Frogs? Making That Noise?

Standing on a termite mound
All our wildlife viewing had been from vehicles up to this point, but on the island in the Delta we were lucky enough to have two guided bush walks, one at sunset and one ‘before breakfast’ (two words which should never be found together!) These were fantastic. We set off in small groups, walking in single file with a guide at either end of our procession. Using animal tracks and droppings to locate the beasts, the guides led us quickly to giraffes, zebra, elephants and springbok. Being so close to the animals felt like an intrusion yet also a real privilege – plus we were totally exposed, unlike in safari vehicles. Aside from the animals, we also examined the region’s famous termite (flying ant) mounds, bizarre structures as high as 15 feet, made by the insects to keep themselves dry when the Delta floods.

As the sun began to set on our evening safari, we were treated to the incredible sight of a wildebeest stampede in front of us. We stood silently, listening to their thundering hooves and watching the dust rising in the sunset. Having seen such a plethora of animals within spitting distance of our tents, we were slightly anxious about security as we returned to camp.

But this was soon forgotten once the campfire was lit, dinner was on and we were sat around the fire on upturned mokoros. A great evening followed (and not just because of marshmallows over the campfire!). The polers, who were camping with us, put on a display of traditional singing and dancing. We were all enjoying this until it dawned on us that we were expected to do the same. Having failed to explain that we don’t really sing and dance in our culture – unless very drunk - we made cringeworthy attempts at the Macarena, the Hokey Cokey and Oasis Wonderwall. Deeply embarrassing.

I had read that the Delta is home to a particular diversity of flora and fauna - all I can say is that the fauna makes a racket at night! By the time it was dark (far darker than I ever remember it being at home), the noise from all around was literally deafening. I have fond childhood memories of frogs gribbeting away endearingly in our garden pond (I’m from Norfolk, ok…) and crickets in the South of France that created a pleasant and exotic background hum. Not so in Southern Africa. Frogs bellow at each other rudely and crickets compete in a chorus of chainsaws. I sat in my pitch black tent in a state of bewilderment, wondering how it was possible to sleep through this cacophony.

One incident from our return mokoro journey will stay with me for a long time. Our poler directed our mokoro away from the group, and pulled up alongside a termite mound. She proceeded to bang the pole with some force against the mound. At first, I thought she was cleaning the forked base of the pole, but on closer inspection I saw that she was breaking off chunks of the termite mound and eating them. Possibly she was licking the termites off them, as they are supposedly nutritious. She also saved a few pieces of the rock for a snack on the way back, which was washed down with glugs of the Delta water. I was lost for words. It was one of the most striking examples of the cultural and wealth divide between tourists and locals that I saw in Africa.

1 comment:

  1. Hemingway eat your heart out. Just lovely. More, please, soon.