Our first full day at Elephant Valley Lodge brought us breakfast at 0730 and our morning drive safari with Simon at 0800. Today we were fortunate to have the most charming couple join us, Sylvia and Peter, who are from Cape Town and here to celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary today. They said they got engaged at Victoria Falls. They are a total delight to be around, so engaging and interesting and full of life.
We drove to the national park where the drivers are allowed to take us along established “roads” but not off-road. The first thing we spotted were elephants crossing the road and we joked that they ought to post elephant crossing signs as we do for deer crossings. We hadn’t gone very far before we came across a zebra herd. They were beautiful to gaze upon and fun to watch run.
But this morning was really all about the amazing variety of birds. We saw maribou storks, malakite sun catchers, a red billed Franklin, swallow tailed bee eaters, spoon bills, yellow billed storks, wood sand pipers, black wing stilts, and open billed storks. Crocodiles were also along the shore, with lots of impala everywhere.
We drove further inland and saw a good many elephants heading toward the water, taking breaks under the shade of trees, with some even laying completely down. It’s surprising for us to see trees already leafed out, as everything was so dry and just barely beginning to leaf during our South Africa safari.
We came across the remains of an animal kill – a dead impala. Simon explained that if we came back in just a bit surely most of it would be gone. Well, that’s exactly what happened. We returned and saw vultures hard at work. They had picked the carcass almost clean.
In the park the roads are very soft and some are mostly thick sand. Heading back we came across one of the car sized vehicles that apparently individuals can rent and drive through the park on their own. Well, this bunch, two young men and an elderly gentleman were totally stuck. Simon stopped and hopped out to lend a hand as did two other guides. But those young men were so stubbornly set in their ideas of what needed to be done that they wouldn’t heed the advice of those who drive the roads every day. Well, you can’t stop stupid. We drove off and left them to their own wiles.
Back at the lodge we soon had lunch, a bit of a respite and then back at 1500 for our boat safari. This time we were 7 – Dana and I, Peter and Sylvia, Manuela and Annemarie from Portugal and Marion from Vancouver, BC. Dar opted to remain at the lodge. We took a different route through a more urban area but ended up at the same boat launch. It’s at the corner where four countries meet: Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. We climbed aboard and took off. Today we began by spotting elephants wading with egrets and ibis. The next thing was seeing giraffes looking like they were drinking – a fairly rare thing as to do so they make themselves very vulnerable. They have to spread their legs enough to get their necks down to ground level. Turns out they weren’t drinking but at a salt lick.
Our next excitement was seeing a hippo out of the water grazing. Simon, our guide, said it was unusual not only for the time of day but also the season. Turned out that wasn’t all the hippo entertainment we would get. We found two other hippos somewhat submerged by the edge of the island when one began backing up and put its rump in the air, began spinning his tail around while simultaneously shitting. Needless to say it went everywhere! Well! Simon said he wanted to tell us why the hippos did that so here’s what he related:
“When hippos were being created in the animal kingdom they asked to be water creatures. They were told no, because they were so large they’d eat all the fish. The hippos responded that they’d be vegetarians and to prove it they would poop so everyone could see that there were no fish bones in it”.
Ha! And they are just grass eaters.
As before we saw loads of amazing birds including the blacksmith plover, the goliath heron, the white egrets and so many more. Another unusual sighting was the puku antelope, a rare one that’s only found in this area.
The cruise ended with our usual Sundowner drinks while watching the sunset. Back to shore then back to their lodge where dinner awaited. We asked Marion to join us as they had her seated by herself. She was delightful company telling us about her many trips to Africa over almost 50 years.