After a restful night, with the sound of hippos singing in the river and others munching grass right outside our chalet, we had a wonderful breakfast and were ready for our boat safari. The boat holds about ten people, but the sides are very low so you feel really close to the water. Our guide, same one from the day before, asked if there was anything we wanted to see. Elephants, obviously…
The trip started out a little slowly… we saw some very beautiful birds. Our guide had his bird book again. I think he really likes birds. One, the brown breasted warbler (which is really yellow) was in the middle of mating season. The males build a nest for the females; the females then determine whether it’s good enough. If it isn’t, they have to tear it down and start all over again.
We saw a few more hippos… well, a lot more hippos. Maybe forty or fifty hippos. We also saw two African fish eagles – the national bird of Malawi.
Slowly, we pull up to the bank of the river and our guide calmly points out a large crocodile relaxing on the bank right at our eye level. He was cooling himself with his mouth wide open, showing all of his big shiny teeth. We watched him for awhile until he got exasperated with the attention and photographs and slowly walked away.
We continued, saw a few more hippos in the water and then saw a hippo out of the water! He was stubby and fat and eager to return to the river.
We were all focused on another pod of hippos when Sandy and the guide saw an elephant on the far bank. We all turned to look but he’d disappeared. Our amazing guide took us deep down this little tributary, probably farther than we should have gone since the engine was churning up mud. We were all focused on the river bank as the elephant quickly reappeared and then disappeared into the bush. Suddenly we hear splashing behind us, on my side of the boat. I look over and the biggest, fattest, longest crocodile I’ve ever seen was landed in the water after having launched himself forward, just parallel to the boat. Sandy thinks he was twelve feet long. He also said that if I’d eaten one more omelet that morning, he’d have easily eaten me…
It really did frighten me and took me a few minutes to compose myself. I asked the guide if he had been scared. He looked at me for a second, trying to decide what answer I wanted. “Oh yes, I was…” he said. I felt validated, but doubted his honesty.
So, we were happy. We’d briefly seen an elephant. Basically we’d seen him walk between two big groups of trees, but it was more than we’d expected. And I’d had a brush with a crocodile.
We were about to turn back and head for the camp when we saw the elephant reappear further down the river. It was incredible. He had a snack and then walked up to the water (right where we were) and took a big long drink. We then took a few giant steps towards us, ears forward, and did a little dance. There’s nothing really like it – to see such a large and majestic animal living life in their natural habitat. And we were so lucky to see him – no one else staying at the camp that day saw one.