Hwange National Park Game Count 2014
Somalisa 2014 Game Count
By Katarina Maksimović
A few weeks ago, my companion and I had the pleasure of partaking in the 24 hour Annual Zimbabwe Wildlife Consensus (“The Game Count”) organised by Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ). We were assigned to African Bushcamps Somalisa Camp, situated on a private concession the eastern side of Hwange National Park.
This charming and authentic bushcamp lies nestled in a grove of camelthorn acacia, overlooking an ancient, dried-up watercourse known as the Somalisa Vlei. The dry and dusty heat of the day was paralleled by the chill that settled into the vlei as the night grew thicker. Usually the game count is organised mid-September over the full moon period, which works to our advantage – especially when trying to tally the impossible: the numbers of elephant at night (the grey ghosts of the African bush).
Day or night these majestic giants came through consistently, attracted by the allure of water. Preferably the sweet borehole water of the pool, opposed to that of the muddy waterhole. What a sublime experience, being able to sit just a few metres away from full breeding herds with elephant calves just 2-3 weeks old shadowing their mothers, adolescents mock charging each other, the joy of hearing water sloshing about as the ele quenched their thirst.
Despite the camelthorn trees around camp being a favourite with giraffe, we only spotted one male, too shy to near the watering hole seeing as it was was overridden with trumpeting elephant. A myriad of birdlife livened the scene, especially as the ferocious sun neared the horizon cooling things down for all of us.
Our night was fairly peaceful, that is to say until a pack of six hyena came howling into camp. Thirsty and ready to start the night’s activities, they raced around, trying to edge into the pan of elephant. The elephant did not take to the new guests very well. Some “argy-bargy” between the two groups finally ended with the hyena securing a quick drink at the watering hole and moving on. The rest of the night was quiet at our pan, except for a few jackals later on in the night. However, we did hear the roaring of lion in the distance.
After a spectacular sunrise, the morning was met with a herd of buffalo 180 strong, in tight formation coming in for a drink. Later we discovered that the lion we had heard calling in the distance had taken two buffalo of that herd during the early hours of the morning: a mother and a calf. When the 24 hours of game counting had passed, we drove off to return to Main Camp: tired but incredibly fulfilled. 3kms into that stretch of driving (just near Somalisa Pan), under the shade of an acacia we found the lion (1 male, 4 female) having a midday siesta, satiated to the point of bursting with the carcasses of the 2 buffalo to their left.
Thank you to the African Bush Camps team at Somalisa. What a surreal experience, the first of many game counts yet to come!