Sunday, 23rd September DAY 4
After coffee in camp, we set out towards “Big and Little Toms” with the rising sun behind us. The landscape is spectacularly beautiful with the long grass and trees.
After a while Chris spots a lioness and we settle down to enjoy the scene. Next two more lionesses and a cub appear giving us the most enjoyable show. Of course the light is just right and we can enjoy some very special moments. Folks, I have seen many lions before but I defy anyone to find me anything to rival these magnificent lionesses that we saw.
Big, strong with perfect coats, these animals far outdo anything I have ever seen in Kruger. We remain riveted watching them. A tour bakkie draws level and in it are Bruce and Callie Kirkwood from Mtuba.
We move on to “Big Toms” which is a large waterhole with a sizeable expanse of water. Word has it that this region experienced of 1,000mm of rain last summer. From a high lookout structure we can look down on the water and across the nearby flat grasslands. Of special interest to me are the flocks of Yellow-throated Sandgrouse that are continually flying in for water – but sadly some distance off.
The Kirkwood’s join us and whilst chatting, Bruce states that after Kruger, Hwange is the next best thing. I am always gratified to hear this as we all know of the negatives of Kruger. But as I often say, if one knows how to do Kruger one can escape the hoards.
I take some long range photos of the sandgrouse before we return to camp. Here we enjoy the remains of last night’s meal before packing up and heading for Mandavu Dam.
May I repeat the purpose of our trip. Each year at about this time, Wildlife, Enviroment of Zimbabwe call for volunteers to come and assist to do and animal count – mainly elephants. Sitting at a designated spot, one monitors a particular water point for a continuous 24 hour period coinciding with a full-moon night. We are to be based at Mandavu Dam, some 60Km south of Robins. We set out at 11am and meander down the road. Of course I am carefully appraising this whole Zimbabwe experience with a view to returning in the not too distant future. Word has it that those notorious road blocks are a thing of the past and that the country is now very welcoming. It certainly took some time to get that one right. In fact I marvel at the stupidity of the authorities. Zims has the greatest spectacle on the continent – Vic Falls – with the magnificent Hwange right on its doorstep and yet tourism has been inexplicably neglected. Far rather extort petty money from visitors thereby killing the enormous tourism potential that Zimbabwe possesses.
So far our faithful Quantum would easily negotiate the roads here but the caravan would not take kindly to this kind of rough treatment. The road from Robins is again most picturesque with attractive 10m mopane trees well scattered amongst the long grass. It is conspicuous that the moment one leaves the basalt, the grass disappears and the veld is bare. We arrive at Mandavu Dam at about 1pm and quickly set up camp at a campsite overlooking the water. The dam is big – very big and I wonder how we are going to keep track of the animals coming down to drink.
But a number of groups have been assigned to this dam to cover the entire shoreline. Dudley and Chris have gone off to Sinamatella for the briefing whilst I remain behind to take care of the camp and allowing me to write my diary. So once they return we will then know how the count actually works and where we will be posted.
Chris cooks up a magnificent pootjie for supper and we sit back to marvel as the moon rises over the water.