….not in my beautiful balloon, but in my teeny, tiny helicopter!!
Seriously, this thing is shorter than I am!!!
I asked Michael “does this helicopter make my butt look big?”
Mark Haldane, owner of Zambeze Delta Safaris offered to take me up in one of the camp copters. These vessels were purchased by the Dallas Safari Club and given to ZDS to be used in their anti-poaching efforts. Each morning one of the staff makes a run around a portion of the one-million acres that make up the hunting concession (called Coutada 11), looking for signs of individuals poaching the game.
As Mark did his pre-flight check, I questioned my sanity…..
But, after a few instructions…..
we were in the air….
We started by skimming across the flat runway, allowing Mark to get a feel for the balance of the copter with the two of us inside.
As we neared the end of the runway, it was UP AND AWAY!!!!
A few minutes into the flight, Mark made a couple of sharper maneuvers and said that I should tell him if he was flying too aggressively. I told him that I had stopped flinching, so it was fine!!
The first stop for the day was to see some of the lions introduced here in 2018. Several in each of the 9 prides have been fitted with tracking collars and each morning a satellite transmission tells them where the lions can be found. This morning, they couldn’t get a current scan, so we were working with data that was 3 hours old.
As Mark flew along, he referred to a hand-held GPS unit to pinpoint the spots. When we reached the first area, Mark hovered over a small tree grouping and said that they should be inside there.
Mark buzzed the area several times, but the lions would not show themselves. He concluded that they had moved on after the satellite had come thru so we moved on to the next pride.
We were more successful the second time. One of the males in the Cirtracks pride first showed his position….
….and, then the rest of the family appeared…..
Since they closely watch the lions, these “kings of the plains” are used to the helicopters and seemed to be saying to themselves… “Yikes….is it already time for the 10:00am show?”
The lion on the top right is one of the males and the others are females or cubs.
After hovering over the den for a few minutes, it was time to check for activity along the Coutada border, and then we were off to see the animals.
This entire trip was a dream come true. I have often watched documentaries where you see the camera skimming across the African plane and now, I wasn’t just watching it, I was living it!!
There are many, many Wart Hogs in this area and I have mostly viewed them as they ran quickly away from me, with their thin, antenna-like tails held high in the air….
But now I was able to see this well-tusked Boar in all of his glory…..
Next we buzzed two hippos with a youngster in tow…..
Michael describes these as looking like a big eggplant….and you can see the resemblance in their coloration and shape.
As we headed further into the flood plain, Mark pointed to a group of what looked like big, black mountains, and said “You are getting the full tour today”. I asked if we were approaching Cape Buffalo but he said to “think 10-times bigger”.
My heart rate quickened as we approached this big bull……
…..and even more so as Mark circled the rest of the herd…..
It was exciting to see the young following along in their mother’s footsteps.
I will leave this here for today but please come back tomorrow for more of my astounding helicopter sightings!!!