Botswana safari plus, day seven
08.07.2018 - 08.07.2018
Stalking elephants on Sausage Island
Dining area from the deck
Note the Greater Blue-eared Starling bottom left
Our morning activity today was another nature walk with Slade and Bones, this time on Sausage Island (named for the sausage trees that grow there, not for the meat!) After our light early breakfast we set off in the motor boat for the ride to the island. It was a little less cold than yesterday, probably because there was more cloud cover overnight. But the sun was breaking through the clouds and the light was as lovely as ever.
Early morning at the jetty
The other motor boat setting out
We landed and Slade loaded his rifle, as he had done yesterday. Then we looked around and almost immediately saw an elephant in the distance, among some trees. A couple more appeared, one of them a youngster, which confirmed for Slade that this was a breeding herd of females. I set the camera on full zoom and grabbed some photos, assuming this was the closest we could get on foot.
Sausage Island panorama
The distant line of trees is where the elephants were
Zoomed-in shot of an elephant
But Slade proposed taking a circuitous route through a shaded area to get closer to them without being seen. We set off through the long grass till we reached a couple of trees that would help to hide us. There we stopped to take photos - lots of photos! We realised that there were several very young babies in the herd, so small that they could barely be seen above the tall grass!
Female with little calf
And one with an older calf
Have they noticed us?
Landscape with elephants
This shot isn't zoomed - it shows the distance between us and the elephants, visible near the centre of the photo
After a while Bones noticed another elephant off to our left. It was a bull and Slade said he was quite likely checking out the herd of females to see if any were on heat. We were rather in his path, so it was time to retreat!
The bull elephant approaching
Back at some distance from the herd we could see that the bull turned away again, so we were able to continue our walk round the island.
We soon came across a large group of red lechwe, with more on the far side of the channel we were walking along. Many of those on our side, spooked by something (possibly us) started to cross the water to reach the others. It was interesting to see them run, with their longer back legs helping them to spring forwards. Lechwe are adapted to live in marshy areas and use the knee-deep water as protection from predators. These longer hind legs make it easier for them to run in the water.
On the far side of the lagoon
In the water
Line of lechwe crossing the lagoon
We continued our walk, with Slade stopping regularly to show us something of interest - the feather of an owl or of a guinea fowl, the bones of a hippo, the footprints of an elephant or lechwe, and even dung!
Slade with the kudu dung
It was surprising how much he could tell us about the latter - not only which animal had produced it but also what it told him about their eating habits. This is kudu, for instance, and he explained that here in the Okavango their dung is moist and clumps together, whereas in drier environments, such as in Namibia, the animals have to retain all the moisture they can, so their dung is dry and won’t stick together.
We saw a variety of birds, including this African Green Pigeon (who knew pigeons could be green?!) and a Red-billed Hornbill.
Green Pigeon, and Red-billed Hornbill
Then we came across another solitary bull elephant, eating among some dead tree trunks and branches, the consequence of elephant activity (they knock them down to get at the fresh green leaves near the top). Unlike the females we had seen earlier, he clearly knew we were there, but obviously decided we didn’t pose any threat, so carried on eating while we took his photo.
We finished our circuit of the island, returned to the boat and had some drinks before starting back to the lodge. On the way we came across a mother elephant with her baby, down by the water’s edge.
The mother elephant
They retreated as we approached, but not before we had grabbed a few photos, although unfortunately the calf was so hidden in the papyrus he was impossible to capture properly.
Retreating mother and baby
Back at the lodge
We were welcomed back by the staff, as usual, and went back to the room to freshen up before brunch. The bed had again been beautifully decorated in our absence.
Another day, another bed decoration
We enjoyed a relaxing meal (the mini impala pies were good, although I couldn’t help thinking about the many beautiful ones I had photographed in Chobe!) and a quiet afternoon. We spent some of the time sitting out on our deck overlooking the lagoon, and were amazed when two swallows landed on the railing just inches from where I sat and stayed for several minutes tweeting occasionally but seeming completely comfortable with my presence. I have no photos - I barely dared to breathe and certainly not reach for my camera!
But I did get a not especially good photo of one near the main building - it seems from my research that these are Lesser Striped Swallows. I also caught a pair of White-fronted Bee Eaters there - another new species for me, but again the light was tricky and the shot not great.
Lesser Striped Swallow, and White-fronted Bee Eaters
And the young crocodile who seems to be living under the lodge decking - we saw him there every day.
Another mokoro ride
We had a choice of final activity this afternoon. Areti and Glen opted for a fishing trip while Donna, Steve, Chris and I wanted to have a second ride in the mokoros. When we set out on the motor boat ride that preceded it the weather was a bit dull - it even looked as if it might rain. Perhaps because of this we saw fewer birds than yesterday, but there were a couple of Jacanas, some Green Pigeons and a pair of Grey Go Away Birds.
Green Pigeon, and Grey Go-away Bird
As we got to the mokoro landing spot the sun broke through the clouds. There was a kudu on the nearby airstrip - a real bonus!
Kudu on the airstrip
We had a wonderful ride in our mokoro, perhaps even better than yesterday’s. The light was beautiful, with a dramatic sky reflected on waters that looked like liquid silver. As well as the photos (sorry, too many I know, but I did weed heavily!) I again shot some video footage to try to capture the sound of the birds and the motion of the boat.
Papyrus, late afternoon glow
Late afternoon mokoro ride
Last evening on Xugana Island
We joined the fishing party for sundowners just in time to catch a pretty pink sunset.
Another Okavango sunset
We returned to the lodge to finish our drinks by the campfire. Then it was time for our last dinner at Xugana Island.
As it was our final night, our group of six was given the special treat of dinner on the floating platform, although we all voted to stay moored to the shore where it was warmer. I wasn’t sure how comfortable an evening we would have, but with hot water bottles on our laps it was surprisingly cosy, although eating lamb chops in the almost-darkness was a challenge! But it was a really good evening with lots of chat and laughter to round off our time here.