A Walk in the Garden

Our first morning in the bush, we ended up in a garden area…but probably NOT the kind of garden that you are imagining!!

In previous years, the villagers were not in a centralized area but lived in small family groups.  The village consisted of a few huts and maybe a pen for chickens or animals.  Each small village would create a “garden” area near their houses.   This garden would have a few acres for millet or sorghum and maybe a few banana or cassava trees.

Unfortunately, they would clear large sections of the forest for these gardens using a technique called slash and burn……

After the field was used for a few years and its agricultural effectiveness had passed, they would move on to another spot and do it all again!!!

NOW….the villagers have moved (with the help of Zambeze Delta Safaris) to a central area where they have agricultural fields that are well maintained and can produce two crops a year.

That is a long backstory, but here we go…..

The garden that we were strolling thru had been slashed and burned but the villagers had moved on before it could be developed.  It was a sad sight…..

BUT, there were a lot of things to see in this area.

I have always loved fungi and these orange ones just lit up in the sunlight….

These rice-looking granules appeared on many of the burnt-out logs…..

….and this green one was really cool……

We passed tobacco plants…..

….and Dylan (our guide) told us that the seeds would drop from the villager’s cigarettes while they were clearing the area!!

I kept seeing this weed……

….being careful to avoid it at all costs!!!

There was evidence that the area was well visited by the local large animals…..

 ….and the insects were out in force.

Dylan told us that this is a biscuit spider…..

It was interesting to look at and we figure that all of the other spiders make fun of him!!

I know that I am weird, but I love to watch dung beetles……

….and especially as this one attempted to move a ball of Wart Hog dung that was FAR bigger than he was!!!

There was also some other interesting flora.   

I loved this flower…..

…..and these leaves were cool……

It was a good start to our time in the bush!!!

Come back next week for the next two installments!!

Getting there is half the fun!!

If you have been following along, I have been writing about our first trip to Mozambique. Now that we have finished with that trip, it is time to move onto the 2nd one!!!

My plan is to post a couple of stories every week (on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

So….let’s get going!!

Our flights to DC and then on to Addis and Beira were, for the most part, uncomplicated!!!

In DC, we went back to Capital Grille for our send-off meal and were treated to amazing food and a wonderful ambiance.   We took a quick walk along the National Mall, and then returned to the hotel.

We are always concerned about the weight and amount of our baggage but when you stand in the line for Ethiopian airlines, you feel as if you are carrying a mere pittance of luggage.  The airline allows 2 checked bags per person and 3 if you are a member of their flight club.  Believe me, the passengers make good use of this perk!!!!

This was the luggage for ONE family…….

As we watched more and more large carts of suitcases arrive, we began to wonder if the plane would be able to get off the ground!!!!

We also kept seeing people checking boxes holding 60+ -inch TVs!!  One of the gentlemen that we talked to told us that Ethiopia had recently removed the tariffs associated with these TVs so EVERYBODY was bringing them home!!!

The funniest thing about the flights were 5 guys (I THINK that they were male) in full contamination gear……

It was a bit disconcerting to have them board our flight and we debated about running, screaming from the plane!!!  We finally decided that they were just hyper about COVID contaminations!!!

The helicopter was waiting for us as we left the airport in Beira and we once again enjoyed the views….

I love the way this river winds around……

When  I saw this, I was concerned that the camp might be super flooded as well…..

…..but pilot Pete assured me that the camp was much dryer than it had been the last time we were there!!

We were once again greeted by the camp staff and made to feel welcome in our tent. 

It was good to return so soon after our last trip and we both felt like we were coming home!!!


Buzzing the Mozambique plain!!

In yesterday’s post, I began to describe the 45 minute helicopter flight that I enjoyed!!

After we left the elephants, on we flew…..

Mark saw a flock of white birds (Egrets) in the air and headed toward them expecting to see a herd of Cape Buffalo.  His expectations were realized…..

Mark flew closer and stirred them up a bit but as we flew away, they resumed their heads-down clearing of the local foliage….

I loved looking into the pools that formed along the river areas, especially enjoying the lily pads that shown brightly in the morning sun…..

Since I had been wading in these waters only 4 days ago, I was NOT that excited to see the crocodiles sunning themselves in the reeds….

Sorry for the blurry photo, but you can still see just how BIG he was!!!

Mark’s eagle eyes noted two different groups of people and, in each case, flew closer to determine who they were and why they were there.   The first set were fishermen, and as the copter hovered overhead, they held up their fishing licenses to assure Mark that they were NOT poaching the fish.

As we approached the second set of four individuals, Mark announced that they were part of the anti-poaching team and they waved happily at their boss as he passed.  

These small teams are dropped off in one area of the Coutada and told to be at a different point in three days for pick-up.  They spend those three days walking the land and looking for any signs of poaching, keeping in contact with base camp using satellite phones.

We passed many herds of antelope and other plains game and most would run from the helicopter’s noise.

All too soon, we turned away from the flood plain and headed back to camp.  This video montage takes you on the full trip, from take-off to touch down…..

When we return in about two weeks, we are hoping for better weather so that we can spend even MORE time in the air!!!


Up, up and away…..

….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!!!

An afternoon in the bush….

Yesterday, I talked about our first morning in the Mozambique bush.

After a wonderful lunch and a one-hour rest time that the entire camp took advantage of, we were once again in the truck and headed out to see what we could find.

The trackers saw a Nyala family group consisting of a bull, cow, and several young ones.  We followed them into the brush, stalking the group so that we could get closer.   It was fun to watch the trackers as they worked their way into the brush…..

WAY into the brush……

I kidded Julian about the “path” that we were following!!

We were able to get close to the family group and one of the younger animals walked to within 10 feet of us.   It was amazing to see them so close!!

I was always at the back of the line and kept stopping to take photos and would then have to hurry to catch up.   The trick was to walk lightly and not make noise.  In comparison to Julian and the trackers, I was afraid that I sounded like a bull moose traipsing thru dry leaves in the woods.

I loved this root…..

….it reminds me of an arm filled with bangles!!

As we drove along, various animals would scoot across the road in front of us and often I could hear them in the brush beside us as we drove.   Photos were impossible as they would run away long before the truck got there.  There were a few instances that are seared in my memory…..

There was one antelope that was running thru the tall grass and the only time you could see him was at the top of his gait when his ears would show above the grass.

We passed several troupes of monkeys that would scatter as we approached, but you could still see (and hear) them in the trees around the road.

As we headed to camp during the golden hour just before sunset, the animal sightings became more prolific.  Among other things, we saw wart hog, a female Sable and this sweet Nyala youngster….. 

Julian finally had to turn the headlights on, and a Night Jar bird started playing in the lights.   It would land in the road and wait for the truck to catch up and then it would fly in front of the lights, apparently catching insects in its wide mouth.  It was great fun to watch!!

I spotted 4 large birds silhouetted against the lowering sky and signaled for Julian to stop so I could take photos.   Unfortunately, they flew just as I put the camera up!!

But, after taking several photos, Michael leaned out of the cab and said, “did you get good photos of him?”.   What “him” I asked.   “The Eagle Owl” sitting in that tree” was the answer.   “What Eagle Owl?”. 

Apparently, he was sitting on a lower branch from where my birds were sitting!!   The light was not good for a photo, but even in the low light, I could see the distinctive outline of his ears.

Back at camp, the fire pit was prepared and ready for the relaxing to begin…..

After 30 minutes of enjoyable conversation, once again the drums sounded signaling that dinner was served.   Tonight we had Reed Buck Roast, roast potatoes, a local sauteed spinach-type of vegie and various other steamed vegetables….a good Sunday dinner!!

Dessert was magnificent, made up of rich layers of graham cracker crumbs, caramel, bananas, and cream. 

Michael and I hit the bed and were asleep before we knew it!!