That first night in the park (and I think the second too!) I froze. The answer to “how cold can it really get in Africa in Winter?” is VERY! Despite a very good quality winter sleeping supposedly temperature rated to -7C, my newly purchased fleece blanket tucked inside, full thermal base layers AND a beanie on my head, I froze. Viking Explorer was no earthly help tucked away in his Norwegian sleeping back as I tossed and turned trying to keep warm. I was distinctly bleary eyed and in need of a hot cup of tea when the alarm rang at 5am.
We quickly fell back into our long established travel routine. The best time of the day to see wildlife is close to sunrise and sunset, requiring a lot of setting up, breaking down and eating in the dark! Before long, the kettle was on the boil and delicious rusks ready for dunking.
There was not a stir from the rest of the camp until close to sunrise, by which time we were ready at the gate for a day of game viewing.
There are no guarantees of seeing wildlife, and at times we drove for almost half an hour without seeing very much at all. The scenery was beautiful – lots of grasslands which we hadn’t expected – and low granite hills.
We stopped past most of the waterholes along the way, and more often than not something would be visiting to drink. At one waterhole, we were particularly fortunate to see a real mix of animals all drinking at the same time. There was definitely some hierarchy, but more eyes and ears to catch the first sign of predators meant all animals were somewhat safer.
By lunchtime we needed a little snooze. Since we weren’t allowed to leave the vehicle, and we were still quite far from our campsite, we stopped at the next waterhole instead. We parked in the shade of a small tree, put our seats back and closed our eyes. I drifted off with the sounds of birds and smells of the bush floating in through the window.
After about an hour, a few park rangers came past the waterhole. I am not sure what they thought of us, but came over to check our permits were legitimate. Suspicious but content they left us in peace.
My most memorable experience of they day came at the next waterhole we visited. Most waterholes are almost adjacent to the main road or not far from. This one was almost 11km down a narrow track and so we nearly opted to skip it. We wound our way along the track and emerged at the end … to see a large breeding herd of elephants drinking about 200 metres away.
There was a wide range of ages: small babies still huddled close their their moms, adolescents jostling with each other, and the matriarch and other elder aunts keeping an eye on the herd and surrounding. One or two sentries were always posted while the group drank, and everyone rotated to have a chance to drink. With elephants requiring between 100-250 litres a day, drinking is a slow process and the group took an hour to refil.
In the meantime, at the water reservoir tank a couple of hundred metres to the left, a small bachelor herd of about 6 male elephants were quenching their thirst in a different way. Rather than drink from the waterhole where other animals had been drinking and walking in, they chose to drink from the water tank, or even better, directly from the water spout where water was pumped from the ground.
Eventually, the matriarch decided that they were finished. Without any fanfare, she started moving away from the waterhole, and everyone followed until we were left alone.
Other views from the day:
Time to head back to the campsite. What a beautiful day! We parked the car and grabbed a sundowner to take with us to the hide at the waterhole (next to the campsite) and celebrate another gorgeous day in Africa.