Hwange National Park Report.

by John and Jenny Brebner

While we apologise for not being in touch since the game count in September last year, it is not from lack of interest that no reports have been made – we have just been unable to make any trips to the park.

On 2 February, Mark Green and myself accompanied William Jackson up to Main Camp for the day in order for Mr Jackson to conduct a geophysical survey at Sedina to advise on borehole sites there. While Mr Jackson
was working, I managed to have a quick trip round a few of the waterpoints with Owen Mangwana, seeing Dom, Nyamandhlovu, Dopi and Caterpillar, all of which were holding water. The country is looking great and most places seem to have had fair rain during January. A brief visit to the school found the vegetable garden rather run down but have been assured that work will begin again to get it in order.

Having received a favourable and detailed report from MrJackson, Drillwell was contracted to begin drilling at the proposed site and work is now in progress there. With this in mind as well as wanting to see how work had progressed on putting in a solar unit at Kennedy Two, a pilot scheme initiated and sponsored by Friends of Hwange, we decided to make a quick trip up to the park over last weekend. Our first stop was to the Sedina borehole site which was progressing well with good water having been found and the present depth at 61 metres. However, we found the crew sitting around as they were waiting for a diesel delivery in order to continue and although we tried to organise fuel for them, the rig was, unfortunately, idle for the rest of the weekend. It is hoped that the borehole will go down to between 70 and 80 metres. WEZ’s plan then is to erect a donated solar unit or windmill and to hopefully refurbish the little hide near the site.

Stopping off at Kennedy Two for a couple of hours, we were amazed to see the new structure in place and the hard work of getting everything in place continuing. Atop an enormous structure are the 24 85 watt solar panels. At one stage the pump was pumping a litre a second despite the overcast conditions. This
would mean that approximately 3 600 litres per hour could be pumped in a ten hour day. “Umbrellas” are erected round the two supporting poles to hopefully stop baboons getting to the panels and with the moat around the whole structure, we really hope that all will be safe.

The park is looking stunning with plenty of browse, green grass and water lying about and on our trip down to Kennedy Two we were surprised to see as much game as we did, considering the height of the grass and the dense bush along the sides of the road. Some parts along the way were looking quite dry but during the weekend there was more hard rain. At Kennedy One, we had a treat of seeing a lion and lioness, lying out in the open. Quite a breath taking sight seeing the pair lying peacefully in the long, green waving grass of the vlei. Along the way, there were plenty of giraffe, zebra, impala, a few kudu, the odd elephant and the warthogs have bred well this year as we saw several sounders with hoglets. Taking a break from watching the work in progress at Kennedy Two, we took a brief drive down to Ngweshla and back, seeing an enormous herd of buffalo just after leaving Kennedy Two, but didn’t really see much else.

We had decided to stay at Ivory Lodge for the night, and arriving there, we received a warm and friendly welcome and were able to catch up on “old times” with the Wildes. We enjoyed a very comfortable, peaceful night, despite being woken at around four in the morning by a Giant Eagle Owl grumbling in the tree right next to our chalet! At dawn there was a lone giraffe and a couple of kudu browsing around the edge of the waterpoint in front of the lodge and later we saw a black backed jackal come down for a drink.

After breakfast, we decided we would go back down to Kennedy Two to see how work was progressing, hoping to see the pump actually working. Most of the pipes were down and once water was hit, a couple of test pumps were done and it was indeed exciting to watch the water being pumped into the moat. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay to see the work completed and the unit pumping water into the actual pan. It is amazing to note how far solar powered pumps have come and although the initial cost is quite staggering, its lovely to think of being able to use the sun’s energy and doing away with the smelly old noisy engines so there’s no air, sound and ground pollution to worry about. Gary did comment that we may have to erect some speakers to play engine noises in order to attract the elephants to the pan but hey, there’s progress!

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