We began our first ever safari holiday in Sabi Sands. The word bush is apt to describe the landscape – wide open spaces of grasslands, areas of forest and river. And dry.
We were lucky. We saw four of the ‘big’ five almost immediately. We were also lucky to be in the company of people who had many years’ safaris in the same camp and area.
Whilst our experiences were first impressions, novelty, theirs were of return – with emotions of interest, concern, anxiety for the wild life they had got to know in the area. We were looking for our first sightings, they were looking for the mother leopard and her babies one year later. We were just to excited to come so close to these amazing animals, they were looking for their state of health and wellbeing.
The heat was intense, seasonal rains had not fallen, and we understood their reaction when they asked our ranger to take us to what should have been a water hole full enough to see the wild life through the dry season to come, and finding it dry. We too imagined how these creatures would survive through the next months, with no rain to fall until the following year.
We moved on to Botswana to Chiefs Island. As we flew over the landscape we saw the local bush fires, black smoke billowing towards us, flames. Having landed at our camp, we asked our ranger about the effect of these fires. He had to report that he and his colleagues had worked through the night to extinguish fire as it approached the camp. We arrived to a stench of smoke and a spectacle of black, burnt land.
These bush fires are not uncommon. With rain, the land recovers in almost the same time as it is eliminated by fire. But our location, at that time of year in the Okavango Delta, was meant to be surrounded by water and there was none. The Angola rains, which fed the delta, were late.
Once again, I felt an uneasiness that nature wasn’t behaving as it should, and so an anxiety for the wild life left with the challenge of surviving until the next rains.