Written by Mike Garden
As our small plane descended onto the Manga airstrip, we noticed a couple of elephant syphoning cool clear water from a pan which was being filled by a solar panel operated borehole. The journey from the runway to Somalisa tented camp in Hwange National Park, takes about 25 minutes through teak woodland along well-defined tracks in the kalahari sands.
Barely five minutes from the landing strip at this same waterhole we had just viewed from the air we were treated to a birding spectacle. First, a pair of Secretary birds walked proudly through the vlei, followed by an African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene) searching the sturdy trees nearby for the eggs of weaker, unsuspecting birds whilst a majestic Martial Eagle sat quietly in the shallow water with large yellow eyes peering at this unwanted intruder.
Even though Hwange is home to some 45,000 elephants, it is a such a vast piece of real estate that there is, effectively, only three elephants to every square kilometre. During the dry winter months, they all tend to congregate around waterholes giving the debatable impression that there are too many in the park.
In October, the peak of the dry season, water levels are low, the grass dry and unpalatable and during this time, fresh green leaves on the trees give off a bitter taste. Elephant are easily irritated under these conditions and given to loud trumpeting at all times of the day.
They do, however, come right up to the suitably barricaded verandah in the front of the dining area of the camp and slurp up copious quantities of water from the plunge pool. Guests sip on their gin and tonics whilst watching these enormous animals quenching their thirst, seemingly without concern.
Operated by African Bush Camps (ABC) and situated in the south-east corner of the park, Somalisa is split into three separate camps.
The main one has seven independent lodges whilst Somalisa Acacia is designed around families and Somalisa Destination is set ten minutes away with smaller A-frame tents with less frills.
Please purchase Issue 10 for more on the beautiful Somalisa camps!