Friday, October 30, 2009

Moremi Game Reserve

We spent five days in the Moremi Game Reserve, which abuts the Okavango Delta. The scenery was beautiful, nice to see so much water after being in dry country fo so long. We did see lots of game although there is so much water the animals are more dispersed. By now we were so spoiled seeing large concentrations of animals it seemed that here we were not seeing much game. After a morning of driving around Tana commented that we hadn't seen much, until I noted that we had actually seen hippos, a crocodile, zebras, giraffe, elephants, a water monitor, and several types of antelope, not to mention a wide variety of birdlife.

During our stay here we did not see any lions or leopards, but did see a large hyena waiting patiently just outside the light of our fire - they are big dogs indeed! The last morning we found lion tracks near the toilets, about 20 meters from our tents. (We had heard them roaring in the night but not that close) When we drove out we followed many lion tracks on the road for a few km but never spotted them.

We did get some good time in with the local elephants on two occasions. The first time we came across a group of 20 or 30 animals drinking and bathing in a pool adjacent to the road. We stopped and they moved around us, grazing and eating branches from trees. The next day we found the same group in the forest near the road. The first few we came across were shielded by some bushes and I drove too close, surprising them - they were not too happy about that and let us know with some loud blasts from their trunks and what can only be describerd as some dirty looks. After they moved off we proceeded up the road a bit and came across the main herd. Again we parked, for about an hour, and they milled around us while grazing and eating from the trees, a couple coming within about 10 feet of the vehicle. There was also a vehicle parked behind us. Surprisingly when the driver began coughing the elephants got a little spooked and moved quickly away.

Some nights were full of interesting sounds.

The first night in Moremi we were camped at North Gate campsite along the Khwai river. About 4AM we were awaken by some sort of moaning or wailing sound, very loud, not very close. It continued for some time, gradually fading away. As it died down there arose a great collective howling of canines from all directions - sounded like dozens if not hundred of dogs - except when we passesd through the small village the day before we did not see any domestic dogs! At this point even the birds joined in, then we heard voices from the village - seemed like everything was now awake. We are still not sure the source of the sound, or what exactly was happening.

The last night in Moremi we were camped at 3rd Bridge campsite, which is adjacent to water, which has many hippos. First we could hear them bellowing at each other, then they splashed out of the water and came up on the lawn near the vehicle and began grazing on the grass. It sounded like we were in the midst of a heard of cows, except when the hippos grunted. By daylight they were all back in the water, and we were short some sleep, as we had also heard some elephants and lions along he way as well.

We also saw a bit of the Okavango Delta from the water, taking two sunset boat rides and a brief mokoro (dugout canoe propelled by poling) trip one day. It was a completely different world out on the water, with a maze of channels among the grasses and reeds. We visited a couple of nesting areas for cranes, herons, and cormorants. There we saw eggs in nests, small and not so small young birds, and a crocodile waiting under the trees for the young ones to fall from the nests. We also saw a few hippos - quite large and scary. The boatmen treat them with great care and caution. Out guide told us amazing stories of 30 day mokoro trips through the delta, but after an hour on that seat my backside was plenty ready to get back to land.

Will post photos when possible.

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