Tent No 3…
It is midday, amidst a mild Mavela winter and I have just checked in to Tent No 3. The cicada beetles whir incessantly and create a melancholy welcome. The rush of city life and deadlines are put on pause as I switch on the kettle…
I scan the environment and notice that the leaves on the nearby acacia trees are surprisingly green as I settle on the deck with binoculars, camera and a rejuvenating cup of coffee. The bird bath in front of the tent is full to the brim and I sit expectantly for a viewing of feathered visitors. The opposite hillside is swept smoothly with a dry, cream hue of pale grass. A lone buffalo stands out like a black rock. The soil is dry and exposed patches but the wilderness is in a greatly improved state to the previous winter drought.
A gently movement catches my eye as a herd of impala gracefully graze their way past my tent to commandeer the water supply.
BIRD BATH BIZARRE
The peaceful mood is interrupted with loud snorts as a rutting male impala dashes in front of the tent deck chasing his chosen female with focussed vigour. The rest of the herd scatter briefly and then re-group to graze and approach the bird bath. The mature animals of the herd hang back cautiously but the younger animals’ thirsts get the better of them and they pass by my tent barely three metres away.
Fallen, dry leaves rustle as a Kurichane thrush forages for food. Hot on the heels of the impala, a small family of warthog arrive to beg for leftovers at the bird bath. In a less dignified manner, they climb right in and bury their snouts into the soft, wet sand. Sadly, the impala have drained the source and quest ends in vain.
It is nearly time for the late afternoon safari drive and I stand and re-fill the bird bath. The animals scatter. Not long after I resume my lookout seat, an assorted array of Yellow-fronted canaries, Cape glossy starlings, Red-billed oxpecker, Yellow-throated petronia, Crested and Black-collared barbet compete for a refreshing bath and drink. The starlings appear in disguise with an orange-coated mask of aloe pollen residue and lose their dignified appearance as they rustle the water through their feathers. The Manyoni Private Game Reserve offers a PDF list of the different birds viewed in the region. For more information: CLICK HERE
A pale cream butterfly dances through the low bushes adding to the peaceful setting. A pair of vultures circle slowly above the lodge on a thermal and scan the valley below. I bid my private tent farewell and join the other guests on a safari drive which yields an adventurous contrast of animal and bird encounters. A highlight being a pair of cheetah hunting and a White-fronted Robin Chat nestled deep inside a tree. Sam, our field guide, plays its call and it curiously came to seek who was trespassing in its territory.
BACK AT CAMP
We return “home” after a spectacular sunset. Dinner is served outside on the deck and we mingle around the fire before enjoying a sumptious culinary experience. The wind has dropped and the sky is cloudless. Stars sprinkle the heavens as far as the eye can see. Sam walks us to our tent and reminds us that lions have been around. We are safe as long as we stay inside our tent.
As I rest my head on the soft, cotton linen and think of the beauty displayed by the starry Milky Way, I am aware of the silence and close connection with nature. I drift off to sleep. Suddenly, I am awakened by a deep, guttural moan – lion! My adrenalin pumps…the sound resonates again and I realise they are in the valley below the camp. What a thrill to lie awake, stare at the stars through the tent flap and be serenaded by the “king of the jungle”. I drift off again only to be stirred once more. A sharp, incessant yelping indicates tha the black-backed jackal are not far from the lodge. A Spotted Thick-knee (night bird) lets out a whistle and the chorus confirms that indeed, it is good to be part of Africa.