acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Monday, November 15, 2010

birds eye view

We have been doing a lot of travelling this past month. Apart from the usual road hours - sometimes 11 hours at a stretch - we have been extremely fortunate to take some aerial journeys accross some of the most pristine wild country in southern Africa.

Firstly, leaving camp in Selinda, we flew in the empty supply plane back to Maun. This flight over  part of the Okavango Delta must be one of the most beautiful scenic flights in the world. It is mesmerising to watch the meandering arms of the delta waters bringing life to the desert heartland.  The patterns it weaves are interlaced with paths made by wildlife trekking from feeding grounds to water.  The way the paths converge on a waterhole, or favoured drinking spot, create further natural abstract designs.  It is landscape as it meant itself to be.

Here are some sights that birds see on their migration paths.

the name of this river translates to 'Snake'

meandering arms of delta waters form oxbows and islands in kalahari sand

diminishing waterholes in the dry hinterland threaded with game paths; this one has a yin-yang symbol

delta overview - big country for wildlife

if we ever needed reminding that water is life - here is proof!

palm islands in a sea of swampy watergrass

mosaic in shades of green

approaching Maun - tourist capital of Ngamiland
where we became terrestrial again

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

queens of darkness

A hyena lies at the edge of a muddy waterhole.  She is grubby looking, her fur filled with ash from the recent grass fire that swept through the savannah woodlands.  She raises her head looking left and right, drinking the scents on the wind.  Her deep set eyes do not sparkle with life like other creatures, yet they are alive.  They look like deep dark holes - an abyss into which you could fall forever. One can only imagine the horror scenes they record at every nocturnal kill.  The eyes are portals to store experience in the library of the brain.  With each fresh kill more skills are learned, stored, referred back to when needed.

 Her fur is matted and short, the spots stubbornly showing through the ash brown mud that clings to her.  Around her mouth pieces of last nights meal cling to the fur, all now a uniform unrecognisable brown.  I imagine the smell of her breath close to my face as the last thing i might smell in this life.

She is not pretty in our terms. The rules are different here.  Hyena pups can be pretty and endearing - they look like fun to hang out with.  A mature male or female however, shows no such charm.  It is important for them to clan, to find acceptance among each other.  Females are generally larger than the males.  To add to their strangeness female genitalia closely resembles that of the males. They are not apparently hermaphroditic as has been suggested before, but it does get confusing.  Nearby a sister is sleeping, her distended belly resting in the depression made by an elephants foot when the mud was wet. Symbiosis. Elephants are kind to their neighbours.

The alpha females stands and starts to move off into the tree line.  She moves with powerful grace; head down shoulders high - her stride surefooted and strong.  Hyenas are in their own niche in the world of species. Somewhere between a pit bull terrier and a wolf.  They hold the power of the night and every thought that makes you uneasy.  Like the executioners in days of old - its just her job.

Legends abound too - in this area, if you see a hyena go past with a man riding on its back, its your time to die. Technically this would probably be quite difficult as their hind legs are somewhat shorter than their forelegs and they are not that tall - he would have to be small. But still - watch out at night and in your dreams.