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My Spotted Friends

Their thundering calls were already booming across the bushveld when the first hint of dawn was on the horizon. I was about to record the Ground Hornbills when a jackal’s mobbing calls had me change plans. Heading east in the open savannah was easy going with the only cover being little Sida bushes. It was only just getting light, visibility was poor when I saw something running across my path ahead. For some reason my brain imagined it to be a kangaroo like animal. Very embarrassed and not having seen one of my special friends for so long, it was a hyaena! She ran off but when I switched Joanie off she stopped, looked around, then got back to sniffing around. As it was getting light I thought she might bolt if I followed, her but not. She was happy to have me follow. We were on the edge of the mopane as she stared north into it. I got out the car wanting to film her silhouette against the dawn light. At first she didn’t see I was out the car, but when she did her curiosity go the better of her and she approached. Yay… I was back in the land of my most special friends. She didn’t come too close and walked by happy I wasn’t a threat. Jackals were going crazy mobbing something to the north-east. She was keen and back in Joanie, I followed her. But she didn’t go straight to the calls, she did a wide circle and then into a thicket of Sickle bush. The worst for punctures. Deep in the thicket was another hyaena tucking into an impala carcass. They both fed frantically as only hyaenas can, swallowing chunks of meat at a time. The jackals were still going crazy but further into the thicket. They weren’t shouting at the hyaenas.
The hyaenas took the carcass deeper into the thicket. I just couldn’t follow. The jackals stopped shouting and came to feed on the scraps left by the hyaenas. There was some intense growling coming from where the hyaenas had gone. They must have stolen the kill from a leopard, which was now trying to retrieve its prize but the hyaenas would no doubt have held tight. Soon it was all over. Well what I could see was all over. It was quiet. The hyaenas had taken the kill and would no doubt have finished it between them. The leopard and jackals would be picking up the scraps. And that’s life. Never easy…


Lion manners

20th August 2019
I spent a long night with the girls. The same 2 lionesses from last night. They crossed the track in front of me. The 2nd lioness didn’t follow her friend, she came straight towards me. As if that wasn’t enough, she came round to my door a hands reach away staring up at me. I watched her in the light of the moon. We stared at each other. I puzzled as to her motive but was confident she wasn’t about to leap into Joanie. Then as if having approved that I looked just fine and was just another male, she headed off to join her friend. I caught up with them just as they entered the donga where the leopard and her cub had the kill a week ago. Now there were 3 lionesses. Strangely for the rest of the night I never saw 3 lionesses again until about 4am. Having crossed the donga the girls continued south into dense Croton. Usually I’d turn away at this point but tonight I decided to bite the bullet and put Joanie through her paces. The Croton didn’t last and soon we were on a small floodplain. It was sandy and fairly open. We dropped into the river and crossed. That was easy. On the southern bank I took the only gap and came out in some open big tree country. I’d lost a lioness, but the one I was with rested up. I was parked under a Raintree. It was busy shedding its leaves, the ground below carpeted and crunchy to walk on. As usual it was a quiet night. So quiet I could here the odd leaf fall from its perch, tumble over others on its way down and then float to the floor where dry leaf falling on dry leaf might the slightest sound. We were soon on the move again as the 2nd lioness joined us. Eyes ahead. The girls tried a tactical manoeuvre, both of them moving to opposite flanks. But it was of little use as they went charging after the impala at a 100m. We changed direction now circling west. The riverine was dense. I was in the thick of it now, no turning back. The lions were taking the only gaps there were and I had to get Joanie to squeeze through them too. Which wasn’t took bad, except when there’s a huge log across the opening. The girls of course jump over but I haven’t managed to get Joanie jumping yet. I ended up going the long way round and then having to find the lions again. Not easy in this country where the leaf litter is so dense it’s hard to follow any tracks. Each time I had to rely on either baboons alarming, impala alarms, jackal shouting and trying to maintain the direction I last had them going. We turned back north and crossed the river again. We had now done a complete circle from where I’d found them. There was no sign of the males from last night. The girls must have sent them off to do something constructive, like patrol the territory. We were still travelling north, now in open Acacia savannah country. Impala were everywhere and out of the blue the third lioness had reappeared. Where she’d been all this time I can’t work out. The team again approached the impala with what seemed like another tactical manoeuvre. One on each flank and one down the middle. It didn’t last and the lioness on the west charged in long before any of them were in position. There was chaos, impala running everywhere. A male turned back on himself straight towards the lioness. The moon was casting lots of light and seeing the lioness the impala went into overdrive and jumped high over the lioness, but not high enough. She jumped high her front paw outstretched she ankle tapped the impala. He tumbled to the ground and I was sure he’d get away, but she had gathered herself faster than I could see and was onto him. His death cries brought the others charging in and the bunfight began. 3 lionesses who only minutes ago were all loving and playing with each other were now literally at war with each other, all that mattered being getting their slice of the pie. The aggression was intense and so different to the caring manner of other predators, especially wild dogs. When wild dogs kill, the adults stand back and let the puppies feed first. If there were lion cubs here they too would have been caught in the middle of the rumble with no preference. It was only a few minutes and the carcass was ripped into 3 as the girls went to feed alone. Dawn was just creeping in when one of the male lions arrived, but too late my boy. Jackals were already finishing off the last scraps as the lionesses retreated north into the mopane…


Hunting with lions

It’s hazy, almost misty, the grass still green on the flat ground where the pan used to be but has now dried up. Herds of Eland and Waterbuck are making the most of the only greenery in this dry dusty landscape. I’ve stopped to type here, the morning still cold and fresh, in the hope that a badger might too decide to hunt frogs and other little things left behind from the wet days of the pan.

It was dark already last night, the moon not up yet and I was cruising my usual areas. A couple of impala alarmed to my right. I was away from the river on higher country. Savannah country with medium sized Acacias dense enough to obstruct my view into the distance, but easy enough to drive through. I left the track heading west and ducking between the Acacias was a female leopard. She had obviously been hunting but was now more concerned with my presence. She avoided me using every bush as cover, but after a while settled down and then lay down in a thicket of Acacia. I could only see the top of her head. This was yet another leopard in the same small area I’ve been concentrating on. There’s a density of these cats here that I’ve never witnessed before. A White-tailed Mongoose came foraging by. The leopard ducked low. The mongoose carried on north and I never saw the leopard again. I don’t know if she followed after the mongoose or disappeared while I was distracted.
I slowly headed north across the river. A jackal was frantically mobbing something not too far away. Arriving in the area the jackal went quiet but then I found what all the consternation was about. A lioness lying next to some Thilacium bushes. She stared at me for a second or two and then relaxed looking around. The bush was quite thick here. Small bush country with a few big Acacias. She yawned. A little while later a 2nd yawn. But before the proverbial 3rd yawn, she was up half walking towards me and past. I turned to follow her and scanning the area picked 2 more pairs of eyes. 2 male lions. They were keeping their distance from her and of course from me. I could see eyes to the south, impala scattered through the bushes. The lioness was now focused advancing at a fast walk. The ground here was bare and hard allowing her to move freely with little sound. She was using the bush as cover moving behind each one until its cover ran out and then behind the next one. She disappeared behind a bush and when I saw her again she was barreling towards the impala, but she was too far to launch an attack and with the moon already peering over the tree tops her cover was quickly blown and the impala took off. The bewilderment on her face at not having caught anything was priceless. But for someone who’s seen this time and again, I wasn’t surprised she’d missed. She obviously wasn’t relying on stealth or an ambush attack. She was running in to cause confusion and have impala running in all directions hoping one would run over her. While standing around in her bewildered state another lioness joined her, rubbing her face along her body as if to say “Don’t worry my dear, there will be another time”.
These girls took me south in the deep riverine. It was fairly open here. A bushbaby jumped easily out the way, bouncing from branch to branch into the higher canopy of an Acacia galpinii. The lions reached the river and walked northwest in the sandy riverbed. I followed up on the bank. A long way behind us the males followed. They would no doubt come rushing in if the girls killed and steal their kill from them. A lion roared several times to the south. The lions I was with kept quiet. Were they on hallowed ground? They crossed the river. I now had to rely on Joanie. The bank I was on was steep, but going down is never really a problem. Would I be able to get out the other side? Joanie worked hard crossing the soft sandy river using her lowest gears to grind her way across. I found an area on the far bank that wasn’t sheer and had a slight slope. Joanie worked her magic, her front wheels instantly grabbing the firmer ground and hoisting us up the bank. On top there was more sand, from the cyclone, where the girls were now resting. I couldn’t see the boys, but they were no doubt fully in control of the whereabouts of the girls. We slept here a couple of hours. Every now and then a baboon coughed from high up in its roost north of us. Was the cooler weather getting the better of him? I dosed off and must have missed the yawns but saw the girls heading north. They crossed back over the river. This time beyond Joanie’s capabilities, the banks sheer on my side and dense Croton on the far bank. We tried going round, but it was a long way and I never did pick up the girls again.
The sun is now high and the waterbuck have returned to graze. And……. no sign of any badgers… ☹


Leopards corner

There are vultures flying overhead. Didn’t think I looked that ready to be their meal. I thought they were onto something but for now are just catching the first thermals of the day.
Driving along the river on the edge of the tall trees, the ground is bare. Grey dusty alluvial soils. A herd of impala came running from the west and across the track in front of me. A small herd of kudu were also on the run. And about 200m away from them another herd of impala were running east. What were all these guys running from. I stopped and while listening got myself ready for the night. Changed into warmer clothes. Changed tripod heads. Set up the lights for the night. Downed some smoothie. Even after all of this, I was still none the wiser as to what had these guys running. It was just getting dark now and I was already using my spotlight. About half a kilometre on chaos broke out. Ahead of me another herd of impala were roaring crazily and south of them other impala snorting frantically. That intense snorting had to mean a predator was around. I found the impala on the edge of the riverine where that donga from the cyclone runs east. The same donga I’ve found my young male leopard in several times. The impala ran from me into the riverine. Presumably if there was a predator they wouldn’t be running towards it. I drove the area between the donga and the riverine. It was small Acacia bushy country. The ground hard and bumpy with furrows from the cyclone.

Sitting up in a little open patch was a leopard. At her feet was a female impala that she’d just killed. She seemed a little apprehensive with my approach but soon settled down and we became buddies for the night. Having just killed the impala she was still on edge as lions and hyaenas would happily steal her prize from her. It was already cool, the moon was rising and crickets had started up their tunes for the night. A couple of Scops Owls were joined by a Barred Owl, it’s call more like a Scops Owl on steroids. The shadows cast by the moon were still long but being in a gap in the trees, the white stomach of the impala stood out almost iridescent. The leopard eventually settled down at the back end of the impala and fed. A jackal was shouting a few hundred meters to our east. Had something heard the kill and was approaching? The night was soon quiet again, but for the song of the owls and a Three-banded Courser. The leopard finished feeding and lay next to the carcass. Several times a leopard called some distance east of us. The moon was well into the sky, the shadows had shortened and the leopard left the carcass without moving it and headed off east. I decided to guard her trophy for her. She came back several hours later, grabbed her prize by the neck and dragged it north into the donga. At least there it was a little out of sight of other predators. Lions were roaring somewhere south of the river and another responded not far east of us. Was it on it’s way? For the next few hours lions roared all around and the leopard stayed put. Everything was quiet now, except for the lions. The air was still but a little chilly. The moon was still up when dawn crept in. I moved some distance away from the kill as I knew the leopard would be nervous of me being there. I have yet to understand this. I was with her all night parked not even 20m away and she was happy to feed and rest with me around. Come day and I was parked about 100m away and she went into hiding. She took cover behind a bush and continued to stare me down. Quite scary. I have seen this behaviour time and again with lions and leopards. It’s as if they’re blind at night and cometh the day they suddenly realise what this beast that’s been following them is. With her carcass in the open I knew she’d be wanting to get it out of sight of vultures. As I backed off several hundred meters she came in immediately, picked up the impala by the neck and dragged it somewhere into the forest…


Prickly affair

The sun had set a while ago, but the moon almost full, was making sure it didn’t really get dark. I was just coming out the riverine having crossed the river and there he was, my friend, the young male leopard. There was a slight clearing where a dead Acacia galpinii stood. One of its main branches had fallen to the ground but was still attached about 2m up. The huge branch lay almost parallel to the ground and in that ‘typical’ leopard pose he was lying along it. It was as if he’d been waiting for me to go hunting, cos as I arrived he dropped off the branch and headed west. I tried to follow but the bush was too dense. I went back to the track, headed north and then followed it west a couple of kilometres before turning back. The night was warm and I was still in my shorts. The moon was only just bobbing around over the tall Nyala-berry trees as I continued east. Eyes to the south coming out of the riverine. I left the track moving around some young Acacias and found them again. It was the young male leopard coming towards me. (Was he really interested in my company?) I stopped. He sniffed at the base of a young Nyala-berry and continued on north. He was in great shape and looking fairly well fed. Some holes among some Sida bushes had him sniffing there too. There was a slight rise further north. When he could he stopped to peer over it scanning the area. Impala were about a hundred meters away feeding. Keeping himself low to the ground he glided towards another Nyala-Berry tree. Around the base of the tree were a number of excavations. Old and new warthog burrows. He was easily distracted and was sniffing around them, the impala appearing to be a distant memory. The excavations were ‘big’ and he lay down in one only his head sticking out. A pose I’ve seen him do on several occasions before. There didn’t appear to be anything there. He got up, “Ah yes, those impala”, the mind of a youngster. He moved into the shadow of the tree cast by the moon.

There was an old Nyala-berry log lying there, which he snuggled up against lying on the ground. The impala were feeding about 70m away. He waited as if hoping they might come closer. I was looking around in the moonlight and to my south moving around the small Sida bushes was a Genet. It seemed to be following his tracks and heading straight towards me. Then it veered off west to the base of another Nyala-berry. Just then the leopard got up but moved east, in a slow hurry, ignoring the impala. Something else had caught his attention. At another Nyala-berry he moved around the base south, came back sniffing and moved around to the north. As I came round the tree I saw the porcupine. In his casual way the leopard walked up to the porcupine obviously not expecting what was coming. With its quills flared like a raging bulls nostrils it charged backwards into the leopard. The sound of rattling quills and the porcupine stamping its feet on the ground, together with the backwards charge had the youngster jumping up and backwards like only a cat can. Round 1 goes to the porcupine. The porcupine trotted south its quills still flared. The leopard was close behind. They moved into a Sand-paper bush thicket that hung low to the ground. Big mistake by the porcupine because now its flared quills got caught up in the branches if it charged backwards. The leopard realised this and approached from the front. Porcupine turned. Leopard moved around again. The porcupine turned. Reaching his paw out gently as if testing to see if something is hot, the leopard tested the quills but got a huge fright again jumping back when the porcupine stamped its feet. The stalemate went on for a while. Then bored with the game the porcupine slowly moved out the bush and continued south. Leopard followed but he’d trot around ahead of the porcupine and wait for it, only to jump out the way when it got to him. It appeared this rodent had outsmarted him as they disappeared into the Croton thickets along the river bank…


Mob attack

There was no sign of the baboons this evening. Little was left of the impala carcass and the cub was making sure to get the most of it while mom chilled about 20m away from me. She was already coming to accept me. With his full tummy the cub bounced out the tree and tumbled with mom. It was some time later in the night I heard clambering up a tree. The mother leopard had climbed a Leadwood about 50m away. Then I saw the brute, a male lion at the base of the Nyala-berry. Hopefully the cub was out of harms way, but the lion was only interested in scavenging, being the prize scavengers they are. He found the carcass on the termite mound. There really was nothing left but bones and a little skin. Even so he ducked off with his scraps and disappeared into the donga.
Dawn arrived fresh and crisp. The sky was clear and soon the sun peeped over the Chimanimani mountains. I wasn’t sure if the leopards were still around. A jackal suddenly shouted his mobbing call not even a hundred meters to the east. The leopards or lion must be there. I couldn’t see the jackal as it was obscured by the small Acacias. Cameras up and ready to roll, I drove towards the mobbing sound. Coming round the bushes I saw a number of baboons around too. Just then all hell broke loose. Elephants had completely trashed a False Marula tree that was now lying in pieces on the ground. The Capparis creeper that had been growing in its canopy lay as a thicket on the ground. The ground all around was hard and bare with the next lot of bush about 30m away.  It was surrounding this thicket that all the action was taking place. Baboons had cornered the mother leopard. She had nowhere to go as they made threatening advances at her. Was her cub in the thicket with her? Eventually she couldn’t take it any more and went on the attack. A big male baboon in front of her took the brunt of the attack as she threw teeth and claws at it. The moment was brief and then she ran pursued by an angry crazy mob of about 20 baboons. They were close enough to bite her as she ran for a dense thicket. It was an unbelievable sight. The leopard running for its life with this mob all psyched and on the rampage. Like angry mobs of people demonstrating, except these guys were ready to kill. But she made it and reluctant to follow her into the thicket the baboons left her. There was another commotion in a Nyala-berry back in the west. When I approached about 15 baboons fell from the tree desperate to get away. Did they think the mother was returning? What were they doing up the tree and what was the commotion all about? There was still a baboon right in the top of the tree. Also in the canopy of this tree a Capparis creeper had made its way to the top. Capparis creepers are armed with small hooked thorns. Then the screaming growling sound again. It was coming from the creeper. The cub had tucked itself deep into the thorns right on the edge of the creeper and just above it a baboon was trying to get to it. The cub stood fast lashing out at the baboons advances making a lot more noise than you’d expect from such small fur-ball. With all the other baboons having left the tree, this baboon was taking chances if the mother returned and eventually realising it, he left. Mother and cub had each survived their own scary mob attack…


Surviving the masses

It was very windy. I suppose that typical wind we get in August. There was a blanket of cloud rolling in very slowly from the east. It looked like a smooth blanket, its front edge soft and round just catching the last rays of the sun turning the edge pastel pink. A strange beautiful sight of threatening weather. I was arriving back at the leopard kill. There were baboons in the area heading back to their roost. Then all craziness broke out. Baboons screaming and shouting from the Nyala-berry tree. When I’d focused in, the mother leopard was lying on the carcass surrounded by baboons. They weren’t scared and would happily kill her cub. Where was it? She was standing her ground probably protecting her little one someone there. She was facing the donga, her back to me and to several baboons sitting in the Thilacium bushes  at the base of the Nyala-berry. A big male baboon climbed a broken branch that lay on the ground, its broken end on the termite mound where the mother was. He was jumping on the branch trying to intimidate her. It worked but not the way he wanted. In a flash she spun round and launched herself at the branch. There was that wild commotion again, baboons screaming everywhere. A very intimidating situation for any mother. The baboon on the branch was quick and somehow (their tails are always upright) managed to disappear his tail between his legs. Other baboons rushed the anthill. The mother stood fast. She could protect herself up there with the donga providing a safe backdrop that the baboons couldn’t approach from. She had chosen her battle ground well. The sun had set a while ago, the wind had died down and the baboons were still standing their ground not going to roost yet. Some impala had joined the baboons in the donga, feeding all around them. An interesting sight considering there was a leopard only 15m from them. Commotion broke out again as the mother launched herself at another baboon climbing the branch. There was still no sign of the cub. Did the baboons grab it in that first advance when I was arriving there? It was now nearly dark and one by one the baboons peeled off heading west to their roost. (I can hear them now in their roost probably only a 100m away. Dawn will soon be on the way. Will they be back to torment the leopard?) There was one big male baboon, still sitting at the bae of anthill watching the leopard. Only when it was dark did he move off. It was now quiet. That same quiet I’ve often spoken of. Not a sound. Not even crickets down here. The wind had died down completely. The moon shone a lovely light on the scene. (Last night when I got here the moon had long gone to bed.) The Thilaicum bushes stood dark in ‘bright’ light coloured sand. The anthill was in complete darkness. The Southern Cross was perched above the Nyala-berry. That blanket of cloud had turned white, lit by the moon and was still advancing. The only sound now was the mother crunching on the carcass.
With my light on I noticed movement in the leaves above her. Her cub. It had obviously taken refuge high up in the Nyala-berry and with everything being safe, was coming down to feed. They fed and disappeared into the donga. In the middle of the night they were back feeding again. The moon had dipped below the western horizon. It was really dark. The cloud had arrived and it was warm.
Male baboons are now (as I type) greeting the coming dawn with their booming barks. It will be light soon. Will they be back to torment the leopards or have the leopards moved off and will only return after dawn when the baboons have gone?


New little find

A Civet was sniffing around next to the track. Just ahead of it the bloodstain in the track was a dead give away. The blood had soaked into the hard grey soil. A clot of blood was still wet. All around it were marks of confusion, a struggle and then the distinct drag marks heading south. Something was dragging something big that it had just killed. I decided to follow the Civet. We were no doubt both looking for the same thing. The Civet had its nose to the ground in this small Acacia country. It was easy going. The ground was hard making the drag marks not that easy to see, so for now I was relying on the civet. A sandy patch, from the cyclone, showed the Civet wasn’t on the drag mark. It seemed to be crossing them, this way then that. We got to a donga and down went the Civet, but the drag marks didn’t and followed the donga and headed southeast. I never did see the Civet again and anyway couldn’t get into the donga with Joanie. It was sandy up here and easy to follow the marks. Past a Sand-paper bush, some Thilacium bushes scattered around and an Albizia in flower that has been trashed by elephants but still making a living. There was a Nyala-berry up ahead. The only big tree this side of the donga. The other side was tall riverine, ideal place to hide a carcass. The Nyala-berry was surrounded by small Thilacium bushes a couple of feet high. These evergreen bushes provide good cover. The drag marks went straight to the tree. When I got closer she stuck her head up from between the bushes, a female leopard.
She was about to bolt when I switched off and she relaxed. I couldn’t see the carcass and she wasn’t about to show it to me. The leopard had dragged the carcass about 300m to get to this chosen tree She kept looking towards the tree. The night was still. Not as breeze. Several Scops owls chirped to the south in the dense riverine. A Fiery-necked Nightjar called “Good lord deliver us”. Very appropriate in the setting. In the east, a faint glow showed dawn was approaching. As with many Nyala-berry trees an anthill grew around this tree. Or did the tree grow around the anthill? Coming out of the anthill were several huge stems of the tree. Through the stems I thought I could see the body of an impala. I reversed back and went round. From the northern side I had a clear view of the impala carcass mounted on top of the anthill amongst the tree stems. About half of it had been eaten AND!!! there was a leopard cub feeding! It must be 3 to 4months old. It wasn’t too phased with my presence and continued to feed, its stomach already well on its way to bursting. Dawn was coming fast and the riverine was now alive with a chorus of birds, mainly doves. Ground Hornbills also boomed their approval at the coming dawn. The cub eventually retired into the Sand-paper bush thicket adjacent to the Nyala-berry. The mother was still lying amongst the Thilacium bushes, when an eland cow popped out of the donga about 50m away. She was walking cautiously, scanning ahead with every step. Then came her surprise. 10m behind followed her tiny calf, only a few days old. She must have been hiding it in the dense riverine and was now ready to take it to join the herd. A risky process until she got there. I have no doubt if the leopard didn’t have her own kill, she would have been extra keen. Life played the calf a lucky card today. Maybe one that will allow it to live a great life. It’s often the young that get taken. Easy prey when they haven’t yet honed their survival skills. I too had a lucky break in my youth. A story for another day…


River Walk

Badgers, Badgers, Badgers, where are you? I decided to take to investigating things along the Save River. This river is huge and along the Sango section is about a kilometre wide. It’s made up of several channels with islands of dense vegetation in between. A sandy river, which I love. And it’s perennial, but only with one or two channels flowing all year. I left Joanie parked under the dense shade of a Natal Mahogany. The riverine vegetation here is almost impenetrable and the only way through to the river is along a game path. Preferably an elephant one. I found a path leading into the ‘jungle’. It looked pretty closed in, but was used by elephants, so it had to be good for me. The path was overhung with Flame thorn, (Acacia ataxacantha, which is loaded with stout hooked thorns.) that seem impenetrable. But when the ellies have been through the thorns hook into their flanks and get ripped away from the main plant, leaving the branches smooth and so making access relatively painless. Those thorns don’t bother the ellies. In places I had to crouch low to get under some of the branches, branches that elephants just barge through. The path zig-zagged through the dense undergrowth eventually coming out at the river bank. It was a couple of meters high here, but the elephant traffic had gorged out a slope to the sandy river. I tumbled down the soft sand onto the river bed. The sand here was more coarse. Animal tracks littered the whole river, a lot of them not distinguishable, just depressions in the sand. Elephant and buffalo stood out. Both of these beasts would not be good to bump into in the dense vegetation, but out here on the open sands I felt safe. This channel was about a hundred meters wide. Flowing only in a narrow stream about a meter wide, the water meandered from this side to that, back and forth. The water was shallow, only a couple of inches deep, and cool and fresh on my bare feet. No chance of crocs in these shallows. I headed upstream enjoying the sand flowing between my toes. I felt totally wild and free. Sandy African rivers are an absolute delight to me and whenever I can I will walk and rest on their sandy bottoms. The island to my east had tall grasses growing up its bank, with game paths leading into the dense vegetation of figs, mahogany’s, nyala-berry’s, Acacia albidas. An elephant trumpeted not too far away. A little further north another channel came in from the east. I followed it to a little pool up against the island bank. The water was dark and deep. Who was lurking in there, although I didn’t see any croc tracks around. I climbed the steep bank with it’s creamy soft sand that felt like something you wanted to bottle. Three Mahogany trees stood together providing dense shade. The soft sand below them was disturbed by elephants that had taken advantage of the shade too.
Ant-lion tracks criss-crossed the soft sand as they moved around before burrowing their funnel-shaped traps. This sand was perfect for these guys as any insect walking along the crest of the funnel would quickly fall to the bottom where the ant-lions lay lurking with their pincers ready to grab anybody battling to escape their trap. I heard an elephant feeding close by but the foliage was too dense to see anything. There were lots of little paths leading through it but too dangerous to be caught in those thickets. I found a clearing further north and to the south saw an elephant standing under a Mahogany collecting the soft sand in his trunk and tossing it over his back. I could just imagine how cool and soothing it was. There was a gentle breeze from the north, which must have wafted in his direction, as he suddenly took off south, thankfully, crashing through the bushes as if they didn’t exist. A second elephant, that I hadn’t seen, disappeared behind him. They were gone, my moment with them ever so brief. I carried on north up the riverbed. In places in the sand, holes had been dug by elephants, always looking for the cleanest, coolest water, water that had filtered through layers and layers of sand and wasn’t exposed to the hot sun. Fresh buffalo dung patties plastered the edge of flowing water. Now my dilemma, besides not seeing any sign of badgers, the western bank was choked with fig bushes. Several game paths went through it, but the buffalo dung was fresh. Were they still lurking in the thickets? I took the path least used, watching my every step, searching the bush ahead. The path joined and crossed others. A Grey Lourie alarmed at me. Would that start a stampede? Eventually I came out into the open on the vehicle track. No buffalo. All was good…