It has been three weeks since we arrived from Venetia camp to Karongwe; joined by five new volunteers and such a lot has happened! We are a mixed group from across the globe (USA, UK, Australia, Switzerland, Spain, The Netherlands, Germany and France), and are getting along famously; especially after bonding over home-brewed beverages! So far we have seen so much wildlife here in Karongwe and are enjoying it immensely. We have been tracking the resident lion pride and had awesome sightings of them stalking prey, on a kill, chasing giraffe and getting amorous. There is nothing quite like hearing a full grown male lion roar right next to your vehicle (or while asleep in your bed for that matter). The other main focus animals are the male cheetah coalition, Jabu and Djuma, who we have been lucky enough to get very close to as we can walk into the bush near to them, guided by our reliable rifle slinging South African; Dawie (pronounced “Dar-Vee”)!
By far the most entertaining animals for me have been the local clan of spotted hyena who are always up to no good. One morning, the lucky Marga (from the Netherlands) actually found one helping itself to our leftovers in the kitchen around 5am, just after we’d left for morning drive! They have also been seen sloping around the camp at night and we had a very close encounter during a sleep out under the stars in a nearby river bed. It was a fantastic evening made further memorable by various hyenas visiting us twice during the night. For most of us, the first we knew of their visit was loud shouts and swearing from those who were on watch duty!
I would say that we have been very lucky with our sightings of wildlife; having seen a few of that very elusive creature the leopard, brown hyena, the endangered ground hornbill, three badass honey badgers, a wildcat with kitten and a porcupine. I’ll never forget how Dawie was just telling us how he’d never heard a giraffe before as it is such a rare occurrence, and lo and behold one of the giraffe herd in front of us proceeded to utter their strange cough-like vocalisation! Besides these rarities, the more common wildlife is just as entertaining. There is now an abundance of insects after the rains, with hilarious consequences during mealtimes by lantern light. You are guaranteed the odd scream as they land in your food or hair, and don’t get me started on the menace that is alcoholic moths! The herds of impala with their newborn lambs is also a treat to see when they are practicing their jumping skills, and so far I have been subjected to threatening displays from a cute baby elephant and a baby hippo. Somehow I don’t think that “Awwww” was the reaction they wanted!
As well as all the wildlife sightings, our time here would not be as enjoyable without the GVI staff that do their utmost to keep the rabble entertained. We have had some awesome outings, including Khamai Reptile Park where I got to feed a chameleon from my mouth (and got attacked by two bad tempered blue and gold macaws), to a local school at Diputhi where we got “attacked” by small and very excitable children, and also Daktari; the animal orphanage and education center where we were also attacked (nibbled) by their hand reared squirrels! So much fun to be had!
Above all I think it’s safe to say that we have all had lots of laughs here too. From Kaggie’s remarkable impressions of the Hadeda Ibis (you have to YouTube it!), to the not so remarkable impressions of roaring lions, from myself and Laura from Leeds, there has been an abundance of animal noises. Then there has been the universal love felt for our man from the Basque country, Pedro! I think by now we have all become a bit too comfortable with each other as passing of wind is a common occurrence, much to the hilarity of (not always) the younger members of the group! There is so much to write about, but I shall hopefully be contributing again soon following to my exciting trip to the mountains, where capturing small mammals and “frogging” is a regular occurrence…
Volunteer Nov – Dec 2011