Day 1, continue
After a great lunch that could have been served in the best private game lodge, we walked down to the lower deck beneath the restaurant because I spotted something red in the dead hardwood trees now standing in the water since the Pioneer dam is fuller than full. The water’s edge is right up to the fence and some places the fence in standing in the water. To my delight the something red in the dead hardwood was our first Carmine Bee-eaters! A bit far, but there they were!
It was time to check in to our hut, #54 and conveniently walking distance to everything. We could not see the dam, but we were surrounded by lizards big and small, Tree Squirrels and birds all over. In a nice air conditioned hut we took an afternoon rest and were ready to take a late the afternoon drive just to the nearby bird hides and Mooiplaas waterhole.
The hide facing east was perfect and the sun was behind us. In front of the hide there were Hippo blowing bubbles, grunting loudly at each other and floating up and down, crocodiles basking in the afternoon sun on the opposite bank, Water Thick-knees guarding there nesting sites, an Egyptian Geese couple, Blacksmith Lapwings, Red-Billed Queleas and our first big bird, a Goliath Heron. It was so quiet with no other people at the hide and we spent more than an hour there.
The Egyptian Geese couple with the Goliath Heron in the reeds.
The Red-billed Queleas in small groups made turns to fly down to the water for a drink.
We left the Shipandani hide and drove to the Pioneerdam hide. The hide facing west and we looked straight into the sun. We didn’t stay long and decided to go back and give Mooiplaas waterhole a quick visit.
On the way back to the causeway at the Shipandani hide we spotted our first Buffalo way back in between the Mopanies. We thought he was huge and I think one forget how big they are if you haven't seen one for a while.
When we got to the causeway there were a few Black Crakes catching water bugs and a Crocodile right next to the causeway waiting for something to catch. The water ran over the causeway from north to south so it was not fish he was waiting for. The Goliath Heron we spotted from the hide was nicely in view now.
The Black Crakes are really tiny but not shy or skittish at all.
The Croc was so close, his head almost did not fit in my camera's 18mm lens.
The Goliath Heron we saw from the hide.
As went drove up from the causeway and over the hump a family of Giraffes came to drink water next to the road but I think we startled them. Some were already out on the ridge and some still crossed the road. Some Red-billed Oxpeckers were catching a ride while having their dinner. This was our first long necks and one would think it won’t be a problem to spot them amongst the Mopanies, but the Mopanies are so dense and high and they disappeared completely.
We drove on to Mooiplaas and still the European and Lilac Breast Rollers perched on the tree tops and luckily they liked sitting right next to the road where they could spot the bugs in the road and on the road’s shoulder were the Mopanies were cleared.
At Mooiplaas waterhole the Mopanies made way for wide open grassland and a few Zebras and a Blue wildebeest were clearly going to spend the night there. And then just when the light has gone to take decent photos, a family of Southern Ground Hornbills with a youngster appeared amongst the grass and we were very happy to see them on the first day. With the bad light I took a few photos and it turned out these were the only Ground Hornbills we saw. The grass was beautiful green and tall and I could just imagine everything lying in the grass we could not see….
The Ground Hornbills did not come any closer and the light was not great for these photos.
It was time to go back and turning around this was the sunset over the dam.
We arrived a little bit late for gate closing time at Mopani, but we were waved off with a friendly warning. We arrived for dinner at the restaurant before sunset. The bats came out and then all of a sudden a small dark hawk was diving and following them, we had no idea what it was, but the friendly couple sitting next to us told us it was a Bat Hawk. Apparently not something you see every day and they hunt only at dusk. But this little guy stayed out later, the lights from the deck overlooking the dam attracted loads of insects and the bats followed and he could hunt in the light coming from the deck.
Dinner was superb with generous portions and all our compliments to the chef! If was still very hot and counted ourselves lucky to be sleeping in a hut with air conditioning tonight, from tomorrow we will be ruffing it. But just after we went to bed the power went out and we had a head start on sleeping HOT. Actually I enjoyed the peace and quiet with no air conditioners running all over the camp, but we had to shower again the next morning.
Tomorrow we will check out of luxury and check in to rustic, just the why we like it.