Ripples on the Water

Wildlife Spotlight | 31st August 2019

This is the fourth in a series of posts from Ranger Sean Jones, sharing his experiences at Shambala Private Game Reserve.

A sunset in the African wilderness is always something to behold, and it is even more spectacular to witness on safari with animals such as Zebra, Wildebeest and Giraffe all around you. But even better is having a refreshing drink while the sun sets behind you on a luxurious boat cruise. During an afternoon safari on Shambala, passing by all the above mentioned animals, we took a drive down to the Steyn Dam where we were greeted by our friendly crew on a boat. We boarded in amazement and were warmly welcomed, with a drink in one hand and an afternoon snack in the other. The boat departed from the jetty and excitement filled the air as we cruised into the sunset.

As we cruised along the dam, in the distance we could see something in the water, almost as if it was floating. There was no attention drawn to it at first as everyone thought it to be rocks sticking out from the surface of the water. But one couldn’t help to wonder what the watery depths had in wait below. As the relaxing sounds of water echoed beside us, we enjoyed the quiet of the lake. Birds flew by, looking for a place to rest as another day in this place of paradise came to an end. As we came closer to the ‘rocks’ we suddenly realised that instead of rocks it appeared to be some heads sticking out above the water. “Hippos!” exclaimed one of the guests as we approached to get a closer look. These large water mammals engaged in conversation with us through loud vocals, almost like they were laughing, as we drifted by. The large pod of Hippopotamus announced their presence to us, and the guests responded with camera’s snapping beautiful pictures as the herbivores opened their mouths.

Hippos generally stay submerged in the water during the day and at night time they will leave the water to find food in the form of grass. We concluded our time with these water creatures that can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes, and continued on our way down the lake. As we looked to our front it dawned on us that we were approaching the dam wall of the largest privately owned man-made dam in the southern hemisphere. What a thrill! The view from the wall is simply breathtaking, taking in the valleys of the reserve with the sun setting behind the hill. The boat turned around and we slowly cruised away from the sunset. As we went along we all turned around for one last look – you could see the ripples on the water behind us as we glided on.

The skipper brought to our attention a crocodile floating not too far away from the boat. As we all looked out the side we could see the scales of this large reptile on the surface of the water, and an eye glaring at us as if it had been watching us all along. These prehistoric carnivores have perfected the art of camouflage in the water to catch the freshwater fish. However, they can also sometimes prey on vulnerable animals like Impala that come to the water’s edge for a drink. They can stay under water for a lot longer than the hippos, and often submerge themselves at the sight of attention. Once we passed the crocodile it left us all in wonder as to whether or not the ripples on the water seen earlier were really from us passing by, or from the crocodile diving down.

We reached the other end of the dam where we were fortunate enough to encounter a herd of elephants that had come down for a drink. Gasping in awe at the sight of these mammoth like animals we all sat in silence and enjoyed the scene they created for us. After our encounter we then returned to the jetty, as it was now getting rather dark. We disembarked with delightful eyes and made our way back to the land cruiser. A night drive back to the lodge seemed like a suiting way to conclude the stay.

Ranger Sean Jones
Shambala Private Game Reserve


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