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October 2010 Bush Blog

 October 2010
Oneness Inspired

October has been known as suicide month or murder month in these parts due to the incredible heat experienced late in the dry season before the first rains come in to wash everything clean and cool again.  It’s a dry heat but it is still pretty stifling.  So much so that you sometimes wonder how anything can live and thrive in such a place.  And yet...

And yet October is also one of the more interesting months in the world of wildlife, as many a seasoned safari-goer will attest to.  But more on that a little bit later...  For now, the upright-walking two-leggeds are attracting more of our attention in Gorongosa, which is strange but true.

In what was perhaps a personal highlight for us at Explore Gorongosa this year, we were really happy to host Ken Tinley at camp for a couple of days around the beginning of the month.  (For those who don’t know, Ken Tinley completed what is probably the seminal work on Gorongosa’s ecology in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  He and his wife, Lynne, lived in Gorongosa at Chitengo for nearly 6 years as he completed his thesis in the Framework of Gorongosa’s Ecosystem. This tome has been reproduced and bound by Greg and is in our library for some lazy afternoon reading.)


Anyway, Ken came to visit the park again after almost 15 years away on invitation from the park management and ourselves, and he seemed really pleased with some of the changes and increases in wildlife numbers in that time.  He was one of the first to return to Gorongosa after the civil war ended and as part of an initial evaluation team in 1995 on the state of Mozambique’s parks and reserves.  One can imagine the scene confronting him at that time was hugely different to that he found on this visit.  Ken was joined in the park by Dave Varty of Londolozi (as Ken had been instrumental in developing there award-winning ecological management programme in the 1970s) and so it was a great occasion for Greg and these truly revered names in African ecology to sit around a dinner table at Explore Gorongosa together.  Needless to say, Ken took us on a walk to some of the key areas within our operating area from a land management perspective.  He showed us how alluvial plugs can be slowed, how erosion leading to land dehydration can be controlled, and how beautiful our park is when seen from a more holistic perspective. 


He definitely reinforced our key philosophy of healing: the land, the wildlife, the people (and you of course, when you come to stay with us!).  Being the first ones in here is a great privilege but it is also comes with a sense of responsibility to be some sort of yardstick in the ongoing restoration story in Gorongosa. His stay included some time on drive and on foot where we joined a large herd of sable and played with the baboons around the last remaining water holes.  Whilst sharing a fireside didgeridoo session with Ken (he is now Australia based), Ken encouraged to us to help develop permaculture practices (conservation agriculture) around the mountain in order to save this precious resource now part of the national park.  We said "okay", he said "great", the didgeridoo said "bwow-wow-wow-wow-bwow-wow" and all of a sudden the world was a better place.  What an inspiration Ken (not to mention Lynne's amazing ink line sketches of the area) is to us!

Ken teaching us how to didgeridoo around the camp fire

And great ecologists were not the only thing inspiring us at Explore Gorongosa this month, the wildlife viewing has been pretty good all in all, and I guess the key is the fact that it is so dry.  This means that all known beasts and birds are making a bee-line for the remaining water (bzzzz).  So, with a wee tweak or two to the daily program, one can actually see more species in the early morning and late afternoon than at other times of the year, before whiling away the hotter part of the day in a hammock in the shade back in camp or with a cold beer at the refreshing pool at Park HQ.  Sightings of herds of over 100 elephant in October were common, especially around the Albida forests on the floodplain edge (the emotional support required to get through the heat & dry means that the smaller herds start grouping up in larger clan herds at this time to work together in finding fresh water sources and good feeding grounds).  On the lion front we had some great viewings of the two young boys (Splif & Splof) who together with their mum, Tripod the Younger, are doing well and seemingly growing up fast – they already have the classic Abe Lincoln lamb chops on their cheeks and the very beginnings of a beard.  Lion-girls are going to start paying these two much attention as they continue to fill into their big-bad-mean-daddy-lion shoes, although they will have to master simple habits such as roaring and catching big game before then.  Puberty can be so much fun for a pair of male lion cubs... Although sightings of our Brando Brothers have dried up a bit, that is to be expected somewhat with the older male lions as it gets warmer – they are less likely to do big patrols and will stick more to the water sources and the shade (and their ladies). 

On the plains game side, new buffalo have arrived from Marromeu Reserve to our east, and they have taken the place of about 25 who have been released out in to the floodplains, together with two big herds of wildebeest.  Both of these sets of animals have been acclimatising in the park’s Sanctuary for the past few seasons and have now hit the park proper with vengeance.  The sable and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest herds are gathering on the floodplains too now as water becomes tight, and it is just so awesome to see all these animals with many many youngsters around.  Such herd structure is very good which bodes well for the future of these special herbivores.  The other notable wildlife event in October is the warthog pup dropping frenzy... Jos goes into a wild broody panic as a gazillion baby warthogs emerge on the scene following closely their proud mud-covered mums.  On one hot afternoon drive, we had an amazing (but quite gruesome) scene involving a baboon that rushed in on a family of pigs and pulled out a youngster and started feeding on it... gory but wild. 

Young warthog piglet aside, October was a pretty good month for most, and as we at Explore Gorongosa look forward to sharing our philosophies and experiences with you as the pioneers here in Gorongosa, we have to remind you all that 2011 is coming and with it the promise of new things: like world peace, cures for diseases, magic carpet rides, free beer in pubs, and an even more amazing spread of delights at Explore Gorongosa... (well, maybe only the last one)  Bookings for 2011 are open so drop Jos a line as soon as you finish reading this and book, book, book.  Do it.  You won’t regret it.  Happy days!
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