One day on the first Selinda Canoe Trail of the 2012 season… (the first of the 2012 Selinda Canoe Trail departures commenced in mid April 2012)
Waking up everyday in the dark gets to a lot of people but on Safari in the bush it’s the norm. It’s one of the best parts of the day, sitting quietly by the fire with a piping hot coffee mulling over the night sounds as people slowly drift over to join you from their tents. The night, well mainly the morning, had been filled with just one distinct call. Lion! It was very faint and from East, North East, it sounded like two males calling to one another. The river flows in the same direction I told the guests who were yet to see Lion on their Safari.
After packing the canoes and adjusting the GoPro’s and Canon G12 in its waterproof housing to be able to film the guests behind me, we set off. Drifting slowly down stream hardly causing a ripple in the water, not wanting to disturb the beauty of another perfect African morning. The biggest disturbance in the first hour was caused by Pied Kingfishers dive bombing into the water for their morning baths, in and out in and out in quick succession until satisfied that their feathers were doused enough for them. They found perches in which to preen themselves while making a melody of chirping and chattering that you will know if you visited nearly any water course in Africa!
Jacanas lazily flapped across the river in front of our bows their long legs and extraordinary long toes trailing behind them and we were fortunate enough to spot a Lesser Jacana disappear into the long grass!
A little further down the river just before a fantastic stand of Motswiri trees (Leadwood trees) our attention was drawn to the flap of elegant white wings to the edge of the river, on closer inspection through bino’s I could make out the Cattle Egrets a sure tell-tale sign that there would be some large herbivore(s) very close.
Yes! A small group of Buffalo Bulls – some in the shallows of the river amongst the think reed banks and others in the Russet Bushwillows on the edge. As we were drifting along at the pace of the river we were starting to make out the grunts and splashes of the bulls as they sloshed through the water in search of food. With the wind blowing from the Buffalo to ourselves we crept forward on the opposite bank keeping the canoes bunched as much as possible in order not to alert them for as long as possible. The sun was in such an angle that it would occasionally shine off their horns polished beautifully over the years. Amazing!
Finally the Oxpeckers and Egrets gave us away. The bulls picked up their heads looking around for the danger, we blended incredibly well into the reed beds on our side and kept very still so even as a couple stared right at us they still couldn’t make out what we were especially as the wind was still in our favour. Eventually with that signature grunt of the Buffalo they trotted off into the bush but only 15 meters or so. So on paddling across to their side of the Spillway we could still see their dark shapes in the shrubs.
While stopping 5 minutes later for a cup of bush tea before our impromptu walk, our guests expressed their delight in having experienced their first Buffalo sighting and what better way to see it than from a canoe on the Selinda Spillway!
After walking only 150 meters we startled 3 Southern Ground Hornbills. These massive birds took flight allowing us to get a great view of their white primaries in contrast to their black bodies. They landed close by so we were able to study their very conspicuous red faces and throats further.
Making our way quietly through Mopane shrub we crept up to some pans I hoped we may be able to spot game at but turn out to be void of any animals! On circling the pans we flushed Greater Painted Snipe, an unusual bird and not altogether very common. We froze as not to alarm them further as 2 had landed again very near by.
Incredibly as we waited and watched the 3 more appeared skulking along the muddy edges of the water and keeping hidden under the tussocks of grass. We were only 5 meters from these wonderful birds. On closer inspection it appeared that they were juveniles but we could make out easily the sexes. The female being far more beautiful than the male, who has a rather cryptic camouflage. During breeding the eggs are laid then left with the male whose job it is to then incubate and rear the chicks alone…!
To have been so close on foot to such birds was a real treat.
Finding a very well trodden Elephant path we followed it to where I knew there was another good open area with water around. For a while we followed fresh Buffalo tracks and then onto a male lion track traveling in the opposite direction! Must have been one of the one’s we heard earlier while around the fire that morning!
Carrying on we broke cover into the open and at the same moment as we did, a lionesses head popped up 40 meters away. Another groggy head lifted out of the Couch Grass next to the first looking around so see what had startled her companion, who was now trotting off to cover, the second lioness suddenly focused on our little group then bolted in the other direction of the first! Let off a grunting cough and each stride.
Our guests were ecstatic first Lion sighting ever and it was on foot! I don’t think there are many people that can say that! In fact I believe its the first time since the canoe trails have been running that we have uncounted Lion on foot.
Due to the lioness splitting up and this could very well be the first time they have seen humans as we are in such a remote area far, far away from any form of tourism or lodge we turned back for the canoes in very high spirits.
An hour later we were sitting down to a fabulous lunch put on by Dollar our chef and the team.
A good long siesta, followed by a quick swim to wake us up and we were off again. The afternoon was even more tranquil than the morning. The light softening to that perfect golden light that photographers go wild for. Following the gentle bends of the river until we came across our next campsite ready to host us for another very special night on the Selinda Spillway.
Report – Josh
Tags: 60 Min, Botswana Canoe Safari, Botswana Luxury Safari, Cape Buffalo, Cattle Egrets, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Elephants, Great Plains Conservation, Greater Painted Snipe, Leadwood Trees, Lesser Jacana, lion, lioness, Motswiri Trees, Oxpecker, Pied Kingfisher, Selinda Canoe Trail, Selinda Reserve, Selinda Spillway, Southern Ground Hornbills, The Last Lions
This entry was posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2012 at 12:48 pm
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