After reading Brian Jackman’s ‘High Tea With Elephants’, I felt it would be apt to start with this: ‘Africa changes you, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same. But how do you begin to describe it’s magic to someone who has never felt it? How can you explain the fascination of this vast, dusty continent, whose oldest roads are elephant paths?’. It was as I stood to gaze in awe at the endless rolling plains of the Mbiza pan, that I felt humbled and realised that this experience is truly something that must be felt, to be understood.
In that light, October in Hwange National Park is nothing short of magic.
The air of anticipation is palpable as October’s heat brings with it a build-up of magnificent thunderous clouds, threatening rain. While we’re on the weather, as threatening as these rain clouds may be, if you plan to visit in October rain is unlikely, so pack for the heat as temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius.
During the driest months of the year water is pumped from underground sources to surface pans providing an oasis for Hwange’s bountiful wildlife providing spectacular game viewing opportunities with a backdrop of breathtaking landscapes.
In contrast to my last visit to The Hide earlier this year, palettes of soft-lush greens and blues had been replaced with rich hazy golds and candy floss skies. For photography enthusiasts, this time of year in Hwange is unparalleled.
The drive from Hwange Main Camp to The Hide is an experience in itself.
As you journey down the dusty roads of Zimbabwe’s largest national park you are greeted with an abundance of wildlife. Herds of zebra, impala, and other plains game skip along the roadside, accompanied by dashes of vibrant birdlife such as the lilac-breasted roller. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive leopard, or painted dog.
One of the many luxuries while staying at The Hide is the resident watering hole, teaming with creatures both large and small and only a stone’s throw from the dining area. A certain feast for the eyes. At any given time of day, you can be sure to share high tea with some of Africa’s gentle giants.
Just under an hour’s drive from camp and usually a sundown destination is the utterly breath-taking Mbiza Pan. This panoramic bliss is the perfect spot to sit, unwind and enjoy the sheer, boundless beauty that surrounds. The Mbiza Pan has seen a recent influx of elephant with estimates of just over 500 stopping in to quench their thirst in the past week. Cheetah are among some the incredible big cats to have been spotted near the pan.
The Hide’s boasts a team of amenable and impressively knowledgeable guides, whom you will be warmly greeted and accompanied by throughout your stay. It was my guide, Daffy who informed me of the great male lion, Kakore who had been seen feeding on a waterbuck not far from camp. While Cecil’s pride was seen lazing nonchalant in the mid-day heat at Ngweshala.
In electric anticipation I wait, as the golden sun set’s, to hear his distant roar. There is nothing quite as magical as the night in the African Bush. The air becomes rich with the gentle, ambient chorus of nocturnal creatures. Entranced and lulled to sleep by the symphony of crickets and night birds, the soft swooshing and quiet rumbles of elephant drinking at the waterhole and the distant roar of a lion, perhaps Kakore.
This is the authenticity of the African, raw uncut and wild, transcending any preconceptions that one may have had. An experience that truly must be felt, to be understood…