Sitting in my thatched open air room on stilts at Rhino Safari Camp, I am watching a small herd of kudu and impala grazing peacefully 100m away along the lakes edge. A little further along, a Pied Kingfisher plunges down into the water every now and again, catching a fish for his breakfast. In this camp on the shores of Lake Kariba, I am trying to come up with the reason why it is such a special place that touches the soul in a new way each time I visit. Is it the magnificent sunrise I saw this morning as the glowing ball rose steadily over the point of land in the next bay, silhouetting the petrified trees on the bank? Or the undulating shoreline teeming with birds, the Greenshanks, Ruffs, and Lapwings dashing about poking their beaks into the sand in search of a critter to eat? The Black Winged Stilt, with his bright red legs, running faster than the other birds to reach the disappearing bug before them. But these scenes you could find elsewhere in the region, can’t you?
Is it the grunting of the pod of hippos, in the nearby bay, where they are munching on grass and bushes recently submerged by the rising lake waters. A few large yawns by the male, showing off his large teeth, reminding everyone who owns this stretch of water! As I sit here, there is a welcome breeze blowing inland creating small waves which chase each other up the sand beaches. Closing your eyes you could be by the ocean. Closer to the room, there are a variety of birds busying themselves with their daily lives, the Grey and Yellow Billed Hornbill digging in the sand with their large curved beaks, looking for bugs or seeds, their occasional ‘churrchurr’ call drifting on the breeze. The Meves Starlings chirping and chatting as they flutter and glide from dead tree to dead tree, searching its crevices for the insects hiding from the probing beaks.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch movement, and only then do I notice the lumbering brown hulk of an ele bull, so silent in their approach, coming down to the waters edge for a drink. As the day heats up their forms can be spotted on the points of land all along the shoreline. The sudden cry of the Fish Eagle, echoing around the camp, as he perches on the top of a petrified tree, throwing his head back to call out his challenge of territory to any that might be listening.
I look out over the lake and due to the heat haze that this time of the year brings, I can’t see land on the other side which makes the water seem endless, like it is an ocean and not a lake, its petrified trees making rigid silhouettes all along the shoreline.
I then realize that it is not a single thing that makes this part of Zimbabwe so special but the combination of it all that makes your heart sing and no matter how many times you visit, it keeps you coming back for more.