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Zimbabwe Adventure

Game viewing at Somalisa

Gill Staden, eTN  Aug 15, 2010

ZIMBABWE (eTN) - We stayed at Somalisa Camp, Hwange National Park, for two nights. During the day, Dardley, our guide, took us out into the park for some spectacular game viewing.

Nearby Somalisa is Ngweshla pan, and this was the attraction for large herds of elephant and buffalo. All around the pan is grassland where zebra, kudu, impala, ostrich, and wildebeest grazed happily with a watchful eye open for predators. On the second day we found a pride of lion – four females and eight cubs. They were relaxing in the shade of some trees until we came along and unwittingly disturbed them. They then wandered off across the plain into the woodland away from the annoyance of people.

We also found a young leopard near to the camp. She was feeding off a rather old carcass, which had become very smelly but she didn’t seem to mind. We found her there three times. With the stench that the carcass was putting out, it was a surprise that hyena had not been down to eat it – there were plenty hyena in the area. We only saw one hyena in the distance, but they were calling throughout the night.

One evening we had a very special hour by Ngweshla Pan. We had stopped for sundowners and were happily chatting as the sun disappeared below the horizon. A herd of elephants came down to drink – there must have been at least 100 of them on the opposite side of the pan. One of them decided to play the fool and got into the middle of the pan, splashed the water with his trunk, rolled over in the water, and generally had a lot of fun.

On the side of the pan we watched a hippo, which had a couple of oxpeckers on his back, picking off ticks, when suddenly he decided to plunge back into the water. He then rolled over on his back with his legs in the air sticking out of the water. It was the oddest behavior, something which none of us had ever seen before. He was obviously scratching his back and seemed to be having a great time.

Finally a jackal came close to the car, not bothering about us at all. He jumped into a bunch of grass looking for something to eat; he then came out, did a poo, had a scratch, and then walked off.

Another notable sighting on our tour around the park was a troop of about 30 baboons playing on a fallen down tree. Baboons, although common in all our parks, can provide hours of entertainment when they are at play in the bush. This troop had baboons of all ages, the youngsters posing nicely for a photo.

One of the birds I love to see in the bush is the secretary bird, with his sticky-up feathers on his head. We were not disappointed as we found one all fluffed up in the cold of the morning.

Thinking about the cold, it was the cold that dominated our stay. It was "freezing." Going out on an open safari vehicle was a case for wrapping up as warmly as possible. The sun may have been shining, but it was definitely cold out there. Coffee, muffins, and a log fire on our return to the camp were most welcome.

Game viewing at Somalisa
Hippo displaying the oddest behavior / Photo by Gill Staden

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