Old Drift Lodge Sunset Game Drive

The Saturday night I dinner at the lodge, this African Proverb was on the menu:

Wisdom is like a Baobab tree; No-one can embrace it

Menu

Oddly enough, I saw it in a friend’s Instagram newsfeed today and thought The Universe is telling me to finish my post about the sunset game drive at The Old Drift Lodge, during which we saw a beautiful Baobab tree, about 800-1000 years old.

Baobab

There is an even bigger one outside the reserve with a rather stout trunk: Victoria Falls’ own Big Tree, estimated to be about 2000 years old.

Saturday had been a rather exhausting day with all the excursions I had done, so the afternoon game drive was the perfect way to wind down and process all the sensational things I’d experienced during the day.

Vusa was the guide for the excursion which I shared with Alex & Dawn, a couple honeymooning from Canada, and Tova (who was traveling with friends – they opted for the sunset cruise) from Norway.  It is clear that Vusa knows his field, and he has a practiced eye for spotting animals that are extremely well camouflaged by the vegetation and grass.

The first animal we saw was a Monitor Lizard (also known as an Iguana).  I initially thought it was a baby crocodile.  After that faux pas, I cleaned my spectacles and saw the reptile for what it was.  They are usually found close to water and at this time of the year are on the prowl for unattended crocodile eggs to eat.  This one was digging in the dirt, and Vusa explained to us that it may be looking for eggs or insects.

Monitor Lizard

Further along the drive we saw a journey of giraffes.  That is the right collective noun – Vusa told us so.  These tall animals, despite their size, are extremely graceful when they move.  The older they are, the darker their markings will be, and like no two humans will have the same fingerprints, no two giraffes will have the same markings.  We sat at a spot where they were grazing for quite a while.  As a South African, I admittedly take seeing African game for granted, because I’ve been on a few safari-like outings in my life.  However, seeing the sheer childlike-wonder and hearing the squeals of excitement and wonder of the other people of the drive with me made me smile.  Ah, the magic of Africa.

Giraffe

My favourite African animal is by far the elephant.  Maybe it’s because they operate in a Matriarchal society, or maybe it’s because the baby elephants are just so damn cute.

Mama Baby

I’ve been fortunate enough to interact with them up close, at places close to home that do such things, but I’ve never been in a Mexican (or would that be African?) standoff with one, like we were during our excursion.  One young elephant ventured away from the herd and came to stand squarely in front of our vehicle, of which the ignition was off.  It didn’t show any signs of aggression, but it was still intimidating.

Elephant

At one stage I was holding my breath, thinking if it hears me breathe, I may be a goner.  First the hippo that morning, now an elephant in the evening.

Hippo 1

Who says Africa isn’t exciting?

Another interesting sight was that of a Cape Buffalo carcass.  It has been taken down by lions about three weeks before.

Buffalo Carcass

The temperature began to drop, bringing with it welcome refreshment in the form of a pop-up-bar next to the Zambezi River.

Pop Up Bar

What a privilege to stand next on the bank, enjoying a creamy Amarula on ice, while listening to the babbling of the water and intermittent birdsong.

I didn’t take many photos during the drive, partially out of complacency coupled with slight exhaustion, but mostly because I was simply enjoying the dusky coolness of the sunset.

Dusk 1

Dusk 1

 

 

 

 

Old Drift Lodge Sunrise Cruises

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.

Sunrise 4Sunrise 5Sunrise 2Sunrise

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.

Water Calm 3Water Calm 4Water calmWater Calme 2

Hippo 1

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.

Fanwell

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!

Maribou Storks

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?

Waterberry Tree

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.

Hipp 3

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.

Croc 1

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.

Water Buck

The Zambezi is known as mighty, and it is.  But for me, it is a soul-restorer too.