It ended up being a remarkably fortuitous morning as we had started our drive early to look for black rhinos. I drove to all areas with the habitats that black rhinos prefer – areas with shrubs and trees and dense thickets, but with no joy.
The Binya Road is a road that stretches from the northern to southern part of our reserve and is used to enter Gonarezhou National Park. The road can be busy with public vehicles accessing the park and we usually avoid it on game drives, but I needed to travel it for a short distance to access another area closer to the river.
On the Binya Road I saw what appeared to be a large walking boulder and reminded myself that boulders don’t walk! I could feel the excitement in my vehicle but it was also full of fear. It was a black rhino, and it was casually walking towards us as I stopped the vehicle at a distance and switched off the engine. I thought it was going to run away, but I was surprised by its nonchalant behaviour. Black rhinos have a reputation of being extremely aggressive, and readily charge at perceived threats, and will not hesitate to charge even when one is in the confines of a vehicle.
It was a brilliant sighting and photo opportunity. When he got within a couple of metres of the vehicle he contemplated us for what seemed an eternity, and then curled his upper lip and gave a few puffing snorts. I knew it was time to go and as I started the engine he turned, with his head low, ears flattened and tail raised and cantered off into the thick bushes.
By referencing his ear notches our Conservation team let us know he is a 13 year-old bull referred to as Tsonzo, and from his previously recorded movement he is normally seen near the Chiredzi River, which is where we were heading.
A call crackled over the radio that the tracking team had found the River Pride on a buffalo kill near Hwata Pan. “Bonanza!” I thought. Not only because this would provide good photo opportunities of lions feeding in relatively open area, and the clean-up crew of hyenas and vultures that would make no bones of the carcass over the next few days, but mainly because Hwata Pan is where we have our sunken photo hide, and the lions would have to go and drink there at some stage during the feeding frenzy. I’ve waited for 10 years to get a shot of a predator drinking at eye level to me from this hide – could this be the chance at last?
The Malilangwe Dam is an amazing fishing destination. The most sought out species are tigerfish and tilapia.The best times of the year for fishing is when the water is warm – a good reminder is good fishing months all have an “r” in them from September to April. That said, we have still been enjoying some great fishing now in May – all the photos in this story are from early May.
It is most satisfying watching elephants enjoying a mud bath! It starts off with the approaching walk, an elephant has when making his/her way to the water source. To describe it, I would have to say it’s an excited, exaggerated, fast walk while bobbing their heads up and down and to the sides at the same time. We call it ‘the water walk’. Even for the novice person you can pick up the excitement of the elephant looking forward to a thirst-quenching cool drink, usually followed by refreshing mud bath.
I was camped out again, on my favourite dam wall that offers a good vantage point and a relatively safe refuge from the vehicle. I was trying to tell myself that really it was an afternoon of birding – just sitting quietly with binos and a bird book and trying to ID whatever came along, and enjoying the isolation and peace. But really what I wanted and hoped and wished for was a solitary black rhino.