This is the 6th installment of my Safari Diary and follows on directly from Elusive Sable and idle Cheetahs – Hwange NP
Some time ago the folks at Bomani installed something that they call the ‘Look Up’. A shipping contained was buried in the ground beside one of the waterholes and converted into an underground hide or blind.
For our afternoon game viewing we were going to spend some time in the ‘Look Up’ in the hope of getting close to elephants as they came to the waterhole.
We’d seen literally thousands of elephants in Chobe but opportunities for good photographs were scarce. We had high hopes of the ‘Look Up’.
Our route to the ‘Look Up’ took us past another waterhole and the spectacle there was incredible. There were elephants everywhere.
We reckon there must have been 3 separate family groups in the waterhole at the same time, bathing, drinking and generally having a good time.
All the poor resident hippo could do was sit in a corner of the waterhole and wait for them all to leave.
We watched, enthralled, as they family groups started to move off.
Some headed into the trees, whilst others crossed the open plain in search of a different area of woodland.
They stopped to throw sand over themselves before walking off into the distance.
There was one young elephant who just did not want to leave the water. When he (I have no idea if it was a he or a she but I’ll call it he) was eventually cajoled out of the water and the group began to walk towards the trees he just turned around and ran back into the waterhole. Urged out of the water again by impatient relatives he then decided to roll on the ground.
Eventually there were no more elephants at the waterhole and we moved on to the ‘LookUp’.
The Look Up
After checking that it was safe for us to get out of the vehicle Daniel took us down into the hide. Once we were inside he drove the vehicle away and parked it out of sight while we settled in to see what would unfold before us.
From the outside it doesn’t look like much. It is only an old shipping container after all.
But inside it has benches to accommodate about 8 people and a flushing WC.
I noticed that the hide was positioned on the east side of the waterhole/pan which meant that we would have the sun shining directly towards us. I thought it would have been much better if the hide was positioned so that the sun was behind us. But what do I know.
It didn’t take long before I realised that it was in the right place after all. Because behind us was open plains and in front of us the trees came almost to the edge of the waterhole. Almost all the animals that visited the waterhole approached it from the cover of the trees, which meant that they were walking directly towards us.
It turned out to be a fabulous afternoon. With what we’d seen on our way to the hide and what we saw at the hide it was almost certainly the most enjoyable afternoon of elephant watching I’ve ever had.
The elephants were clearly aware of our presence and many of them sniffed the air with their trunks before drinking.
Group after group emerged from the trees and came to drink. No sooner had one group moved away then another arrived. It was almost as if someone back there in the forest was directing them.
At one point a group of 5 giraffes approached the waterhole. They moved very cautiously through the trees towards the water and we sat patiently, waiting for them to drink. They were in no hurry.
Then just as they were almost at the water’s edge something made them change their minds and walk away. It was disappointing.
A few moments later more elephants emerged from the trees and marched to the water. The giraffes had clearly decided that they may as well walk away rather than wait to be chased away.
With no driving and little guiding needed, it fell to Daniel to prepare our gin & tonics. It was marvellous sitting in that old container with a gin & tonic in hand watching elephants come and go.
Then, just on sunset a different animal arrived. Emerging from the bush on our left we saw a male lion.
He stopped and stared straight at us, clearly aware that we were there,
then walked confidently towards the waterhole.
We were all eager to watch him settle down to drink. Daniel told us he was part of a coalition of 3 males and that the others would probably not be far behind.
By now the light was very poor and I had my ISO cranked up to 3200. I very rarely take photos in such dark conditions but there was no way I was going to miss this.
He ducked down to drink and was hidden from our view. Then his head popped up again as more elephants walked out of the trees, led by a large bull.
The lion did not stick around. After one look he quickly walked around the waterhole and disappeared into the bush.
What a magnificent afternoon. That afternoon on its own made the whole visit to Bomani worthwhile.
We spotted the lion again lying on a termite mound a few hundred metres away and stopped for a few moments but it was pretty dark by now.
Leaving the park we got into trouble with the park ranger because we arrived at the gate after closing time. She made a bit of a fuss and was threatening to give Daniel a fine even though he told her that we had not been able to leave the ‘Look Up’ because there was a lion outside. Eventually we managed to persuade her by showing her our photographs of the lion and she grudgingly let us through.
An inviting camp fire was lit just outside the lounge/dining area and we all took our pre-dinner drinks outside to enjoy it.
I only stayed a few minutes though as the mood was completely spoiled for me by an incredibly obnoxious and loud Canadian couple.
We hadn’t seen much of them up to now as they had been sick with stomach upsets but now they had to come and tell us all about it.
I moved in to the bar and got into conversation with an elderly Scottish man. He wanted to discuss the Scottish Independence referendum.
We found ourselves sitting next to him at dinner as well and had some hilarious conversations about Scotland and deer stalking.
What we didn’t find out until a day later was that he and his wife had been in the same game vehicle as the Canadian couple and that it had not been a happy vehicle.
Sadly the elephants didn’t return to the camp waterhole this evening. Even so we were all buzzing from what we’d seen.
You can follow th enext extract of our safari Diary from Zimbabwe by clicking here – Game driving in Hwange National Park