Thursday, August 18, 2016
Our last full day in the bush. We had a long outing 7am – 4pm. Twice we went on walking excursions, which were primarily a chance to see things up close… mostly dung… which is more interesting than you might think after almost 2 weeks in the bush.
Our local guide helped us know about the eating habits and digestive processes of the animals we have been seeing, as well as what the guides can tells about their health and that of the environment. We also learned more about tracks, holes, and the ever popular termite.
Only one walk was planned but it was interrupted by radio news that a cheetah had been sighted. We cut our walk short and sped off to watch the cheetah lounging on a termite mound and then wandering off into the shade. (My photos aren’t clear. May borrow from a group member with one of those awesome cameras.).I was surprised to learn that cheetahs are not really cats but rather something between a cat and a dog. Huh?
Hwange National Park, founded in the 1920’s, is the largest park in Zimbabwe but has no river. Instead it has 60 watering holes, some of which have human assistance. Today we stopped by two with scenic overlooks that attract lots of wildlife. Hippos, elephants, crocodiles, impalas, kudu, turtles, warthogs, zebras, and, as always, lots of birds. My favorite was a warthog having what appeared to be a delightful mud bath.
Other highlights of the day included a baby hippo, less than a week old, and an elephant charge stopped by our guide (I have video of this one).
We have seen more animals than I expected but for anyone considering such an expedition, I will mention that there are long periods of driving through desolate terrain over very bumpy roads to accomplish this. We are in the optimum season… not too cold in the mornings (though I wore a fleece hat and gloves) and not too hot mid-day (though sun hats and sunscreen … and lots of water were needed.) No rain in this dry season so animals are easy to see as they congregate around the limited water sources.
This evening we had a very interesting talk on the status of women in Africa. Things are improving. I am impressed by the personal sharing of our speakers who are camp staff. Then, for our last evening in this camp, we had a chance to drum a bit before the staff did some wonderful drumming, singing, and dancing. Our “rapper” did a great tribute to our guide for the last two weeks, Bex.
One last thing about Zimbabwe, guides are required to carry rifles, so the guide carried one in the bush, there was one on the jeep dashboard, and they were carried as we were walked to our tents each evening. Also, we have tried to avoid American politics for the sake of of group unity (most, but not all, of us lean liberal) however the Africans clearly don’t understand gun issues to be “political” for us. When we have discussed American gun laws, the Africans seem to find them incomprehensible lax.