As the days slowly but surely creep towards 1 April, the start of the new season at Ruckomechi Camp, the air is thick with excitement and can be felt throughout our staff camp. You really can’t blame anyone for being full of energy as all batteries have been fully charged during the long but well-deserved break.
From a skeleton staff a couple of weeks ago, we now have about three-quarters of the full staff complement in camp. The realisation that we have only a few weeks left till opening day is setting in fast! Staff have arrived in troops, with our largest contingent, along with our guides, arriving in early March. With renewed energy and skills honed, morale is very high and evident in everyone, including myself.
The guides have just come back from a training course in Hwange National Park where they also completed an advanced First Aid Course – all in preparation for our upcoming season. Our chefs were assigned to different camps in Hwange at the end of 2016 and are back and ready to cook up a storm, with many delicious creations for our guests to look forward to.
A highlight of summer has been the rains received this year – well above normal – for which we are very thankful, as everything is looking incredibly lush. We are seeing lots of wildlife, big and small, and many beautiful birds. The mighty Zambezi River is flowing strongly, powerfully making its way towards the Indian Ocean. Riverine life is at its best and hippos can be seen dotted throughout the river. Elephants are frequently spotted swimming, with many crocodiles taking advantage of the sunshine. Fishing has been great and we have landed different sizes and species ranging from tiger fish and bream to tilapia and bottlenose. Squeakers and Cornish jack have also been caught (all fishing is catch-and-release only). I am sure this news will excite the keen fishermen out there as we have plenty of good fishing to look forward to over the next few months.
We’re most excited about our birdlife as many species not seen for a long time are coming back into the area. We have the privilege of seeing African fish-eagles almost every day, often high up in tree branches over the river and it’s always a pleasure to hear their distinctive call. The Western banded snake-eagle, lesser-spotted eagle, Steppe eagle, tawny eagle, martial and Wahlberg’s eagles have all been spotted. We have seen a lot of African golden orioles as they come to feed on the worms found on the winterthorn acacias which are flowering at the moment. On the floodplains sacred ibis, hadeda ibis, African spoonbills, saddle-billed storks, openbill storks, Egyptian geese and many other water species can be seen, something to whet the appetite for all bird lovers. A boat cruise along the many channels will yield a lot in terms of birding as cormorants and darters are plentiful too. The same applies to the numerous species of kingfishers.
The vegetation has much to show, with all trees, bushes and grasses along the river showing off their verdant hues. The large feverberry crotons are all very green and the acacias dotted around the camp look lovely with their beautiful green leaves.
Game has been excellent and we have been blessed with hundreds of impala, of all different sizes, after the birth of their young ones during the rainy season. Waterbuck are also a perennial sight along the river. Huge buffalo herds, numbering over 200, have passed through and elephants have also started coming back into camp in numbers. Lion and hyaena are heard vocalising almost every day. We were also paid a visit by the resident leopard of Little Ruckomechi, who was seen at Ruckomechi in broad daylight. The wild dog pack was reported to have recently made a kill close to Parachute Pan too.
With our tractor and grader ready, soon it will be time to start working on the roads that link our game drive routes. The rains washed away some sections and vegetation has taken over. Guides are also going to be busy opening overgrown roads and making sure no low-hanging branches are sticking out. Our major work will be on the airstrip, but that depends on the rains as we might have to use alternative airstrips if the area around ours is still waterlogged and not dry enough for planes to land and take off. There’s a lot to do, but the enthusiasm from everyone is contagious and we’re looking forward to tackling each of the projects before our big opening day.
With everything coming together so fast, we just can’t wait for our very first guests of the season. We are all confident that Ruckomechi will once again be a life-changing experience for all.
We hope to see you soon.
Written by Eddie Mudzimu, Ruckomechi Camp Manager