November has some serious issues.
Call a spade a snake
Ever-since man started naming things November has had some serious issues regarding its own character.
Novem, in latin, means nine, but somehow it is the eleventh month of the year. The poor month has a serious identity-crisis.
What I mean is, if you call a Fish-Eagle “chicken-like” and “spotty” it will soon start running around on the ground with the guinea-fowls looking for insects and ticks to eat. It will cry like a baby every time is sees danger – because that is what guinea-fowls do. But every now-and-then the eagle will get a craving for fish and get back to its old habits, perching in trees overlooking rivers and lagoons, then swooping down majestically to grab its prey.
Can you imagine what will happen if you call a hippo tall and skinny, or an impala fierce and dangerous? It will have serious consequences! And that is exactly what happened to November when some ancient people never chaned its name from ‘nine’ to ‘eleven’. In fact, September should be called November and November should be know as “Undecimember.”
In the Luangwa Valley Undecimember is much the same as the confused (and lessor-spotted) insect-eagle, the hipporaffe and the impalion. It is an in-between month. It might rain or it might not rain. It might be very hot or there might be a nice cool breeze. You might put up Christmas decorations or you might just wait until December.
Here at Wildlife Camp we have successfully managed our way through all the confusion to reach December – now there is a month without any identity problems! This is what we were up to the whole month:
Yet another weather report.
This time of the year I cannot write a newsletter without discussing the weather.
November did provide the bush with a few good bouts of rain and fascinating thunder storms which cooled things down slightly. Even though it was not bucket-loads of water it was still enough to entice the impalas to deliver their young. It was also enough to trick the cuckoos and the kingfishers into returning to their summer-houses. Woodlands Kingfishers, Black Cuckoos, Emerald Cuckoos and Diedericks Cuckoos now provide us with wake-up calls from the tree tops in the early mornings.
But the dry season did not leave without taking one or two victims with her… Earlier in the month, the hippo that had occupied the couple of puddles still left in front of our tented-camp “was walking back to his pool when he fell over and died” according to a guest. It was a sure sign that only the fittest survive the Luangwa’s deadly summer. Suddenly we had a little problem on our hands here at Wildlife Camp! There was a 3tonne animal rotting right in camp!
But there is nothing a strong chain and a tractor cannot fix. We pulled the carcass away about a hundred meters – just far enough to get rid of the worst of the smells but still close enough to observe the crocs and vultures as they tried desperately to open up the thick-skinned hippo.
That same week, David (Wildlife Camp’s armed scout) reported a dead buffalo not too far from camp. They were out on a walking safari and found the carcass. There were no signs of any predatory activity on the carcass and we can only assume that the drought had taken its toll.
I apologise for the gruesome photo. However, you will notice that the rest of the November Newsletter contains only photos of cute young animals to counterbalance this image.
This and That
If I compare the peak-season months (July to October) to a big party, then November will be the morning after.
Not that we were all having headaches or anything like that, but there is a lot of clean-up work to be done. We broke down and packed up Bushcamp, making sure to leave nothing behind but our own footprints.
Some of the thatched-roofs needed a new layer of grass (partly thanks to the baboons that play on them) and the workers are working really hard to finish these jobs before the big rains come.
All the vehicles are checked and double-checked for any faults and off course now is a good time to add some colour to the gardens, especially after last-month’s elephant episode by the restaurant.
Retha went to Lusaka to make sure that the revenue service and our accountants are happy and Dora, having made sure that we still have the same amounts of knives and forks as before the party (one of her jobs amongst many others) went off to Switzerland for a short break. She’ll be back early December.
Keep in mind though that our doors are still open (12
months of the year)! Nothing wrong with a good after-party…
Moment of the Month
Here at Wildlife Camp we have a cook named Evance Banda. Evance has been working in the kitchen for sixteen years and recently came to ask whether he can also do some driving on the side.
Why not – he is an excellent driver and we always need somebody to pick up guides in the morning, to drop off staff in the afternoons, to collect guests from the airport or to go and look for eggs in Mfuwe whenever the mongooses raid Dora’s kitchen-store.
Well, one morning in November Evance had to go and pick up two armed scouts from town. Not far from camp, maybe a kilometre out, Evance was lucky enough to come across a female leopard with her three cubs.
A LEOPARD PLUS THREE CUBS! WHO HAS EVER SEEN THAT BEFORE?
The foursome leisurely strolled through the Mopane-trees, across the road right in front of the vehicle and then made themselves comfortable next to Evance going about their morning cleaning rituals. But Evance was not as lucky as he sounds! Unfortunately for him he did not have anybody to share the moment of the month with, nor a camera to capture it and I am sure that at that stage he was wondering whether anybody would ever believe him. (I drove past the spot later in the day and sure enough, in the sand, you could make out their tracks)
The worst is, he was on tight schedule and had to leave the beautiful cats by the side of the road in order to get back in camp in time for the walking safaris to begin.
The same thing happened to Herman and I recently when we had to attend to a vehicle break-down in the park – next to the road walked a magnificent male leopard, but we were in a hurry and had to drive past! It was truly terrible!
But I guess at the end of the day it is better to have seen and left than to have never seen at all.
And on that note is it time to wrap up the month of November and bid you all a very Blessed Festive Season!
Merry Christmas from all of us here at Wildlife Camp, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.