At last we've been able to trade the numerous sightings of logodiles, rockapotami and warthills for the real thing. (Still seeing treeaffes though and I think big cats are off the list) As mentioned in the last post during a walking safari and a sunset cruise we saw quite a lot of different species. The walking safari was particularly good - we left at 7.30am and walked for 3 hours with one stop where our guide produced chilled homemade lemonade and home baking! It was surreal, sitting on a log in the middle of the bush with an eclectic group of people, a very knowledgeable guide with amazing dreads and the habit of punctuating his sentences with uh-huh (in a very "like-like" manner ha ha)and an armed guard who compromised his dignity somewhat at one stage by tripping over and jamming his rifle into a mud pool. We searched in vain for giraffes but they weren't obliging and we did see plenty of other animals, birds and insects - many more of the latter 2 than if we'd been driving.
The main animal on show on the sunset cruise was the hippo and only in the water and mainly only eyes, ears and nostrils on show - as the guide put it, they were all on the top level! One did yawn obligingly to show off his fearsome teeth.
On Sun 11 we went on a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana. It began early with us (just us!) being picked up in a 12 seater minivan with a driver and a guide and driving for approx an hour to a point where 2 rivers (Zambezi and Chobe) and 4 countries (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia) meet. There were many trucks lined up waiting to cross, one at a time, on the ferry. I asked if many had to stay overnight - more like up to 2 weeks was the reply! Fortunately there were various ferries and very soon a chap in a flat-bottomed boat that would take maybe 15 people zoomed up and took - yep - just us - to Botswana. There we were handed over again to a worried looking chap who was asleep in his safari vehicle. "Are there any others coming?" we asked but no - just us... A slow 15 min trip took us to Chobe Lodge, a rather gorgeous edifice, on the Chobe bank. Our boat would be ready soon we were assured but 30 mins later we were still sitting soaking up the atmosphere, whilst the atmosphere was being very soaked by a massive downpour. Eventually Chibby (that can't possibly have been his name but it's certainly what it sounded like)reappeared looking even more worried because it was far too wet to take a small boat and he was organising a bigger one. Okaaaaay we said, thinking just how big?? Our worst fears were realised when a sunset cruise type boat pulled up to the jetty and just us reluctantly got on. The carbon footprint was getting bigger by the minute.
A forlorn looking table was set with tea, coffee and biscuits but we hadn't taken advantage of it when Chibby came back, this time looking like he was going to cry. The boatmen were on strike apparently and he was trying to get hold of head office and he would try to organise something for "you guys" but in the meantime we would have to wait in the lodge. We reassured him that it wasn't his fault and were nearly back up the steps when a replacement came bounding down them and back on again we went. By this time it had stopped raining but our suggestion that we take the small boat was met with "oh no I don't know who owns it" Chibby was way more in need of coffee than us - luckily there were 3 cups!
Once underway he stopped looking worried and proved to be a very knowledgeable man. I can quite see how people can become mad keen birders - the bird life here is astonishing and even though we've only seen about 25 of the 450 species in the Falls area (and the 730 in Zambia)it's been quite addictive. It was particularly pleasing to see a couple of Fish Eagles as it's Zambia's national bird and whilst nowhere as elusive as the kiwi it's still not your everyday occurence. But the hippo and the elephants were the highlights and here the cloudy weather and the big boat proved very useful. Because of the former the hippos were out of the water and feeding along the river's edge and the latter meant that we were able to get a lot closer than in a small boat (but still far enough away not to disturb them) A small boat load that obviously was able to find a operator was nearby and came very close to being upset by a submerged hippo who was further out than normal. After that it scuttled along in our wake, seeking protection! The hippo is the most dangerous animal in Africa - on land also as they often travel vast distances at night looking for fodder and woe betide if you're in their way the next morning whilst on their way back to the river. Incidentally, if you are being chased by a hippo try to find a small log to jump over as their short legs make them unsuited for such obstacles and hopefully by the time they've struggled over, or gone round, you'll be safely out of reach!!
We saw elephants from the boat and also crocodiles lazing on the bank plus kudu, lechwe and the ever present impala and after a sumptuous lunch at the Lodge we went in the safari vehicle further into the Park. There was a herd of elephants on the road outside the Park - they often appear in town! Highlights in the Park included warthogs that didn't run away, a leopard tortiose (compensation for not seeing an actual leopard) and lots of elephants, including babies. As we were leaving a couple charged us, probably because they were on both sides of the road so we drove right in the middle of them. A young one, maybe about 2yrs, followed his big brothers' example - he was very cute!
The game drive was a little rushed because of all the delays in the morning but still very worthwhile and after returning across to Zambia we were really pleased to see that our van was filled up with a group of young Americans, some of them Peace Corps members, who were going to Livingstone. Chatting with them rounded off a superb day.
We retrieved our packs from the Waterfront and, as previously arranged, booked into the Zambezi Sun for 3 nights - they don't have many people turn up with packs here but at least they have the good grace not to look surprised every time they realise we're still here!! Apart from the usual baboons and vervet monkeys they also have zebras and giraffes in the grounds as the hotel is in Mosi-Oa-Tunya Park (That means the Smoke that Thunders and is the local name for the Falls).This morning the zebra were grazing outside our building but the giraffes remain elusive.
I'm now back in Lusaka - Fi went back to Kalene this morning and I leave for home tomorrow. On our last morning we caught a glimpse of the giraffes so left well satisfied.
Still awake? :-)