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17 hours ago, Treepol said:

x6 I am really enjoying your shared TR and marvelling at the wonders of Gonarezhou. Chocolate cake and Chilojo Cliffs in the same trip - what a spectacular combination. The contrast with the greenery of Seldomseen and the red sand of Chilojo is sure to deliver a varied safari.  Cake and Cliffs--now that would make a good title.  You or anyone else please feel free to follow in our footsteps and report back with the title Cake and Cliffs!  You saw it here first in Treepol's post.




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19 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Tropical Boubou. Or was it a Southern? We never were quite sure about this one. Even its song was weird and did not fit either species.


I have been looking at this one as I had picture on almost the same spot below and also thought it was Tropical Boubou 



But now I am convinced it is a Southern one the subspecies "Laniarius ferrugineus savensis" and the the picture in my " Birds of Southern Africa " is almost exactly the same on page 395 as the one above : the notable difference with the Tropical Boubou are the rufous flanks whilst those of the Tropical are much paler even if not pure white as in the Swamp Boubou

I think I missed an extra bird in my first BY :D

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Excellent report Lynn & Mike (+1!)

Thanks for sharing this. 


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On 1/27/2023 at 2:57 PM, michael-ibk said:

Well, if the animals are not cooperating you just have to do with flowers. Of course Lynn takes her flower photography very seriously!



Not sure, really worth it basically bathing in Elephant dung and Impala poo for that?



See the cliffs in the background?  Lilies AND cliffs!  For that I will brave the dung and poo!


Lilies and cliffs.  Braving the dung.  Shot taken along the road on a game drive.



The lilies are the perfect segue to Cliff Notes 2.


807949959_cliffnotes.jpg.47a0b4aa2c80f0dfc521da4dd66c0e40.jpgCliff Notes 2

Flowers in the foreground of the cliffs is one benefit of traveling at the start of the green season when blooms first appear.  Also, the cliffs are newly washed by the same rains that clear away the haze for better views.


While wildlife is more abundant in the dry season, the dust and haze may obscure the pronounced colors of the cliffs.  A little rain can provide a crisper, more luminous view. 



Blooms in front of cliffs




Trifecta—Cliffs, Flowers, and Andreas



 Elephant in foreground of colorful Chilojo Cliffs. Taken from viewing point in afternoon.



Chilojo Cliffs before sundown.  Taken at viewing point. 



Golden light on Chilojo Cliffs and the elephant before sundown.  Taken at viewing point.



During our four days in the vicinity of the Chilojo Cliffs, Nov 3-7, we never had any haze.  Sometimes skies were cloudy and overcast, but no misty haze to impair or diminish the views.







4:42 am sunrise shot made possible by Doug’s daily departure time of 5 am, as Michael mentioned earlier.

Leaving any later and it would not be a Doug trip!




Crested Barbet showing off the crest




This nyala is channeling Mana Pools, arches and all.




My only flying Lilac Breasted Roller of the trip





Nov 4 at 6:15 am, Michael do you know what bird you are photographing?  Cliffs are in the distance under overcast skies.




Mid-morning walk


We gazed upward at cliffs and downward at insects that we found on our walk. The start of the rains can produce unique phenomenon and since that’s when we were traveling, I wanted to see some of what only this time of year brings. Cue the brilliant Red Velvet Mites!  They come out briefly right after the rain. Fascinating!



Red Velvet Mite. We saw a dozen dotting the ground on one walk but I don’t recall seeing any more after that.




This blister beetle belongs to the insect family that is used to make Spanish Fly. 




European Bee-eaters were not a big deal for my European safari-mates, but were a special sighting for me.




Puffback,  gazing upward at the splendor of the Chilojo Cliffs, or maybe just an insect.


On 1/27/2023 at 3:14 PM, michael-ibk said:


Good old bucket shower. We mostly were happy with non-heated water - it was so hot anyway that it was nice to cool off, and the water was far from cold even when they did not heat it.


Even when it was 40 C out, I am such a cold-water-wimp that I still wanted warm shower water, which was cheerfully provided.  Warm water also helped scrub off the elephant dung and impala poo from taking my flower photography seriously.


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4 minutes ago, Atravelynn said:

Lilies and cliffs.  Braving the dung.  Shot taken along the road on a game drive.


Point well made - great shot. :)


5 minutes ago, Atravelynn said:

Nov 4 at 6:15 am, Michael do you know what bird you are photographing? 


I do actually, a Puffback. But that´s not important. Important is that you should never, never ever shoot a poor unsuspecting guy leaning back and belly out like that!;)

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57 minutes ago, michael-ibk said:

I do actually, a Puffback. But that´s not important. Important is that you should never, never ever shoot a poor unsuspecting guy leaning back and belly out like that!;)

Some of us brave the dung, others brave a less than flattering belly pose.  Whatever it takes on safari. 


We can chalk up any bulges or protrusions to the back support brace causing distortion.  Enlarging the shot, I see the Swarvorskis also may add a little curvature.  Nonetheless, correcting for the brace, the binos, the bent back posture, and the 10 lbs that photos tend to add to us all,  I've made a small revision to the photo.  You can see if it more accurately depicts the real you.  Or maybe it is my lens.  That Puffback shot of mine is also rather rotund!

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1473904772_cliffnotes.jpg.03c9cd3c31f284dbc723f32262a6daa1.jpgCliff Notes 3

These iconic striped sandstone cliffs of Gonarezhou are visible from a relatively small area of the park. They are about 20 kms in length in a park of over 5000 square kms.  Part of the cliffs were visible from Chilojo Cliffs Tented Camp at the Chilojo Cliffs Campsite. The other parts of the park that we visited did not have views of the Chilojo Cliffs.



               Chilojo Cliff area circled in yellow



View from Chilojo Cliffs Campsite without leaving camp



View from Chilojo Cliffs Campsite without leaving camp, elephant present



View from Chilojo Cliffs Campsite without leaving camp, elephant present



View from Chilojo Cliffs Campsite without leaving camp, elephants present


Michael has several gorgeous shots of the cliffs and elephants from camp as well in previous posts.  He mentioned he was tempted to just stay in camp for a day.  The beauty of the location Chilojo Cliffs Tented Camp really was worthy of a day of observation.  But, like Michael, FOMO prevented me from hanging out all day at camp.


The viewing points would be expected to have some of the best vantage points and the most spectacular views, and those were the best IMO.  But it was rewarding to have such beautiful iconic scenery, unique to that part of the park, right across from camp.


Late afternoon at one of the viewing points that permits a nearly panoramic view of the cliffs.  Such an extensive view was not possible from camp so we ventured out on several occasions to spend time at the viewing points.




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Bird watch after lunch or nap?  Birdwatch or nap?  Birdwatch or nap?  At Chilojo Cliffs Tented Camp there was no need to decide between the two.  You could do both.  Strategically placed cushions allowed for views of the bird bath, the surrounding brush that was home to a White-throated robin, and the Runde Riverbed and Chilojo Cliffs.  The cushions offered a comfortable spot to nap in the shade.


Michael never napped so he saw many more birds, some posted previously.


When not napping, I gazed out from the cushions and saw:


Arrow-marked Babblers in the bird bath



 Female Spectacled Weaver in the bird bath



White-throated Robin making a nest





White-throated Robin making a nest




The controversial Tropical or Southern Boubou




Western Osprey flying by the camp overhead




Female Spectacled Weaver on ornate logs near the bird bath




Male Spectacled Weaver on ornate logs near the bird bath



  Hunting Lilac-breasted Roller in riverbed in front of camp



Crested Spurfowl—I had to get off the cushion to see it after Michael pointed it out.




Green-winged Pytilla was outside my tent at Chilojo Cliffs Tented Camp

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No worries, I won´t go overboard with the cliffs. Just a few more photos. But it IS one of the most stunning places I´ve ever been to, and we were lucky to see them in good light. This afternoon at the viewpoint was easily as cool and satisfying as a major predator sighting. And the best thing about Gonarezhou - you have this to yourself. We maybe saw one or two other cars a day (sometimes only when we passed a camp site), sometimes none at all. This is the real luxury and appeal of Gonarezhou, a true wilderness, far away from everything and everyone, an archaic paradise of rugged beauty. This is YOUR park when you are there - I absolutely loved that.






The Ring-Necked Dove is trying to drown itself after it heard my pathetic babbling. :D




If ever a setting warranted a group shot this is it.


Fast forwarding to the next day. And now to something completely different? I´m afraid not - we decided to do the Cliffs again. But totally different, we wanted to be on top of them.






Our Nyala pal was hanging out around the same place.




The Gargantuan Gonarezhou Gorgeous Squirrel. Since animal density was quite low we had to make the few we did see more interesting.


Again we crossed Fishans causeway - always a nice spot.






White-Crowned Lapwing




Three-Banded Plover




A very chilled African Pipit.




This Blacksmith Lapwing had chosen a poor spot to bring up its brood. Not much food on this "mini-island", and the water was rising quickly with the water. I would like to think the chicks made it but probably not.




I could make up a story how Impala are underappreciated and that´s why I started photographing them. Which would be a lie, there simply was not too much else on the mammal front. We did see a couple of Giraffe (which was nice) but they always stayed deep in the bush.






So more Impala is all I´ve got.




But an excellent Ground Hornbill sighting! Such cool birds, love their booming voice.












The beauty of the starting rains - the dry roads were turning into flower alleys.








South of the river the habitat gradually changed - way more sandy, Kalahari-like. So new types of animals were around here.




Red-Crested Korhaan, the "suicide bird" (because of its scarly-looking mating flight displays).






And Steenbok. I´m quite fond of them and their huge ears.

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Nice view, no?






The cliffs are just as spectacular from their top as from below.




There´s no road going up there. So the last few kilometres are a bit strenuous. Some winding paths, and then a short vertical climb for the last few hundred metres.




But please, I´m Austrian. We do verticals as babies. In our sleep. Made it of course!


Also possible though, that there IS a road going there after all, leading right to the top, and that you only have to do 20 steps or so get to the edge.




Fully rested as they look here not entirely implausible Lynn, Andreas and Doug at least did take that road. ;)




Verreaux´s Eagle are nesting up here but unfortunately the nest was not active.




We´d see them during the trip a couple of times but always very, very high up.




Certainly enough prey around for them. Plenty of Hyrax here.




A mobile pano.








A really awesome place to be - we all absolutely loved this excursion.

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On our way back to camp we had a very close encounter with an Elephant. Lynn already mentioned they have quite a reputation in Gonarezhou. But we had not experienced any of that so far. This one was no exception - passed the car in touching distance almost but totally peaceful.










I was lazy this afternoon, and contrary to what Lynn said absolutely did start napping very soon on the comfy cushions in the mess tent. Snapped a Crested Barbet, then snored away happily.




Our afternoon drive was a bit of a letdown. Not much happening.




Well, our first Wildebeest in the park at least.




It was sizzling hot, and Doug hoped more stuff would come to the river again, with many of the inland water puddles evaporating.




"Sable, Leopards, Roan, Cheetah, Lions, and Pangolins, Michael, they will all come, I promise."




This did not exactly happen. This fly-by Saddle-Billed Stork was the most interesting animal coming by. Plenty of Impala, and a few distant Elephants, that was it. Ultimately we admitted defeat and went back to camp.




Had to stop for Baobab of course though.




And always impossible to pass the cliffs without stopping for a beer. Perfect way to call it a day.







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Sorry to be the party pooper, but I'll reveal the secret that Michael’s harrowing cliff climbing picture was not the result of a dangerous ascent, it violated no park rules, and was actually clever staging.  All part of the fun at the cliffs!


1047541071_cliffnotes.jpg.88aee7a6424364ac5f2b0ba473dea79e.jpgCliff Notes 4

There are three main viewing point for the cliffs.  Two from the ground and one from atop the cliffs.  For the view from above, Doug offered us an option to climb up the cliffs on a designated route, but we opted to drive. Then we walked the up a safe path for the last bit.   My mountain climber safarimates might have preferred to climb up those cliffs if time had been no issue.


One viewing point allows closer, straight-on views, and I think is the easiest to access.  We visited this spot three times in the late afternoon to evening. 



 Straight-on, closer views from this spot.  There are elephants present, but hard to see.



 Straight-on, closer views from this spot. 



One viewing point has a wrap-around vista.  We visited this spot once in the late afternoon.




Wrap-around panoramic views are from this viewpoint



The other viewing point is from the top, looking down.  We went there one the morning, arriving 9:15 am ish.




View after taking the road and short path to the top of the cliffs


Wish I could show on a map where these 3 viewing points are, but such a map eludes me.  Good thing Doug had all the routes in his head.





This time of year (Nov) had the potential for baby animals.  In fact, Doug was sure we’d see at least one newborn impala before the end of the trip.  We did not, but the Blacksmith Lapwing chick was a rewarding sighting, something not often seen.  A second chick was hidden.  A third may come along as there is an egg under the mother, who chose a precarious nesting location, easily accessed by crocs and easily inundated by the rising river.  Those 3 chicks will need luck to survive.





Blacksmith Lapwing, chick, and egg



Michael wrote: “I could make up a story how Impala are underappreciated and that´s why I started photographing them. Which would be a lie, there simply was not too much else on the mammal front.” 


Nice impalas, regardless the reason, Michael.  I saved my impala photography for those in close proximity to the Yellow Thorn Mopane, coaxed into bloom by the recent rains.


Impala under Yellow Thorn Mopane




Michael described these rocks as sizzling hot.  It was on those sizzlers that we sat in hopes of finding some wildlife activity along the river.  Hot cross buns! Yikes!




The White-throated Bee-eater on the right appears to be a juvenile.




White-crowned Lapwings




1047541071_cliffnotes.jpg.88aee7a6424364ac5f2b0ba473dea79e.jpgCliff Notes 5

While there are 3 viewing points that give the fullest views of the cliffs, the roads provided some nice shots as well, especially if including foliage was the goal. These photos were taken at various times of day during our game drives, not just late afternoon.



Taken from the road, which is a part of the photo




Bright green, almost fluorescent foliage, in front of cliffs.  Taken from the road.




Notice all the baobabs.  Taken from the road.




Baobabs fronting the cliffs. Taken from the road.




I always loved getting an animal in the same shot as the cliffs.  Taken from the road.




One of my favorite views--similar to the view from atop the cliffs, but taken from the road.




Yellow Thorn Mopane in front of cliffs.  Taken from the road.




There’s that Mana Pools vibe again.  Taken from the road.





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Just beautiful landscape images of the cliffs!

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More, more, more!!!!  Can't get enough of these cliffs!  Fantastic report, guys.... Thank You!!! 

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17 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Nice view, no?

No, not nice - stunning!!


16 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

"Sable, Leopards, Roan, Cheetah, Lions, and Pangolins, Michael, they will all come, I promise."

Now where have I heard Doug say that?  Oh yes, Zakouma - but we did get buffalo :D

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Thanks @michael-ibkand @Atravelynnfor a fantastic team report. The elephants in foreground of the small stream and green trees in background are wonderful photo's.

Great Nyala bull as well.

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17 hours ago, AKR1 said:

Just beautiful landscape images of the cliffs!  I am glad we had 4 nights in the area where they could be viewed.  That allowed numerous opportunities and would have given us some spare days if it rained, and it did later in the trip.


15 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

More, more, more!!!!  Can't get enough of these cliffs!  Fantastic report, guys.... Thank You!!!   Why do I think you may be enjoying these cliffs in person before too long?  Just a hunch I have.


8 hours ago, AfricIan said:

No, not nice - stunning!!


Now where have I heard Doug say that?  Oh yes, Zakouma - but we did get buffalo :D  I think it's Doug's standard line about pangolins, roan, sable, and leopards.


8 hours ago, Hads said:

Thanks @michael-ibkand @Atravelynnfor a fantastic team report. The elephants in foreground of the small stream and green trees in background are wonderful photo's.

Great Nyala bull as well. We looked for his buddies, but did not find them.  Saw a few females, though, at the cliffs after sundown.


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Yes Lynn .... in September 

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 Sharing the rocks—klipspringer and rock hyrax



Grooming White-throated Bee-eater


Looking for activity along the river and we found some.


White-fronted Plover



Giant Kingfisher




 Here come the Cape Buffalo for a drink.  We were a safe distance away on foot.




Drinking and dripping




Drinking and slobbering




7:00 am morning hydration




There go the Cape Buffalo after a drink, cliffs in the background.



Many vultures surrounded a dead impala that appeared to be uninjured.  It would not be the first time we found a dead antelope without evident wounds and no predators around. 


No more room in this White-headed vulture’s crop


We carefully approached the feeding vultures on foot, hiding behind trees and termite mounds. Our movements never scared the birds.  But when the wind current suddenly shifted, dozens of vultures took flight at once.  It was not as beautiful as a flock of doves being released at a wedding, but impressive nonetheless.


Vultures took flight en masse when the winds were right




Even the heat distortion of late morning could not dull the starling’s shimmering blue as it sidled over to the White-backed vultures and Maribou. There may be a Hooded Vulture in there as well.




 White-backed flying in--notice the impala is intact



 White-backs flying out



Usually shy and elusive, this Common Duiker was quite visible.  We surmised that the duiker thought standing still rendered it invisible.



Back to the river on the way back to camp…


White-breasted Cormorant




A drink under midday sun


Throughout the trip we were surrounded by fluorescent green foliage brought to life by the recent rain.  So often my photos of the greens could not capture the luminosity or saturation.  Here’s a try.


A baobab, which is very green itself, surrounded by verdant foliage


Non-avian high flyers of the afternoon:






Solidly on the ground as evening neared.








Back to the cliffs and…



1101055194_cliffnotes.jpg.95bd5a1a78c2e36f6a70d5627a4adb1c.jpgCliff Notes 6 Final Chapter


We probably spent more time at the cliffs during our 4-night stay in this area than the typical safari because we were not otherwise occupied when sunset approached.  Had there been an interesting wildlife sighting, we might not have retreated back to the cliffs near the end of each of our four days.  Not that I minded. Fortunately, there was some wildlife AT the cliffs.


Distant elephant from viewing point in late afternoon




Mother elephant and calf seen at viewing point—seen 2 afternoons in a row




Mother elephant and calf coming to drink, seen at viewing point—seen 2 afternoons in a row



Mother and elephant calf drinking at viewing point, and a submerged hippo—seen 2 afternoons in a row



Mother and elephant calf drinking at viewing point, and a submerged hippo—seen 2 afternoons in a row



Mother and elephant calf drinking at viewing point, and a submerged hippo—seen 2 afternoons in a row



Elephant calf wallowing under mother’s watch at viewing point








Waterbuck and nyala were also seen at the cliffs but I have no photos of them.





Although better wildlife sighting luck shined on us later in the safari, the first part of our time in Gonarezhou had many long stretches without much to see.  Doug’s comment of “not a single living thing” was something we heard often and he was right.  It was not for lack of trying, though!



Doug looking far and wide for signs of wildlife


In the above photo I think Doug was looking for signs of lion.  We tracked them and eventually found two far away on a hill.  Doug kept telling us they were right at the top of the hill out in the open.  We three kept insisting all we saw were big rocks, until one of those giant boulders moved. The “boulder lion” had to be massive.


It was exciting to track and find these two lions but equally exciting to realize it is entirely possible that prior to us, no outsider had tread where we had, well off the road and through the brush.


One explanation for the sparse wildlife was that at the start of the rains, animals head excitedly into the woodlands away from the river, seeking the new water sources.  Once they realize those sources are minimal, they return to the rivers.  Our timing likely fell right into that transition period when wildlife was temporarily scouting out the forests.


There may have been a lack of animals, but there was no lack of logs.  So, I started taking pictures of interesting logs.  I might have developed a new hobby!  All log photos were taken on walks.  There were no vehicle stops for a log shot.
















DSC04599 log.jpg

DSCN5604 vul and blue.jpg

Edited by Atravelynn
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i am very glad I logged on to this part of the trip report @Atravelynn  I hope it will not be too trunk-ated.  sadly I have a similar thing about leaves

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3 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

i am very glad I logged on to this part of the trip report @Atravelynn  I hope it will not be too trunk-ated.  sadly I have a similar thing about leaves

A little comic relief.  Right on cue!  Leaves are a wonder, I agree, especially in fall.  Here's one from the Vumba Mountains.




The opposite of trunk-ated is extending the cliff content by including "Vultures with Cliffs."




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A few more snippets from our last day at the Cliffs before we move on to our next destination:












A relatively chilled Slender Mongoose spotted by Andreas.






Our stop for the Buffalo herd was not entirely voluntary.




We crossed right here. Before we did we had met some people who had just come from the other side, and they told us it was fine. Well, it was for them in their higher and closed car. I was sitting in front with Doug, and, uhm, it was not entirely fine. It was deeper than anticipated, and quite a big splash of water landed in the car. Andreas and Lynn remained dry in the backseats, but Doug and myself (including our stuff) were sufficiently soaked. So we let ourselves and our gear dry in the sun for quite a while until we continued. The Buffalo herd helped us pass the time.














I always enjoy seeing White-Headed Vultures, quite a rare sight.








The squabble amongst the Vultures was very entertaining. It was a bit too late for decent photos unfortunately.



Different crossing problem on the way back - this Elephant was blocking the "road". Well, here in the park they do have right of way. We waited some 15 minutes until he decided to let us pass.






Kudu parade admired from the comfy cushions in camp during siesta.








Last cliff photo:



Edited by michael-ibk
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Massasanya Dam was our next destination. This is not too far from Chipinda Pools where we had entered the park. But we did not go there via the main road where we had driven to our mobile camp. Doug chose a very scenic loop drive through Sililijo Valley. A lovely area, especially now after the first rains:






This Carmine was enjoying the morning sun.






Greater Honeyguide, the one supposed to actually guide people to honey. A very vocal bird but not out in the open very often.




We were delighted to see Giraffe here.





















Flappet Lark














This is the hill where we finally found the Lions. Good tracking on Doug´s part - always exciting when that works. They were very shy and quickly ran off the backside of the hill. These Cats are really not used to people here, and even less so to people running after them.










While the scenery was beautiful and we enjoyed the game drive the road was really in a bad state - very often it was just a bunch of rocks Doug carefully had to navigate through. So we were not ungrateful when we finally left the hills and descended again, towards our new camp.



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Massasanya - blatantly stealing from Doug´s website here:


"This semi-permanent camp has 4 chalets overlooking a large waterhole in the North of Gonarezhou. The rooms open up with traditionally made reed shutters that give you a great view over the dam, while letting in a cool breeze. There is running hot and cold water, a basin and a shower in your room, solar lighting, and the enviro toilet is separate to your room and can be seen in the video.  The covered dining area and fireplace are at the heart of the camp. "




I really liked it here. It´s relatively basic but the bed is perfect, and we enjoyed the permanent breeze (we left the reed shutters open during the night).




Our bedfellows.







A somewhat differend kind of bush shower. We had a sink with running water here, could lower the bucket with a crank handle and therefore use the showere anytime without the need to ask for water. Very practical. ("Cold water" though, but since it was so hot and the water really not that cold we actually preferred that.)




And this is the view from bed basically. Many, many birds there for me. Of course I could not help myself and spent the whole afternoon at the edge of the water.








Blacksmith Lapwing


Really had a good time - when I first approached the birds moved off. I lay down and stayed horizontal on my belly (yes, got quite dirty indeed but worth that) and it did not take them long to relax.




Common Ringed Plover




Marsh Sandpiper




Here with its close cousin, the Greenshank




Common Sandpiper




I had to be careful - many, many Crocs here, and they seemed to develop an interest in me when I was too motionless for long. :D




White-Fronted Plover. Not often you can shoot little guys like these here from this angle and distance.




Grey Heron




Wood Sandpiper




Little Stint




Yellow-Billed Stork






Three-Banded Plover

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Later in the afternoon the others joined me. We decided not to go anywhere and just wait and see. Soon the Elephants showed up.

















I never realized when taking these photos but something pretty unpleasant had happened to this (huge) Croc. A part of its lower jaw seems to have broken off, hanging down.









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