Vumbura Plains - May 2013

May 15, 2013 Vumbura Plains
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There’s no fighting it - the water is rising in the Delta, extending the lip of our eastern floodplain, seeping in over well-trodden roads and game trails and patiently, diligently, widening its liquid borders.

Though we anticipate this change each year, somehow the beginning of each annual inundation always elicits the same denial, the same shock that this vast landscape can change so gradually yet visibly - right before our eyes.

Russel Crossey, one of our most senior guides, taught a few guests a good lesson in how urgently and persistently the Delta system works. On the way to a morning game walk he stopped to stake a branch upright in the middle of a dry road: “When we come back we’ll see how far the water has come,” he said. Two hours later the water had surrounded the stick and had actually crept two metres past it.

Of course the rising water heralds new pathways and neighbourhoods for the wildlife as well. Rising waters here mean drying pans elsewhere, which in turn means animals seeking new reliable sources of water. Elephant have been moving into our concession in steady droves along with some sizable herds of buffalo - one guide reckons he saw a herd of a thousand strong.

As much as we are able to predict what is happening in our backyard, the wet season, as any season, brings plenty of surprises. Inexplicably this month, the resident clan of hyaena moved dens, which involved shuttling four cubs two kilometres to an old den.

We noted an untimely tsessebe birth this month - a few months past even the latest of arrivals.

Wild dog have provided some of the most dependable action this month, with a female leopard, Silenyana, and her three-month-old cub a close second. It seems Silenyana is a mother par excellence. Our guests watched as she taught her cub a crucial lesson in climbing trees - or descending from them rather. After Silenyana returned from a hunt, her cub, reluctant to negotiate the great scale of a hulking jackalberry, howled and called to her mother below. Silenyana remained ever-patient and encouraging but resolute that the cub must descend on her own. After a protracted discourse, the cub skittered down the trunk to terra firma.

These ‘wet’ months are as crucial to the life of the Okavango Delta and for our own consciousness and ken; they remind us how fluid life is and how ever-shifting even the ground we stand on can be. Nature marches to its own drumbeat and we do our best to stay in step.

Hailey Gaunt


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