per email via Barbara Goss
via Margaret Kriel – Letters from Zimbabwe Hwange Paradise 28/1/2014
The last time we visited Hwange Game Reserve, We were totally gutted by the devastation wreaked by the 2012 drought. However this week a visit to Nehimba Lodge caused much joy in our souls. The rains have been magnificent, there is so much water lying around that Hwange, in parts, looks like a giant marsh.
On our last visit to Nehimba, there was so little water that the desperate elephant were drinking from the lodge swimming pool. This year, a vast lake of water surrounded the entire lodge. Water birds abound right up to the doors of the chalets.
Egrets, herons, knob nosed duck, white faced whistling duck, spur wing geese, flocks of secretary birds, spoonbill storks, crakes, jacanas, wooly necked storks, coots and dikkops abound.
Away from the pan were the kohaans, the white browed sparrow weavers, the red-billed sparrow weavers and hosts of birds of prey. In fact it has become a birding paradise and the young guide, Forrest, is a real expert on birds and birdcalls.
As the heat of the day built up, one could almost hear the sun shimmering in the grass, and then the rain came down!!
Suddenly the landscape became a sea of brilliant green as millions of tiny baby toads emerged from the marshes and headed for higher ground. It was like a moving, hopping migration and quite fascinating to witness.
Forrest is an expert on frogs too and he kept us enthralled with his knowledge of these fascinating amphibians. The toads were tiny, the size of a thumbnail, iridescent green and yellow, some still with their tadpole tails intact!!
One of Mother Natures amazing scenarios that city slickers never encounter.
Now I am not a great fan of frogs, but somehow country frogs are so much more melodious than town frogs. The night sounds were sometimes almost deafening, with the sound of the bubbling frog echoing like a musical note dropping delicately like liquid gold
The lodge has adopted two orphaned baby hornbills that had voracious appetites and kept the whole camp busy catching grasshoppers and flying ants!!
Although they did not grace us with their presence during our brief stay, we could hear the lion in the distance, and the camp guide warned us to prepare for ‘pajama parade’ in case the lion and elephant visited us at night!!
Lazy game drives revealed not only birds, but also elephant, roan, sable, plains game and a group of four young bat eared foxes making curious friends with some spurwing geese – a strange combination indeed and neither species was quite sure of how to handle this encounter!!
With the absence of big game due to the thick lush green bush, we entertained ourselves happily by watching the smaller creatures. The dung beetles were everywhere, clowning around in an idiotic dance, pushing, pulling, flailing and tumbling over their giant elephant dung balls. A series of intricate dung beetle maneuvers would, if set to music, be absolutely hysterical on a video.
We watched the pied kingfishers dive and dive again and again, exerting such incredibly fast wing movements that defied all explanation.
How happy we were to see the magical resurrection of the Hwange National Park, God bless Mother Nature and her bountiful rain this year.