The Sausage tree flowers, my personal favourite, are hanging daintily from the bright, green branches and I have had so much joy collecting them for garnishing of the tables. Other plants and trees in flower at the moment are the Worm Cure Albizia’s, Shaving Bush Combretum, Cassias and the fragrant smelling Capparis Tomentosa.
Although nearing our driest time, August and September in the Zambezi valley have always been my favourite months. All five senses are enlightened during this time, and there is such a contrast between the dry, arid environment and the pretty blossoms, touching one’s senses with their different aromas and bright colours.
So much has happened over the last month that it is difficult to know where to start. August and the first couple of weeks of September has been action packed with something exciting happening each and every day!
Firstly, let’s start off with the most important members of the Chiawa family - our much-loved camp residents like these two papped by Grant Snyder.
The bull elephants have been keeping us entertained and it seems somewhat surreal sitting in the dining room eating a delicious lunch while a rather large bull elephant is standing only a few metres away from us, also enjoying his lunch, gently scooping up one pod at a time, whilst resting his front or back foot with his eyes shut closed, savouring each morsel, in utter ecstasy and totally relaxed!
The elephants have been flocking to camp this month to enjoy the freshly fallen, curly pink pods from the Fadherbia Albida (winter thorn), and on several occasions, we have even sampled these pods ourselves to find out why they are so enjoyed by every four legged-animal! They are not so bad. Maybe with a drop of golden syrup or a teaspoon of sugar they may be even better, but after tasting them I have come to the conclusion that I prefer to stick to our boring old human canapés!
Before I carry on, let me introduce you to the long-nosed members of our Chiawa family. Those of you who have visited us will know most of them.
There is our dear Slash. Slash is new this season and was named not so long ago by a guest, Scott Bittner, who came to visit with his son Craig (who is in fact also one of our camp stars for the month of August). Scott and Craig were welcomed by Slash on their arrival. Slash is an elephant that craves attention and always seems to arrive at either lunch or teatime. He circles the dining room or lounge area, depending on where we are all sitting and then wanders off towards the office area. Just as we think he has left, he appears again under the very same tree right next to us. Slash’s new hobby is to visit the guest toilet. In fact he has become so accustomed to it that he now just heads directly to the cloakroom, without a pause or a hello. For a couple of months before all the trees started dropping their fruits, I collected pods of different sizes, shapes and colours and arranged them (artistically!) in a small woven bowl next to the basin, just under the mirror. One week, I received a dozen lovely red roses with the supplies, and placed these in a glass vase also next to the basin. The first time Slash noticed these, was as if he had stumbled upon a gold field – he was in heaven! With his head down and eyes closed, he slowly, one by one, placed each pod carefully into his mouth and when those were finished, he moved on to dessert – one dozen red roses! Every few minutes he would lift his head and catch sight of his reflection in the mirror. He would get such a fright, thinking that someone else had found the ‘gold’. He backed off three times but eventually he noticed the other elephant was also backing off, and he reached out and touched the mirror, leaving moist, slimy smudges all over it!
Since then, he has been back on numerous occasions. Sometimes he sees the ‘other elephant’ and decides to rather leave him in peace - until the next day when he collects all the pods for himself!
Needless to say, I now refrain from putting any red roses next to the basin!
Then we have Shorty. Shorty is a majestic old Bull Elephant who barely moves an eyelid when one walks past him. He is a very beautiful and gentle giant and is often followed by another two young bulls. These two young bulls are a little shy but with Shorty’s help, they will no doubt soon be just a gentle as their elder.
We also have a lovely mama elephant who enjoys relaxing under the stunning Mahogany trees. She can be seen resting in the thickets while her baby stands suckling. The rest of the family also visit but Mama has obviously chosen this peaceful sanctuary for her and her baby during resting hours.
While we are on the subject of camp residents, the four bushbuck are now down to three. One evening a female leopard came into camp and we were all woken in the early hours of the morning by a stampede and mad barking. The leopard killed the bushbuck outside the guides’ houses and the remains of the carcass were found the following morning. We moved the carcass up onto a fallen tree at the back of camp and later that evening, after a glorious bush dinner on the riverbed, we stopped by to have a look. The leopard had found its kill but unfortunately a scavenging hyena soon stole it.
We have seen the leopard walking through camp a couple of times since and the whole pride of 13 lion also walked through, leaving everyone in awe of their magnificent giant tracks on the soft sand so close to our houses!
The lions have been the main performers of this month’s production. They have been showing off their skill, power, beauty and most importantly, finally, their brand new babies! Derek saw them while cruising upstream past Chiawa riverbed and, although they have not yet been introduced to the pride, we wait in anticipation until we see them again!
Thank you, Pierre and Laura Du Toit, for the fantastic photos of these cumbersome felines resting high up in the trees and also the photos of the hungry pride feasting on a young elephant. Although a very sad sight, it was an incredible experience to watch as they filled up their round bellies and then, surprisingly, proceeded to climb up and straddle the branches. This pride have become quite accustomed to climbing trees, yet we still cannot quite get used to the view of these large, fat bellied, golden cats straddling the branches – surely they cant be very comfortable! But, who are we to say!
An incredible morning was had by our guests as they watched the pride trying to kill a large buffalo male (or as affectionately called by us - ‘Dagga Boy’). They watched as the lion pride circled two buffalos and after targeting one of them, a lioness jumped onto its back while the others pulled and pushed firmly trying to get it down. The movies taken of the event were quite incredible and it seemed the buffalo actually had no idea he had a very large feline lying on his back! The struggle went on for a while and finally the buffalo got the better of the lions and ran for freedom. The lions then moved to the closest pan to quench their thirst after this tedious and exasperating hunt.
Thank you also to Christian and Christine Pellegrini for their collection of incredible photographic material fit for National Geographic!
Another incredible sighting was of two leopard cubs. There is no need for me to say just how special and adorable they were – rather allow Christian and Christine Pelligrini’s photos to speak for themselves!
Looking back at the month, we have had so many star attractions, including our incredibly beautiful male Narina Trogan Once spotted the Chiawa ‘papparazzi’ is soon on the scene snapping up evidence of this magnificent bird! He was so relaxed that one actually had to be quite careful not to tread on him while walking hurriedly out of the office or up the pathways! Several times everyone gathered to the office area or outside the guest rooms to snatch a rare sighting of this ‘apparently’ elusive bird! We hope he will be back – and maybe next time with a mate!
Craig Bittner was by far our prize fisherman for this month – along with his Dad, Scott and our fishing guide, Derek, he caught a 79 pound Vundu (catfish)!
While Eva Seidenfaden was staying with us she worked on a beautiful basket made from Fadherbia Albida pods (winter thorn) and when she left, she kindly gave it to us. It is now proudly on display next to our guest book and makes for a very useful Chiawa choir rattle!
After all is said and done and all the animals have each played their part in the Chiawa performance, I think it is safe to say that these past two months have been the most exhilarating and awe-inspiring we have had this season. It has been so action packed that one needs to pause for a moment just to take a few breaths! Well, this we have, and are now ready for some more action!
We look forward to seeing most of you again soon and for those of you who have not yet visited us – come soon while the action is hot!
All the very best from Sacha, Tam and the rest of the Chiawa family
Unterkunftsart: Lodge & Safari Camp
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