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November 2009 Bush Blog

This is our last night in our camp for 2009 and it feels a little weird...

We just said goodbyes to Lisa - our last guest for the year - this morning after what was one of the most incredible walks we have had all year. In the fever tree forest near camp we came across a male waterbuck, or rather half a male waterbuck... his back-end was no more thanks no doubt to the hungry jaws of the crocodiles and lions whose fresh footprints (and slither marks) we found all around the carcass.  No predator was at home though. Although there were a dozen or so vultures (White-headed and White-backed mostly) hanging around the area. We had stumbled across the lion component of the kill the evening before on our night drive (a rather wet one in a huge rainstorm). Judging by the tracks, the lions made the kill and then the nearby crocs in the river came up to help them finish it off. Interestingly, after 2 different sets of predators and a bunch of vultures had finished with the waterbuck, his front end was not touched. This reinforces the thought that waterbuck have strong glands in their chest which secrete a musk used for their coats, but which also ruins the meat if broken. I have now seen this careful ‘butchering’ enough times to think it must be true.

On following up on the croc tracks we discovered that one of our guys had had a double whammy, following up on his waterbuck with a rather spiky dessert of porcupine. The remnants of quills and other porcupine bits made for gruesome viewing. It is hard to imagine a crocodile coming across a porcupine and the ensuing fight - must have been quite an evening... pity we missed it all but the story in the signs is sometimes as good as the real thing. Or at least one’s imagination can make it better! As it happened that was not all the crocodile contact we were to have on our walk, as a little further down the river we came across newly hatching crocodiles from two nests in the sandy riverbank above a water-lettuce covered pool. There must have been 50 newborn baby crocodiles slithering around on top of the lettuce, real little mini-me’s of their mums. Mums were luckily nowhere to be seen, obviously taking an underwater break from their heavy job of collecting all the youngsters and carrying them down to the pond in their mouths. Still, it was quite a sight and made me, for the first time in a long time, think that crocodiles could in fact be cute – in a scary kind of way.

As we have been packing up our camp (our little baby!) we have been just amazed at how far things have come in only one short year. Our staff are just brilliant in every way and considering that most have not had real employment before this and none had any history of tourism or hospitality, it is just mind-blowing how much they have been able to achieve - just goes to show that you absolutely cannot replace sheer hard-work and enthusiasm.

Another aspect that we have been thinking about during this week is how cool it is that our camp sites get to have 5 months break from us. I really believe one’s impact is so much more noticeable when you tread lightly – sounds Irish, but it’s true. If we had a ‘regular’ lodge I don’t think we would realise our day-to-day wear and tear on our surroundings. As we were running around with tents and wheelbarrows today, our resident Trogon was hooting away at us from the far bank: no doubt a little put out at not being the centre of attention for the next few months. She’s got quite used to super-zoom lenses and gaping onlookers – our very own Paris Hilton.

On the subject of pretty things: the thing that has us most confused at the moment is why Gorongosa saves its best dress for its finale show. After the recent thunderstorms (& plenty of cats, dogs and other falling objects), the grass is all green and flush yet still short after the October burns. The animals are simply loving the manicured lawns and birds of every variety are going nuts for the newly spawning tadpoles, crocodiles, rodents and reptiles. Flocks of 30-plus Crowned Cranes mixed in with visiting White Storks compete with giant swarms of Open-bills at the temporary post-storm pans. The bush now is far busier than the streets of central London Jos & I were wondering through last week after a very successful World Travel Market - although we went from freezing in the UK to frying in Mozambique in the space of 20 hours. We are now torn between spending more time in the cooler climate after next year’s WTM or rushing back to what we believe is Gorongosa’s secret season, but having to deal with the extreme heat and wet and muddy thunderstorms. It really is a pickle that is truly... African.

So in the spirit of African pickles and other such mysteries of life, may we take this opportunity to thank all those who came to join us at Explore Gorongosa this year, and we look forward to your return soon. To those that have not been out to visit us – what on earth is wrong with you..?! If you would like to come out and join us in 2010, please This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Happy festive seasons to you all - we will stay in touch and look forward to returning to our lovely Gorongosa in the new year, refreshed and renewed for a busy 2010.
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