Close encounters of the elephant kind
Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
124Trip End Nov 30, 2011
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Where I stayed
Despite my reservations, our first morning together went off well. Camp was packed up quickly, with almost all of the tents packed away perfectly. Everyone was keen, and pitched in to help, which was good to see. After a quick stop to see the grand Victoria Falls Hotel, we headed for Hwange National Park
On the way to Hwange we made a stop at the Painted Dog Conservation Centre to see, and learn about, the African wild dog. These animals are hyper-carnivores, which means that they survive exclusively on what they can hunt and kill. Unfortunately, they are becoming very rare in the wild now, with the number of viable wild dog populations across Africa declining all the time, as hunting packs are reduced due to deaths in poachers snares, generally meant for other animals – it’s a sad situation. I thought our visit to the Painted Dog Conservation Centre was both worthwhile and educational. It was also nice to see a couple of African wild dogs, as they’re very rare and difficult to spot in the wild.
We arrived at our camp in Hwange National Park around 2.45pm, with just enough time to pitch our tents before our 3pm afternoon game drive. Andy, our guide, was incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and took time to talk about the animals, birdlife and plant life we saw, and showed us various animal tracks as we went along. The landscape near the Main Camp was generally very scrubby and covered with thickets, which meant that there wasn’t a great deal of wildlife to see. After a couple of hours driving around checking animal tracks and listening to Andy’s tales we came across a large herd of elephant, before also spotting some giraffe and zebra
Having dealt with the snake, we unfortunately didn’t have any more time to go animal spotting before we had to exit the park, but all in all it was an excellent afternoon, despite the lack of animal sightings. Andy was incredibly informative and entertaining, and he made the afternoon really enjoyable.
After dinner, Andy offered us the chance to go with him on a night drive. He said he was going on the night drive regardless, but if we wanted to come we could. Kerry was keen to do another night drive, but I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. I just couldn’t face another cold night drive after the average returns we got from our freezing night in Etosha. Without a definite return time – Andy had said that they could be out as late as 1am depending on what they saw - and the fact that we had to be up for breakfast at 6am, and another early morning game drive at 6.30am, I preferred to have some time to myself, and get some sleep, rather than worry about trying to stay warm in the open jeep
I was well and truly tucked up in my sleeping bag when Kerry finally returned just before midnight. She really enjoyed the night drive, and apparently saw much more than we did in Etosha – including elephant, buffalo and lion - but even so I was still happy with my decision to stay behind.
Sunday morning everyone was dressed warmly, carrying sleeping bags and duvets, when Andy arrived with the jeeps. As soon as the gates opened we headed deep into the park. It wasn’t long before we spotted a few zebra – disco donkeys in Andy’s language – and a couple of giraffe, and a kudu. But we were in search of elephant, lion, leopard, and other big game, so we pressed on. Again, as we got deeper into the park there wasn’t a great deal of wildlife to see – some baboons and impala, but not much else. The bright early morning light however was great for photos so we were able to entertain ourselves with some amazing landscape photography.
By mid-morning we’d only happened upon a few elephant, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, an ostrich, a jackal, and another kudu, before we had to turn back to our camp
By the time we’d made it back to camp, we’d been out in the jeeps for over five hours – a consequence of Andy’s infectious enthusiasm for Hwange National Park. Despite our relative lack of success sighting some of the big game, we all enjoyed our Hwange experience, thanks to Andy. His willingness to share his insights, knowledge, and stories, made the safaris enjoyable regardless of whether there was wildlife or not.
Our next stop is Matobo National Park, for another safari with Andy – this time a walking safari, as we go in search of rhino.