One of the first sights that greeted us here was a column of Matebele ants on the move. They marched out of our campsite that first afternoon and have returned most afternoons around 3 o’clock. They march in, round up what they want and form up a column and leave. This evokes a few memories. One is of singing on a schools bus when going to and from a sports fixture, “the ants go marching one by one hoorah, hoorah etc…” I’m sure that many of you remember different versions of that song. The other is of my mother, who was a teacher who loved to tell us when we were little that the thunder during a thunder storm was caused by Matebele chief Mzilikazi roaring because a matebele ant had bitten his toe! Well the latter happened here as they bit Alan twice and he roared !!! They have a very painful bite. The ants can be almost a 1cm long with very large a prominent pincers in the front. They put them to good use!
One if the things that make your heart glad as a camper is when you arrive at a campsite and you see a donkey. The African donkey that is not a donkey but rather a wood fired geyser. That means that there will definitely be hot water for showers, and if not can be available in a very short time. I love these donkeys and Mana Pools campsite have them!
We were able to go on a guided game walk yesterday – 1 June in the morning with Charles. We spent around 90 mins tracking the lions that we have heard roaring every night whilst here. However they eluded us and we have yet to see them. It was a great experience despite our failure to find the lions. Charles told us that soon there would be no vegetation left- apparently the ants move in and eat everything. This is collaborated by the fact that we have never seen so many large anthills in one place. During this period before the rains, the animals are sustained by the Anna tree which loses its leaves in summer and turns green in winter. They produce long coiling pods which are very nutritious. Elephants, monkeys and baboons help to ensure that there are sufficient pods on the ground for the browsers. In the campsite for most of the day we have had the company of some starlings, we discovered that they are called Mavis Starlings- a fitting tribute to a Mavis we know!
We have had many nocturnal visitors. Last night at the camp fire a hippo simply appeared about 5m from us and strolled off into the bush behind us and we returned to our supper. A little while later there was a huge commotion behind us and two running hippos appeared out the bush frantic to get back into the water. We don’t know what spooked them but they didn’t come back after that. Then just as we were going to bed, a shape loomed at the water’s edge not far from the front of our tent and voila – there was a spotted hyena. The bush comes alive at night! Al saw the hyena again around 1am as there was another hullabaloo that woke him. All in all we have had the following animals through our camp site (that we know of) whilst we have been here – the obligatory monkeys and baboons, elephant, hippo, hyena, crocodile, 1.5m ligavaan (sp?) and warthog.
We have spent many hours here just listening to and watching the river life. A couple of different groups of hippo’s snorting and moving in and out the water, clumps a water hyacinth (an endemic water weed) floating past, a resident croc – must be 2.5m long spends his time floating down river and then coasting back up again, amazing bird life – dominated by three types of hornbills, that starlings and a good number of beautiful Fish Eagles.
Supper last night was savory mince and baked potatoes with chilled white wine. Lunch today consisted of incredibly delicious scones baked in the Cobb (a portable charcoal oven) with cheese marmite and jam. Left overs have just been enjoyed with the local Tanganda tea.
There’s lots of water in the park so no need for the animals to come down to the river. However we have seen some lovely game, and particularly enjoyed the changing beauty of the place. There’s lush woodlands followed by open plains, ponds covered in water lilies, and an abundance of birds.
Tomorrow we head north into Zambia and face the daunting border crossing again.