A Travellerspoint blog

Day 34 and 35

The Zambezi and my last blog

sunny 36 °C
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After 35 days and nearly 4,500 miles of travel within Southern Africa, the time has come to put together my last blog. I am hugely grateful to Gordon J for introducing me to TravellersPoint.com By adding your own title in front of a domain name you have your personal page to display on the world wide waste.

To be honest, this blog was more for our benefit; something on which we can reflect in the months and years to come. I doubt I have given the blog address to more than 15 people. I anticipated that my parents and siblings would probably enjoy following the adventure. They lived in Malawi for ten years before I arrived on the scene and travelled to many of the places that we have visited over the last few weeks. But if you have enjoyed joining us on our journey too, then I am pleased. I didn’t set out to write as much I did. But it just seemed natural to add as much detail as possible. It takes a hell of a long time to put together, transferring photos from the Nikon memory stick to the lap top, reviewing and comparing those taken on our phones, editing and then labelling photos, uploading to the blog site photo album and then deciding which ones to include. And that’s before researching facts and figures and putting it in words. But I know we will look back fondly on our time here, with this as our permanent record.

Now is typically the time to reflect. But in truth I think that will take weeks and months to do. We have covered so much ground and seen so much in a relatively short period of time that it is difficult to come up with some snazzy bite size conclusion. I can say that we have loved this trip even more than we could have imagined. It has been way more than a holiday. South Africa has bitten us and we will definitely be back, probably sooner than even we might expect. We have loved all that we have encountered. Right now, I struggle to find the right words to describe it all.
But hey, there’s still 2 more days to share with you so let’s not get ourselves down about leaving just yet!

Truffle Pig have found us a gem in Mpala Jena. What’s more incredible is that we have the entire resort to ourselves. It is summer and low season but with great excitement, there are no other guests. We had the pick of any villa we so chose. And it is the perfect place to relax and enjoy. Honestly, never in my life did I imagine being able to stay somewhere where I would wake up overlooking the Zambezi. In the night we can hear hippo, monkeys, baboons and at dawn we are woken to music played impeccably by any number of local birds. How can we ever come back from this?

And the food. My god have we eaten like royalty on this trip and here is no exception. All sorts of delicious fruits, yoghurts and breads greet us for breakfast. We actually decline the 3 course lunch that would otherwise be served 3 hours later. We do this knowing that high tea is served at 4.30pm Dinner is then a choice of delicious meats, vegetables and fish cooked with care by the wonderful Chef Flower. It’s difficult to be well behaved but we can tackle that when we get home. So please don’t comment on my waistline 😊.

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Because it is my last one, I am going to make it a long one. And I am going to treat you to visual sensory overload because there is much to show you and tell you about.

Let’s start with the grounds themselves. As you walk up from the boat, you are greeted with tastefully designed thatch rooved open plan structures.

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Mpala Jena was designed in Australia during Covid based on drone shots of the sight sent over from the local team. There’s a living area where you can sit and read or write if you choose.

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In front of that is the fire pit. It cools down quickly after sunset.

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Next to it is the bar. And why just sit at a bar when you can use a swing. Brilliant.

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Further along is the pool with deck chairs and another reading room across the way. It has a massive Atlas that is a little out of date. Zaire is no more.

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As I say, we had the place and all the staff to ourselves. They were so friendly and always engaged. After hearing of a nickname for which Susan is not keen Faith later repeated it, knowing she could. Karen and I thought that was brilliant :)

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After high tea, we are ready to sit our lazy bums on a boat and we spend consecutive evenings exploring the mighty river.

The Zambezi (which by the way should be pronounced zam-bay-zee) is a vast expanse of water. And you think it is one river, like the Thames perhaps. But you shoot down tributaries and there is another breadth of water just as wide as the first. The 2,574 km (1,599 mi) river rises in Zambia and flows through eastern Angola, along the north-eastern border of Namibia and the northern border of Botswana, then along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe to Mozambique, where it crosses the country to empty into the Indian Ocean. It's actually only the 4th largest river in Africa (behind the Nile, Congo and Niger).

We soon see an impressive tree full of weaver bird nests.

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Honestly, regardless of specie, males have it rough when it comes to courtship. The effort we have to go through to impress a female is spectacular and at the end, there’s every possibility we will simply be rejected. Male weaver birds have it especially tough. The self confidence of those who are unsuccessful must be absolutely shot.

“Zambezi weaver birds, are small passerine (perching) birds known for their remarkable nest-building skills, constructing intricate woven nests made from grass, reeds, lichen and other plant materials. The males typically weave these nests to attract females during the breeding season, showcasing their craftsmanship and providing a safe haven for raising their young.”

OK, so what’s the problem here? Well, if the female isn’t impressed, she wont just reject the male, she’ll physically demolish his efforts. Talk about harsh!

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Zambezi weavers are highly social birds though, often nesting in colonies that can contain dozens or even hundreds of individuals. From the photo above, some of the nests are no longer active apparently. They feed primarily on seeds, insects, and small fruits, foraging in groups near water bodies or in grasslands.

Their distinctive nests serve not only as shelters but also as protection from predators. Though I am sad to say that we did witness one such predator tucking in. But I am pleased to report that despite facing threats from habitat loss and degradation, Zambezi weaver birds continue to thrive along the River.

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Zambezi hippos, also known as common hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius), are fascinating creatures found along the River and its surrounding areas in southern Africa. I discovered some interesting facts about them and I know you will be pleased to learn more with me;

1. Huge Herbivores: Zambezi hippos are the third-largest land mammals on Earth, following elephants and rhinoceroses. They can weigh between 1,500 and 3,200 kilograms (3,300 to 7,000 pounds) which must be similar to me now after 5 weeks away..
2. Semi-Aquatic Lifestyle: Despite their massive size, Zambezi hippos spend much of their time in water to keep cool and avoid sunburn. They are excellent swimmers and can hold their breath for several minutes underwater.
3. Territorial Behavior: Male hippos establish territories in the water, which they fiercely defend from intruders, including other hippos. They use vocalizations and physical displays, such as opening their mouths wide to show off their formidable tusks.
4. Herbivorous Diet: Despite their intimidating appearance, Zambezi hippos are herbivores, feeding on grasses and other vegetation. They graze on land at night, traveling considerable distances from the water to find food.
5. Social Structure: Zambezi hippos typically live in groups called pods, which can consist of up to 30 individuals. Within these pods, there is a complex social hierarchy, with dominant males asserting authority over females and younger males.
6. Vulnerable Status: While Zambezi hippos are not currently considered endangered, they face threats from habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict. Conservation efforts are crucial to ensuring their long-term survival in their natural habitat along the Zambezi River and beyond.

And I am happy to report that we saw plenty of them demonstrating many of the traits above. They make an almighty groan too, once they resurface, presumably gasping for air. By the 3rd and final night, the noise no longer woke us though.

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It was awesome to witness these two venturing back into the water, presumably after enjoying their evening meal. You can hear the trepidation in my voice as they disappear under water. Don’t worry; we survived.

Then Wellington’s eagle eyes spotted a crocodile on the bank. As we approached it was lying still, mouth closed. But it wasn’t long before it impressed us with its excessive amount of teeth.

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The difference between crocs and alligators? Crocodiles have V-shaped snouts and are typically found in saltwater habitats like Australia (and of course here in the fresh waters of the Zambezi), while alligators have U-shaped snouts and prefer freshwater environments. Crocodiles tend to be more aggressive, with teeth visible when their jaws are closed, while alligators are generally less aggressive, with only their top teeth visible.

Zambezi crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) are known to reach impressive lengths, with males typically growing larger than females. On average, adult males can range from 3 to 5 meters (10 to 16 feet) in length, although individuals exceeding 6 meters (20 feet) have been reported. Females are generally smaller, reaching lengths of around 2 to 3 meters (6.5 to 10 feet). These crocodiles can weigh up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) or more, making them one of the largest crocodilian species in Africa.

Wellington cautioned us against having a morning swim in the river. No worries Wellington, we are all good.

As we find a quiet place to enjoy a sundowner, Wellington suggests a photo. We thought he was joking when he told us that it would be good to have a croc in the snap (pun intended). It was just a tiddler but maybe a little too close for Susan’s comfort.

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We then headed back to camp, enjoying the colours of the post sunset sky.

A quick digression here. Because I told you several blogs ago, about Red Notice by Bill Browder, I want to update you that I finished the book today, finally. It was gripping, unbelievable , fascinating and sad. And it was utterly surreal that not 2 hours after reading the last page, news of Navalny’s presumed murder broke the airways. I’ll try not to bring the mood down for this final blog but if you still don’t believe that Putin and his cronies are murdering monsters, then you should certainly read this book. I shall be buying his sequel, ‘Freezing Order’ for our long journey home.

And so, for our second and final sunset cruise we headed off in the opposite direction. We had not expected to find this elephant grazing along the river. But it was certainly a bonus that we appreciated.

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And these zebras were enjoying an evening graze too.

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We encountered the banded Mongoose which stopped to say hello before scurrying off.

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And in the trees we spotted this Pied Kingfisher

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Then as if it had been pre ordered, the most wonderful sunset occurred before our very eyes. We have seen many stunning ones back home and indeed, on this trip but I am sure it is more than last night nostalgia to suggest that it has to be the most impressive one we have ever witnessed. Simply ‘wow’!

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And that ladies and gentlemen is all he wrote.

Thank you for your company.

Posted by NeedhamSA2024 10:18 Archived in Zimbabwe

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Comments

Thank you for this delightful opportunity to learn and enjoy your trip too 😀🙏👍🏼

by JohnnJane

Thanks John and Jane. I loved writing our 'diaries'. It was a fabulous trip.

by NeedhamSA2024

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