Hwange National Park Update August 2011

by John and Jenny Brebner
(Bulawayo 19-21 August 2011)

Water is a scarce and vital commodity for these Elephant

Water is a scarce and vital commodity for these Elephant

As drilling of the second borehole at Kennedy Two was about to begin over the weekend of 19th to 21st August, I took the opportunity of going back up to the park. In the few short weeks since being up there for the annual Pumping Legs for Water bicycle ride, the park has got considerably drier and so water at the pumped pans becoming more important. Parks are often running out of diesel for the engines which makes it difficult for the pumps then to catch up once diesel is back on site. It is also a time of the year when visitors to the Park abound and I was amazed at the number of vehicles laden with passengers driving around.

Drilling began rather late on Friday 19th but they managed to get the first break at around 49 metres. As some of the drilling crew were staying at Main Camp, they obviously had to pack up fairly early in the afternoon in order to get back in time. However, on Saturday, I went down there again and watched as they successfully went down to 68 metres and found good water. It was very exciting to see the fountain of clear and not saline water shooting out. Unfortunately, I could not see the final casing going down as the crew had arrived with one and a half lengths of casing short! After several phone calls to Bulawayo, hopefully that was going to be on site by the end of Monday and the borehole ready for piping, pump and engine to be sorted out. While in the park, I had several meetings with various people and during discussions, soliciting a promise of funding for the piping and possibly for the pump. The funds for the piping would be provided by Julian and Pat Misiewicz – Dave Dell’s brother in law and his sister who live in Oxford.

Unfortunately, the Sedina borehole is still not in action. It would seem that the hole has filled up with sand despite the double casing. The pipes were removed by the end of the weekend and the drilling crew will stop there on their way past to blow out the hole. Hopefully, this will be successful so that pumping can start there soon. Various animals are seen in that open area in front of the pump site so it could prove to be a very popular spot once water is provided there.

As mentioned earlier, there were plenty of visitors to the park. All the picnic site camping facilities were taken up and the various safari lodges round and about were obviously enjoying a busy time. There were quite a few visitors staying at Main Camp. Unfortunately, as experienced during the Pumping Legs for Water weekend, once again there is no hot water in most of the ablution facilities. I was actually staying in a cottage this time and there was not a drop of water in the hot taps so it was a great mystery why the camp attendants religiously made a fire in the boiler each day! There is talk that ZIMWA is the problem as there is not enough pressure to get the water into the geysers. Be that as it may, Parks cannot continually “pass the buck” and stand back and do nothing. Visitors to the park are paying for a service, part of which is not being provided. It needs to be sorted out. Of concern too is the litter around the Main Camp accommodation. Honey badgers are seen each evening scavenging around overturned dustbins and the baboons come in during the day. While having a late breakfast on Monday before we left, several baboons sauntered into the lodge area, sitting on verandahs, peering into the lodges and scratching through the dustbins. Over turned dustbins in the chalet area went unattended and not cleaned up. There certainly is no shortage of man power to attend to these problems – it was amazing seeing how many personnel were wandering around.

The Martial eagle chick in the nest near the Nyamandhlovu turn off is growing rapidly and twice we were lucky enough to find an adult on the nest with the chick. On one occasion, the adult was actually feeding the chick and stopped to glare at us for a while! We didn’t see any cats but several visitors had been lucky and one didn’t have to travel very far to see elephants. While down at Ngweshla we came across nine ostrich chicks being herded along by their attentive parents and a kori bustard with its striking plumage gave us a delightful sighting right next to the road. A trip through the erioloba forests just past Kennedy Two, on the way back to Kennedy One, is always worthwhile. We don’t see many animals on that drive but the trees are so beautiful and we almost always find the racquet tailed rollers somewhere in there. The trees on both sides of the road on the way to and from Hwange are just beginning to turn so the colours are absolutely glorious from every possible shade of green to rusts, yellows and even a coral pink. Beware though of the speed trap at Lupane – we are convinced we were trapped outside of the 80km zone and an unguarded remark almost saw us having a weekend in Lupane cells instead of the park!

John and Jenny Brebner.

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