Day 283: On The Hippo Trail

Thurs. 23rd May 2013

Heading out on our MokoroAs we dressed this morning we hear the roar of lions in the distance but will we get to see them? We had heard rustling and other noises in the night which were too distant to warrant getting out of bed to look. The guide woke us at 6:30 and by 7:30 we were heading off in mokoros which are two guest canoes propelled by a poler, punting style. We turned off the main river onto a smaller waterway which has been made by hippo or elephant pushing their way through the long grass. It was so quiet gliding through the reeds and we sat low down unable to see over the top.

Hippo trailAfter a short while we went ashore for a guided walk and divided into two groups with five in one one and six in the other, each with a guide and two helpers or wildlife spotters. It was stressed we were on a nature walk and not a game walk as there was no guarantee as to what we would see. However, there is always a chance that we will come across lions or an elephant and we needed to be prepared in case we did get too close. Basically follow the guide’s instructions implicitly and so do not run unless told to as a last resort!

On our nature walkWe headed off along a track across the plain dotted with trees watching the Red Lechwe, which are a type of antelope grazing in the distance. We also studied various animal droppings to learn about the animal’s diets and territory marking activities. On the path there were lion tracks and I was in two minds over whether I wanted to find their owner. It would be great to see more lions but I would rather have been safely sat on a truck. The dilemma never arose as the lions were long gone.

Family crossingOur attention then turns to the baboons and the little ones scampering about. The male ones were all too busy chasing the females with their bright red bums. Mating season is April and May and the males seemed to be making the most of the last few days. They crossed the water in front of us n one long line. The zebras and red lechwe ignored us and the lively baboons, they just munched at the grass content with the world.

Malachite KingfisherAll too soon the walk was over and it was back on the mokoros. A fantastic bright blue kingfisher flew past us and perched on the grass in front of us but I could not spot where it landed before it flew off, so I missed the photo. We saw a Malachite Kingfisher just sat guarding its territory and watching for food. I was amazed that it did not fly off as we got close. The smaller kingfishers were not so obliging but we did enjoy watching them dive-bombing the water to catch fish, great to watch.

Dung evidence of our elephant visitor to our tentOver lunch, back at the Moremi Crossing lodge, we watched a large elephant passing slowly by munching on the grass. He has been nicknamed Big Dave by the staff. This is just an amazing place and we spent an idle few hours after lunch just sitting on our veranda enjoying the scenery. Across the water was a group of at least a hundred impalas or red lechwe, I could not tell which even with the brilliant binoculars I have carried around the world for just such an occasion. Thank you Dave a good choice for a Christmas present. Even though they are bulky I am glad I packed them.

You looking at me?Before afternoon tea and our evening sunset cruise (which started at 3:30!) we walked around the camp which took all of ten minutes. The one criticism we would have of this wonderful place is that other than the main lodge and the balcony of your tent, there is nowhere for you to sit and watch the river and the animals. Hides at either end of the string of tents would give a additional views and additional wildlife spotting opportunities. The cruise was the same format as last night but we wanted to see hippos so we headed in the other direction and took narrow waterways which circumnavigated the nearby island. After a while we came across two hippos with their snouts peeping above the surface of the water. Being a better sighting than last night we were all excited and the cameras were clicking, but they kept going underwater.

Hippos matingWe moved on and into a large pool where there were even more hippos on the far side and again we played spot where the next hippo will surface and try and capture it on our cameras. There were about half a dozen of them in the deepish water with just their heads coming above the surface. Soon the light was fading and it was time to head back and land for our drinks watching the sunset. We all agreed we loved Moremi Crossing and wanted to stay much longer.

Sunset on the riverAs it was dark by the time we returned to camp we had to be escorted to our rooms to get ready for dinner and were told a guide would collect us in an hour. We were hardly back in our room when the power went out so we settled down with our torches, but after a few minutes realised we were the only room without power. There was nothing we could do but wait until we were collected and it was quite odd being stuck in our room with no way of communicating with anyone (bit like the VIP lounge at Park Station –see Day 258).

Watching the sun go down from our balconyOur power was sorted over dinner and we were escorted back to our room for the night. At 1:30am I was woken by loud noises outside, and when I had convinced myself there was something very close I stirred to look (and that was hard!!). I am glad I did as there was Big Dave behind Lisl’s tent/room next door chomping on the leaves, only a matter of feet away. I watched in awe for a few minutes before he wandered on. It is cold at that time in the morning but about five minutes after I was tucked back in my bed Dave awoke and I was in big trouble for not waking him! There were more noises at around 3am but I could not see anything outside so there was no point in waking Dave who was sound asleep in his bed with his earplugs in and completely oblivious to the creaking floorboards as I went to each window to look out. Enough, we have an early wake up call for our flights back to Maun tomorrow so I too went back to sleep.

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