the delightful Botswanan lady Joint General Manger joined me for the meal and we had a fascinating discussion.
I then retired to my very comfortable accommodation. Although the sun was quite warm, I decided that my small Plunge Pool had not warmed sufficiently to do more than dangle my legs in the water. At twenty to two, there was extremely loud thunder, the wind started to rise and it rained. The temperature plummeted, of course.
The weather had improved by the time we enjoyed Afternoon Tea and we set off for the afternoon game drive in good spirits. Our guide took us to a different part of the river where we saw a single hippopotamus. On the opposite bank of the river, there was a solitary Buffalo - the only buffalo I saw at King's Pool. Then we found a small group of Chacma Baboon. The Guide Book says they often associate with Impala but on this occasion, they were with Kudu.
As we continued, we found the inevitable herd of Impala and a number of birds, including a rather severe-looking Yellowbilled Hornbill). Near the river, there were two African Fish Eagles sitting on a small hillock rising out of the swamp. We spotted a single elephant some way off standing in a dry creek next to the river, so our guide drove to meet up with what was a family group, returning to the Bush after taking water.
We passed an ancient-looking tree which had large burrows dug out at its base. Our guide explained that this was where Warthogs prefer to sleep. We saw another group of elephant in the distance as we returned to Camp. It was dark before we arrived. We met another 4 x 4 which had been on a Game Drive and followed his tail lights back to our destination.