After lunch we continued on;
everything was lush and green, and there were lagoons and
waterholes everywhere. Some were connected to the Delta
floodwaters and some came from the rain, but all had abundant
waterfowl. We followed a small river linking the pools. A
Oreo Ibis flew along the river.
We went out across a marshy field.
Driving along, Gee would spot a small songbird in the tall grass
far in the distance; he could identify a stone chat or a Cape
Wagtail from a quarter mile off. I don’t know how he does it.
A lechwe doe ran along in the shallow water at the edge of
the river in great leaping bounds. Once she got to solid land she
trotted off in that odd, distinctive downhill gait with her head
held low. The lechwes really are strange-looking creatures.
The river widened out into a beautiful lagoon with a large
tree growing beside it, lined with tall reed-like grass. Hippos
floated in this pool, and there were several indignant bulls.
There was much calling, chortling and leaping from the hippos. One
of them opened his mouth wide to show off his fangs, and then did
an open-mouthed backflip to impress us. It seemed to be our day
for angry hippos! I kept trying to get a video or photo of some of
their more impressive leaps, but I needed just two seconds notice
to have my camera ready, and they would not give it to me.
Egyptian Geese teenagers
A flock of about two dozen
juvenile Egyptian geese crowded at the edge of water; they were
reluctant to go in because of the crocodiles in the pool. I
didn’t blame them. We saw one of the crocs floating in the water
near shore, with just the top of his head visible. He had
mesmerizing green eyes.
We came to a small pretty lagoon which Gee said was one of
his favorite spots. We paused to watch three elephants approach
from a distance; a mother and baby went to the right while the
other one went left, and they all disappeared from sight into the
Several giraffes strode by us,
intent on their journey. A female kudu stood near the roadway with
her adolescent son; he was sporting a small pair of spike horns.
Gee said that kudus can jump up to three meters high. I thought he
was probably exaggerating, but when I got home I looked it up;
indeed, they have been documented jumping 3.5 meters in height,
that is over 11 feet!
An unattractive marabou stork flew over, and then landed
awkwardly in a grassy field. These birds are huge; Gee told us
they can be near five feet in height. They don’t look that big
from the vehicle!
We came to a huge lagoon, the largest we had seen yet.
Three hippos were walking along the far shore; we watched as they
entered the water with much splashing and joined the rest of the
pod. Dozens of crocodiles floated in the water, looking somewhat
sinister. The shore was lined with pelicans, storks and egrets of
many varieties. We had two new birds; the Glossy Ibis and the
Pink-backed Pelicans. Names can be deceiving; we noticed that the
pink-backed pelicans were white, while the yellow-billed storks
had pink backs.
Marabou and Yellow-billed Storks
A herd of impala were grazing quietly on the far shore when
suddenly something spooked them, and they took off running. The
big buck was leaping and bounding, kicking his hind feet high out
behind him; this is a move they use to escape predators.
We drove through a meadow of dead leadwood trees; they had
died from the changing floods. These trees are very dense and
hard; they stand tall for fifty years after they are dead. Gee
found another new bird as he drove along; a tiny Spotted
Flycatcher perched in a tree. It was another amazing spot.
A half grown male impala stood
near the road gazing at us; he had tiny spike horns. The impala
are easy to take for granted because of their numbers, but they
have the most exquisite faces.
As we neared camp we passed Pula’s
Hole, a large hole in the road big enough to swallow a
vehicle. Gee told us the story; Pula, a cook who we knew from a
previous safari, had been driving the support truck to set up a
camp. There had been a lot of rain and everything was flooded, so
he could not see that the road had washed out under the water,
forming a great hole. He had driven into it and gotten stuck, and
they had been unable to dig the truck out, not least because there
were crocs in the water. In the end they had to set up camp right
there by the road where the vehicle was stuck. The park service
fined them for camping outside of their designated campsite.
We got back to camp a little after
six and sat around the campfire having drinks and watching the
display of brilliant colors in the sky as the sunset faded to
View from the campfire.
Wakeup call was not until five thirty this morning; I guess
we all needed a lie-in. A hyena visited us at breakfast. Lions had
been calling in the night, and we set out at 6.30 to try and find
A reed buck was grazing in the dim
morning light; it was the closest look I had ever gotten to one of
these elegant antelopes. We saw the usual contingents of impala,
giraffes and zebras. We stopped to admire a family of spurwing
geese. A guineafowl
kept watch from his perch high in a tree. A pair of double-banded
sand grouse were in road; they flew away just in time to avoid
getting run over.
Two Side-striped Jackals were out hunting; this was a new
animal we had never seen. They are a mottled grey color with a
slanted silvery stripe on their sides. Where the black-backed
variety of jackal looked very foxlike, these reminded me more of
coyotes. I had noticed that a large number of the animals in
Africa have diagonal stripes or color variations on their sides -
I wondered what their purpose was.
A herd of impala were standing with heads up and eyes wide,
all staring in one direction intently, and the squirrels and birds
were sounding alarm calls. We knew something was there, and
circled the thickets looking for a lion or leopard. Suddenly an
African Wild Cat burst up out of the grass in front of us and
raced to the bushes. Not much bigger than a large housecat, these
tawny felines are an ancestor of the domestic cat. They are not
common, and we considered ourselves lucky to see one.
We had a quick sighting of another
honey badger as it ran into the thicket; we couldn’t believe how
many of these normally elusive creatures we had seen.
Banded Mongoose family
A banded mongoose sat poised on fallen tree. This was the
stillest I have ever seen one, but with her blurry stripes it was
still hard to get my camera to focus. She looked at us a few
moments and then disappeared into a crevice in the log. She came
back out in a few moments followed by two small adorable babies.
Two more adults stood on a mound in front of the river,
silhouetted against the water.
Around 8:00 we were back in the area of Dead Tree Island.
Suddenly Gee said “Look at the leopard!”
To our delight we saw a beautiful female leopard lying in
the crotch of a huge dead tree. As we got closer she sat up and
looked all around; she was gorgeous. We admired her sleek spotted
coat and her ridiculously long tail. Gee said she might be
watching for mongoose, but it seemed to me that she was posing for
us. For once we had lovely light for a leopard sighting, so it was
a great photo op.
The leopardess stood up, stretched luxuriously and yawned,
and then came down out of tree. The trunk was slightly leaning,
and she effortlessly walked down it head first, leaping when she
got near the ground. She walked away slowly, blending in to the
tall grass. She stopped once in a while to lick her paw or scratch
her chin. We followed
her for a while, and then left her to her hunt. Incredible. That
leopard talisman I gave Gee sure did seem to be working.
We were driving across an open area mid-morning when the
land cruiser ran over a branch and punctured the left front tire.
Gee quickly jacked up the vehicle, but when he got out the spare
it was wrong – it had 6 lugs instead of 5 so would not fit. He
had to get out the second spare tire, which left us without a
While Gee changed the tire, I came
up with another revision of the leopard limerick:
When our leopard
count got up to nine
We thought it was all quite divine
But it will be a sin
If it gets up to
And I have to rewrite
this limerick one more time.
Now if we could just find a cheetah! But we knew they did
not live in Moremi; perhaps we would see them later in the
We watched some zebras roughhousing at a waterhole. Two
young adults were fighting each other; it was hard to tell if they
were playing or establishing dominance. They were pushing and
shoving and biting just like the young horses do. They took off
across the plain, still carrying on the skirmish.
I had no sooner gotten the limerick revised when we saw
another leopard. Gee had heard about this one on the radio. It was
a male, and he was standing in a low crotch of a tree when we
arrived. He got down and stood by the trunk looking around a bit;
then after a few minutes he lay down and curled up to take a nap.
We moved a little closer for a better view. Unlike the
other leopards, which had mostly ignored us, this one was annoyed
that we were there. He seemed hot in the sun, and was panting with
his mouth partially open. He yawned widely, but then instead of
settling down to sleep, he glared at us with a scowl on his face.
When he heard our cameras clicking he bared his teeth and gave an
angry snarl. Gee immediately told us to stop what we were doing,
and instructed us not to talk, move or take photos. The leopard
snarled again, and Gee quickly drove away. He wanted to give the
leopard his privacy, and not take a chance of provoking him to
attack. Gee said if the leopard became agitated enough he might
even attack us in the truck.
A family of side-striped jackals lounged in the shade of a
tree, parents with two half-grown youngsters. One at a time the
adults got up and walked away, but soon they turned and trotted
toward us, coming back for the kids. The young ones got up and
followed them. They had long lanky legs and impressively long bushy tails, and moved
with easy grace. Again, I was reminded of coyotes. Their appeal
was quite different from the foxlike black-backed jackals.
By now I had come up with yet another version of the
leopard limerick, which I shared with the group as we drove:
leopards is really a treat-a
Finding ten is hard to beat-a
Believe it or not
They are hard to spot
But now we’d gladly trade for a cheetah.
The morning clouds had burned off and the sun was out; we
were under a blue sky with a few puffy white clouds. We drove a
loop around Marula Island; Gee told us he had never been there
before, as it is usually too flooded to drive to. We were excited
to see a part of the park Gee had not been to.
The marula trees for which the
area is named bear a fruit that Amarula liquor is made from; this
is a sweet creamy liqueur reminiscent of Bailey’s. Elephants
also enjoy the fruit of the marula tree, and baboons have been
known to get drunk off of it when it ferments. The ebony trees
were also prevalent, distinctive with their near-black trunks. We
had our tea under a spreading ebony tree, and watched the baboons
strolling by. Gee showed us a map of Moremi, but we couldn’t
really tell where we had been.
As we continued on, a wood hoopoe flew beside the land
cruiser for a few seconds. We saw a Brown-hooded Kingfisher, a new
one for us. A Black Coucal perched on a twig; this was a variety
we had not seen before, quite different from the coppery-tailed or
Senegal. A pair of elegant wattled cranes made their way across
crossed a very barren area with lots of elephant-killed trees.
There were no water holes here. We spent some time watching a
mother warthog with two babies. Remembering that Gee said they
almost always have four in a litter, we wondered what ate the
There were a few zebras scattered about. We noted their
varying stripe patterns - each one is unique. One of them turned
his round rump toward us, as they are wont to do; with thin
horizontal stripes on the top of his tail and a black bushy swish
below, it reminded me of a horse with a nicely braided tail.
We came across another group of
zebras, and we saw that one of them was very lame; he could hardly
put any weight on one front leg. Sadly, being unable to run away,
he would probably soon be a lion’s dinner.
We completed the circuit and came back to Dead Tree Island
around noon. We sat by the large, beautiful lagoon and watched the
hippos. A dominant male ran through his now-familiar intimidation
tactics, raising his head high out of the water and stretching his
jaws impossibly wide. We could clearly see the inside of his pink
fleshy mouth, with large teeth protruding out of his gums in
seemingly random patterns.
Crocs floated lazily in the water, and water birds lined
the shore. From where we sat, we could see Egyptian geese,
white-faced ducks, black herons, blacksmith lapwings, Green
Shanks, Black-winged Stilts and several varieties of egrets, just
for a start – there were surely others I have missed recording.
A pair of Water Thick-knees walked along the shore; these are
stilt-like birds with long legs and enormous eyes. I think thick-knees is a stupid name for a bird!
On the way back to camp we passed an impala day care
center. There were half a dozen babies with one mom, lying under
an arching log. Another adult female was nearby. We saw a tiny
lizard on a tree trunk, I think Gee called it a tarasale.
We came back to camp, and BD and KK were waiting for us as
usual with fruity drinks and moist towels. We had lunch and
showered. Around camp, a Bennet’s woodpecker pecked his way up a
tree trunk, while a green wood hoopoe flitted through the high
branches. A tree squirrel ran up and down to join in the fun.
Green Wood Hoopoe
In the afternoon we went back out at 2:35. On the way out
of camp we stopped to look at the monarch butterflies. A pair of
them landed on my jacket; I think they were mating.
We swung by Jessie’s Pools. Groups of impala and baboons
come down to the edge to drink. A big croc floated just off shore.
As always, there were lots of birds. A hadeda ibis and a Common
Sandpiper stood by the shoreline, and a goliath heron waded in the
water. A fish eagle looked down on us from a tree and let out his
signature mournful cry. We went by and checked the tree where the
ranger had shown us the leopard with her cub, but they were not
We stopped by the campsite of a guide from another company;
Gee was dropping off a container of transmission fluid for him.
Compared to our camp, theirs was smaller and less
comfortable. Their vehicle was smaller, and when they traveled all of their gear was stored on the seats between passengers,
making it very cramped. They slept in tiny pup tents. But the most
remarkable thing we noticed was their bathroom: it consisted of a
canvas wash basin, a roll of toilet paper, and a shovel.
Then we headed to Paradise Pools. I remembered this name
from our first trip – the blackboard at the gate where people
record notable sightings had said ‘Leopard
at Paradise Pools.’ That phrase had been so full of romance
As we were driving along, there
was a sudden flurry of motion and something bombed into a puddle
in front of us with a huge splash, and then flew up into tree. It
was a woodland kingfisher, and he perched on a limb where we could
get a good look at him, his baby blue wing feathers shining bright
in the sunlight.
A wet Woodland Kingfisher, after a bath in a puddle.
Paradise Pools is a beautiful area. A network of pools sit
amidst a forest of tall trees, more thickly wooded than most of
the areas we had been. Driving through the dappled shade, it felt
like we were in an enchanted forest. Suddenly Gee called out the
by now familiar phrase, “Look at the leopard!” Number eleven!
Unbelievable. This one was a young female, high in a tree, lying
on a branch sleeping. It was a good spot by Gee; she was hard to
The leopardess lifted her head and yawned, and then looked
straight at us. She was exquisite, very feminine with delicate
features. She had golden eyes. I have noticed that the female
leopards seem to be noticeably prettier than the males.
She stood up and stretched,
sharpened her claws on the branch, and then yawned some more. She
flopped back down for a moment like she was going back to sleep,
but then she sat up again, and after a bit more claw sharpening
she got to her feet. She stood on a small knot on the side of the
trunk for a few moments, then carefully bounded down the trunk
head first and leaped out of the tree.
On my first safari back in 1994 I had been lucky enough to
see a leopard climb down out of a tree; I had hoped for another
such chance ever since. And now we had gotten to see it three
times! One thing was
for sure; the leopard talisman was still working. I wanted to go
back to the gate and record ‘Leopard
at Paradise Pools’ on the sighting board. But for now I
would just redo the limerick. I came up with:
leopards are getting out of hand.
We’ve seen eleven in trees and on land
We should not have to delve
Too far to make twelve
Because for Gee they appear on command.
Eleven leopards. Pretty unbelievable. We said it was almost
enough to do a calendar, with a leopard photo for each month.
We moved on through Paradise Pools. Reeds grew along the
edge of the water, and many of the pools were thick with lily
pads. We came to an area of huge dead trees, killed when changes
in the Delta waters had caused the area to flood.
An African darter perched on a
fallen tree, and a jacana waded at the edge of a pool. Go away, the petulant voice of a go-away bird admonished us from the
treetops. A beautiful African Hoopoe landed in the grass beside
the vehicle. This distinctive bird had a reddish body with bands
of black and white on his wings, a long curved bill, and a perky
topknot of reddish feathers with black spots.
A dead tree stood in a small pool, and there were about 300
weaver’s nests hanging from its limbs. Gee told us that nests
are built in a tree surrounded by water so that predators such as
genets can’t get to them. The weaver birds were clinging to the
nests, singing and dancing as they weaved. It was an amazing
sight. There were two types, Southern Masked Weavers and Village
Weavers, and they looked almost exactly alike. Both were bright
yellow, and the males had black masks.
Gee explained that the male weavers were doing the
building, and trying to attract a mate by showing off what a good
nest he had made. The nests were round, tightly woven, with a tidy
entrance hole at the bottom. Some of the birds had nearly finished
their nests and others were just starting. As they were building
the male weavers did a courtship dance; they hung upside-down from
the nests, beating their wings, swinging back and forth and
singing as loud as they could to attract the attention of the
But the amazing thing was that hundreds of male weavers
were all singing and dancing at the same time. The tree was
fluttering with hundreds of flapping wings, and the voices of all
the courting weavers singing rose up in a jubilant din. Every so
often, as if by signal, they would all suddenly fly away – and
then soon they would return and resume the courtship dance. We
watched for a long time. It was crazy.
I am sure the female weavers were
very impressed by this amazing display. I expect that they could
hardly wait to choose a mate, go in his nest and lay their eggs.
But I did wonder why the entrances to the nests appeared to be at
the bottom; wouldn’t the eggs fall out?
We stopped by a larger pool where hippos floated, but by
then a storm seemed to be blowing in, and it was time to go. As we
drove back toward camp we skirted along the little airstrip and
watched an impressive storm in the distance, with much lightning
and thunder. My attempts to photograph the lightning were
unsuccessful. The stormy clouds made the evening sky very dark. We
surprised an elephant standing in the brush beside the road, hard
to see in the dim light.
We heard hyenas and leopards in
the night, our last night in Moremi.