Safari 2022 ~ Day Seven

Day Seven   23rd May

I heard nothing at all throughout the night. I heard no lions’ roars, hyena’s whooping, hornbills chattering, Malcom coughing and groaning with his busted rib cage… nothing.

But at 05:30am I was awakened by the sound of clanking buckets and camp staff filling up our wash hand basins with warm water. I was now feeling absolutely terrible. The idea that I had Covid 19 did occur to me but my senses of taste and smell were functioning normally, and so I suspected that what I had was simply a good going bout of man-flu.

I had half a cup of coffee and no breakfast and really just wanted to go back to my tent and sleep, and sleep some more. My whole body was shaking and shivering, and I was utterly frozen.

Even so, I was in the Okavango Delta, and this would be our last full day out in the wilderness. So, I hauled myself into the back of the Landcruiser and hoped I would feel better as the day progressed.

Malcolm, carrying a woollen blanket from his bed, climbed into the seat next me groaning in pain as his ribs protested at the effort. The Scottish contingent of this expedition were indeed a sorry looking pair.

This would be our last chance of finding a cheetah. The chances were not brilliant, but you never know. With this trip and my previous two trips, I’ve been lucky enough to see lions, leopards, African wild cats and serval, but never a cheetah.

Blue Wildebeest walking past a dozing Black Backed Jackal

The first part of the game drive, I tried wherever possible to stay in the sunshine in a vain effort to heat up. But the twisting, winding roads of the bush trails made it a futile endeavour. We stopped to see some impala, wildebeest and zebra before arriving at 07:00am beside a beautiful waterhole surrounded by trees.

1.5 horns

It really was a gorgeous location and we all climbed out to take some photographs. In the chill of the air, mist was rising from the warmer water and slowly drifting over the surface. Several hippos watched us, watching them, in that golden light of early morning. We stayed there soaking up the atmosphere and the view for about 15 minutes, during which time any video footage I took was filmed from a spot in the sunshine. I was grabbing every fraction of a therm of heat I could.

A magnificent African fish eagle perched high on top of a dead tree surveyed the waterhole for breakfast. But my suspicion was that it was just trying to get warm as well.

Reluctantly, we had to move on. This was not cheetah habitat. But this was such a tranquil and beautiful location, I would have happily spent the day there, in a deckchair, with a hot water bottle, a supply of Lemsips, honey and malt whisky. The vehicle could have picked me up on the way back to camp.

Leaving my dream day behind, we drove on in search of the elusive cheetah. Instead of the fastest land mammal, we found lots of the tallest mammals, and Africa’s heaviest flying bird, the Cory Bustard. Wildebeest and zebra put in an appearance, and then someone spotted a Tawny eagle perched in a tree. It had its back to us but kept looking suspiciously over its shoulder, almost as if it had something that it didn’t want us to see. Then in a move straight out of ‘Yoga for Beginners’, it balanced on its right leg and stretched its left leg and wing out to their fullest extent. Then, having managed that manoeuvre without falling off its perch, it didn’t risk stretching doing the same for the other side, and just flew off.

Up ahead in the long grass a black backed jackal surveyed the scene in search of any potential meal. As I tried to film it without camera shake from my ever-increasing shivering… over the VHF radio, “Cheetah!”

The other vehicle, about half a mile ahead of us, had found the elusive sprinter of the Okavango. Banda put the pedal to the metal, and we sped off at a speed hitherto unachieved on our safari.

The search was over. We found a cheetah.

The cheetah was a male standing next to the remains of a fallen tree at the base of a termite mound. The cheetah scanned the surrounding area, completely ignoring us. His tail stood upright like the conducting pole of an old dodgem car. The camera shutters whirred as hundreds of digital images were recorded. The whirring climbed up a notch when the cheetah stood on its hind legs and sharpened its claws on the top of the fallen tree trunk.

You have to keep your claws nice and sharp.

Claws having achieved optimum sharpness, he dropped back down to all fours, turned his rear to the tree and sprayed over the fallen trunk, marking it as part of his territory. After a brief examination of the termite mound, he slowly walked off along a line of scrub and bushes. He paused for a minute or so in the shade of a small tree, then slipped into the long grass and disappeared. The cheetah sighting was over.

A last farewell from our cheetah

About five hundred metres away a herd of male impalas grazed peacefully near a waterhole. We wondered if the cheetah was aware of this. It was certainly possible for the cheetah to use the scrub and long grass to get fairly close without being detected by the impala.

In the hope of a dramatic chase and kill, we drove down to a vantage point where, if things did kick off, we would have a grandstand view of the action… and action is exactly what we got.

Sadly, it did not involve the cheetah. A hormonally charged herd of male impala suddenly let their testosterone get the better of them, and mayhem broke out. Impalas charged around in all directions fighting with whoever they ran into. They snorted and barked, and dust flew in the air. If anything was going to attract the attention of the cheetah, this hullabaloo would.

Impala mayhem

Then, a new character entered the arena, not the cheetah, but an enormous male hippopotamus. His huge bulk suddenly burst out of the undergrowth at the trot. His appearance had the effect of a head teacher suddenly walking into a classroom full of unruly children. The impala stopped charging around and quietly went back to grazing, throwing the occasional glance at the head teacher as he passed through their midst.

The hippo entered the waterhole and slowly disappeared below the surface, sending his passengers of oxpeckers into the air, and creating ripples that spread out across the water’s surface, sparkling in the sunshine.

The cheetah didn’t make the appearance we had hoped for, and so we drove off in search of more cooperative wildlife.

Banda stopped the vehicle and picked up his binoculars. He was looking at a tree in the distance. How he spotted the lioness laying underneath it remains a puzzle. Even with the help of binoculars I struggled to pick it out. Banda thought that it might be injured or sick. The lion was beneath a tree but not in the shade. She wasn’t sleeping and she was on her own. There was just something about her that made Banda think all was not well. But there was no way of driving over towards her, so her condition remained a mystery as we moved on.

Then we saw a sight that reminded us all of the amorous warthog we had seen the previous day at Black Pools. Here was a boar following a female warthog very closely indeed. Although I’m sure it wasn’t, if it was the same pair we had seen the previous day, he had followed her for many, many, miles. Whatever the identity of this pair, as we watched on, we witnessed the conception of a new litter of wart hoglets.

Warthog intimacy

As we approached noon the heat of the day was increasing, as was my shivering. I was now feeling really unwell. We stopped as a breeding herd of elephants crossed the track ahead of us and even that did not distract me from how sick I felt.

I was grateful when we stopped for lunch. Our camping chairs were set out in a circle in the shade of a large tree. I grabbed a chair and moved it into the full glare of the sun. Wearing fleeces and a jacket, I sat down, tilted my hat over my eyes, and descended into a semi-unconscious doze. I didn’t eat or drink. I just wanted to sleep.

For an hour, the African sun beat down upon me, completely failing to warm me up. I don’t recall much of the journey back to camp apart from when it was interrupted by a stroppy bull elephant. We were driving around the beautiful waterhole that was shrouded in mist at 07:00am when the elephant came charging out of the undergrowth at the side of the track. Banda slammed the brakes on, and half turned the vehicle so that we had an escape route if required. The elephant was obviously agitated making all sorts of threatening gestures. Thankfully he opted to take his frustrations out on a tree at the side of the track rather than us. As he headbutted the trunk of the tree, which was now leaning at a forty-five-degree angle, Banda sprinted past him. The sudden acceleration caused the elephant to go crashing into the bush, but we were safely by, and I could return to feeling sorry for myself.

I recollect seeing half a dozen ostriches and thinking, that is another tick on the bird watcher’s tick list. After that I don’t remember much at all.

One final Lilac Breasted Roller

Back in camp, everyone busied themselves packing in preparation for the long trip back to Maun in the morning. As I stuffed things into my bag, I was worrying that I might not be allowed onto some, or all, of the three flights home the following day. I undoubtedly had a temperature, even though I was shivering. But I still did not think it was Covid 19.

Because it was the last night we would all be together, I made an effort to join everyone around the camp fire for a final drink. In an attempt to inject some humour into the occasion, and to distract myself from how I was feeling, I recited the ‘Tale of the Cormorotterant’ to the gathering. It is a story of a strange creature that Malcolm and I encountered whilst enjoying a dram in the Outer Hebrides.

The Cormorotterant

My contribution completed, I slipped away to my tent and crawled into bed.

We did see some wildlife on the long drive back to civilization, but I don’t recall much about it. We could have encountered aliens and I doubt if it would have registered with me.

So, on that note, I will bring this series of Sunday Safari blogs to a close. Malcolm’s rib cage was causing him some serious pain and distress. Aware of how he was struggling, I took his ridiculously heavy backpack from him, slung it over my left shoulder, and slung my own ridiculously heavy backpack over my right shoulder. As I buckled at the knees, a casual observer might have thought that I suffered from a hunchback and a bad case of rickets. But if any airport checks picked up my fever, I could blame it on the exertion of carrying the equivalent of a medium sized hippo on my back.

We made it home. Malcolm’s wife whipped him to hospital to get his ribs checked out. My wife drove me home where, convinced that I would test ‘negative’, I tested ‘positive for Covid 19.

It took ten days before I got a negative test result during which time I remained in isolation. Fortunately, I had lots of Okavango Delta photos and videos to look at and write about.

A video of the events in the above blog can be viewed on YouTube via the link below.

Okavango Safari Day Seven

If you are curious about what a Cormorotterant is, you can find the answer on YouTube at the following link.

The Tale of the Cormorotterant

Thankyou for taking the time out of your day or night to read this blog. I hope it has maybe given you an insight into camping safaris, and inspired you to go off and have your own adventures.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Malcolm and I have fully recovered, and we are both looking forward to our next adventure.

Safari 2022 ~ Day Six

Day Six – May 22nd

I had not had the best night’s sleep, but not as bad as Malcolm who had been awake since 1:30am. The pain in his damaged ribs had worsened and he just couldn’t get warm.

Even so, our wake-up call came at 05:30am and we rose for the day ahead. After a quick breakfast, we loaded our kit onto the vehicle, and we rolled out of camp at 06:15am. Malcolm and I, both feeling a wee bit under the weather, were unaware that this would prove to be one of the best wildlife viewing days of our trip.

We were heading for an area called ‘Black Pools’ and we would be away for most of the day. It was another cold morning but mercifully, without the icy winds of yesterday. Non the less, there was a frost, and our breath hung in clouds in the morning air.

Okay, this was Africa, but it was so much colder than anyone had expected. Some members of our group were wearing six layers of clothing to fend off the chill. Some were wearing pyjamas under their clothes. Malcolm even took a woollen blanket from his bed to try and keep warm.


As we left the area of the camp, the sun ventured above the horizon with golden light. It was to be a long journey to Black Pools, and I hoped that there would be lots of giraffes when we got there. The collective noun for a group of giraffes on the move is a ‘Journey of Giraffes’. But the term for a stationary group is a ‘Tower of Giraffes’. My hope was that I would see a Tower at Black Pools.

The big aim of the day was to find a cheetah in the wide open areas surrounding Black Pools, but it was not to be. As we passed through a wooded area, we encountered a breeding herd of elephants crossing the track ahead of us. Then we got our first sighting of a small herd of buffalo. They were about 50 metres away amongst the trees and the undergrowth. Most carried on munching the vegetation, but one or two watched us intently, giving us the evil eye. Up above in one of the trees a tawny eagle did its best to pass itself off as a branch.

Tawny Eagle

We drove all around the area but there were no cheetahs to be found. Then we arrived at a waterhole with a host of birds and animals. On the side of the waterhole nearest to us there were wildebeest, warthogs, tsessebe, and the Tower of Giraffes I had hoped for. A crocodile had pulled itself out of the water in an attempt to draw some heat from the morning sun into its cold body. I could relate to that entirely.

Wildebeest in the company of giraffes

Beyond the waterhole, a group of twenty or so zebras stood nervously. One female committed to walk down the slope towards the water’s edge to drink. The others seemed unconvinced about the wisdom of such a move and made no attempt to join her.  They watched from a safe distance as the brave one slaked her thirst. Red billed oxpeckers scrambled over her hide causing obvious annoyance.

Having drunk her fill, she turned to climb back up the slope towards the rest of the watching herd. It was then that we saw it. A horrific wound to the zebra’s right rear leg. A large chunk had been bitten out of her thigh and the gaping wound was attracting the oxpeckers who were trying to feed on the raw flesh and blood. A smaller chunk was missing from her left thigh and a long narrow slash ran down her left flank.

Wounded Zebra (still from video clip)

With a combination of stagger, limp, and jumping the beast hobbled away in extreme pain. It was horrible to watch this beautiful animal in such obvious distress. The rest of the zebra kept their distance. Wounded animals attract predators. She slowly made her way out into an open area away from the herd and just stood there alone. Wild animals have remarkable powers of recovery and given time she might survive. But if any of the Okavango’s predators found her, she would not be able to run or defend herself.

It was impossible to say what had caused the injury. If it was one of the delta’s big cats, she had put up one hell of a fight to escape.

Content that the wounded animal had distanced herself, the other zebras came tentatively down to the water’s edge to drink.

The amorous warthog

Elsewhere around the waterhole a large warthog boar was taking a great deal of interest in a lady warthog. She was seemingly ignoring the fact that, like a dog on a lead, he was following her every move. She just kept on snuffling around for edible roots as if he wasn’t there. But every now and then she would take a ninety degree turn, left or right, glancing behind to see if he was still there, just to make sure his interest was genuine.

The Tower of giraffes seemed content just to watch the morning’s activities around the waterhole. A pair of black backed jackals looked to have teamed up with four wildebeest and a couple of cattle egrets, all of them apparently intent on not doing a lot, even when the two-piece convoy of warthogs wandered past.

Red Billed Francolin or Spurfowl

Then just to add to the menagerie, three impalas ran through the scene. Impala don’t trot or gallop but travel at speed somewhere between the two… perhaps ‘trolloping’.

Black backed jackal

We watched and enjoyed the events of the morning unfold around the waterhole for about forty minutes before heading off for 10:00am coffee. Banda parked up by some trees, jumped out of the vehicle and wandered into the bush clapping his hands. A few moments later he returned and announced it was safe for us to disembark and find somewhere to mark our territory. Tea, coffee, and biscuits followed.

A giraffe apparently pleased at our departure

It is worth noting at this point that my normal practice would be to write up my journal of the day’s events when we returned to camp. I did just that, however my entries stop as I wrote about this particular coffee break. As the day came to an end, still unaware that I had Covid 19, my energies ran out and I never wrote any more. So, from here on in, my recollections are based on 100’s of photographs, videos, and a rather unreliable memory.

Anyhow, back to the story.

Having had my coffee and possibly an extra biscuit or two, I headed into the trees for a pee. It was slightly disconcerting to find the skull of a buffalo looking up at me from the base of a tree. Fortunately, it was not fresh and looked like it had been laying there for a long time. Even so, despite Banda’s clapping to scare off predators, I kept a watchful eye on the surrounding bushes.

Back on the move we were becoming aware of the smell of smoke. We had seen that column of smoke from a new bushfire the previous day and it was becoming apparent that the fire was growing. It was still a considerable distance from us, but there was a smoky haze spreading low across the southwestern sky.

Smoke haze

Over the next hour and a half we meandered through the landscape and saw more black backed jackals, tsessebe and impala, various birds, but no cheetahs. Then we emerged from some woodland and before us lay a large open expanse. The edge of the treeline gave way to a strip of short green grass and then, running parallel to the treeline, a river. On the far bank of the river was swamp with tall grasses and reeds and the occasional tree. On one such tree perched an African fish eagle and amongst the reeds a bull elephant grazed peacefully and a male lechwe kept an eye on three females.

We drove along the grassy strip where a large herd of impala had gathered. A few hippos surfaced one by one in the river and watched us suspiciously. An African darter perched on a dead branch drying its wings in the midday sunshine.

Banda turned the Landcruiser around and we followed the grassy strip in the opposite direction. A group of fifteen hippos were gathered on the far bank of the river. There are several collective nouns for a group of hippos including, herd, pod, a crash, bloat, or dale. These were big hippos, so I’ll say there was a bloat of them.

One hippo, carrying a solitary red billed oxpecker on its back, slipped into the water leaving the oxpecker looking for a new perch. It looked as if the hippo was not expecting the river to be as deep as it was. Its slow, deliberate entry into the water was concluded by a rapid plunge beneath the surface, as the hippo vanished from sight.

The rest of the bloat stood or lay on the bank unperturbed by the sudden disappearance of one of its members. A youngster kept close to its mother’s side, wary of the box of humans photographing them from the other side of the river. Cattle egrets, oxpeckers, jacanas, and sacred ibis congregated around and on the bloat. One egret was right in front of a hippo’s nose. It looked as if the egret would disappear up the hippo’s nostril if the huge beast suddenly inhaled.

Mother and child

Eventually, another hippo decided to head for the water, and that triggered a similar response from the rest of the bloat. The ones that were lying down rose to their feet and slowly, like a solid grey landslide, they slipped on mass into the water. The birds that had been perched on the hippo’s backs, congregated in the area of reeds that the bloat had just vacated, searching for insects.

Once again, we turned and drove along the grassy strip passing a herd of male impalas arguing with themselves. We parked up for a spot of lunch in the shade of the trees. The smoke away to the southwest was becoming more apparent and its smell was ever present now. It was obviously becoming a significant fire.

Three headed giraffe

After lunch we began the journey back towards camp. We passed a couple of warthogs who were more concerned about running away than the amorous intentions of the pair we had seen by the waterhole. A couple of saddle billed storks explored a small area of water and then we encountered the buffalo herd we passed in the early part of the day. This time they were much closer to the track, and we enjoyed a far better sighting.

Ever vigilant buffalo

Then it was time for that lilac breasted roller moment again. It was perched on the side of a termite mound. We parked up, aimed our cameras, and waited. When it did eventually take off Banda, who in fairness had done this thousands of times over the years, was the only one who got a really good photograph of the moment. Mine was out of focus and partly out of frame – but you get the general idea.

Next time…

The air was really starting to fill with smoke now. A solitary hippo ambled along through an area of open grassland with an escort of three cattle egrets. Spoonbills and Egyptian geese searched through shallow water for tasty titbits. Some lechwe watched us from a distance with towering palm trees in the smoky air behind them. From above the bushes the occasional giraffe’s neck and head would make an appearance in the gloom.

Smoke becoming worse as the day progressed

The terrain became familiar as we neared camp and I was relieved to disembark and relax in the sunshine at the front of my tent. It was at this point I started to write up my journal, but I was making heavy weather of it. We planned to head out again about 4:15pm and it confused me that I just had no enthusiasm for another game drive. But hey, I was in the Okavango Delta, possibly for the last time, and so like it or not, I was going to go.

Laughing dove

I am so glad that I made the effort, and sad that, due to his busted ribs, Malcolm chose not to. He would miss out on what was a stunning sighting.

We knew that there were lions in the area, we had heard them roaring close to the camp during the night. So, we set off to find them. Within twenty minutes, Banda spotted them. Not so much a pride of lions, but a heap of lions. The remnants of an old termite mound that had grassed over with the passage of time stood out from the flat ground around it. On, and around, this mound was a heap of lions bathed in the warm, golden light of the late afternoon sun. It was a mix of lionesses, sub adults and cubs. It made for a spectacular sight. Then we spotted a couple of lions laying in the long grass to the left. Then another lioness approached from the right.

We were parked up just twenty or so yards away from this wonderful family of lions feeling so privileged to be there. Then, along a tree line about two hundred metres beyond the mound, a zebra appeared. It looked quite relaxed as it walked slowly along. Almost immediately, one of the sub adult lions spotted it and sat up. Simultaneously, the zebra froze. One of the lionesses looked around at what had caught the youngster’s eye. A quick, experienced glance told mum that it was too far away to bother about, and she put her head back down and chilled out with the others.

Attentive lion cub

The zebra, by this time had worked out that there were better and safer places to be, turned and fled.

Peace returned to the mound. But not for long. Along the same track the zebra had been on came a giraffe. Once again, the youngsters were interested but the adults simply ignored it. Unlike the zebra, the giraffe kept going, but kept a wary eye on the lions as it passed through.

Mother and cub

After a while one of the lionesses got to her feet, stretched and yawned, and them ambled off in the direction of the track the giraffe had been on. Over a period of around five minutes, one by one the lions rose and moved off in the same direction. Banda started up the Landcruiser and took a wide sweeping route past the lions and parked up with them coming towards us.

They seemed to be walking without purpose, unsure of where they were going or why. A mother and younger cub emerged out of the long grass a few metres away followed by a sub adult. They stopped and looked around and listened.

A few moments later a deep grunting roar sounded from behind a line of trees. The response was instant. All the lions, young and old, responded with calls of their own and trotted off towards the trees.

Banda fired up the engine and drove as quickly as he could to a gap in the treeline. As we parked up the lioness that made the first call met up with the rest of the pride charging through the trees. The affection with which this cat was met was astonishing to see. The pride was all making the most amazing noises, a cross between purring, moaning and gentle growling. They all snuzzled into one another in a display of utter excitement, delight, and affection. It was a magical moment to witness.

The pride moved off and we left them in peace. We turned and started to make our way back to camp. It was 5:40pm and the sun was slowly sinking into a layer of smoke which hung low in the sky.

We stopped to grab a few photos of sunset before racing back to camp. In the fading light of dusk, we encountered a breeding herd of female elephants and calves wandering across the track in front of us. We let most of them pass and then nipped through a gap in the herd. As Banda pointed out, the rule is that we have to be back in camp before dark. We made it… sort of.

Smoky sunset

It had been an amazing day of wildlife experiences, and for me it was the best day of the whole safari.

We all gathered around the campfire before dinner for a drink and to chat about all we had seen.

What would tomorrow bring? As the smoke climbed from the fire into the night sky, and as I sipped on a red wine, I was blissfully unaware of what waited for me the next morning.


A video of the events in the above blog can be viewed on YouTube via the link below.

Okavango Safari Day Six

Safari 2022 ~ Day Five

May 21st    Day Five

After falling asleep to the sound of lions roaring and hyenas whooping, wake up call was at 05:30am.

Breakfast was coffee, cornflakes, vanilla yoghurt, honey, and more coffee. Coffee was high on the list because it was hot, and the Okavango Delta was not.

Then it was time to hit the trail in search of the wildlife around our new camp site. I was hoping, not in an optimistic way, that today would not turn into another bird watching trip. But whatever sort of trip it was going to be, it was going to be a cold one. And when I say cold, I mean freezing. The forecast predicted 4C but there was a ground frost which might suggest it was colder than that.

This is where I think the safari company let us down. Step into an open sided vehicle, add a stiff breeze into the equation, and then set off at 15 – 20 mph into that freezing morning air and it was utterly Baltic. Other safari companies provided blankets or fur lined ponchos to their guests to protect them from the cold. Ours did not.

However, helping to take my mind off the cold, a short distance from the camp we encountered a herd of red lechwe. They looked stunning as the first rays of rising sun illuminated them in a warm golden glow.

Red Lechwe at dawn

Red lechwe live in and around the swamps and rivers of the Okavango. They, as their name would suggest, have a reddish brown coat. Their hind quarters are noticeably higher than the front quarters which is an adaptation to help them run through water. The lower half of their legs are coated in a water repellent substance which also aids them in running through the swamps. This is their preferred method of escape from predators. At the first sign of threat, they will rush into the water, often leaping high in the air with the help of their powerful back legs. They are beautiful animals.

Male Red Lechwe


But for me, most importantly, they were mammals, and we were parked up, watching, photographing, and filming mammals. Even the risk of camera shake from shivering in the freezer of Botswana could not diminish my joy. This is what I had come for. Red lechwe were a hundred times more exciting than spotting an Eastern long billed lark or a Chestnut vented tit-babbler.

Female Red Lechwe

But we had ground to cover and so, we bid farewell to the lechwe and moved on. In the distance I could see a localised patch of mist rising. It turned out to be coming from the surface of a large waterhole, which was home to a solitary hippo. He stared at us through the mist with a tall Lala Palm tree rising up behind him.

We continued to explore our new territory when suddenly, on the track ahead, hemmed in on either side by the tall grass, were three black backed jackals. We followed them around a tight right hand bend when Banda stopped the vehicle and made a bird call. The reaction was instant. The jackals stopped and spun around to look for the source of the bird call. They were bathed in gorgeous low level dawn light and looked absolutely wonderful. They quickly decided that there was nothing of interest, turned and continued along the track. This was turning out to be a good morning for mammal enthusiasts.

Black Backed Jackals

Further on we enjoyed sightings of giraffe, zebra, impala and tsessebe. There were admittedly one or two birds as well, including a stork catching and eating a catfish which was fascinating to see.

Oxpecker hitching a lift from a zebra

We almost missed a group of young male waterbucks. They were lurking in an area of tall grasses and if one or two of them hadn’t moved I doubt if we would have seen them at all. As it was, the top of their heads and their horns was all that was visible. There may have been seven or eight of them and every now and then we could see a pair of eyes peering nervously at us through the grass fronds. A male waterbuck on average will be around 1.4 metres high at the shoulder so it was amazing to see how well they could hide themselves.

Shy Waterbuck

Next on the morning’s parade of mammals was a herd of between twenty-five and thirty female impalas. They were gathered at the side of the track and were being marshalled by a vigilant dominant male. Some grazed quietly whilst others groomed themselves, but there were always a few keeping a wary eye open for predators. Around the edge of the herd an inky blue iridescent Burchell’s starling rushed about feeding on the insects disturbed by the feet of the impala.

Impala mother and son

A short distance along from the impala, a family of dwarf mongooses gathered on the sunny side of a termite mound trying to heat themselves up. There was a big part of me was minded to join them.

Dwarf Mongooses

At some point each day, it was lilac breasted roller time. They are the most colourful of birds, admired even by mammal lovers. Amongst the many different colours of their plumage, they sport a vivid blue underside to their wings. Perched on a branch, this blue is not visible, but when the bird takes off it is quite spectacular. So, we sit patiently, cameras all aimed at the bird on a branch, waiting for it to spot an insect and take off to catch it. The tension in the vehicle mounts as minutes tick by and we wait for the explosion of blue at the moment of take-off.

Lilac Breasted Roller refusing to take off

Then it happens, usually just when you have let your concentration lapse for a split second. A cacophony of camera shutters erupts in machine gun mode to capture the moment. Then everyone frantically studies the multiple images they have taken in search of the perfect photograph of the roller taking off. Invariably, the images are blurred, out of focus, contain half a bird, or wing tips are out of frame, or simply a beautiful image of an empty branch. Lilac breasted rollers are fast movers.

As the morning progressed, we saw warthogs, tsessebe, giraffe, more impala, lechwe and mongooses. So many mammals.

Neighbourhood watch

Then up ahead we saw something really impressive that was neither mammal nor bird. It was huge. A stunning baobab tree towered above all other forms of vegetation. We parked up, and after Banda had checked there was nothing lurking in the scrub that might eat us, we all jumped out to photograph this goliath of a tree.

Baobab Tree

The first problem was that to get an image of the whole tree required walking a considerable distance away from it. That allowed people to disappear behind various bushes for a pee, an essential task every day on our early game drives. A curious giraffe and several impalas watched with interest as the humans marked their territory.

Bladders empty and photographs of the baobab taken, we returned and congregated around its huge tree trunk. This was a tree that was far too big to hug. Non the less, I felt compelled to put my hands on the trunk. A wonderful surprise awaited. The trunk was warm. The wood was absorbing the meagre heat from the sun and retaining it. I was still chilled to the bone and here was a massive, gigantic heater.

“Its hot. The tree is hot” I shouted to the rest.

Baobab Hand Warmer

Within seconds, there was a chain of people pressed up against this wonderful tree warming their hands. As I looked up through the bare branches, I could see the moon shining high in the blue morning sky. I could have contentedly stayed there for the rest of the morning but eventually we said ‘Bye’ to the warm baobab and continued on our travels.

Inevitably, we found ourselves stopping to look at various birds. There were black and white magpie shrikes with their long tails, a tiny African barred owlet, saddle billed storks, and jacanas walking on water.

African Barred Owlet

We parked up in an open area where lots of red lechwe were grazing, and in the distance a large male waterbuck was walking towards us. At his feet, running along side him was a solitary white cattle egret snapping up any insects disturbed by the waterbuck.

Waterbuck with cattle egret in attendance

As the egret dined on insects, we departed the scene and headed back to camp for lunch – pasta shells with fried chicken.

After lunch there was time for a welcome shower. Despite the sun beating down in what was the hottest part of the day, I shivered under the dribble of water from the bush shower. At the time I put it down to the fact that I was still chilled from the morning drive. I now suspect that Covid 19 was starting to have an impact on my body without me knowing it.

Showered and changed, I sat down in a camping chair soaking up the heat, and spent an hour or so writing up my journal. Then it was coffee and cherry cake time, before setting off on the hunt for more creatures of the delta.

What a contrast from the icy morning drive. We all soaked up the heat of the afternoon as we drove along. There was a large number of giraffes in the area, and we stopped to watch a group of around eight. Some were quietly grazing on acacia bushes expertly picking out the tasty leaves from amongst the thousands of thorns.

A ‘Tower’ of giraffes

Two were engaged in a bit of a brawl in amongst the edge of some trees. It was not a full-blown battle, more of the giraffe equivalent of a ‘handbags at dawn’ exchange. They would take it in turns at swinging their long necks to batter one another. Most swings were half hearted but occasionally there would be some serious blows, and as the giraffes struggled for the best position to defend or attack, branches would come crashing down and leaves were sent flying.

Why they chose to fight amongst trees was a puzzle. We would have much preferred it if they had conducted their pugilistic confrontation out in the open for the benefit of our cameras and videos.

Looking around, one of our group spotted what seemed to be a small column of smoke rising from the skyline several miles away. It was indeed smoke, and the column continued to grow and billow into the sky. It was too far away to say what was burning, but it was likely a bush fire and the causes of that are many. A discarded cigarette, a campfire, lightning strike, sun shining through a discarded glass bottle are the most common. It has also been known for the sun’s rays to be magnified by shining through dew drops and starting a fire.

As we watched the column of smoke grow, Banda noticed that there were four or five giraffes all staring in the one direction, and they were not looking at the smoke. We abandoned the giraffe fight club and set off to investigate.

As we approached a large clump of bushes that seemed to be the focus of attention, a stunning male lion emerged from the shade out into the late afternoon sunshine. He was magnificent and the giraffes seemed completely mesmerised by him. In fairness, so were we.

Male lion emerges from the bushes

He looked as if he had just woken up after a long snooze in the shade of the bushes as he stood for a few moments leisurely taking in the scene around him. Then, at a gentle plod, he set off along a track sending the giraffes scattering.

Exit stage right

At one point he stopped for a bowel evacuation, and that is something you do not want to be down wind of. As the aroma of lion dung came wafting through the warm air, groans of disgust rang out from those of us in the vehicle.

We followed him at a respectable distance before taking a wide berth around him and parking up with a view of him walking towards us – a much more attractive view than the one we had from behind.

Possibly not feeling fully awake, he lay down on the track for a rest and showed no sign of moving. So, we left him in peace and moved off to view and area with lots of red lechwe and bird life.

Half an hour later, the lion was on the move again. He slowly but purposely walked across an area of short grass towards the now setting sun. He suddenly stopped and stared intently into the middle distance.

He was looking at a prospective meal, a female lechwe as main course, with her young calf as a tasty side dish. However, there was a significant area of open ground between him and the lechwe, and mum and calf had spotted him. We watched on as the lion stared at the lechwe and the lechwe stared back at the lion. There was no way he could sneak up on them across 500 metres with no cover, so he abandoned the idea and lay down.

He was bathed in golden light, and people were happily taking photographs of him when he yawned. The camera shutters, in machine gun mode, erupted once again as he opened his mouth to its fullest extent, displaying a terrifying array of deadly dental weaponry.

Lethal dental weaponry

This was followed by the much cuter sight of him licking his massive paws and washing his face.

Lion ablutions

The lion having washed his face, got to his feet and wandered off in the direction of our camp. On the right of our vehicle we had the male lion, and on the left with the sun setting, hippos, ibis and  spoon bills busied themselves in shallow water.


The light was fading quickly and so we headed back to camp leaving the king of the jungle in peace. Within the Moremi Game Reserve, everyone is required to be back in camp for sundown.

King of the Jungle

Dinner was leek and potato soup, followed by lentils, peppers, chilli and wonderful mince.

Malcolm still didn’t feel he had thawed out from the morning excursion. He didn’t know it, but he also had contracted Covid 19. Sharing a tent, it was inevitable that if one of us had the virus, then whoever had it first would pass it on to the other one. To compound his misery, he had damaged his ribs on the side of one of the safari vehicles. Whilst climbing onto the side of the Landcruiser to unplug a camera battery from the onboard charger, he lost his footing. Hanging on with one hand he swung around and slammed into a metal bar. So not only was he frozen, but he was also in a considerable amount of pain.

Neither of us were in for a good night’s sleep. Every movement in his camp bed caused Malcolm to moan and call out in pain. I suspect that, as we did our best to sleep, the scavengers and predators were circling around the camp in expectation of an easy meal from a dying creature.

Video footage of the events related above can be found at the link below.

Okavango Safari Day Five