Minterne Gardens, Dorset

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A friend told me about the Minterne Himalayan Gardens on Monday, and I visited the next day. This is an ideal time of year to go, because of the rhododendrons and the azaleas and other spring wild flowers, but the great collection of wonderful trees would justify a visit at any time of year. I took so many pictures that I cannot make a choice, so here for the record are lots and lots of them, with occasional commentary.

I had to stop a few miles before arriving at Minterne Magna, to take this view.
Minterne Church, opposite the car park.
The entrance to the gardens, no cars allowed
I was not yet ‘Here’, but where the ticket booth is indicated, and that wasn’t there but at the main house.
The house, home to the early Churchills and afterwards the Digbys, is not open to the general public. It was the first Digby owner who made the magnificent gardens in the early 19th century.
The lawn was not available to he public either, for perhaps understandable reasons.
The gardens were a wonderful mixture of Himalayan planting and British wild flowers
Eyes right
A handkerchief tree from a distance,
then in ever increasing…
detail. What photos cannot show is that every ‘handkerchief’ is waving in time with its neighbour.
At times the bird song was deafening, not all the responsibility of this blue tit.
Another handkerchief tree,
and this time I’m right underneath it, on a small bridge.
This bridge is foreshortened by the zoom.
I’m in fact nearer to it now.
And there was a convenient bench.
Blackbird in the butterbur
Ransoms and reflections
Wollemi ‘pine’. Until September 1994, this species was only know in the fossil record, then some specimens were found in Wollemi National Park, (the tree is named for the park, not vice versa) 150 km to the northwest of Sydney, Australia. The original site is kept undisclosed to the general public, but propagation makes samples available to botanical gardens.
Entertainment in the lake as I had coffee and cake.

I decided to call in on the little church instead of returning straight home.

15th century font, on a somewhat more recent base

The very first Sir Winston Churchill, his wife, and his daughter are buried here. On the left is the grave of John Churchill, the first Winston’s father.

I felt particularly for this woman, ‘languishing under a tediouse sickness for halfe a year’ before she died.

And there were a few other commemorative plaques which caught my eye, some of which told interesting stories.

A lovely afternoon under lovely weather.

Gloucester Cathedral precincts

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Until last Saturday, my only recollection of Gloucester had been of an incident at least 30 years previous. I had arrived, with others, by narrowboat in the docks, and, for reasons I can no longer remember, was wandering around in the area on my own. I was approached by a copper, who asked me to account for my whereabouts for the last 30 minutes or so. I did so, and he seemed content at my explanation. When I asked why he wanted to know, he told me that someone of my description had been seen leaving a local shop with stolen goods. (I was wearing blue jeans and a navy blue sweater, even more of a uniform those days than now.)

Anyway, this Saturday I went nowhere near the historic docks, though would have done so had I had the time. I was in the city to join in an early music singing workshop in the Parliament Rooms of Gloucester Cathedral. (All I have been able to discover about these rooms is that one of them was used by Richard II for a Parliament in 1378.) I couldn’t really take photographs of the workshop itself, but was pleased to have time during the lunch break to wander around in the immediate vicinity.

The Parliament Rooms are a building to the left of the west front of the cathedral. We were upstairs. This is the scene that greeted me as I arrived.
The view from where I sat. I failed to make any note about the portrait, but recall that the word ‘headmaster’ appeared in the label.
Above and behind my head, to the right, a fresco I presume.
I learned later that the building on the left is the Deanery.
I took my sandwich lunch with these ladies, and then wandered round the cathedral anti-clockwise, taking pictures right and left.
Ahead of me as I ate was the west front.
The Parliament Rooms are further to the left of this building, which is described below.
To my right as I start my walk
To my left
I was told that until very recently this was a large car park, and that a great deal of money was spent converting it to this pleasant pedestrian area.
There were many of these blocks, giving snippets of the cathedral’s history, but I couldn’t read many as they were mainly being sat on or used as tables.
Once to the north-east of the cathedral, I found myself in Pitt Street. I did not take pictures of the scaffolding covering that corner of the ecclesiastical building.
This herb garden was created by volunteers in 1992, with advice from Benedictine monks from nearby Prinknash Abbey. There are areas for herbs used in cooking, decorating, dyeing, and fumigating.
The Deanery’s urns and wisteria seen close up
And, now behind me, this is where our music-making was taking place.
Having seen, and failed to take a photograph of, a plaque mentioning the composer Ivor Gurney, and having noticed, by the infirmary arches, the mention of the writer of the US national anthem, I was delighted to come across this reference to S S Wesley, the great hymn writer.
Through St Mary’s Arch can be seen a monument to Bishop John Hooper,
who was burnt at the stake for holding on to his beliefs in simplicity in worship in 1555. A board nearly said that because the fire was not strong enough it took 45 minutes for him to die. Bloody times, in the name of religion, in those days.
St Mary’s Church
I returned through the gate.
And I was back on College Green where I had had my lunch. It was time to resume the music.
Tea break, photo taken from the other side of the room to the entrance.

I must return to Gloucester to explore the docks once more, hoping to escape the beady eye of the law this time.

A Spring walk …

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… in the Compton Dundon, Somerset, area.

A friendly dog – which didn’t bark! The Hood Monument right.
I was going Butleigh-wards. And when I turned round from taking this photo…
… I was concerned I might have delightful but unwanted company, but he returned home.
Well, I like dandelions.
Cow parsley
A dandeliony thing, Greater hawks-beard I think.
Comfrey
Hart’s tongue fern (TH)
Pendulous sedge. It’s very pretty, but it’s wicked in my garden, seeding itself everywhere. And it seemed, sadly, to have done so on this walk. There was far too much of it, everywhere, in my view.
Nearing the (physical) high point of the afternoon.
I was tempted to go off at a tangent but didn’t.
The Hood Monument
The top of the monument reflects the activity of Samuel Hood, 1724-1816, local boy made good. His younger brother, Alexander, was also an Admiral, but I know of no monument to him.
In memory of
Sir Samuel Hood
Knight of the most Honourable Order of the Bath
and nominated Grand Cross thereof
Knight of St Ferdinand and of Merit
Knight Grand Cross of the Sword
Vice Admiral of the White
and Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Fleet
in the East Indies
View from the plinth, looking north. If it weren’t for the trees on the left, I could have seen my house. (It would be possible to see my house if one were allowed to climb to the top of the Monument, as I can see the latter from my front window.)
Wych elm, I think
Continuing downwards, I came to my kind of stile
Glastonbury and its Tor.

I had a choice at this point, to walk along a very busy road, or to enter a wood, where three years ago I had found carpets of bluebells.

There were no bluebells where I expected to find them. Either my memory was faulty or they had been stripped out. Or they had been suppressed by the acres of sedge that seemed to be everywhere. After a long while I did find some, but not in the swathes that I expected.

But happily they were English bluebells, with not a Spanish bluebell in sight, then or for the rest of my walk.

The wood felt magical and I found myself envious of the owner.

Impossible not to be aware of a great low-flying bird across my path. It settled in a tree to my left.

A buzzard!
Just look at that beak and those talons!

Then it flew off, to a much higher and much further tree, not yet covered in foliage.

Only on examining and enlarging my photos was I able to see that the tree, a cherry of some sort presumably, had blossom, a nice contrast with the fierceness of the bird.
My Ordnance Survey map indicated that this was, (in Gothic lettering so it was ancient), the ‘New Ditch’.
This inadvertent sculpture pleased me.
There are still many primroses around.
The steps are part of the Polden Way, quite recently established, but mine was the bridleway to the right
It looked easy and smooth
From the path I could just see an inaccessible mass of white flowers in green. As I suspected, they did turn out, thanks to the zoom on the camera, to be wild garlic, aka ransoms.
What promised to be a smooth and easy path was not always. Those ruts are 18 ins (45 cm) deep!
I was not tempted to swing from this beautiful tree, but zoomed in on a yellow sheen on the field.
It was a sheen of cowslips.
Herb Robert
The trouble with butterflies is that they flit about so. This was the best I could do to catch the Speckled wood.
All afternoon there had just been the odd sample of vetch, but towards the end I came across a bankful of the plant, with a co-operative bee.
And, as I only noticed once home, an ant as well. (Brown-banded Carder bee)
Nearly back to my car, this is the back of the local hostelry, with Dundon Hill behind. It has a Gothic lettering fort on it.

A very pleasant afternoon. And other than on the first road, I didn’t meet a soul.

Namibia/Botswana/Zambia 21

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Our final day ended with a ‘sunset cruise’, intended, we were told, less to look for wildlife than to just enjoy the experience of being on the (Zambezi) river for a couple of hours. As I stood beforehand on the terrace of the Camp Nkwazi Lodge

Reed cormorant
Hippo
Far off on the opposite, Zimbabwean, bank, kudu
Chacma baboons

As people started embarking, I held back to get this picture, and feared that I was therefore condemned to sitting in the full sun of the open top deck. But in fact, given the breeze created by the movement of the boat, it was lovely up there.

Village weaver and nests

It was very pleasant along the river, and, uniquely, sundowners were offered – I had gin and orange, the quinine in tonic not being good for my tinnitus. (Sorry, sufferers.)

We hugged the Zambian bank. I wondered if we would come back that way as well, given that halfway across the river we would be in Zimbabwe.

Looking fore as we set off
Looking aft
A lot of hadeda ibis and one egret

My geopolitical query was answered when we went well over the invisible dividing line halfway across the river when we turned round. So perhaps this trip should have been advertised as ‘Namibia/Botswana/Zambia/ Zimbabwe’. Though truth to tell, we had only ventured a few miles even into Botswana and Zambia.

Hadeda ibis. In addition to its iridescent green ‘flanks’ it has iridescent pink shoulders.
Juvenile fish eagle. It did not seem bothered by us (this a very much zoomed photo), but …
… in due course it flew off.
A young bushbuck
Hooded vulture
Village weaver nests

We drift back over to the Zambian side.

Zimbabwe

I tried, not very successfully, to capture photos of birds low-flying back to their roosts.

As we arrived at the lodge, the owners signalled that there was a Finfoot (‘Uncommon resident.. resemble ducks and cormorants but … unrelated to these groups’, and not yet seen by us) on a small island nearby, so we went in search. Some got a reasonable but fleeting view, I saw it for about half a second scrambling up a bank, and some didn’t see it at all. No question of my photographing it.

But we did hear and see some trumpeting Trumpeter hornbills, and saw some more Hadeda ibis.

And could this be bettered as a final view at the end of a most fantastic and privileged trip?

PS. I went, last Saturday, to a Big Cat Festival in London organised by Bradt Travel Guides. There were lots of wonderful photographs, alongside some hard-hitting conservation messages. In Africa, except when we were at sewage works (!), where it was possible to see some wonderful birds, we had been in national parks, which exclude permanent human habitation. I would not like to have given the impression that these three countries are teeming with wildlife. Our visit was only possible because their governments see the value of preserving what remains of the living treasures they house. At the same time they are having to deal with expanding human populations, and drought.

At the Big Cat Festival, I saw this large picture, by Jonathan Truss. He kindly allowed people to take photos of it. (Sadly I only had my tiny phone with me.) If those lions we saw a few weeks ago had been even half the size of this imaginary one, I think that our confidence around them, even protected by our vehicles, would have been somewhat diminished!

Namibia/Botswana/Zambia 20

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Our leaders had pity on us, the morning of this our last complete day. Breakfast was up to as late as 8.00, and there was no pre-breakfast walk.

On the way to breakfast:

From my terrace
Looking back at my accommodation
(Taken mid-afternoon)
A millipede I nearly trod on

I was the last to arrive at breakfast, at 7.30, and was greeted by Neil with ‘Good afternoon!’, to which I reacted with appropriate indignation.

We set off for the day’s activities at 9.00.

A pool at the roadside. Glossy ibis and, I think, Egyptian geese

We drove through the town of Livingstone. Difficult to capture images describing the place.

Surprise, surprise, we arrived at a sewage works. I didn’t take many photos, except of terns in flight – most unsuccessfully.

A row of egrets and whiskered terns
Nile crocodile
The best I could do
I never did sort out sewage works in southern Africa. They seem to grow things there. I suppose the soil may be, in due course, particularly fertile. With lakes much enjoyed by wildfowl and waders, they’re clearly not on the same model as our sewage works.
Glossy ibis

African purple gallinule, aka swamp hen

We then undertook a long and bumpy journey.

Red-backed shrike
Three-striped skink, on a rock, not a buffalo or hippo
The bumpy road led straight through a village. It would have been so nice to stop for a while.

We were aiming for a lunch place (a lodge of course) some miles down the Zambezi River from Victoria Falls, overlooking the gorge. Leader Neil was disappointed that we were not giving it more attention, but the fact is that it was much cooler in the shade, and, perhaps more significantly, most of us were deep into our phones and tablets, having access to wi-fi for the first time in 48 hours. Our super luxury lodge had been without the service since our arrival. Not their fault, but the local tower, or whatever-you-call-it, was out of action. As we were due to depart the following day, people hasd urgent and less urgent need of communication with the rest of the world.

That said, everyone did look at the gorge for a while at least.

I remarked to Neil that I was surprised how slow the water flow was, given the amount and speed of it over the Falls. ‘Or perhaps it’s a matter of scale?’, I asked. ‘It’s a matter of scale,’ he said. ‘Look at those kayaking.’ I hadn’t noticed the tiny little dots. They were moving, very fast, and were much further down than my brain had registered.

Having lunched and, er, used the facilities, (which were totally respectable)

we set off back to the Lodge for a siesta.

Namibia/Botswana/Zambia 19

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Thursday 7th March, afternoon. We only went a very little way into Zambia, near to the town of Livingstone, formerly capital of Northern Rhodesia. The big tourist attraction around there is the Victoria Falls. We went direct to them after lunch.

Here is a model of the Falls before the Zambian entrance. Note the footbridge, within the park, and the road bridge linking Zambia and Zimbabwe. As I learnt later, the model considerably minimises the sheer breadth of the Falls.

A more accurate representation would show, that there is much, much more of them to be seen from the Zimbabwean side. But they were impressive enough from Zambia.

A statue of the great explorer, sometime missionary, scientist and abolitionist, fascinating, stubborn and somewhat disorganised, David Livingstone greets you shortly after the gate. ‘He travelled the African interior to the north between 1852 and 1856, mapping almost the entire course of the Zambezi, and was the first European to see the Mosi-o-Tunya (“the smoke that thunders”) waterfall, which he called Victoria Falls after his monarch.’ 

First glimpse
Yours Truly looking a little self-conscious
They were noisy!
The footbridge looked slippery, but it wasn’t.
View from the bridge looking along the beginning of the gorge, the Falls behind me. The road bridge can just be seen.
Looking down is not for those with vertigo.
The water just flows and flows, and the curtain just goes on and on.
This was the furthest point which could be reached from the Zambian side. Impossible to see how much more there was.

I started wandering back.

I waited to take the picture until the lorry was half in Zambia and half in Zimbabwe
My apprehension as I made to return over the footbridge was for a different reason now. Baboons have very nasty teeth. But he just said, ‘Keep left.’ Instead I stood aside to let him pass.
I got absolutely soaked in spray at this point, but it was warm and I soon dried off.

Back at the entrance, Neil pointed out that it was possible to take a path to see the top of the Falls. On the way I saw this Western three-striped skink.

This is not some distant zoomed view. I could have stepped into this – and gone over the edge! Health and safety there was not. No barrier, no nothing.
Just like that. Many islands in the river mean its full breadth cannot be seen.

It was time to move on to nearby Camp Nkwazi Lodge, again on the banks of the Zambezi River, where we were to stay for our last two nights.

The river has not suddenly narrowed. This is an island…
… sheltering among other things dozens of village weavers’ nests.

All our lodges over the fortnight had been very different from each other.

Bedroom. There is no glass in the windows, only gauze.
Part of the bathroom.
Kitchen/dining room on the terrace. Not that I used it except as a passage to my room.

Namibia/Botswana/Zambia 18

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Thursday 7th March, morning. As mentioned already, Neil and Jakes were not licensed to lead game drives in Botswana, but we had the opportunity to go on an optional (= paying) game drive organised by the lodge, leaving at 6.00 a.m. Most of us decided to do so, but in the event found we very much missed the quality of our own guides. We were again in two vehicles, open ones this time, and with a couple of other people staying at the lodge in each as well.

With a start at 6.00 a.m., it was still far from fully light.

The guides were clearly not interested/didn’t see birds at all, and it was the German lady in our jeep who spotted these and asked to stop for photos.

Marabou storks

The tour laid on by the hotel clearly caters for the general public just passing though, not knowledgeable (well, most of them) fanatics like us! But we did nevertheless see some interesting and new things, before we got back for a hasty breakfast at 9.00 a.m., and departure as soon as possible afterwards. For we were to leave Botswana finally for a brief sojourn in Zambia, before setting off on the long journey back to the UK.

It was interesting, for example, to see the Chobe River from a different angle than from the river itself.
Impala
Lots of impala
Chacma baboon
Here was a new one – a coppery-tailed coucal
A string of buffalo
I would have liked a chance to get a better picture of these Kori bustard, but the jeep didn’t stop.

This next was perhaps the most interesting sighting of the game drive. A black-backed jackal came trotting towards us, clearly carrying some very fresh meat. It stopped, dropped the meat, scrabbled a bit, and then moved on – without the meat – and passed behind our jeep. What was going on?

Over there is a hippo, but again the jeep didn’t stop
I think this might be a not-quite-adult female Bateleur, but I’m not sure
White-fronted bee-eaters

Perhaps this was the reason the jeep was rushing. We found ourselves in a bunch of at least a dozen other vehicles, all straining to catch a sight of…

.. a handsome male lion padding across at a great distance.

He was followed by a procession of five or six of his females – I lost count.

But they were a very long way off. On the other hand, had we not had the very good lion sightings earlier on in the trip, we would have been thrilled to see even these.

We turned round, and on the way back for breakfast caught sight of …

Zebra and impala
Buffalo
and Osprey

…………..

Crossing from Botswana into Zambia (the former Northern Rhodesia) was a more complicated affair than nipping between Namibia (the old South West Africa) and Botswana (the old Bechuanaland) had been.

I’m not sure what took the time at the Botswana emigration post, but hanging around gave us the chance to observe this Red-billed hornbill.

Entering Zambia involved crossing the ‘mighty’ Zambezi River. We hadn’t the time to wait for this bridge, being financed by China, to be completed.

So we were going to cross by this.

Which was actually more fun.
Our vehicles were dwarfed by the HGVs also waiting to cross by ferry.
We were not allowed to stay in the vehicles,
But had to walk on, and stand for the crossing. Which was also more fun.
Looking east, please see Zambia (ex-Northern Rhodesia) to the left and Zimbabwe (ex-Southern Rhodesia) to the right.
And looking west, there are Botswana to your left and Namibia to your right. Whether you can see them or not. The sun on Neil’s left shoulder appears to be coming from the north. That’s because it is – we’re south of the Equator.

We had been warned that here we would have to wait for anything between one hour and three. (Neil had FOUR sets of taxes to pay at different offices!) In the event it was two hours, in great heat, but at least we were in the roofed vehicles by now. There were some interesting things going on, like women picking up really heavy bundles of foodstuffs from the side of some huge HGVs which the latter had carried across the river in addition to their main freight, then putting them on their heads at walking off. I would love to know the story behind that, and I have no idea why I didn’t take photos. Perhaps because of a general reluctance to intrude on people’s daily lives.

Fortunately it was not too long, once we set off, before we stopped for lunch. Though at one point we all leapt up from table (outdoors of course) to seek out a trumpeting Trumpeter hornbill, of which this was the best photo I could get!

Would you even know it was a bird?!

We heard, and indeed saw, plenty of these – very loud – at our next and final lodge.

Namibia/Botswana/Zambia 17

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Wednesday afternoon, 6th March. Vervet monkeys hung around the lodge. Indeed we were advised not to leave our sliding doors open. I did go onto my balcony a couple of times to look, but I didn’t see any. These were in a common area.

After a rest it was out on the boat again, in the same direction. Some familiar wildlife and some new. One very special.

Reed cormorant
Chacma baboon
Water thick-knee
Young Nile crocodile. Looks almost benevolent.
White-crowned lapwing. This time the reason for its name can be seen.
Water monitor
The first and last time we saw this animal, a Puku
Pied kingfisher
Yes, we saw lots of elephants, but I didn’t take lots of photos
I was intrigued and, I confess, slightly amused to see this flag. I had noticed it in the morning, but this time I asked Neil for confirmation that it was indeed the Botswanan flag. ‘Why is it there?’ ‘To show that the [uninhabited] island belongs to Botswana.’ And I recalled from my previous reading that, while the boundary between Botswana (then the Bechuanaland Protectorate) and Namibia (then German South West Africa) had been settled between respectively the UK and Germany (I find myself indignant on behalf of the Africans) in 1890 as, at this point, the ‘main channel’ of the Chobe River, no determination had been made of which channel either side of this island was the main one. The two, by now independent, countries took the matter to the International Court of Justice in 1999. The ICJ studied the geography, including depth and speed of water flow, and determined that the main channel was to the north of the island, so it belonged to Botswana. At the same time it recalled to both countries that seven years previously, they had reached an accord whereby each would have unimpeded rights of way on the river on both sides of the island, known as Sedudu in Botswana and Kasikili in Namibia. Interestingly, leader Neil, Namibian, referred to it as Sedudu.
A very scarred back
African fish-eagle
Egyptian goose
Common waterbuck

Goliath heron
Buffalo and cattle egret
‘A long time’ since we’d seen a giraffe
Vervet monkey family

These last two pictures had been taken while the boat was moving fast, with, unusually, no stopping, and at a time when I would have thought we would be turning round. Yet the boat sped on, further and further from the lodge.

After a short while all became clear. A leopard! Those local boat steerers/guides keep in touch with each other!

I hadn’t given my hope of seeing a leopard – which would complete my big cat ‘list’ – a thought for days. But given this opportunity, I, like everyone else, took zillions of photos, of which here are a very few. It (I don’t know whether it was male or female) was a long way off, but once you knew where it was, there was a clear view.

At least she (no, sorry, I have to give the feline a gender) was alert, and not stretched out fast asleep
We dreaded that there might be/hoped that there would be some leopard/warthog action…
… but neither seemed very interested in the other in the event.

I moved to the upper deck of the boat, and by the time I was there, she also had moved.

Short of seeing her catch prey and dragging it up a tree (the chances of seeing that from a boat were slim to non-existent, I would imagine) this was the best possible view we could have had. From these pictures, I extract the following enlarged portraits.

It was now indeed a race to get back to the lodge before the (Chobe) national park shut. I don’t think we made it in time (there were no physical barriers) but I didn’t hear of the boatmen being fined either.

Namibia/Botswana/Zambia 16

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Wednesday, 6th March. While our guides were not licensed for Botswanan wildlife trips, there was nothing to stop them explaining things if we took established boat rides from Chobe Safari Lodge within the Chobe National Park. So at 9 a.m. we set off for the first of two boats rides today – in which we saw lots of elephants! On the whole, to begin with, we kept to the south bank of the Chobe River.

Facing north. Darter and reed cormorants.
This little fellow, a wire-tailed swallow, hitched a ride for a short while.
Red bishop. So striking.
Brown-throated weaver
Jacanas
Giant kingfisher
Nile crocodile, not very big, only about 5 feet (1.5 metres) long…

When we saw elephants, I took enormous numbers of photographs and videos. Just a very few are here.

Play fighting
This big bull isolated himself to his own mud bank, very near to us.
The eyes have it.
Not threatening nor hassling, just cooling I think.
I had this taken just to prove that I was really there. I’m still on the boat!

We continued on our way, to a ‘lovely’ muddy area.

Glossy ibis
Two glossy ibises
We had pulled in, nudging the bank. The local guide had to draw this to my attention – right under my nose. Squacco heron.
The Flanders and Swann song is, I believe, about hippopotamuses. Clearly elephants like mud too.
As do Buffalos (or Buffaloes – take your pick)

We started wending our way back, mainly along the northern bank of the river now.

These impala were on the far southern bank.

White-crowned lapwing
There’s a water monitor in there

The we became aware of lots, and lots, and lots of elephant lining the southern bank.

On the northern bank was already this leader, presumably the matriarch of at least some of them. She summoned them over.

And they came. The elephants here are well-known for swimming across the river.
Just as mum holds her trunk out of the water, so does her tiny baby, keeping very close to her right ‘hip’.
Still there
Presumably those that crossed were all of the same family.
And after a good wallow for some, they continued on their way.

As did we, ready for our lunch.

Namibia/Botswana/Zambia 15

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Tuesday 5th March. Last few hours in Namibia. During our customary pre-breakfast walk around the grounds of our lodge, the Zambezi River looks much the same as it did the evening before.

These splendid flowers are those of the Lucky bean tree.
Poor early morning light , and distance, made it difficult to get a good take on these woodland kingfishers.
Dark-capped bulbuls

On our way to a different border crossing…

Emerald-spotted wood-dove

But before getting there, we stopped for coffee at a very small lodge, with, I think, the hope of seeing a particular bird.

Not this tiny one, spotted first by me (a rare occurrence!), a collared sunbird…
but this large pigeon-sized one, very elusive high in the tree, a Schalow’s Turaco, only found immediately round here, and in the same group as the Go-away-birds.
This is the young man who showed us round. He was raising the tree squirrel, hoping to release it into nature in due course. It was very tame.

Continuing, and near the border crossing…

Malachite kingfisher
Another of those Openbills

By lunchtime we had reached the Chobe Safari Lodge, right by the Chobe Safari Park, where we were to spend two nights. I have to say, very comfortable and smart as it was, it was my least favourite resting place. It was HUGE! As a result the dining area sounded like a large works canteen, very noisy, though I had no complaint about the food. There was a large swimming pool which had many people around it, as if we were at a seaside resort. And my room, on the second floor (there hadn’t been any second floors so far) was really just a very modern, characterless, hotel room, from which this was the view, onto the Chobe River.

Not to be blamed on the lodge, but the temperature that day was the highest we were to know – 38° C max – and, with an overnight temperature of 20°C min, at last I gave in and put some air conditioning on. I had been resisting up to that point on environmental grounds.

A corridor area and part of the dining area, with, rarely, no-one else immediately around

Our leaders, being themselves visitors from Namibia, were not licensed to show us round the national park, so later in the afternoon, we went out for a drive to … another sewage works. Some good sightings though. Here are a few.

Carmine bee-eater
Magpie shrike
We kept a wary eye on this buffalo. It does not appear close because I used a lot of zoom. It appears close because it was close!
Common myna
Impala, solitary, and a long way off.
Red-billed quelea
Red-billed buffalo weaver
African Golden weaver
White-winged widowbird, related to the Red bishop.