While the safety of a jeep is comforting and often necessary on safari, there is nothing to beat the experience of walking through the African countryside on foot. A slight frisson of danger accompanies you as you step carefully through the long grass. The only sounds are those of the wildlife around you and the breeze through the trees; the only scents those wafted on that same breeze.
The morning after our walk with Slade on Palm Island, he took us to Sausage Island (named for the sausage trees that grow there, not for the meat!) After our light early breakfast we set off in the motor boat for the ride to the island. It was a little less cold than yesterday, probably because there was more cloud cover overnight. But the sun was breaking through the clouds and the light was as lovely as ever.
We landed and Slade loaded his rifle, as he had done yesterday. Then we looked around and almost immediately saw an elephant in the distance, among some trees. A couple more appeared, one of them a youngster; this confirmed for Slade that this was a breeding herd of females. I set the camera on full zoom and grabbed some photos, assuming this was the closest we could get on foot.
But Slade proposed taking a circuitous route through a shaded area to get closer to them without being seen. We set off through the long grass till we reached a couple of trees that would help to hide us. There we stopped to take photos – lots of photos. With my zoom lens I could get some pretty cool shots! We realised that there were several very young babies in the herd; they were so small that they could barely be seen above the tall grass!
After a while Bones, our other guide, spotted another elephant off to our left. It was a large bull; Slade said he was probably checking out the herd of females to see if any were on heat. We were rather in his path, so it was time to retreat!
Back at some distance from the herd we could see that the bull turned away again; so we were able to continue our walk round the island.
We soon came across a large group of red lechwe, with more on the far side of the channel. Many of those on our side, spooked by something (possibly us) started to cross the water to reach the others. It was interesting to see them run, with their longer back legs helping them to spring forwards. Lechwe are adapted to live in marshy areas and use the knee-deep water as protection from predators. These longer hind legs make it easier for them to run in the water.
We continued our walk, with Slade stopping regularly to show us something of interest – the feather of an owl or of a guinea fowl, the bones of a hippo, the footprints of an elephant or lechwe, and even dung!
It was surprising how much he could tell us about the latter; not only which animal had produced it but also what it told him about their eating habits. This is kudu, for instance, and he explained that here in the Okavango their dung is moist and clumps together; whereas in drier environments, such as in Namibia, the kudu have to retain all the moisture they can, so their dung is dry and won’t stick together.
We saw a variety of birds, including this African Green Pigeon (who knew pigeons could be green?!) and a Red-billed Hornbill.
Then we came across another solitary bull elephant, eating among some dead tree trunks and branches, the consequence of elephant activity; they knock them down to get at the fresh green leaves near the top. Unlike the females we had seen earlier, he clearly knew we were there. But he must have decided we didn’t pose any threat, and carried on eating while we took his photo.
We finished our circuit of the island, returned to the boat and had some drinks before starting back to the lodge. On the way we came across a mother elephant with her baby, down by the water’s edge. They retreated as we approached, but not before we had grabbed a few photos; although unfortunately the calf was so hidden in the papyrus he was impossible to capture properly.
It was a great ending to our walk which I’m sharing, as with Palm Island, for Jo’s Monday Walks.
I visited Botswana in 2018