Lake Kariba- part 1. The Lion’s Stare.

Lake Kariba: One of the world’s biggest man-made lakes, spanning 5,000 sq km and home to hundreds of species of wildlife and birdlife. I have been fortunate enough to spend over 2 weeks on this lake and covering 3 different locations. We are about to leave the first one as I type this and I am already overwhelmed by the amount of wildlife we have seen here! It’s very different to the dry areas we filmed at where you have to work harder to find the animals. Here- wherever you look, there they are! And in huge herds too.

We stayed in a pretty cool place with lodges that had outdoor baths and an infinity pool! It’s finally getting close to African summer, so here’s to me no longer having to wear 7 sweaters at night and enjoying both:

The first day was still most magical one for me. It was late afternoon when we left for a drive and the moment we got out, we saw an elephant whose tusks were so big that they touched in the front! This meant the poor guy couldn’t do lots of things like dig up dirt, fight, sharpen his tusks against trees etc. But he was thriving and doing things in his own time and that just shows you how nature will always find a way!

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We then came across another male who was near the water. We wanted to get close but didn’t want him to feel threatened or cornered, so our guide suggested coming from the side of the lake. Genius idea and thankfully the water was warm as we ended up knee deep at one point! The big guy didn’t seem to mind us and just kept munching away whilst we stayed until the sunset came. OH DEAR LAWWWWWDDDD the sunset! I had no idea this place was famous for them, but now I can def see why. I don’t think I need words actually, and I’m not even sure images will do it justice, but let’s try:

Ps, The reason I’m looking away on one of the shots is because the hippo to my right was showing interest in our presence in ‘his territory’. *gulp*

As we drove off (NOT having angered the elephant nor the hippo #score), we saw this herd of buffalo too, which I thought looked quite surreal in the pink sunset:

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Speaking of buffalos – ever watched those amazing Discovery or BBC shows where you see the herds running from above, leaving behind a big cloud of dust ? Quite mesmerising… and I got to see it happen as we flew over Lake Kariba in an open door heli the next day! COOL or WHAT?!

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I don’t think people realise how big the lake is until they see it from above, and also how many crocs and hippos there are!! I saw HUNDREDS in a space of 15 mins… And that was only out of the water. Just IMAGINE what’s lurking under … safe to say I ain’t going for a swim anytime soon!

Luckily, the next time I was in the water was in a fishing boat, which we used to teach me to fish bream! I expected to be terrible – fishing is for old people after all, right?? BUT the conclusion was: I am either getting old or just a very talented fisher(woman?)! Caught 6 bream, 1 squeaker and 1 catfish that day woohooo! We had a bit of a contest going on and the other boat with some crew members lost to me by over 2kg so had to cook dinner as punishment hah!

One of the best parts about the fishing (apart from beating 3 grown men muahahaha) was the surreal, peaceful and incredibly beautiful scenery. The lake felt like something out of a Dali painting and I couldn’t get enough:

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And just when I thought that 8 fish and 2 elephants would be the best wildlife footage we’d get that week, we got close to a LION!! And I mean… CLOSE. Naturally, we happen to be in the car that had no doors and the lion was on my side, directly next to my doorless seat. Of course. *eye roll*.  That would probably explain my (extreme) discomfort as he stared at me with his wide eyes. I actually had to look away at one point, that’s how penetrating their gaze is. He was a young male, quite chilled and allowed us to stay there for a while. A truly unforgettable experience and I am hoping to see more lion action in this area in the upcoming weeks!

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The next day I met Rae, from the Matusadona Lion Project, who talked me through the current research going on in the area to increase lion population… really interesting stuff! Have a read here.

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But if you think it’s all fun and glamour here… you’re wrong. I actually feel the need to share this story with you because of how funny I find it now, but also because of how unfunny it was at the time. Our lodges, despite being quite luxurious this week, were still in a wild area. This means that monkeys, spiders, lizards, birds etc are common. So one night….. and I hope you see where this is going by now…. I’m sleeping, all alone in my lodge… and suddenly I feel a *PLOP* on my bed. As if something had just landed next to my elbow. I dismiss it in my sleep UNTIL… that something starts CRAWLING QUICKLY UP MY ARM!!! And it’s FURRY TOO!! I WHACK my arm and run to the other side of the lodge, fully awake by now, heart pounding at the speed of light. At that point I am convinced it’s a baboon spider:

spider

We saw one last week and I was terrified, so naturally it has come back to haunt me. Reasonable explanation, RIGHT?? So I’m thinking: ‘I will not turn on the light because if I see that spider I will SCREAM and people will think I’m being eaten by a hippo (a possibility here) and I will be embarrassed when they heroically rush to save me and find out it’s just a spider’. So I sprayed insect repellent all over my bed (still not sure why!?) and then tried to sleep on the other side of the bed, curled up in a ball, whispering ‘please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me….’. The next morning I got the staff to search my room and they found………………………………………………………………………..

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

……………………………………….a tiny little door mouse.

Apparently quite common here and actually really cute:

mouse

I realise that I must have given it the shock of its life when it was thrown against the wall at 2am, but in my defence- it scared me AND ate my shoelaces all in the same night!!! So the battle is ON, Mister Mouse!

Next Week: Adventures on a giant houseboat, more thrilling wildlife encounters around the lake and fishing with the pros!

 

 


2 thoughts on “Lake Kariba- part 1. The Lion’s Stare.

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