Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bush camp

The first game reserve I went to was Timbavati, a part of the Kruger. Last week I went back to Timbavati and stayed in a bush camp - a more rugged version of the lodges, many of which offer five-star service, including jacuzzis and high-tech heating units. The bush camp offers something different - no heating at all, for example, minimal lighting (running off of solar-powered batteries), and a bathroom tacked on to the back of your tent, which makes for refreshing dawn ablutions when the temperature is not far above zero.

The approach to seeing the game is also different - the morning excursion is a walk, rather than a drive, which leads to the usual nervousness when you hear a buffalo coughing close by; and if the guides hear a lion or an elephant not too far away during the day they'll invite you to hop into the range rover and go and take a look at it. The senior guide, Dave, who is the owner of the camp and an extreme wildlife enthusiast, also took us out at lunchtime to sit at the edge of the local waterhole for a couple of hours and watch whatever was coming and going. At one point we saw a lone elephant which was walking along the side of the lake stop short, clearly startled, - and a tail disappearing into the trees - it was a large male lion which had been lazily sitting in the shade, also watching whatever was coming and going, including us. Dave told us to jump onto the vehicle - not for safety, as I thought at first, but to follow the lion.

Dave is planning to build a "sleeping platform" at the waterhole this year - so his visitors can sleep out under the stars and watch whatever comes and goes through the night. This sounds great - I'll go back when the platform's ready.

Above: leopard; leopards in trees (we parked next to them; they were two metres away, at head level); the lion that watched us sitting all unaware at the waterhole; a lilac breasted roller; forty elephants at the waterhole; the tent; bush bathroom; the waterhole at sunset.

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