Ultimate Africa: To Walk with Lions – a photographic safari in Botswana and Zimbabwe // Day 9: Camp Amalinda

Monday 04 August 2008

 

The temperature wasn’t so bad when the alarm went off this morning but we were getting up after sunrise today! We finished packing our bags and carried everything across to the main lodge where we were having breakfast. The mug of tea was perfect this morning! We also bought a hippo carving which had been made by a local craftsman. There were several carvings to choose. Mel bought the giraffes I’d been eyeing up earlier but the hippo is lovely too. It was nice to also meet the two people that had taken such care to make them.

After breakfast we set off to go and visit the Painted Dog conservation organisation. Maria greeted us and explained a little about the place. They have a bush camp for local school children where they stay for free to learn about the dogs and conservation. They stay in 2 or 3 bed huts and they learn about tracking, poaching and anti-poaching. And they recreate it as a play at the end of their course. They are also free to make use of the computers too so that they become familiar with them but everything they do on them is related to wild dog conservation.

In the main building there is a big information room; it is a circular room, divided into 7 chapters about a wild dog family. There is so much information it would take a couple of hours to read it all, but it is presented so well that it is very inviting to read and I only got up to the 2nd chapter in the short time we had there, so I photographed the rest to read later.

We read about 3-Spot, that is the dog that Heiko adopted! Unfortunately, he died in 2002. Since we were the first tourists to visit (rather than local people) the Dutch representative from PDC in the Netherlands asked if he could photograph us as we looked around so that they could use the photos in their published material. Maria also asked us about zoocrew.eu because Heiko was wearing his zoocrew jumper, and hopefully they will send us an article for our website.

We were introduced to Jabi and he took us to see two of the wild dogs that are permanently at the centre. They are siblings, named John and Angela. They were named after the two people that funded their enclosure – John Lenon, an Australian, and Angela. They will not mate with each other because of their relationship, there is no inbreeding in a wild dog family. If John and Angela were to mate they would need to meet wild dogs from another pack.

After some time photographing the wild dogs we were on the road again. We had to drive through Bulawayo, but we drove around the outskirts of the city, due to safety reasons. Bulawayo is the second biggest city in Zimbabwe.

We arrived at our lodge in Matopos around about 2pm. It’s like being in Fred Flintstone country. The lodge is built into the rocks, the boulders form walls and there are thatched roofs. We have the honeymoon suite here, and it’s huge. We had a late lunch straight away (desert was jam roly poly and custard – yum! Haven’t had that in a long long time). As soon as lunch was finished we quickly grabbed the cameras and headed out on a game drive in White Waters National Park. We were on a mission to find rhino!

The park is a really interesting park to drive around, up and down hills, twists and turns, amazing rock formations and dense bush …and our tracker did indeed find us a white rhino; a male, hidden in the thicket! We all got out of the vehicle and walked quite close to take some photos, not very good ones mind you, since he was quite well hidden by the bush. We were just on our way back to the vehicles when he came out of the bush. He was moving through an area where there had been a controlled fire so it was quite easy to see him and we followed him on foot. He seemed completely oblivious to us, even when he turned and looked in our direction. Rhinos have very poor eyesight, they also don’t hear very well. Although they can hear sounds they don’t know how far away the sound is.

Back in the jeeps we saw giraffe and klipspringer on our way out of the park, and a group of rocks in the shape of a ‘mother’ looking in the direction right, with a baby on her back looking upwards. We had seen another boulder on the way to the park that looked like a face too.

When we arrived at the lodge, it was straight for showers, and since we have two showers we showered at the same time but soon found out that there was not much hot water, and the cold water was absolutely freezing. Luckily we were almost done showering by then!

We were waiting for the sound of the drums to signal that dinner was ready but as it got later and later we decided just to go down and sit by the fire. But we found that nobody else was at the fire, so we looked at the books in the library instead. We could hear voices nearby and we found everyone else was sat in the bar area. They were all talking about their rooms, each room is very different and it would be nice to see each of them before we leave. When it was time to go to bed Nico and Chris came for a quick nosey at the honeymoon suite to see what it looked like.

Tomorrow, some of the group are getting up early to go on a 3-hour walk to see cave paintings. I would have liked to do that but I’m not sure my knees would cope with the uphill (and more importantly, the downhill) as the walk is quite strenuous. For the rest of us, breakfast is at 8am and then we either go for a nature walk, do absolutely nothing, there is also the possibility to have a massage…

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