Our first full day at Camp Kadizora was also my sister’s birthday. The plan was to start the day with a hot air balloon safari. To do this, you must rise at 0400 and leave the camp at 0430 to meet the balloon crew at a small grass airstrip east of camp between 1 ½ to 2 hours drive.
We climbed into our Toyota Land Cruiser at 0430, but it would not start. Our guide, OC, called the camp mechanic who came with a new battery. Still no luck. So they pushed started our rig with another one, and off we went. Our drive to the balloon site was in total darkness. As OC drove, he also swept a spot light back and forth, looking for the reflection of eyes. We spotted a rather rare sight, a sable antelope, lying in the tall grass. It jumped up as we saw it. Our next night drive sighting was an African wild cat, another rare sight. We couldn’t get very close, but we did identify it. Then we got quite lucky, spotting another African wild cat and this time got quite close. It was a young cat, striped, and was playing like a kitten. It was quite a good sighting.
Early Morning Coffee with the Balloon Pilot Marvin:
Reaching the balloon staging area, we were told the flight had been cancelled due to the winds. The wind had shifted and would take us over water, so we did not go up. Instead we got a quick cup of coffee and a private game drive beginning at sunrise.
Due to our starter issues, OC had not been shutting off the engine at animal sightings, which is the norm. He would leave the engine idling. At the balloon site, he shut it off to see if it would start. It did not. Again the Land Cruiser had to be started with a push.
Leaving on our game drive, we brought along another guide, and OC said he would have to leave the engine running. No worries.
We found a herd of buffalo crossing a marshy area, and then we saw a large herd of very nervous antelope. The source of their edginess soon became apparent. Three lionesses were stalking them. We watched as the lions approached the herd and saw the antelope bound away through the water. The lionesses did not seem to be terribly serious in their hunting attempts.
We followed the “ladies” (this is what OC called the lionesses) for a while. It was a mother lioness and her two grown daughters. They played and chased each other and did some half-hearted stalking. It was a truly beautiful sight.
As we watched the lionesses and followed them around, we became aware of two male lions. They were watching the females as well. One large male lion was across a marsh, while a second one was sitting on a small rise. We pulled up to within about eight feet of the one large male lion sitting on a small rise, and OC turned off the engine. He immediately turned around and said “Oh, I forgot.” Force of habit from years of watching lions had him turning off the engine any time you sit and watch, and in the excitement muscle memory took over. We were dead in the Land Cruiser, surrounded by lions.
He made an attempt to start the engine, but it would not. We sat in our disabled vehicle as the big male lion sat next to us. His brother across the shallow marsh came walking over. The lion next to our vehicle got up and started walking towards the lionesses, who were now walking away from us. With the big male lions preoccupied, my sister, the other guide, and I got out of the vehicle and started pushing. OC was able to compression start the Toyota and we were back in business.
We continued to follow the lions. There was a confrontation with the first male and the three females. The older lioness came up to the male and smelled him, but when he turned to face her she slapped him across the face and a scuffle ensued. He ended up bleeding and the ladies moved on again.
The “ladies”move on:
It was the most action I have seen in any lion encounter. Many times you see them and they are asleep and lying in the shade. Sometimes they get up and move. To see them playing and stalking and interacting with each other was a real treat. It was especially nice for my sister, since it was birthday and she is a leo.
We headed back to camp and arrived around noon. It had been a seven hour game drive. OC told us that it was one he would remember. We asked him how often that happens and he said “Three years ago I had a flat tire in the middle of lions. I will remember this one.”
At Camp Kadizora we had an activity in the morning, lunch, and then rest time until high tea at 4 pm, followed by an evening game drive.
My sister’s choice for the evening activity was a mokoro ride. A mokoro is what the locals have always used in the delta, a long thin canoe. We set out in the mokoro moving with the current. We saw some elephants in the shallows and many birds. We turned around and poled our way up current to the hippo area. We saw some hippos but kept our distance. If you value your life you do not pole a mokoro into a known hippo area. Back on the banks of the channel we had our sundowners.
Dinner was served at 730 pm in the main area. Pre and post dinner drinks are enjoyed around a central fire pit.