Beho Beho Bushblog – Walter – 19th Oct

Karin and I have returned from our leave, a visit back to South Africa for two weeks, but it is always good to get back to the bush. The short rains have begun to fall, so everything is beginning to sprout and become very green.

At present one of the beautiful things is the Impala are beginning to lamb, in particular around Lake Manze, and it is during this stage that the burping calls of the ewe’s can be heard. The only time, besides giving alarm calls that the ewes are vocal, this call being used to communicate and remain in contact with the lambs; always beautiful seeing new life jumping around.

I had an interesting walk the other day, walking with a South African honeymoon couple, and I decide to go to a spring within a beautiful valley system, which is overlooked by the Beho Beho hills, dotted with old Baobabs, looking down like guards of the valley floor and onlookers of the things that move below their roots. But before making your way down into the ravine you need to follow a well used hippo and elephant path, which is extremely steep. The route leading into the path takes you on the outskirts of a cliff edge, which allows you to look down onto the valley floor, ever watchful of what is moving or lurking below. As we were about to reach the entrance of the path, I stopped and showed the two honeymooners a Cucumber bush (Thilachium africanum) which was displaying its beautiful white pincushion flowers, and green cucumber looking fruit (hence the name). The fruit are often covered by ants, which farm the sticky sweet sap that is exuded from the fruit, and in return they defend the bush, their food source.

I had finished and just began walking forward when, Eloise said, “Walt, look!”

And in front and slightly to the side of us was a 3.5m crocodile, a female, due to her having a narrower and more pointed snout, whereas the snout of a male tends to be broader. But not a stir, no movement, not even any sign that this crocodile was alive, but it still had that deathly stare; a look of no emotion, a real killing machine, which sends cold chills down your spine every time you look into those eyes. Still unsure if this ancient creature was alive; I picked up a stone and threw it in its immediate direction, no reaction, another and still no reaction, nothing, not even a stir. From a distance I picked up a very, very long branch and slowly, from a very far distance moved it towards its head, almost touching it on the muzzle, the jaws opened abruptly, like a trapdoor, and she began giving her hissing bellow. She was obviously not dead, just a tad slow this morning, but had the energy to climb up a ravine and scan the valley.

We made our way down after giving her a wide berth and sat upon some rocks at the spring, which had clear signs that this was where she had come from. Amazing what you can come across on a walk. Crocodiles do move vast distances to other water sources, so for them to cross over land isn’t too much of an issue. On our return back up the steep path, to where we had first spotted her, no crocodile – she had moved away back into the undergrowth below.

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