by John and Judy Brebner
(Bulawayo 20th June 2012)

We were invited to join several other couples at Ganda Lodge for the weekend (June 15th to 17th) which gave us the opportunity to have a good look at the water situation in the Main Camp area, as a follow up to the trip we made through the park, Main Camp to Sinamatella, at the beginning of May.

Having enjoyed the glorious autumnal colours in May, the trees and grasses were looking decidedly wintery with the reds, oranges and yellows of May fading away to rusty browns and dusty golds while most of the greens were rather drab and lack lustre. Although there were the odd startling patches of colour in parts of the teak forests and mopane woodland, on the whole there was that grey/brown pallor over everything already. Winter is definitely settling in and the park is drying off rapidly.

On the Friday, we took the loop road from Main Camp through to White Hills, looking at the water situation at Ngwenya, Tshebe Tshebe, Tshabema, Kaoshe, Garakamwe, Mabuya Mabena and Bembi. The only water of any significance was at Tshebe Tshebe where pumping was in progress; the trough was full of lovely clean water and was overflowing into the pan. There was not much water in the pan though. There was a very small amount of water at Kaoshe but this will not last much longer. The windmill at Mabuya Mabena still does not appear to be operating as well as we’d hoped but there was a small amount of water with only a dribble coming from the pipe. At Shapi we found the trough full but the pan is pretty much a muddy puddle, sadly. There is evidence of a lot of animals utilizing this water point. White Hills holds no water and Guvalala was very low, mainly due to further engine problems but pumping was in progress there. The water levels at Nyamandhlovu and Dom were much as expected and good for this time of the year. Work has been done at Livingi to build up the trough using the dam scoop. The trough was overflowing into the pan but there was no water of any significance in the pan itself.

On Saturday we started off at Caterpillar finding the trough full and overflowing into the pan which held a small amount of water. There were clouds of Bradfields hornbills, everywhere we looked – quite amazing. Driving through to Dopi, we came across a lovely family outing of nine giraffe and seven zebra very close to the road. Apart from a snort from the stallion and some very curious and haughty glares from some of the giraffe, the animals were very chilled and carried on with their breakfast; the giraffe nibbling away at the tops of the bushes using their long prehensile tongues to scoop the leaves and the one zebra foal continued nursing while mother stood quietly chewing the cud. The engine at Dopi is out of commission due to the engine mount being damaged so work needs to be done there and there was obviously no water there at all. The Jambile pan had a few pools of water. Gary was at Manga One with a team from the Parks water department, attending to a broken rod which they fortunately managed to fix and water was reportedly being pumped again by nightfall. One of the highs from our trip was finding good water at Manga Three, thanks to the efforts of the Somalisa camp providing the diesel for the engine. There were forty to fifty elephant drinking at the pan with a very dark, old male giraffe seemingly wanting to join them. We had just seen a large breeding herd in the tree line obviously making its way to the water as well. The elephants were decidedly skittish, however, and when we attempted to drive on, we sent them scattering away from the water and dashing off into the tree line. It was very windy at the time, with great gusts of dust flying about so it may be that they were just spooked by that as well as the noise of our vehicle. Gary reported that there were about five hundred elephant there when he went past later on showing the pressures that we are going to be subjected to..

We called in at Somalisa to find several groups of visitors and camp looked busy and bustling. Attempts had been made to pump water into a new site away from the main Manga/Ngweshla road but we weren’t sure how that was going to work. Somalisa has also recently put in a solar pump half way along the Ho Chi Min trail which we inspected later in the day. We couldn’t get a close look at the workings, due to several large grey pachyderms drinking there at the time but there was also quite a good puddle of water in an emerging pan. Ngweshla, of course, was its usual magical place with several giraffe and zebra at the old main pan and a very handsome roan drinking from there. The water in the main pan is not going to last a lot longer but there was good water in the pan near the picnic site.

The definite “low” of the trip was seeing the sad state of Kennedy Two. There had been a problem with the engine mount at the new borehole site so pumping had been seriously delayed while the solar, of course, battles away with trying to provide enough water for the hundreds of animals that depend on water there. Several elephants were commandeering the outlet pipe while a family of zebra desperately tried unsuccessfully to sneak in for a quick drink. However, Gary reported that he had managed to get the engine going by evening time so hopefully there will be some respite for the animals in the area. Kennedy One, Sinanga and Makwa all hold some water and animals were seen drinking at all three. We received reports from the Lion Research personnel that the natural pans down past Josivanini and into the southern corner of the park were actually holding good water for the time of the year.

It is the time of the year when game water supplies are critical in the park. Unfortunately, Gary is having to assist the Parks Water department even more than normal as they are without a vehicle once again. The diesel situation continues to be a nightmare and although coupons have been procured using donor funds, Parks are always “running out”. A report did come in that a bowser had arrived with 3000 litres being allocated to game water in Main camp area which should relieve the situation briefly. Pumping is constantly being interrupted for one reason or another, so any breakdown at this time of the year that is not immediately attended to means no “catch up” as well as adding untold pressure on other pans that are in operation.

A good time was had by all at Ganda Lodge. The outlook over the pan is lovely and the staff were all very welcoming and friendly. Bird life abounds and the animals visiting the pan were all very relaxed and calm. Although the lodge accommodation is fairly basic, everywhere was clean and tidy, the beds were very comfortable and the food quite adequate.

John and Jenny Brebner

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