Safari Journals: Day 6: Boating The Hippo Channels

Today we checked on the two male lions who hadn’t been brave enough to answer the female, but they were just walking around. We left quickly and hopped on a small boat to get to an island where we would safari until the afternoon. It would have been a fun boat ride if we hadn’t gotten stuck in one section for about 15 minutes when the engine overheated.

The water in the channel was very shallow, for what I thought was a very interesting reason- it was hippos that had made the channel. Hippos are so heavy that after a while, when they walk from place to place single file on the same route over and over, they dig a little lowered pathway out of the landscape, much like the elephants clear elephant paths. The paths fill with water and connect to larger bodies of water, creating many narrow and shallow hippo channels which can then be used by many animals.

It was also interesting to see what effects other animals had on their environment and what effects humans had. For example, the elephants destroy a ton of trees, eating the bark and leaving large areas wrecked and barren. One particular tree they like to peel the bark from is the Baobab.

I find it interesting that this area is a wildlife preserve, and it is not ok to bring in new species, to take anything from the landscape, or to interfere when animals hunt each other,  but it is ok to put fences around all the baobab trees to protect them from elephants. I realize it is supposed to be a conservation initiative, but it seems kind of like a double standard: if human interference is unnatural and bad, shouldn’t people let the baobabs die to make room for more resilient trees? And if not, then shouldn’t people be equally justified in rescuing animals from being hunted, starting a garden so they don’t have to import so much food, or killing animals for food? I find society’s idea that humans aren’t a part of nature to be a strange one. We are a part of nature. Whether the cute polar bears in the Arctic go extinct or not is not really something we can control, and I’m not even convinced what we should try to. If the environment is changing, maybe we should just let plants and animals try to survive on their own- they’ve been doing it since long before we got here. That is my rant for the day.

When we finally got the motor running properly and got to the island, we saw some zebras, which had been high on my list of things to see. Unfortunately Simon, unlike Ona, doesn’t like to leave the road very much so we rarely get closer than 40-50 feet to an animal, which is kind of lame after getting right up next to them at Duma Tau. It makes it harder for me to take good pictures, but Whitney has a much better camera and she says she will put her photos in a Dropbox account so maybe I will be able to post some of those later.

We saw another leopard- this one was stalking impala. It was mid day, when leopards usually rest in the shade, but it was cloudy and she was hungry so we watched her sneak from bush to bush for half an hour before she decided it wasn’t worth the effort to hunt and quit for the afternoon.

The leopard still hasn’t seen the impala in the distance.

Later we came across an enormous family of ostriches. The female was brown; she is camouflaged to incubate eggs during the day, and the black male sits on them at night.

We also came across a large area of land that had burned a few days ago- a small part of it was still alight. This happens all the time apparently, especially during thunderstorms it is the lightning that starts the fires.

The boat trip back was better, and we rode right by a group of huge hippos. They poked their eyes and ears out of the water and all turned to stare at us. Some squirted water upwards. They looked menacing. Any one of them could easily have turned the boat over and caused serious damage if they felt threatened. They are an intimidating animal, second only to the elephant, as Whitney can attest to.

Wed come across a group of elephants on our return trip who were cooling themselves in the mud.

They didn’t seem to notice us, except for one large male who broke away form the group and did what Simon called show-offs. He did 7 show-offs, little gestures to assert his dominance and scare us away, like stomping and spreading his ears and walking toward us. It worked on me and Whitney and we wanted to leave, but Simon said the elephant was only doing a mock charge and wouldn’t come at us. He was right, good thing.

For meals, all the guests and managers and guides eat together- today it was just me and Poppys group and the managers, and lunch was very good. I tried my first guava, which was as delicious as I had expected it to be, and I had some bacon. I have been eating bacon in Africa every chance I get because I just started to like it. All pig meat has grossed me out since I was a kid, but bacon always smelled good so I’m happy that I can finally enjoy it without feeling sick.

A common topic around the table is what did you see at the other camps you went to? Whitney and Fred really want to see wild dogs, so Poppy told them Oh we saw plenty of them over at our other camp! There were hundreds! Hes told this story a few times before and I think it is funny because when we were there, Ona counted the dogs and there were exactly 25. So I guess Poppy must have counted too and come up with the same number, giver or take 200.

The evening safari was far less eventful. The plan was to do a boat safari in the same boat we used earlier, so we all sat in the boat as it put-putted through some hippo channels lined with thick reeds that kept hitting us as we went by. It was clear that we could not do the tour and get back before sundown, so we turned around fairly quickly and just watched the sunset over the water and the fields. Poppy picked me a pretty water lilly.

On the way back we stopped in the water by some hippos, and this time was even scarier than the last because one came pretty far toward us after spotting us. But he was only curious of us, like all the hippos are, and he gave us a big yawn for our cameras before we moved on.

We got back to camp early and got to see the elephants walking right around the deck. It felt much safer viewing them from above, and it was very exciting to see them in the dark, so close by.

After dinner tonight we will spend our last night in our room in Kwetsani with our two roommates, a pair of bats. I found them hanging between the logs that make up the framework of our tent, right next to the toilet as I was about to use it last night. I decided I could wait till morning.

I might have been a little more worried to sleep in the room with them (the bathroom has no ceiling so they could just fly into the bedroom) but we have mosquito netting- so I just made myself believe that if they flew into it by accident they would go away.

Tomorrow we do our last game drive at Kwetsani and take another charter flight to the last leg of our journey at Chitabe Lediba camp.

This is part of a series called Safari Journals. You can read the rest of the journals here:

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4   Day 5  Day 6  Day 7  Day 8  Day 9  Day 10