Part 1

The tail end of 2016 offered some amazing safari experiences; from the elephant spectacle in a very dry Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe and the extraordinary 10 million straw-coloured fruit bat migration in Kasanka National Park, Zambia; to beautiful Lake Kariba and back to a lush rain revitalised Hwange and stunning Makgadikgadi Salt Pan, Botswana - it was a good end to the year!

It started in mid-November at the newly rebuilt fabulous Somalisa Camp in Hwange National Park to join one of our groups from the USA for the last few days of their safari. Somalisa Expeditions is the venue for our Great Elephant Experience scheduled for September 2017, and during the dry season hundreds of elephants come day and night to drink at the waterhole and plunge pool (taken over completely by the elephants) to drink. The noise, the behaviour and just the sheer pleasure of watching these mighty animals up close is an unforgettable experience.

hwnage elephants hwnage elephants

The current pride male, known as Bhubezi, was very vocal and photographed on several occasions. Birdlife, as always, was superb including a Secretarybird trying to shade its chicks during the mid-morning sun, and brightly coloured dragonflies were constantly flitting around the elephant pool. Suddenly one afternoon the drought broke with a glorious rainstorm that drenched the camp and the elephants for a short while.

hwange lion
hwange birds hwange elephant hwange fly
hwange rain

lesser spotted eagle
Lesser-spotted Eagle
Our group started their journey to Victoria Falls, and Derek was lucky enough to visit two of Imvelo Safari Lodges' camps located just outside the park on the Ngamo Plains.

During the rains this area is renowned for the birding, so although he was a little early for the major influx of exciting species there were already large numbers of Lesser Kestrels as well as kites and Lesser Spotted Eagles that had arrived to feast on the first termite alates stimulated by the first rain. Two days of intensive birding with Imvelo's excellent guide Forest Worsley at Camelthorn and Bomani Tented lodges was a wonderful end to time in Hwange.

Camelthorn Lodge
Bomani Tented Lodge

ele express Travelling to the Dete siding on the Elephant Express is a novel and charming experience. This little train travels slowly along 56 km of a dead straight track along the edge of the national park.

From there it is a two-hour drive to Gorges Lodge, another Imvelo property, located about 25 km from the Falls and situated right on the edge of the gorge overlooking the Zambezi River. The view of the gorge below is simply spectacular, with amazing opportunities to view and photograph the various raptors that live and breed within the gorge. The main highlight is a pair of massive Verreaux’s eagles that regularly fly-by during the day.

Gorges Lodge Black Eagle

bats Then it was over the bridge into Zambia and on to Lusaka to meet an old friend and regular traveller from the USA, and together with Zambian birding expert Rory McDougall to fly by charter plane to Kasanka National Park. We spent a few days there to see the amazing estimated 10 million Straw-coloured fruit bats that migrate south into the park each November to feast on the glut of fruit available in the miombo woodland. This is an unbelievable sight and even during the day there is constant noise and movement of bats squabbling and pushing for space in the trees, with hundreds suddenly flying up above the trees to settle back on another perch. At dusk the sky darkens as millions of these huge bats take to the air to go out to feed. In between bat-watching good use was made of the birding opportunities and collecting photos for the Birds of Zambia eBook that Derek and Rory are co-authoring.

A short week back home before the start of our adventure back to Zimbabwe. Continues in Part 2...
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Kuyimba Trading

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