Our last day in the camp they offered a different safari experience, the walking tour. This is an excellent opportunity for people who want to see small things or study tracks. The walkers also are now dung experts and can identify what animals have been in the area. Several of us wanted to do a jeep tour instead and see the larger animals with the idea of better picture opportunities. The group was evenly split 6 and 6 and Zach was once again our guide.
To assist the walkers and avoid the heat, the safari left at 6:30 am, so our morning wake-up call was at 6. Breakfast upon our return. After yesterday’s lion sighting it is hard to think we can top that. There were people that had not been with Zach before and I had been singing his praises at dinner, so we stopped to see a few things he had already shown me. We also stopped by the den of some baby hyenas, but they were either still sleeping or out early.
We did some hippo and bird watching along the water’s edge with Ken waving his arms like crazy on shore in the hope of getting the hippos to “yawn”. We learned from Zach that actually the hippo is not yawning when he opens his mouth, but showing off his power and strength to attract the female. We were treated to some hippo mating with the female completely submerged under water. We didn’t even need Zach to tell us what was going on, but he did confirm.
We found some animal bones along the shore and Zach pointed out the strange dried balls of palms that result from the elephants chewing on the palms. (Kind of an elephant fur ball.) The elephant only digests about 65% of what it eats. This is why the drivers avoid the elephant dung on the roadway. Elephants eat all of the Whistling torn acacia. The in tact thorns are in the dung and will blew out a tire if the jeep is driven over it. The whistling thorn acacia, which get their name from the gall at the end of each thorn that has holes that result in the whistling sound when the wind passes by. This plant also has a unique defense mechanism. Black ants enter the plant through the holes and live inside it, eating the sugary sap it produces. If an animal tires to eat the plant, the ants come out an attack, biting and crawling into the eyes and noses of the animal. It doesn’t bother the elephants that eat all of the plant, but the mother elephant will keep the unknowing baby away. Only one ant in their trunk disturbs baby elephants. They begin thrashing the trunk and can cause brain damage.
Zach got a call on the radio about 9 am that the walkers were waiting on us for breakfast. While we though we were headed back to the camp, we found a wonderful picnic breakfast laid out for us nestled in the trees at the water’s edge complete with multiple courses and made-to-order eggs. It was a total surprise and a wonderful treat.
After breakfast, the walkers set out for a return hike around the lake and the rest of us set out in the jeep. We had a lot of luck finding groups of zebra, known as a dazzle, and herds of wildebeest and waterbuck. While many of the animals at Siwandu were less skittish around the jeeps than at Jongomera, the zebra ran from us. Only when in the company of the giraffes (who offer the protection of being able to see long distances and provide early warning) did we note that the zebra were calmer.
There was more bird watching and Zach showed us an area being taken over by non-native plants. We saw a single male hippo resting in the mud there. I also spotted by favorite bird, the LB R, the lilac breasted rolo. I got a picture of it and its beautiful wings and flight and we also saw one with a small grass frog in its mouth. Its squeezed the frog with its beak until it died and then ate it.
We are also fortunate to see a mongoose perched on a dead log (their preferred location). All the others we had seen had run away quickly. While our original understanding was that we would cut off about 10 am. The tour lasted until 12:30 and we had a full morning of jeep safari. That was especially good news when we arrived at camp to find we were going out in the boat for the afternoon-we had just completed our last jeep tour.
After lunch I enjoyed the pool on this hot day, but was surprised when it started to rain. We sat in the lounge with Reed looking at some pictures that Liz had taken and discussing photo taking strategies. When the rain stopped, I headed back to the tent to get dressed for the afternoon boat tour. Not everyone was excited by the selection, but the plan was to spend more time along the shoreline in the hope of seeing animals come to drink. Perhaps the rain had kept them away, but we only saw a mud boy, a single older male cape buffalo that was now on his own. Like they did with the elephant, the birds followed his footsteps and ate the insects in the mud that had been disturbed.
Other than that it was mostly the same as our previous boat outing-more crocodiles, birds, and hippos. When no one was able to get the open-mouthed hippo shot we all wanted, most people became bored. Although we though there would be a limited time at bird island, it was once again a long stay until sunset. I didn’t need more pictures of the same birds, so I practiced with my camera and different settings it offered. We returned to the shore after sunset.
This was our final dinner in camp and I was bound and determined to check out the fire. I was there alone for a while and then the girls joined me. It was nice. I had worn shorts with lots of insect repellant so I wouldn’t be too hot to enjoy the fire and wouldn’t get eaten by bugs. The girls, Liz and Becca joined me. We heard the (very loud) bush babies in the trees but were never able to spot one with the girls’ flashlights. We also heard two hyenas calling to each other. We visited with the restaurant manager and got around to discussing the stars that are so easy to spot in the bush with no lights around. He had the guard check the area and we walked out a little farther to the shore with the guard’s rifle for protection and got a better view of the stars from this vantage point.
Our host and activities coordinator (and one of the camp managers) Brian joined us for dessert and I enjoyed getting his take on the camp and its management structure. Brian is from South Africa so I talked to him about the places I had visited there in January as well. We had a nice evening. It was too dark to pack, so we headed to bed knowing that was our first order of business for the morning.
We fell asleep under the stars and the constellation of scorpion on our last night in the bush.