“When you long to see the elephants,
Or to hear the coucal’s song,
When the moonrise sets your blood on fire,
You’ve been away too long.
It’s time to cut the traces loose
And let your heart go free
Beyond that far horizon,
Where your spirit yearns to be”.
~C. Emily Dibb
Second last day. Up and out before sunrise. As we were driving toward Chisasiku pool we stopped because of a loud commotion in one of the trees just next to the right hand side of the road. A baboon youngster was getting well and truly disciplined – by the sounds coming out of the tree. What was unusual about this was that the screaming went on for about ten minutes. Female baboons raced down the tree and across the open area in front of us. Then a few minutes later they would race back, barking up into the tree. This female baboon and her two youngsters decided that it was not the best place to be and beat a hasty retreat out of harms way. Anyone who has watched baboons being disciplined know their retribution can be harsh and there is a lot of screaming, much like a child who has become hysterical.
This young female baboon was watching the commotion from a respectable distance. We never got to find out what was going on but there were baboons running to and from the tree and appeared to be quite distressed. This was the most agitated I have ever seen baboons.
A while later once all the commotion had died down, we wandered further along the road and eventually got off the vehicle and walked deeper into the forest. Peace restored and beauty recognised again without the distraction.
“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature”.
The river is a powerful draw for animals and people alike. We were close to Mana mouth when we saw two elephant bulls crossing the Zambezi, returning from a sojourn in Zambia.
Elephants this size do not fuss about crocodiles. You can see they were walking along sandbanks in the river. Some of the sandbanks were not deep at all.
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
It was hot that morning, but these two gentlemen looked very cool and were in no hurry to get out of the river. The two bulls spotted a dead tree trunk which had been the foundation for a salad bar. The two gentlemen duly stopped and helped themselves.
We were standing in the shade under a large Natal Mahogany. It was an ideal opportunity to try a frame a shot of these two adventurers. The grass and reeds growing along the side of the fallen tree trunk looked luxuriant and the elephant bulls really tucked in.
“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine”.
~Anthony J. D’Angelo
They were so engrossed in their mid morning salad that they did not notice us in the shade of the Trichilia. The wind must have shifted and all of a sudden they were aware of us standing 10 to 15 metres above them.
Enough salad had been eaten, and they did not enjoy being stared at while eating, so these two bulls moved upstream probably to an exit point grooved by many hippo’s coming out to graze in the evenings and going back into the water before the sun got up.
Away from the river, Marlon took us to see a massive Strangler Fig tree. Jared, one of the photographers in our group stood in front of the tree to give it some perspective.
“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven”.
Eventually in our wanderings we got to Long Pool. This is one of Mana Pools four main pools. The name “Mana” means “four” in the local Shona language. This applies to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River. These pools are the remnant ox-bow lakes that the Zambezi River carved out thousands of years ago as it changed its course northwards. ”Long Pool”, is the largest of the four pools, extending some six kilometres with its axis lying west-east. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favourite for the large herds of elephant that come out of the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink.
We saw two pods of hippos on the east side of the pool. Having watched them for a while over a cup of coffee and a rusk we all agreed that we would come back in the late afternoon at last light to hopefully get some dramatic photographs of these “river horses”.
“The good man is the friend of all living things.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
We were not disappointed. The late afternoon light was superb, casting the water surface in a very fiery, moody light.
One by one we moved down close to the water’s edge to assess how comfortable these hippos were with us about 30 metres away. We were told to pre-plan our quick escape route if one of the hippos charged us. We had the occasional wide mouth display signalling that they did not want us around but they did not take the threats beyond that.
Thankfully, Tanya and Marlon kept an eye on the hippos and on the water’s edge to see if any crocodiles were getting overly interested in photography. The hippos settled down and soon disregarded us. Suddenly, just what we had been waiting for, a tussle started in the pod.
It is difficult to know what started the displaying but it was great photography. We were lying on our bellies close to the water’s edge trying to get as low down to the water level as possible to get the full effect of the evening sun on the water.
The disagreement was short-lived but the open mouths and splashing really added drama to the images.
“We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us”.
Eventually, one of the bulls was getting irritated with us around and let us know it with his open mouth display.
That was enough warning for us and the light was fading fast so we called it a day. Thankfully, we had no incidents with either hippos or crocodiles. It is nerve-wracking shooting close to the water’s edge on your belly to get the right perspective and reflections off the water when you know only too well there are “flat dogs ” in the water which will happily take you if given a chance.
“Like music, photography is a universal language. Anyone who sees an image of a tree will instantly recognise it as a tree….regardless of what language they speak. And just like music, through the harmonious and deliberate use of compositional elements we, as photographers, can evoke a broad spectrum of emotions in our viewers”.
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at it inter-connectedness and let it be,
A wonderful travelogue and amzing hippo shots!
You froze the Hippo-action beautifully, Mike, without losing to much depth – great shots!
Hi Mike. Great read as usual. I love the Hippo series. Great mood and golden colour. Well done.
Thank Neal. It was great to see you at CNP’s mentorship launch. I hope life is treating you well. Best wishes!!