Walking in general is good for your health so you find that most people love it, but they don’t take it to the lengths I do. The most exhilarating part for me when I am walking is that all of my senses function at their extreme, and this is when I completely connect with nature.
Many people think that if they encounter big game on foot they’ll get injured or even killed, but these wild animals out here know instinctively that there is an animal called the human being who is the most dangerous to them, and has been so for thousands of years. So, to be safe out here all you need to do is completely respect each other, and in doing so you can enjoy the wilderness and wildlife without any problem.
The best time to walk is in the morning when it is still cool, and all the big game are very calm and not stressed from the heat. We take walks throughout the whole year, but because of the thick bushes during the rainy season we select more specific open areas. Walking in the morning is just like someone reading a newspaper – most of the tracks from last night are still visible in the early morning light, and insects are still cold and motionless, so you can get to identify them easily. At the moment, after an evening of rain, we’ve been seeing the fantastic bright red velvet mites.
For my tracker and me walking is part of our diet – with or without guests. Our favourite moments are taking in all those sweet fragrances – they are just amazing, and once you know them you need to experience them regularly in your life. What I have noticed is that walking improves your sense of smell so much that even if a lion or leopard is nearby you can detect its scent before you get too close to the animal.
I got the courage of walking in the morning from my mother – she always says that walking in the dew in the morning is healthy as it makes your body get strong and grow young. What a secret of life she’s shared with me – and maybe it’s why I am taking time to age!
It is always a pleasure to visit Hwata hide, especially during the late afternoon as a number of wildlife species trickle in for a drink. On this very day we were fortunate enough to be rewarded as we had sat in the hide for close to an hour without any signs of wildlife coming in, due to the availability of water at the natural pans; but then we saw a dominant elephant bull arrive.
This was without a shadow of a doubt, one of my best wildlife experiences ever, and I’m going to share it with you from my own perspective, as I was all alone. I’d headed out to my favourite refuge on the reserve, Lojaan Dam. It’s a dam at the foot of a sandstone outcrop, and it holds an enchantment all its own. There’s a dam wall and the water in front of it had receded leaving a patchwork of dry cracked mud. I parked the vehicle behind a rocky area, took my heavy fixed 400 mm lens and camera, and a weighty sandbag, and climbed over the rocks and on to the dam wall.
It was the usual morning routine of not knowing what we are going to see out there, but the moment you board those beautiful open vehicles your heart is full of joy in knowing that you are going to meet Mother Nature at close quarters. After an early morning cup of Zimbabwe’s finest coffee your eyes are wide open and looking through thick bushes for any movements, especially those of the illusive spotted cats. We went through Banyini open plains and there was lots of plains game, a crash of white rhinos and plentiful birdlife.
I hope you’ve already eaten.
While watching a pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) sleeping near a waterhole in the drizzling rain I noticed a few hooded vultures (Necrosyrtes monachus) skulking about on the ground. Every now and again they would peck at something and eat it, and I wondered what it was since vultures are scavengers, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. You often see them cleaning up the scraps of meat from a kill made by wild dogs. The dogs hadn’t made a kill nearby, and so it was that my binos and big lens revealed they were eating the wild dogs’ faeces!