To the west of Botswana’s Chobe National Park lies the Linyanti, where there’s a geological fault line. It makes the Kwando River that flows south from Namibia change direction as it becomes the Linyanti River, turning 90 degrees to flow north again towards the Chobe. Among this enchanting mix of waterways, marshes, riverine forest and dry woodland is DumaTau Camp.
We’d read that this varied habitat draws lots of wildlife, from elephant, hippo and lion to wild dog and birds like wattled crane and slaty egret. We knew that DumaTau Camp has a very light carbon footprint; it was rebuilt in 2012 with raised walkways to minimise direct impact on the environment, as well as solar energy and above-ground water treatment for added eco-integrity. And that made us happy because we like the idea of camps that support environmental sustainability.
Slap, bang, there it all was, from kori bustards – Botswana’s national bird – to elephants feeding on the floodplain, small calves revealing pink little mouths as they waggled and waved trunks they hadn’t yet fully mastered. At least a hundred African monarch butterflies swirled in the air above the yellow water daisies, settled, then swirled again.
It was like a fairground ride but also an impressive display of driving skill. Later Evans said he’d only been doing 40km but on those rough tracks it felt super-fast – and great fun.
About 30 minutes before sunset, we arrived in the general area where the dogs had been seen. Trying to anticipate their behaviour, Evans went to a waterhole where he hoped they may be heading. Within minutes there they were, first one dog then two or three, until 13 of them had slurped up some water.
On our way back in the dark Evans tracked the spoor of a leopard, off the track, through some thick bushes and around a tree. Then there it was in the beam of the infrared spotlight. It crossed in front of us and went to drink among the reeds, crossed again and melted into the bushes.
Wild dogs and a leopard on one game drive. ‘This is going to be very hard to match tomorrow,’ we teased.
Back at camp we found a long table set up under a tree. Paraffin lamps and a big fire in the middle of the clearing provided the only light as we settled in for dinner under the stars.
As Wilderness Safaris staff love to do, they welcomed us with music. One song about Beautiful Botswana really touched me with its lilting harmonisation between sweet soprano and deep bass voices. There was dancing around the fire too. Even the chef came out from behind the braai now and then to join in, then went back to tend the meat again.
Happily stuffed with food and thrilled with our wild dog sighting, we went to sleep to the sound of spotted hyenas calling and woke before dawn to the blustering of hippos.
Being among wild animals in their natural environment? Priceless.
Note: I was a guest of Wilderness Safaris for two nights, but had free rein to write what I chose.
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