Today started as any other ordinary day in camp – the early morning staff meeting at 7am with a cup of steaming tea and then a hive of activity as work commences whilst the day is still cool. Menu’s are planned, food issued, paths are swept, linen changed, clothes washed, pool skimmed for leaves and all the many other tasks that happen quietly whilst no one is around. With guests out on both walks and drives this morning myself, Karin and staff are left behind to keep the wheels of the camp nicely oiled and turning gently. It may sound like an ordinary day at work – but I only have to glance out of the office window, or pass by the rooms doing a room check and look down into the valley or simply have another cup of tea on the parade ground and I soon realise that this is no ordinary day! To be surrounded by a breathtaking view – in whichever direction you look reminds me that I am truly fortunate to live out here in this beautiful place. The rising sun illuminates the Beho Beho hills and the landscape infects your senses – there are forests studded with doum palms, dry grass plains shining yellow, aged baobabs stretching upwards to the sky like thirsty people begging for rain. The pair of African Fish Eagles nesting in the giant star chestnut in front of room three take flight into the blue sky and call down to us below.
Some often think being left behind in camp whilst guests and guides head out into the wilderness looking for wildlife must be a boring task. Something mundane and dreary but wouldn’t they be surprisingly wrong! The camp is full of exciting activity – often the creatures of a smaller nature – nesting squirrels, slithering side-stripped sand-snakes, a variety of birds picking seeds from the grasses and drinking from the bird-bath, herds of impala at the watering hole, skinks and lizards bathing in the morning sun and so much more! Of course in the night – the camp is alive with a lot more activity. At the front door of the office Ian shows me where a buffalo stood the night before grazing – right on the path! And I only have to think of our two new arrivals Claire and Simon who arrived late yesterday evening and went to their room to freshen up for dinner and whilst having a shower they saw a leopard sniffing around right in front of them in the grass! The camp itself is home to a lot more animals than one would think. Most of the big, hairy and scary appear only at night when everyone is tucked away safely in their beds, but today we found out that some of them also appear during the day!
The message was delivered swiftly from some of the staff who were working up on the hill at the top of the camp that lions had been spotted in the immediate valley in front of the rooms. We had all heard the late night commotion of what sounded like a lot of hyena’s having an very tense quarrel with a pride of lions. There was a lot of whooping and laughing mixed with deep throated growling and roaring. It made sense that there would be lions around in the early morning. It’s 8AM and one our Coastal Pilots who stayed the night is getting ready for breakfast, when all of a sudden a succession of lion roars echo through the camp. Mr. Majembe is walking at a brisk jog, his green coat tails billowing in the breeze and he is shouting and jogging – as he does! ‘Simba’ he shouts excitedly and jogs past the office off the paths and down to check his water meter and hopefully get a view of the lions at the same time! I head off to one of the rooms with my binoculars to try catch a glimpse of these lions. I finally see them walking in the valley and then notice that they are turning upwards – coming towards the camp through the tall grass. They are moving fast – a powerful body and long strides means they walk fast when they want to and it appears they are heading towards the pool. At the same time I see Mr. Majembe there checking his water pump in the long grass! Oh dear! I call to him and he comes up to the pool deck just in time and joins Karin, myself and a collection of staff who want to see the lions.
And not a second later, three heads with whiskers and golden eyes pop out through the tall grass only about 10 metres from us at the pool. The lions look a bit startled that they suddenly have an audience towering over them, but they keep walking on and go past the far side of the watering hole and then turn down and head off back into the valley.
The atmosphere in the camp is suddenly electric – everyone is thrilled to have lions pass through – especially during the day! What a treat! Again I remind myself how could any day out here in this magical place be anything but ‘EXTRA’-ordinay!