Unfortunately the 5:30am start didn’t happen. After springing out of bed nice and early a heavy thunder storm moved in, so, lucky for me, I got a lie in. By 7:30am the rain had ceased so down to the main areas to meet up with Shepard and have some breakfast before adventuring into the park. Early morning breakfasts are a continental affair with fresh fruits, cereals, home-made muesli, pancakes, muffins, fresh juices and tea or coffee.
I jumped in to the land cruiser which is custom made cruiser. It has open sides which can be closed up with canvas and plastic windows should it rain, clever steps that fold down to help you get in and out of the vehicle and air cushioned suspension which gives it a very comfortable ride. The roof is a solid roof which can also pop up for better game viewing.
The first part of the drive is through the thick bush of the concession. It is hard to believe that in a few months’ time this will all die off leaving it dry and dusty and forcing the animals to concentrate around the waterholes on the concession. Although the bush was thick we saw a large number of birds and 2 Elephants. After 15 minutes game driving we were on the road to Hwange.
It takes 30 minutes to get to Hwange Main Camp from Elephant’s Eye. Main Camp is where you do all the formalities and pay the park fees (US$15-US$20 for the day)
Hwange is a man-made park which covers approx. 14500 square kilometres and was started in 1938. The soil in the area is very sandy and not great for farming so the people were moved and Hwange National Park was born. It is made up of a number of pumped waterholes which makes for very interesting game viewing. In January, February and March Hwange is great for birding with over 400 species of birds. The bush is however relatively thick but with clearings and waterholes game drives are still rewarding. Shepard a Zimbabwean licensed guide however made sure I was not bored. He has extensive knowledge of the park, its wildlife, flora, fauna and particularly bird-life. We not only spotted some great plains game and plenty of it, but also saw Eagles, Buzzards and storks as well as approx. 50-60 different species of smaller birds. We stopped at one of the waterholes for some biscuits and drinks before returning to camp for lunch and setting the afternoon mission of trying to find some big cats.
Once again Gabriel excelled with a very tasty lunch before I went to sample the pool, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it.
We headed back into the park in the afternoon to explore some different areas and with the challenge set Shepard was keen to get back out there and impress. The afternoon game drive was great; there were huge amounts Giraffe and amongst the general plains game we saw, Steenbuck, Kudu, 2 Honey Badgers, a Painted Dog in the distance and a pair of Crested Franklins with 4 of the smallest chicks. Unfortunately the cats stayed hidden in the long grass.
The sun was setting as we got back to camp so we enjoyed a sun downer as we watched the sky change from bright yellow, to a rich orange, to pink and finally to purple as the sun dipped beneath the horizon.
The camp fire was lit and after another great dinner we sat around the camp fire with Dollar, Shepard and Blessed who is currently managing the camp and were joined by a Giant Eagle Owl to top off a fantastic first full day at Elephant’s Eye,Hwange.
What will tomorrow bring?