I wish I could bottle this feeling...
Wow, what a morning! Gary and I were the only lucky takers for the 6:30am game drive today. Everyone had headed home, and it was just the two of us, until further fortunate guests arrived by boat later from Kariba, just as we had done the previous day.
Sunrise in our lodge at Rhino Safari Camp
It’s so difficult to explain in one word how it feels being here (so I’m going to say several), as it is peaceful, exhilarating, thought-provoking, heavenly, back to nature, an escapement, idyllic and enchanting.
If you love African wildlife, I can’t imagine there are too many better places to wake up to each day than here, you just smile every morning.
Morning glow at the camp edge
A free African massage
So, we jump in the open truck, breath the morning African air and embark on the adventure. We leave our lodge across the bouncy tracks and head in the direction of Matusadona National Park, weaving our way through the bush, spotting impala, and colourful birds along the way.
Ready for action!
The lumpy and bumpy terrain is all part of it, I’m glad I didn’t splash out on a massage before we left Blighty.
Preparing for your safari?
Did you see our post 'Preparing for your African Safari'? It'll have some handy hints 'n' tips for your next safari.
Our first impala of the day
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The truck takes command
We head across the dry causeway, which in previous years has had water over it. Unfortunately, not this year, as the water levels across Lake Kariba have dropped.
Heading out on the truck
We proceed through the break in the bush and have rocky terrain facing us, great fun. We drop to low ratio and the truck marches ahead as if we are climbing up steps.
Just near the top of the rocks, we stop in our tacks, there’s an elephant, this is magical.
A lone elephant
We sit and watch the elephant for a while, all the time our guide Mark, in a whisper, is sharing his incredible knowledge about these magnificent creatures. We move on a bit more stopping and starting when we see more animals, tracks and birds, big and small.
The elephant - close-up.
Acceptable in Africa
Often you are just so unaware what is going on around you, and beneath you, there are some amazing termite hills here.
Who knew how these little mites created their own colony, with workers, soldiers and protectors of the queen? And if their worker or soldier numbers dwindled in any way, they would only produce that particular type of mite.
Once in a lifetime
Off on our way again we really can’t believe how special this place feels, we’d visited other safari camps, but Rhino Island felt unique.
We continue down the track, and Mark spots a cheetah jump up ahead of us, firstly, with initial trepidation it walks across the track about 25 metres in front of us. Gary incredibly manages to get a photo. Mark is just as excited as we are, as cheetahs are very rare, the owner of the lodge has only seen them on three occasions in 17 years.
We spotted a cheetah
Mark proceeds a bit quicker down the track to see where it headed off to, as it has picked up a bit of a stride now. As the cheetah got deeper into the bush, it stopped by a tree and turned around and just stared at us for about 5 seconds, and as quick as it appeared, it was gone.
Being checked out by a cheetah
Etched in our minds forever, as this is a rare occurrence around here, how special a moment was that.
Millions of years ago
This safari drive is becoming such an education, in this region of Zimbabwe, there are some incredible fossils, from fallen trees. They initially appear to still look like wood but are actually as hard as a stone. Mark explains that from research there was a catastrophe many, many years ago as it seems that it was a sudden impact on the landscape and the trees collapsed and preserved where they landed. It’s estimated this happened between 200 & 300 million years ago.
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Seeing is believing
Continuing on we smile at each other in disbelief; we head further along, and a plain opens out before us. I know it sounds corny, but it is like a scene from Jurassic Park. With dead trees protruding from the earth, lush green pastures and animals grazing in the distance all around, it’s beautiful.
Although, we are constantly well aware that there could be lions lurking under trees by the bushland edge. Who knows whether they have had breakfast or not?
What a landscape
Not that I want to dilute the importance of impala’s but, Zimbabwe certainly doesn’t appear to be short of this species.
Impala, in flight
However, you can’t tire of looking at them, they are perfectly manicured and not a hair out of place (unlike me, where’s my Frizz-ease?)
The female groups of impalas are usually quite sizeable and seem to be breeding and surviving pretty well, so I imagine the herds are only going to get larger.
Good to know!
This may sound stupid, but, make sure you put sun cream on your knees. You’ll be out for a few hours, and the sun is going to track you down.
Stretch our legs
Mark drives us to a higher point on the plain, and we jump out of the truck, to enjoy the view and the surroundings and take on some refreshments. The morning sun is gradually starting to become more intense, and a hat is a must.
All too often we are looking out for the larger wildlife; however, the birdlife here is equally fascinating. Although Gary and I can spot birds, the names are far from our minds. Mark points out African Fish Eagles, Goliath Herons, Secretarybirds and Hornbills, to name a few. Saying that we have become familiar with the Guinea Fowl, there’s no mistaking their distinctive look.
Guinea fowl in the bush
The Demise of the Rhino
We chatted to Mark about our previous trip to Lake Kariba and how we visited a couple of large protected Rhino pens. Also, a rhino out in the bush with its own 24-hour armed guard. Mark explained to us that Rhino Safari Camp had had something similar, so he took us to the now derelict pens that they used to use to adapt the rhinos to their surroundings, prior to releasing them.
Unfortunately, their rhinos had long gone, as they had been poached for their horns. Now due to greedy folk in this world, there are no longer rhinos around this area.
Rhino Island and Matusadona NP are not playgrounds, this is pure nature and believe me, we are just visitors to wilderness world.
Every day is different
Two mornings later we headed out for another AM safari drive, this time with the guide Tettinder. We were hoping to see the herd of buffalo we had come across on our bush walk the previous day. Not too lucky on seeing the buffalo, but we came across a beautiful herd of elephant, complete with their own little “eleies”.
Wait for me!
Elephants in all sizes
What a magical sight, we sat and watched them for about 10 minutes, although I could have sat and watched them all day. I felt really safe in the truck, they knew we were there, and if they chose to come closer, it was them being inquisitive about us rather than us approaching them.
An elephant making a display
I know I am repeating myself slightly, but these kinds of moments do not come along every day.
On Rhino Safari Island, it is quite a common occurrence to see hippo sauntering by the water’s edge, but for a girl from Kent, it truly isn’t. And as hippos are one of my favourite African mammals, I couldn’t have been happier than seeing them wallowing in pods by the lakeside.
Hippo pool party
And giving us the evil eye from a distance.
Hippo in disguise
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We’d been informed how the wildlife within the lake had changed over the years, and there are a lot more crocodiles lurking within the shores. Although this was the case, they are pretty shy, so as soon as we spotted one and slowed down, they shot off into the water.
They were not up for posing for the camera.
Beware the croc'
Gary and I were also able to see a magnificent Baobab tree that is so often synonymous with Africa, the older examples are incredibly imposing.
A Baobab Tree
Inspired to visit Rhino Safari Camp on Lake Kariba?
I assure you, you won’t regret visiting Rhino Safari Camp, it’s a once in a lifetime experience, you’ll be longing to repeat.
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