Most of my subject matter in Morocco was people and places, so it was a real treat to do a little wildlife photography while driving through the cedar and pine forests and barren, rocky landscapes of the Middle Atlas Mountains on the way to Midelt.
This area is populated by nomadic shepherds tending their flocks, while the cedar forests are home to Barbary apes, North Africa’s only monkey, who were totally unfazed by the thick layer of snow on the ground. They are fairly habituated as far as tourists go, but seemed to be a lot more relaxed than the Chacma baboon troops on the Cape Peninsula where I live, where the interaction between man and baboon has become problematic*.
See some of my earlier posts about the Chacma baboons that share the place I call home by following the links below:
Spending two glorious (but scorching) days in a hotel* that hugs the banks of the Zambezi was a fitting end to a whirlwind trek across Botswana that had taken us to arguably some of the most spectacular wildlife spots on the planet.
Perhaps it was the overland tour company’s way of letting us down slowly after the high of flying into the Okavango Delta on a 6 seater aircraft, mokoro trips that took us into the stomping grounds of cantankerous hippos and then the lush paradise teeming with wildlife that is Chobe. It was time to rest and recalibrate while still surrounded by Africa.
It’s easy to become intoxicated by this continent and even as I took a last gaze over the Zambezi river before heading home, a longing set in. The Portuguese call it saudade, that melancholic, aching type of longing for something that has gone that may or may not return in the future.
I miss the elusive banded mongoose troop who scurried across the lawns hoping to go unnoticed.
And Mama Warthog and her brood feeding on the lawns in the late afternoons.
Even the cheeky vervet monkey who hissed at me when I went to retrieve my camera bag.
I even miss the cacophony of frogs drowning out our conversations in the evenings – a din that grew more deafening as the night dragged on.
But the mosquitos and the cost of living in Zimbabwe? Not so much 🙂 But I will be back.
Chobe has been atop my Bucket List since the start of my brazen love affair with elephants. This southern African wonderland lived up to my expectations and some. My only regrets were only spending one day there and that my encounters with baby elephants – those adorable drunken-sailor cuties that melt my heart – were from quite far away.* (see footnote)
Chobe teems with wildlife and there’s no shortage of elephants, hippo and buffalo.
A fish eagle close to the water’s edge was a particular treat.
* Although I would have loved to see baby elephants – especially newborns – so up close and personal that I could photograph their trunk hairs, I was delighted to see the Chobe boat operators keep a respectable distance from herds with very young calves. We only came across one herd with a new addition, which they were constantly protecting. Every time the youngster moved, the mother and other senior females would rally around providing a protective barrier. So my photographs of this newbie aren’t great but I did manage to get a few of him in the open 🙂
Mrs Hippopotamus is in my personal Top 5, along with the big cats and other pachyderms. She may look a tad slow and – dare I suggest? – packing a few extra pounds, but I’ve seen her sort move faster than the speed of light, particularly around their young and their ‘hood.
Hippos are extremely territorial, but I sense all the animals in the Chobe River are quite used to boats full of noisy, brightly dressed people waving cameras. In comparison, the pods we encountered in the Okavango Delta made no secret of their objection to our presence, with displays of splashing and grumbling and the ever vigilant pair of eyes just above the surface of the water.
In Chobe though this mom and baby seemed comfortable having us around and we spent quite a bit of time quietly watching them interact.
It’s sweltering in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and my clothes are sticking to me like clingwrap when our guide Alen receives word that a solitary male lion has been spotted resting in some thicket not far away. He stops the 4 x 4 to warn us not to stand up in the vehicle when we approach. His caution is very clear and now I’m sticky AND a tad nervous, but the lion – which Alen estimates at between 15 and 20 years old – seems oblivious of our presence.
The big cat is majestic, even in his advanced years, and it’s a smart choice of hideout. He’s surrounded by shady camouflaging brush on all sides like a boma, making camera shots difficult, so Alen moves the safari vehicle around, bringing us at one point less than 4 metres away from this mighty beast whose paws are the size of bread plates.
Perhaps his belly was full, or maybe the heat was just getting to him, but either way the lion ignored us, flopped down and had a snooze while we all watched in awe.
Massive thanks to Alen Makgetho of Fallen Baobab camp whose knowledge and expertise as a guide and his love of the African bush made this amazing experience possible without me being eaten alive 🙂
Guides Simon Mothoiwa (left) and Alen Makgetho (right).
P.S. It really is a small planet we live on. Simon and I struck up a conversation and I discovered that he had spent many years working as a miner on goldmines around South Africa’s far West Rand, an area I covered extensively as a young journalist.
Eight days across Southern Africa in an overland truck in December heat can tax even the most robust traveler. Border crossings from one country to the next can also be challenging in southern Africa, even with the luxury of being from a SADC country which negates the need for visas when South Africans visit countries like Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Thankfully we sailed through the border post from Namibia into Botswana as the skies in this drought-ravaged region tried hard to drizzle. Predictably though, as we headed from Botswana into Zimbabwe a few days later via the Kazungula border post and despite an early start, we stood around for what felt like forever as officials did the necessary paperwork manually.
Little wonder that this warthog snuck through the boom from Zimbabwe to Botswana while officials weren’t looking 🙂
Not one to mess with officialdom after my brush with the law in Mozambique two years ago, my paperwork was of course in impeccable order 🙂