As I mentioned here, Carmen once told me “you either have a heart for Africa or you don’t”.
During my trip I did two sunrise cruises at the Old Drift Lodge, and both were spectacular. The boat sets sail from the jetty shortly after 05:30 AM, but dawn breaks much earlier, meaning me getting up at 04:30 AM to catch the first light, which changes from dark shades of blue to warm oranges and then fiery red, with a touch of purple. If I hadn’t had a heart for Africa before, I would have after seeing the magnificent sunrises.
I cannot put into words the feeling that being on the water as the sun begins to rise brings. The water is so calm, a mirror of only beautiful reflections and yet there is an underlying excitement within which surfaces when a pod of hippos does the same, although I did get a huge fright one morning while taking photos (from above, on the jetty) when a hippo decided to make his presence known to me, but the river was so calm, even his reflection was captured on camera.
Both morning cruises, Fanwell was the guide. He is friendly, well-versed with the birdlife and game along the river, and he is a good boat Captain to boot.
The first cruise I shared with a South African couple, Marko and Maryke, from Pretoria, both keen bird watchers. As we sailed up and down the river, we saw many birds, many of which were firsts for the pair.
I recall great excitement and joy when they saw a Lesser Jacana, and a bird with bright reddish orange feet (and beak) which name I can’t remember, but Marko told me that what I was seeing was something truly special.
We saw Maribou Storks nesting in the high treetops, and an array of other water birds, including a Black Heron, which Maryke explained to me, spreads its wings to form an ‘umbrella shadow’. The little fish swim towards the shade and before they know it, breakfast is served and they’re it!
There are also many Water Berry trees on the banks of the river. Their roots are exposed during the drier months, but when the rain comes and the river rises, their roots are covered entirely and the don’t drown. How incredible is that?
My last morning at the lodge, I went out on a solo trip with Fanwell and again we saw much birdlife. I was so lost in the serenity of it all, at peace for the first time in as long as I can remember, that I almost forgot to take photos.
It was only when a lone hippo (not the same one from the jetty) stepped out of the shallows that I grabbed my phone to snap a picture of it.
We saw a few crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks, with some white billed ducks keeping a close eye from what I don’t think was a safe enough distance. To me, crocodiles always look dead, but I’ve seen how quickly they can move. They are reptiles not to be trifled with.
We heard the call of an African Fish Eagle, and while we spotted him with the help of binoculars, I couldn’t get close enough to get a picture. I was a little sad about that because again, The Toppie and The Bean would have loved to see it. I did get to see a Water Buck drinking on the banks, which was a super consolation prize.
The Zambezi is known as mighty, and it is. But for me, it is a soul-restorer too.