Long-time shareholders, Walt and Thea have been frequenting Limpopo-Lipadi on a regular basis. When they come, they like to stay for an extended period, up to many weeks at a time so that they can fully enjoy the slow safari pace and the bounty of the bush at the reserve. This is Walt’s account of ‘just another day in the bush’:
Friends are usually surprised when I tell them that it can be cold in Botswana. It can be though, and it was a while ago when we were out for a morning game drive with Magnus and Helen, fellow shareholders. Cold enough for stocking caps, gloves and jackets!
We had decided to self-drive without a ranger—a rare safari privilege afforded shareholders at Limpopo-Lipadi—and to take the road east along the Limpopo River. It was early September, and as usual, the river was low, consisting mostly of a series of pools separated by dry riverbed and islands large and small. The islands, covered with trees and riverine bush, provide safe and shady cover for bushbuck, waterbuck, hippos and many other creatures. Crocodiles also settle out on the sandy shores to bask in the sunshine.
We proceeded slowly east, slowly because we were watching for animals and because the river road is rockier than most and best taken at a comfortable pace. The terrain rises steadily as we motor east.
Impala groups moved reluctantly to the side to let us pass, and several giraffes calmly and dispassionately observed our progress, all the while continuing to chew their breakfast leaves. Along the way, Magnus spotted some Cape Clawless Otter tracks to the left, as they travelled from one isolated pool of the Limpopo to another in search of crabs, frogs, and fish. At one point we startled a Klipspringer that dashed across the road frantically running towards a small rocky kopie where his specialised climbing hooves would give it an escape advantage. Guineas quick-stepped through the roadside bush and francolins cackled their displeasure at our intrusion into their morning routine. Prim little steenboks bolted from their hiding spots to stop the usual fifty meters or so away to check for pursuers!
Gradually climbing the rocky ridge, we could soon see the river—now well below us—and the South African bush and vegetable farms to the south side. At one point, through an opening in the roadside vegetation, Magnus saw some hippos on sandy strip of shoreline, so we pulled into a good viewing spot another hundred metres down the road. What a view we had! On the opposite side, and a little upstream, five hippos were standing in full view, completely unaware of our presence. One was a baby staying close to its mother—laying down with her at one point, taking a swim with her at another, but mostly just standing around with the rest of the group.
Below us at the water’s edge, the branches of a large dead tree were lined with white-breasted cormorants. Darters perched patiently on favoured rocks scattered throughout the shallow river. Several crocodiles decorated the shoreline, enjoying the sun’s warming rays. As the pièce de résistance, a mature African Fish Eagle soared downstream towards us, perhaps with an eye out for a fish dinner or perhaps just because it could.
From our vantage point we could see for many kilometres in all directions and there was not a traffic jam or even a road in sight! Cameras clicked and whirred steadily, recording it all to show to family and friends, many of whom probably secretly wonder why we take holidays to a place where the only nightlife is relaxing around a fire enjoying the starry night!
After twenty minutes or so enjoying the riverine panorama and having some drinks and snacks, we carried on, checking for signs of the wild dogs and leopards as well as enjoying the animals and birds we passed by. Zebras stood and watched us approach before snorting and galloping off. Kudu families did likewise, as did waterbuck.
We looped little more north and then turned back west again along a road further inland from the river. We passed an area where last year we had seen two adult cheetah resting fifty meters from the road. As is the nature of cheetahs, they had apparently travelled on through our reserve, perhaps soon to be replaced by more of these beautiful nomads.
“Stop, drag marks across the road”, exclaimed Magnus! Magnus is an avid spotter of drag marks, and his sightings of them have lead to some exciting adventures. Since the terrain was open with little in the way of hiding places for lurking predators, we decided to stop for a minute and use our binoculars to see if we could see where the unfortunate victim’s spoor led. The sand was soft and we could not make out the tracks of the predator—probably a leopard or hyena—but we could plainly see that the trail of the soon to be meal led to a jumble of boulders providing lots of hiding places for a hungry and protective tooth and claw expert!
While occupied by the unravelling of the story written in the sand, I noticed an unusually beautiful rock a few meters from our vehicle. More or less rectangular and about the size of half a cement block. It was sitting on the edge and was composed of thin layer upon thin layer of granite, evenly spaced, each about a centimetre thick, and each a slightly different shade of beautiful reds and pinks, like autumn leaves pressed between the pages of time.
Forgetting an important caution about picking up rocks in a sandy arid area, I picked it up and turned it over to admire the handiwork of the ages. Right in the centre of the rock’s bottom, right where I might have expected, was a tiny scorpion! Startled, I almost dropped it when a little gust of wind revealed that in reality the scorpion was just the shed exoskeleton of its former occupant. Perfectly preserved and looking very much alive until the wind blew it on my arm. It was a painless cautionary lesson for me!
The rest of the drive back to River Camp was pleasant and uneventful. Upon arrival we unloaded cameras and other gear and retired to our lodge units to savour the morning’s memories. Of course later in the afternoon, after lunch and a rest, we joined the company again for our evening game drive. Aardvarks, lovesick leopards, and other adventures awaited, as did nightcaps around the fire under a star saturated sky—but that’s another story!
Photos: Walt Tingle