Safari September 2019 ~ Day Five

Day 5

I had drifted off to sleep the previous night to the sounds of lion roars and hyena calls, blissfully unaware of what was playing out several hundred metres down stream from our camp.

It transpired that the pride of lions we had seen the previous day had crossed over onto our side of the river and encountered the two buffalo bulls that had been grazing by the bank. The lions managed to kill one of the buffalos, but he had not gone down without a fight. Whilst I slept the sleep of the dead, around midnight his screams were heard by the camp staff as the lions fought to bring him down. But it was not just the camp staff that heard his violent death. Hyenas picked up on the sounds and hurried to the kill site. Out numbered by the lions, the hyenas started to hoop and howl calling for back up… and back up duly arrived.

There had been sufficient numbers of hyenas to drive at least 9 lionesses off the kill. The hyenas then demolished the buffalo carcass, heading off into the bush, fat and bloated, just before dawn.

We were moving to a new campsite this morning and, as we grabbed a quick bite of breakfast and an all-important coffee, the tents were already being dismantled by the camp staff. The drama of that had unfolded during the night was the talk of the breakfast table and we were all keen to get under way to search for the kill site. It was less than half a mile from camp but even so, it still took us half an hour to locate the scene of the buffalo’s last stand.

The hyenas by now had vanished, no doubt settling down somewhere for a long sleep to digest their ill-gotten meal. The lions, on the other hand, had come back to claim what was left of their kill, which was not a lot. They were all around the remnants of the bull, struggling to get anything of substance. A cub pawed at the head of the dead animal, which moved suddenly causing the cub to jump back with fright.

Branches have no consideration when you are trying to photograph ‘The Kiss of Death’

One of the strangest sights was a man who was camped only a short distance away from the kill, walking down to the water’s edge, past the lions, to rinse out a cooking pot. That fact that he was only a matter of metres away from a large lion pride that had been deprived of its meal, seemed to be of no consequence to him at all.

Lioness still nervous about the possibility of hyenas returning to the kill

As the lions started to drift away, we made our way out onto the Dusty Road and embarked upon the journey to our new campsite. It would take us all day to get there, but it would take the form of an extended game drive. We were leaving behind the area around the River Khwai and entering the Moremi Game Reserve.

Inside the reserve, restrictions applied. The two that would affect us were, no guns and no night drives.

It is forbidden to carry guns into the reserve area and as such, that ruled out any bush walks. Everyone had to be back in their camp for sundown each night, so there would be no more searching for nocturnal creatures. Although there was nothing in the Reserve rules and regulations which prohibited the beasts of the night coming to visit us in camp after dark.

Our route took us through small villages including one where our guide, Ace, had bought a plot and hoped to settle. As if we were some strange novelty species, local children would interrupt their play and watch with fascination as we drove by.

Children at play

As we approached the Gatehouse Entrance to the reserve, Ace dropped us off to walk over a long wooden bridge while he went into the office to deal with the required paperwork. We watched as he drove our vehicle, towing the luggage trailer, gingerly across the bridge. The whole structure creaked and groaned along its 110 metre length. As the vehicle crossed, the wooden piles beneath flexed under the Landcruiser’s weight. It definitely felt safer walking.

Crossing the wooden bridge

Weathered sign at Moremi Gatehouse

With the paperwork dealt with, we boarded the vehicle again and entered the reserve. It felt quite different from Khwai. There were huge open areas devoid of trees with just the occasional scrub bushes dotted around. Impala and kudu watched as we drove across these flat pans.

Size comparison between Kudu and the much smaller Impala

Kudu bulls

Mid morning coffee is something that always needs to be addressed and Ace found a copse of trees that would offer some shade and also provide privacy for those onboard who might need to go and mark their territory.

A swamp like area of water, about 50 metres away had black-winged stilts, spoon bills, blacksmith lapwings and pelicans around its edge. But in the water, there were crocodiles, several of them. The ones we could see were half submerged allowing the sun to warm their backs. One crocodile in particular was motionless, facing the water’s edge. About 1.5mts from its jaws, two pelicans stood, completely unconcerned about the risk of becoming a mid-morning croc snack. In the distance six elephants cooled off in the water and a family of warthogs lay prostrate in the shade of a large bush.

Warthog Siesta

Coffee break over and territory marked, we continued to explore this new area of the Okavango. Where ever there was water, there were animals. As well as the kudu and impala, waterbuck and reedbuck grazed along the banks and and in swamps.



Around midday we approached a large expanse of water next to woodland. Ace parked the vehicle up facing the water and we watched some chacma baboons foraging amongst the tree roots. One youngster kept us under surveillance from the safety of a fork in the trunk of a tree.

Chacma baboon

We had been there for about five minutes when, out of the trees, emerged about twenty elephants who charged into the water right in front of us. It was a breeding herd with elephants ranging from tiny calves all the way up to the huge matriarch. It was as if Ace knew exactly what time they were going to come out of the wood and entertain us. He just sat there behind the wheel grinning. The show was not over as more and more elephants appeared and ploughed into the water.

Watching elephant midday bath time

We watched for half an hour as these amazing animals played, drank, and cooled off in the water. Their enjoyment in what they were doing was as obvious as the looks of wonderment on our faces.

Lunch time for baby elephant

Ace moved the vehicle around the edge of the water and we parked up, with a view of the elephants, to have our lunch. Onboard was a packed lunch that had been prepared by the camp staff, chilled beer and our camping chairs. A grill at the front end of the vehicle folded down and acted as a table for serving up our meal.

Sat in a line along the side of the vehicle and trailer, we enjoyed another amazing meal in the company of elephants. At one point an enormous bull elephant appeared out of the trees just a few metres from us. He stopped and had a serious look at us, and then slowly walked behind the vehicle and went on his way.

Lunch in the Delta

Then a new natural phenomenon paid us a visit, a dust devil. It was a hot, still day, with virtually no breeze at all. But in front of us this swirling column of air materialised lifting dust, leaf litter and twigs high into the air above the trees. Like a mini tornado on a mission, it moved off in pursuit of the bull elephant, shaking and disturbing everything in its path… and then it was gone, as suddenly as it had appeared. In its wake, the leaves it had lifted, came falling gently back down from the sky. We sat there finishing our meal, watching elephants bathe, in a beautifully bizarre scene of falling autumnal confetti.

Whilst most of the elephants were content with a drink and a splash about in the water, there were one or two who felt the need to finish off their ablutions with a good dust shower.

Dust showering

We packed everything away and resumed our journey of exploration. I was starting to recognise some of the place names from my previous time in the Delta. Paradise Pools was one such place. Four years earlier we had found a sleepy male lion relaxing by Paradise Pools. This time, the area was populated with red lechwe, which was a good indication that there were no lions around.

Red Lechwe

The next place I recognised was an air strip. As we arrived at one end of the runway, a solitary bull elephant was drinking from a pool of water. In the middle of the runway baboons sat grooming one another. With all the wildlife going about their business, it would not have been a good time to try to land an aircraft. But it soon became apparent that this landing strip had been abandoned for some time and was no longer in use.

On my previous visit, I had been amused at a game of football being played there, were the runway formed half of the playing surface. Now, where once planes landed and goals were scored, animals and plants were reclaiming the land.

Air strip football

With the sun sinking in the western sky, we were getting close to our new camp. A bachelor herd of around 25 red lechwe grazed peacefully, their coats turning a rich chestnut brown in the golden light.

Male red lechwe bathed in the evening light

We stopped to watch two giraffes stroll by and then the radio crackled into life. It was the camp staff. Our new camp was ready, and they were waiting receive us.

As we drove in camp to hoops, whistles, and cheers from the staff, it dawned on me that this was exactly where my second camp had been four years earlier. This is where the male lion came, uninvited, to visit my tent. Oil lamps burned outside each tent, as well as along the table in the dining tent.

It had been a long day, and after dining and a couple of obligatory drinks around the campfire, I slept like a log, dreaming of which creatures might come calling in the depths of the night.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *