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Hwange National Park

Nothing could prepare us for the thrill of the first game drive. Because we were there in the rainy season, vegetation was dense and water was abundant, and we were warned that there might be fewer animal sightings than in the dry season. So when the first elephant broke through the bush and thundered across the road in front of us, we knew it would be a great day.

Elephant More...

It took time to develop an "eye" for spotting animals in the bush. Above, our first zebra spotting. 
We would see many animals in the open in the next few weeks, but would never forget these first glimpses.
This is Phanuel, our intrepid guide the first day. Phanuel is a great story-teller, and kept us entertained in the evenings at the lodge. The Zimbabwean safari guides go through rigorous training, and were wonderful both because of their knowledge and their dedication.
In the jeep
Even I could spot the giraffe!
Giraffes are popular grazing companions for other species, like zebra and impala, because their periscopic neck and sharp eyesight provide early warning if predators are nearby.
And our intrepid jeep, like all the vehicles on these drives, was a Toyota 4-runner. In Zimbabwe open vehicles are permitted in the game parks (unlike Kenya, for example). This one took a beating, but I wonder how they would fare in snow and ice?
Impala baby
There are lots of baby animals in the rainy season, but they are sometimes harder to find. Above, a baby impala with mum.
Keith has spotted something intriguing to photograph here... an impala or kudu perhaps, hidden in the bush.
The roads through Hwange National Park varied; sometimes paved, sometimes a dirt road, depending on what we were looking for. When we spotted wildlife, the guide would shut off the engine and we would coast as close to the animal as we could get. Guides were permitted to leave the jeep; tourists were not.
Elephants have poor eyesight, but a keen sense of smell. This elephant is waving his trunk in our direction, to catch our scent. Our guides told us that elephants see a large blurry animal (us in the jeep) which makes an odd clicking and whirring sound (our cameras). So far these strange creatures (tourists!) have not proven threatening, though elephants are naturally more cautious when there are young.
Hwange has been almost too successful in its conservation efforts: the park can support 12,000 elephants but at the time of our visit we were told the population had swelled to over 20,000. We saw the  results of this overpopulation: great tracts of land completely destroyed. Because these gentle giants are devastated by the death of one family member, the elephant culling program wipes out entire families of breeding elephants. 
Above is a family with a young elephant to protect.
 Yes, a "zebra crossing".
Elephant baby
The young elephant continues munching while crossing the road.
Storks gather in a tree at dusk.

HOME ] HWANGE NATIONAL PARK ] [ Game Drive, Hwange ] Nyamandhlovu Pan, Hwange ] The Lodge, Hwange ] VICTORIA FALLS ] Zambezi River ] The Lodge, Victoria Falls ] LAKE KARIBA ] The Lodge, Lake Kariba ] THE FARM ] MAPS & WORDS ]

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