Whata Pan has become a hot spot for every guide these days. Sitting inside the cool sunken photo hide or stopping nearby for sundowners is so rewarding. With the high temperature we are experiencing this month lots of animals like elephants, rhinos, buffalos, plains game and sometimes lions and other predators come to drink. By mid-morning and late afternoon Whata is ‘pumping’ as we say, with different species of animals coming for a drink and mud bath. Animals like warthogs, impalas and black-backed jackals are nervous when they approach the waterhole – they are even spooked by flying birds. They sometimes walk in circles sniffing the air checking for scent from predators, they take ages before they drink, and if they are not comfortable they leave without drinking. Jackals will take a few licks and lift their heads checking for danger. Different species of beautiful birds come to drink and the small ones erupt in different directions when a hawk flies over. The heavyweights at the waterhole are undoubtedly the bull elephants, but a pecking order exists among them whereby the bigger older bulls hold more sway.
A young bull quenches his thirst, but a larger bull soon approaches to muscle in.
As the larger bull arrives and starts to drink, the younger one tentatively reaches out to it with his trunk in a friendly submissive gesture. In return for his good manners he gets squirted with water!
The both leave the area as companions, escorted by turtle doves.
We were on an early morning drive on the Bhanyini plains and were watching the two cheetah brothers scouring the area. There were lots of wildebeest with their young calves about and nearby was a bachelor herd of zebra. As the cheetahs took up positions to hunt a calf one of the zebra stallion kept blocking their view.
It was during our morning drive that we came across fresh tracks of the wild dogs in the Nhoro area, on the northern side of the reserve. The tracks told us they were moving in a southerly direction, and with the sun already heating during this time of the day we knew that it would not be long before they would take a rest in an area that has some water and shade. The tracks kept on heading south and we thought that with plenty of water at Sosiji Dam this could be the area they were heading. But, to our surprise, there was no sign of them there.
The temperature was very high, above 40 degrees Celsius, and so I decided that afternoon to sit and wait quietly in the shade with my guests at Lojaan Dam. Lojaan is one of my favourite places on the property. The scenery is amazing, and this area with its hills, drainage lines and thick bush is the right habitat for buffaloes and black rhino.
Sitting in Hwata blind (our sunken photographic hide) is an incredible way to wait for animals to come and drink, especially when the heat beats down on the earth and scorches the last bit of moisture out of almost everything. At this time of the year one can sit in the blind and always have something to watch, from the endless amount of doves that just seem to keep coming to drink, to the almost resident impalas around the open areas of the pan. It’s always great to see this action, but of course the action that we all hope for is the arrival of the bigger pachyderms.