It is that time of year again- to bring out the maasai blankets and brush the dust off the sweaters…Winter is here in the Selous! And even though the coldest temperature dips to around 16 degrees Celsius – it is bitterly cold for us thin-skinned African folk. I welcome these cool mornings knowing very well of the infamous ‘hot’ summers of the Selous that are yet to come. Sunrise is breath taking with a rich red sun in a clear dawn sky. A chilly breeze blows in the mornings and then warms in the afternoon. I am told by Onesmo that this is normal for the few weeks of winter to experience daily winds and sometimes sudden gusts of violent air. I discover that Beho Beho really does live up to its name – which is loosely translated as meaning ‘wind’!
Enough about the weather now though, the Selous has been alive with wildlife in the last few weeks. Things started on a good note, with my first sighting of a leopard late one night after dinner. A large beautiful male calmly strolled up between the two rooms and across the path ahead of me whilst I was walking home. ‘Chui!’ shouted the maasai who was escorting me and we moved closer towards him slowly but with hearts pumping – and then the leopard disappeared into the darkness as only a leopard can do so well! He was seen again, only a few days ago and much to our excitement at the watering hole right in front of the main dining area while guests enjoyed a pre-dinner drink!
From the pool deck two days ago, Ian and I watched Blackie and his pack run vast distances as they criss-crossed across the plains, through the forest, around the Baobab and back again! On the plains they walked carefully around a herd of Wildebeest eyeing out the young or weak. Some of the pack stopped and watched the herd considering their chances of a successful kill. And then the three of the larger wildebeest (probably the oldest males) bravely charged out at the wild dogs – sending some of them scattering. I thought this would have been the end of it and the dogs would turn and retreat – but they surprised me with their cunningly smart ability to intimidate any animal – no matter of size or number. Some of the pack that had trotted off quickly returned and tried to double around and cut off and single out a wildebeest. The wildebeest stayed strong and held together – the rest of the herd realising what was happening a moment later and galloping towards their 3 brave bulls and joining together in strength. The dogs then casually turned and trotted away in search of an easier and less-threatening meal. Wild dogs have the highest success rate when it comes to making a kill – around 80% (which is very high) compared to all other African hunters and just the mere sight of a wild dog usually sends any 4-legged beast sprinting away in panic and dread.
We have a large hyena den not far from the camp so hyena’s of all ages, shapes and sizes are being seen most early mornings and in the late afternoons. The days here are cool and pleasant with guests lazing by the pool often and large flocks of swallows filling the skydiving and twittering in flight. We have been fortunate enough to enjoy the sounds of nearby lions most nights this week and last night a special treat with two males passing by the watering hole once everyone was tucked up in bed and giving repeated gigantic roars! All the other creatures of the night were hushed by the mighty ‘king of the bush’ and only an undisciplined hippo continued to grunt in the distance. When the lion roars, it is the moment you forget the constant talking in your head, about worries or things you have to do, and for a brief moment you are brought back to life – and realise where you are – in the heart of a vast wilderness – in the quiet isolation of the bush – in Africa.