Bateleur to Sirheni Bush Camp

I hate those Sightings boards at every camp with their neat, precise, red squares for lion, blue squares for leopard. They set up such rabid FOMO — just knowing that others (not you) have hit that absolutely perfect moment of timing, the briefest instance of connecting in which two paths, the animal’s and yours, serendipitously meet. But once it’s up there on the Board for the public to salivate over, that evanescent connection has been long, long gone. The cat has loped off into the bushveld or behind a bouldered kopje or down a riverbed hidden from view.

For two days at Shingwedzi Camp (to which we’d driven a couple of times for social media connectivity), the Sightings board has been plastered with red and blue blobs all along the drive we’ve just done today on our way to Sirheni. Called Mphongololo Drive, leopard, lion and even cheetah were spotted along its length. It really is a lovely route, looping in and out to the sometimes dry, sometimes wet, Shingwedzi River. The giant figs, tambotis, leadwoods and nyala trees are simply gorgeous in their backlit leafiness and snaking roots and twisted trunks.

Today’s Post is a nature one. Hirsh’s wildlife pics are still on his camera. We’ll do an Instagram series when we get back. Lovely winter succulents whose name I haven’t yet figured out.

We are still constantly surprised at how prolific the very large families of elephant are, while in the tree-mopane stretches, giraffes elegant as ballet dancers give you a long-lashed gaze around every corner. In the riverbeds are impala, zebra, wildebeest and solitary buffalo. That’s not counting the absolutely massive herd we encountered between Bateleur and Shingwedzi, strung out in their hundreds for a kilometre along the riverbed, with little brown furry babies looking exactly like domestic calves. In one small contained river pool, a fat hippo blobbed in the water with a large crocodile just a step away on the bank, buffalo closely circling it apparently unconcerned but aware.

All the same, NO CATS. Not that we feel hard done by, of course. We’ve had enough sightings to keep us going for some time. But it all comes back to that dreadful corrosive FOMO …

Sorry, still no I.D.

The highlight of our day, though, is the pair of Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls we passed sitting in the fork of a tree. Not too far in from the road so therefore beautifully visible, one of them had a ripped-apart guineafowl under its talons. It sat there, one eye open, one eye closed, like a reproving school-marm. They both watched us lazily but were not much put out at all as we peered and clicked and marvelled.

Who needs cats?

Check out them pink eyelids!

So, we’re nicely settled in our unit at Sirheni under lovely cool thatch, with a large covered veranda overlooking a bouldered, mostly dry, riverbed. Not too dry, we soon discovered. While we were having lunch outside, we heard a few loud deep-throated rumbles which came from two ellies revelling in a mud bath below us (visible from the bird hide), there were impala on the opposite slope, and a corkscrew-horned kudu male coming down to drink. Later a couple of buffalo picked their way down the bank, red-billed ox-peckers catching a ride.

Life really is rather tough in Africa.

Moody day today.