Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bull elephant in front of my door....

The day started out on an adventurous note when I left my room at sunrise and encounter a large bull elephant standing next to the raised platform that led to the main tree house.  I waited patiently as he stared me down from about 20 feet away and eventually he started grazing on a nearby tree and turned his back to me.  I took advantage of my opening a slowly crept by him as silently as possible...

I must have been about 10 feet behind this enormous bull.  I checked carefully to see if he was in must which would indicate that he would be very dangerous, aggressive and moody.  Luckily there was no liquid on his back legs (the tell tale sign of must) so he was not likely to charge me as long as I showed respect and gave him a wide berth.

This morning we set off in a comfortable land rover in search of two female lions and their cubs.  The terrain was an aquatic wonderland peppered with palms and other tall hardwood trees.  

Our search took us across Jao island where we encountered the rare red lechwe the area is famous for. The lechwe is a small water antelope with a red coat that   lives in the world between land and water.  We soon picked up the lion tracks and it appeared they were on the move.  
Play time
We followed e tracks for about two miles but could not locate the lions so instead we set off on a makoro trip through the water channels in search of hippo and crocs.  The makoro is a traditional dugout canoe made from a hollowed out hard wood tree.  They are poled along by makoro pilots who stand in the back and use long poles to propel the makoro canoe forward.  This is an enchanting way to travel through the crystal clear waters of the Okavango Delta.  One sits at water level and you can look down and see water lilies and other reed plants as they reach up from the sandy soil to the water surface.  The water is incredible clear and you can actually drink it straight from the delta. 

The scenery reminded me of traveling down the Nile river in Egypt on a felucca sailing boat.  Lots of palms and tall reed banks.  We eventually landed at a pretty little island where we found fresh lion tracks.  We sat up on a wooden platform and enjoyed a morning coffee break as we soaked in the gorgeous scenery all around us.  We then returned to the land rover and quickly found the lions lounging in the tall grass nearby.  There were two females and two lion cubs about 6 months old.  The lions were quiet relaxed as we sat within 10 feet or so taking pictures and listening to the little ones mewing to each other.  We then headed back to the lodge for a great lunch and while the others took advantage of the bush spa for massages Marc and I set off by boat with the manager of Jao, Anthony, who graciously escorted us to inspect the two nearby lodges of Jacana and Ketswana.  It took about 15 minutes by power boat to reach Jacana camp which was like a little Gilligan 's Island with 6 cabins set around the small island looking out over the water.  Unlike Jao, Jacana does not have raised walkways so it feels a bit wilder to walk from your room to the main area.  Hippos and elephants are common visitors to the camp.  Next we were off to Ketswana lodge which took about 45 minutes by boat.  This lodge was like a mini Jao camp with beautiful common areas and nicely furnished tents though not quite as luxurious and spacious as Jao.  

We retuned to Jao and set off on our afternoon activity which was a boat ride through the channels to a nearby lagoon.  We saw some huge catfish and a giant croc on the banks that we were able to approach within only a few feet before he plunged into the river. On our return to camp Anthony had arranged a private wine tasting off one of he top South African wines including merlot, cab sav, pinotage, and shiraz.  

We tasted some gold medal winners including one by an all African team led by a woman vintner whose wine is called Tandi.  It was a delicious treat for us all.  Dinner featured a Moroccan Lamb with risotto side and veggies.  We adjourned to the fire pit after dinner for a quick night cap to round out another wonderful day in the bush

Tomorrow we are off to Namibia and will stay overnight in the capitol city of Windhoek.  It should be fun...I hope I will have some Internet to contact home and send my last 5 days of blogs out...

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