Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Wild Luxury on the Zambezi River

Ruckomechi Camp Safari.

Silvie and Frederick are taking a sleeping safari this morning so John and I enjoy a private game drive with Kevin. The dirt roads, made for the vehicles, are also a natural route for much of the wildlife.  Kevin frequently leans over the side of the vehicle, examining the footprints in the dusty tract; teaching us their identification and how to determine which way the animal is walking. Kevin carries a rifle as we walk through the mopane forest, examining the butterfly shaped leaves of these trees, that the elephants are especially fond of these.  He explains how the trees have a defense mechanism that releases tannins into their leaves, making them bitter tasting and discouraging absolute browsing of a single tree. Kevin picks up an assortment of dung pellets, explains how to identify each dropping and why the elephant dung is scattered about.  Elephants have an ineffective digestive system and baboons forage in the dung, looking for undigested seeds and nuts.  All is fascinating, but I feel a bit like I am on a high school science field trip. We drive back to camp passing countless birds; my favorite of which is the amusing yellow billed hornbill, (Zazu, in the Lion King.) We see a variety of antelope and families of wart hogs that John is sure are operated by remote control, their tails acting as the antenna as they trot off into the brush.
Heart Shaped Mopane Leaf
Wart Hogs

Bee Eater
Termite Mound
Zambezi River Siesta

Hammock Siesta
Mother and Baby Elephant
Mother and Baby Elephant

Pontoon Boat

We take to the river this afternoon with Silvie and Frederick as company. Our guide, Kevin maneuvers the pontoon boat upstream along the edge of the Zambezi River and we watch meter long monitor lizards basking on overhanging branches and logs at the river’s edge. Rafts of Hippos abound and we discuss the various classifications of animals and wonder if it is a raft or a pod of hippos? As we discuss this trivia, a female elephant and her calf come to the edge of the bank to forage in the afternoon sunlight. We watch them for sometime before the mother elephant becomes aware of our presence, flaps her ears and backs off into the underbrush.  Kevin motors the pontoon boat into a sheltered inlet where dozens of colorful bee-eaters (birds) perform a sunset ballet, catching insects at dusk.  Their erratic flight pattern is bat like as they dip and soar in pursuit of the insects. We sip our sundowners watching their dance and the sun, a ball of orange, sinking into the Zambezi river. 
Monitor Lizard
Our friends; Tom, Mary and Michael, who we met at Davison Camp, are on a similar itinerary to ours and have arrived at Ruckomichi this afternoon. We are happy to have their company again at dinner and visit afterwards, standing beside the fire overlooking the moonlit river. Tom mentions that he is receiving business e-mail on his blackberry phone and offers to let me send a message home. His phone is back in his tent, but tomorrow I will e-mail Art.  We sleep to a serenade of grunts, snorts, splashes and crackling brush as hippos and other nocturnal creatures make their nightly maneuvers.  

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