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Hwange National park report November 2013

by John and Judy Brebner

HWANGE – 17th and 18th NOVEMBER 2013

Having had an absolutely fabulous two-night stay on a tiny teardrop of an island in the middle of the Zambesi, above the Falls – Chundu Island and which is well worth a visit – we broke the journey home by staying the night at Main Camp.

Having travelled through the Victoria Falls game park getting to and from Chundu, we were astounded at how dry and arid the park there was and were expecting to find Hwange in a similar state. Hwange has only had a small amount of patchy rain and the little part of the park we managed to see, was not as bad as we had expected although it was certainly drier than when we were up for the game count in September. After settling in, we took a drive to Makwa which is holding good water again. A pair of Egyptian geese with four fluffy goslings, were gallantly chasing off a mischievous yellow-billed kite that kept swooping down to annoy the family while a few baboons scratched diligently through the elephant dung. A small herd of kudu cows came skittishly down to drink but otherwise the area was quiet in the hot afternoon. We then went off to look at Caterpillar which was holding very good water, the engine was going and the full trough was gushing into the pan. As we arrived, a small herd of elephant was just moving off while four giraffe were coming in to drink. A tawny eagle stood cooling its feet at the edge of the pan while it glared balefully all around and a magnificent black sparrowhawk flew down for a drink, scaring off a mixed flock of doves. Moving on to Dopi, we were delighted to see how much water there was, even in the natural pan to the side of the pumped pan. Gary did tell us that there had been rain down that end of the park. There was quite a large herd of elephant drinking and swimming as we arrived and further along, feeding on nice, new, green shoots were some zebra and wildebeest. We saw several lesser spotted eagles, obviously hanging around in anticipation of a flying ant hatching. By this time, we were running a bit late so had to hustle back to camp, being held up here and there along the way by elephant who took umbrage to our haste!

The following morning we were up early and took a trip through Balla Balla and down to Tshebe Tshebe, being disappointed to find that there was only a muddy puddle at Tshebe Tshebe. On the way to have a look at Dom, a couple of lioness were pointed out to us, both animals a fair way off the road and very much hidden by the shade they’d managed to find. Dom is holding good water as always and there was a constant stream of elephant coming and going, while an irascible warthog chased off a couple of grey crowned crane that were obviously on his path to the water, which in turn flustered the feathers of a spurwinged goose nearby! Getting to Nyamandhlovu, we were amazed at how many elephants were streaming in at that time of the morning. The pan was very soupy and as all the elephants came in, almost all of them swam and then moved straight off. We then realized that although the engine was going, no water was being pumped out and we saw that the belt had come off the engine. Having phoned the warden (cellphones do have their uses!), we were assured that a team was on is way, which we met as we were leaving. On the loop road from Nyamandhlovu to Dom, a safari vehicle full of guests was watching a pride of lion very close to the road so we managed to get close to the seven animals. It was amazing to see how they had managed to shelter under such a small amount of shade and were obviously settling down to do what lions do best – sleep!

All too soon, it was time to pack up and leave. We had a short meeting with Gary while at breakfast getting an update on his work, the main concern at this stage, of course, being the lack of rain. On the way out, just before getting to the Parks boom, we found eight wild dog, lying right near the road. Some got up and dug themselves a more comfortable and cool hole and then settled down for a nap, being severely bothered by mopane bees! They were incredibly camouflaged lying in the dappled shade and dug in at the base of the trees. We made a report at the interpretive centre on the way past and were told that they were probably part of a pack of twelve. So that was a lovely way to end our brief trip to Hwange Main Camp!

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