There is some Mind-boggling magic happening right before our eyes.
Not the scientific stuff
In the October Wildlife Camp Newsletter I shall focus on things that boggle the minds of not only the amazing people that come and visit us here in the Luangwa Valley, but also the ones that call the Luangwa Valley home.
But I am not referring to the scientific stuff like how on earth giraffes pump enough blood to their heads. I am referring to the things like not being able to get to your house after a hard day’s work “because there are elephants.” Things like getting up at night to chase a grazing hippo off your lawn because “it chews the grass off too short.” Things like having a three day dress-rehearsal for the rainy season in the middle of the hot and dry season. All these things are what make a place like the Luangwa Valley… well… mind boggling.
The old lady’s humble-pie.
Actually, I do not want to say too much about the rain. In the last newsletter I wrote that the early rain storm we had was a once-off occurrence. But Mother Nature had me eating humble pie; we ended up having four or five good bouts of rain. It was enough water to refill some of the lagoons and give the Luangwa hippos some peace of mind. It was enough to let the Mopane-trees push out their soft butterfly-shaped leaves which feed a lot of animals. Those rains came and went – it was almost like a dress-rehearsal for the real rainy season, which must be very close now. In fact, as I type this letter to you I can hear thunder roaring through the valley!
Animals have right of way
Talk to anybody who has spent a couple of nights in the Luangwa Valley, and they will have a story to share about the elephants that wandered past their tent or chalet. Go and read blogs and reviews about South Luangwa on the internet and there you will find the same phenomenon. And all of it is true!
Elephants are a part of our daily lives here in South Luangwa. They come, they see, they conquer and then they leave.
And they often do this with so much grace that you’ll be excused for thinking that their tusks are mere decorations.
But elephants, no matter whether they are big or small, bulls or cows, cows with calves or cows without calves, bulls in musth or bulls not in musth, with tusks or without tusks, can be dangerous!
At Wildlife Camp especially, we get a lot of visits from elephant herds. There is an ancient (when I say ancient I mean that it has been here for as long as anybody can remember) river-crossing path right in front of camp and the Mopane-woodlands in which Wildlife Camp was built in 1992 also attracts large herds of these trunked giants. In fact, when you live here at Wildlife Camp, it is easy to get quite complacent about the 4tonne animals that walk through your ‘garden’ four or five times a week.
Early one Tuesday morning, a couple of weeks ago, Herman showcased this complacency by walking to work on his normal route without paying attention to his surroundings. Suddenly, and a little late, he realized that he was between an elephant cow and her youngster. By this time the cow had already decided that she did not much like Herman being closer to her baby than she was and she charged. Herman (it was not the first time in his life to be charged by an elephant) tried to scare her away with his loud voice and a couple of choice words but she did not listen. He soon realized that a Tamarind-tree nearby could hide him until the elephant had cooled down but on his way there his foot got stuck in the mud (it was during the rain dress rehearsal) and he fell to the ground. The elephant was still on her way (elephants can run up to 40km/h) and Herman, quick thinking as always, slung his shoulder bag at her. He hit her on the head and this was enough to divert her attention away from her original target, which was by this time helpless on the ground. This gave enough time for the staff to get together in their masses and chase her out of camp with clapping hands and loud screams. It was a close call (about two-and-a-half meters close according to Herman) but Wildlife Camp’s Director survived with only one or two scrapes and a sore back.
Much as we did not like the tuskless elephant that almost ran over Herman, she still taught us a valuable lesson. We are all guests in an animal world and we must never forget that! If we want to be here, we must play by their rules, and if an elephant (or a buffalo or a hippo or any other animal for that matter) does not want you to walk to work in the morning then it is better to phone the office and asked to be picked up with a vehicle instead.
Top tips for gardening
Another mind-boggler here in the Zambian bush is gardening. Having a garden in the middle of the bush does not sound right – but still we try! Dora and I are both keen gardeners and November is the best month to try out our green fingers. So I decided to give some tongue-in-the-cheek tips for gardening in the Luangwa valley.
1. Before you even start, know that at some point in time your garden will be destroyed by elephants or hippos or some other animal.
2. No matter what the gardening experts tell you, do not water your garden at night! Water makes mud and hippos make holes in the mud. Your garden will inevitably be filled with large four-toed holes.
3. No matter how hard it is to get up at night, it is worth the effort to chase the hippos and elephants out of your garden. Clap your hands or throw the kitchen sink at them but make sure they stay out.
4. If, by any chance, the bigger animals do breach your defences and make holes in your lawn, do not panic! Chances are that that same elephant left its droppings not too far from your garden. Collect the droppings, fill the hole up with it and put the grass back on top. Works like a bomb, except that you tend to get white mushrooms growing amongst your green grass.
5. Fences are no good to keep animals out of your garden. They walk right through them and leave you with a lot of repair work.
6. Watch out for bushbucks. They may look like Bambie, but they sure like eating flowers.
7. Make your own compost. A mixture of elephant, buffalo, and hippo droppings combined with leaves, sausages from the sausage tree and earthworms makes a great natural fertilizer. Good for the environment too!
8. Use local stuff to decorate your garden. Clay pots made by virtually anybody’s grandmother here in Mfuwe and old oddly shaped stumps can work magic.
9. Use local plants. Jasmine bushes are great, but not bushbuck-resistant. Also consider using saplings of the local big trees in pots. Here at Wildlife Camp we have small African Ebony trees (Diospyros mespiliformis) Natal Mahogany trees (Trichilia emetica), Baobab trees (Adansonia digitata) and African Mangosteen trees (Garcinia livingstonei) all in pots which we’ll plant out when they are bigger. They look nice and also help the environment.
10. If you fail, you can always just let nature have it her way around your house. She knows best in any case.
Mind-boggling moment of the month
Seeing the softer side of a lion confuses our pre-safari conceptions about these ‘rough, tough and dangerous kings of the jungle.’ But in October we had this mind-boggling honour. Out on a game-drive with Su, Werner Horn and his wife were fortunate to witness a lioness introduce her cubs to their daddy, Shaka, for the very first time. One by one she took hold of them in her mouth and carried them into the bush where, barely in sight to the game-viewers, Shaka met his new-borns. It was obvious that the cubs were rather scared and nervous but also excited to go out and experience the bush where they will spends the rest of their lives. Now that is pure mind-boggling magic. Thank you very much Werner for sending me these photos.
Last month I promised an update on new yellow-fever regulations for Zambia. Seeing as many tourists enter Zambia through South Africa, it is important to pay attention to the following info released by the South Africa Society of Travel Medicine:
The RSA has reviewed its yellow fever vaccination requirements policy, which will be effective from 1 October 2011.
1. As of 1 October 2011, all travellers from Zambia will be required to show proof of yellow fever vaccination (unless in possession of a valid waiver certificate).
2. Travellers transiting airports in countries with risk of yellow fever transmission will be required to show proof of yellow fever vaccination, regardless of the amount of time spent at the airport.
And on that note it is time to close-off the month of October. It has been a brilliant month but we are looking forward to some rain and some extra rest days as the peak season comes to an end. But as always we remain open all-year round so feel free to come and boggle your mind.
Warm Regards from all of us here Wildlife Camp.
I add this post-script the morning after I finished October’s newsletter. Tha rains came during the night in all its glory and continued well into the early hours of the morning.
During this storm the elephants snuck up to prove that they really do come, see and conquer. Take a look at the damage they did to the pots and plants in front of Wildlife Camp’s restaurant during the night. They also pushed over two fences and left dung all over camp.
And just a final note: I am not complaining, I am bragging.