From one season to the next in Mana Pools, changes arrive, not only affecting the weather, the landscape and the general feel of the area – but also the quality and the quantity of game on offer.
As we head into our winter months and begin to feel a chill in the mornings and evenings, we watch the vetiver grasses drying – but are not deceived as beneath these grasses lie ominous threats waiting to pounce on their poor unsuspecting prey. The lions, particularly, blend very well with the grasses and are making a literal killing here. A benefit of the changing face of the Zambezi Valley.
It’s also time to expect the unexpected – at any time of the day.
When talk turns to leopard sightings right in the middle of the day, whether hunting or just lying down in the warmth of the sand in the riverbeds, don’t be fooled and expect to find their paws hanging down from a mahogany tree… our leopards, even though at home up a tree, are mostly sighted strolling on the ground – where you least expect to see them.
Elephants now hang around camp, as if seeking warmth from the camp fire. It’s an Elephant Jamboree – an absolute carnival – at all times, but for us this year they have come into camp a lot sooner than we expected them.
Impala find comfort and security in the staff village, thereby attracting the lions right onto our doorstep. Big herds of zebra are seen numbering over 30 and much more at times, appearing to be off to some congregation, dazzling in their stripes. Our resident herd of buffalo makes its daily appearance, mixed from the very young to the old and lazy dagga boys.
As the bush begins to thin and the grasses dry out or suffer from occasional frostbite, the wildlife has become more vulnerable to the conditions. The whole area is slowly denuding, and we can spot game from far. Herds of different forms of game can be seen huddled together or moving in droves as they seek the warmth that comes from numbers.
In spite of the chill though, it is never dull in camp or on drives, as every twist and turn brings another surprise of the day.
Ruckomechi Camp is alive, and a hive of activity punctuates each and every day. The traffic jungle has been unleashed on us as daily we meet head-on with the jumbos of this beautiful Ruckomechi Concession. Indeed head-on, as the elephants are back home, and back to roost in a sense.
In a normal cycle we would only be expecting one or two individual bulls passing through camp, surveying the area and their territory, but at the moment it’s almost everyone from the recently born, who are being introduced to the camp for the very first time, to a couple of yearlings who we saw last year soon after their birth. Most of the animals are still hanging out in the thickets but the ellies are back in camp. Majaji is back with a calf and we are all excited as we have known this humble cow for many years; she is the most gentle and friendly, and much photographed, lady of Ruckomechi Camp. The big bull (who we christened Paul, after an interesting encounter with one of our guides) is also back.
Being at Ruckomechi I have since learned that the elephants love the indigoferas that are seen in abundance at the moment – not only do the elephants enjoy the green leaves of this plant but also the little pods found hanging on these bushes. The ridge area does not have these juicy plants and also, our elephants are kind of smart and spoiled for fresh running water, and so are very choosy, not drinking from any stagnant pools.
And so our beloved elephants are back in camp and our guests’ safari starts right at their tents, right in the comfort of their rooms as they enjoy the unusual behaviour demonstrated by these magnificent creatures.
It’s elephants galore at the moment in camp and we are so very glad to have them at any time of the day!
Written by Eddie Mudzimu