Botswana 2022/23: Ihaha

Ihaha Campsite is located about 35 kilometres west of Kasane on the Chobe riverfront.... a spectacular location ... elephants rumbling past in droves to enjoy the Chobe River...This relatively modern camp provides ablution blocks with toilets and showers. Water is heated by solar energy. Highly recommended!

🙂 Elephants everywhere! Amazing location!

🙁 All good!!

Thursday 5 January to Saturday 7 January 2023, Ihaha – Chobe River – 35C

We were up at 05h30 and enjoyed our delicious breakfast which Alys cooked before packing up and bidding the staff at the office farewell.

There were very fresh leopard tracks (on top of tyre tracks and early morning drizzle!) which we followed all the way on the straight sand road. Sadly no sighting.

We did however see regular little herds of elephants gathered at pools of water in the road along with giraffe and warthogs… the animals were still very skittish and diappaeared as we approached.

After a relatively easy drive we arrived at the ‘bottle store’ – we topped up on wine and beer and bought some woven baskets and other souvenirs. It felt weird to be back in relative ‘civilisation’!

We had come back into reception and I sent a note to Botswana Footprints to explain that I did not appear to have he correct permit for our Earwaker Family. I received an immediate response with the permit attached – what had happened at 16h45 on 31st January when we had entered Moremi Gate, the warden had called them and they realised that they had in fact not purchased our permit – we could see that the permit was paid for in Maun at 17h00 – closing time before the New Year Bank Holidays!! Yikes – close call. We had seen many people on You Tube who had been sent back to Maun on public holidays as they did not have permits so we had been exceptionally lucky to be using the Whiteheads permit at all gates without being sent away. Phew. On arrival at the Chobe River Gate, the lady scrutinised al our permits carefully so it was a relief that it had just come through on e-mail!

It was absolutely amazing to finally see abundant game!

We arrived at No.9 which lovely and opposite the bak to the river. No. 8 is across the road and a bit smaller site. If I could choose a site it would be No. 1 at the end – that evening there were literally hundreds of elephants at sunset straight across from No.1 and No.2 – it was an incredible site and we also paused to enjoy the fun…but more of that later.

We made a leisurely lunch while watching the elephant in the river opposite us and then the local Ihaha wardens arrived to check our papers as the office was closed on our way in. They asked whether we wanted to see some lions! We were so excited that we gave them Hunters Gold – lol…and off we raced – there were 9 lions about 5mins down the road from us, just past No1. They were fairly relaxed just watching the big herd of buffalo in the river opposite them, so we spent some time with them. A storm was brewing …just a lovely setting to sit back and enjoy…

Then we drove on – all the elephants were making their way down to the river – just amazing. By the time the sun was setting they had all aggregated at the waters edge or actually in the water – rumbling and trumpeting with youngsters wrestling. It was truly a magnificent site to behold – very special indeed.

We left them and continued along the river and just enjoyed every minute… then circled back to the lions.

We headed back to camp to make our braai. Charlotte was exhausted and went to bed early which was a shame as many elephants walked right past us less than 5-10m away on their way to the river – magical… moments in a lifetime never to be forgotten. Listening to them communicating and the hippos grunting was extremely special. It has never felt so good to be alive and at one with nature. This is exactly why we do this….

The next morning we woke up at 05h30 but the rain was torrential! It was our last morning and did not look like it was going to abate so we headed off on a drive regardless… all the animals were hunkered down! We did however see the mega herd of buffalo – must have been a thousand strong! We just parked up and watched them stream past us snorting and smelly!

We headed back to cook brunch in the rain … everything was sodden … we were a wet and miserable bunch!

After brunch the rain paused … and we had one of our best mini sightings! Matabele ants! Their sophisticated raiding behaviour gave them the common name Matabele ant after the Matabele tribe, fierce warriors who overwhelmed various other tribes during the 1800s. They are a strictly termite eating species of ant and perform three to five raids a day. The general foraging pattern starts with scout ants searching an area of approximately 50 m around the nest for termite foraging sites. This searching phase can last up to one hour, and if it is unsuccessful the scout returns to the nest by a circuitous route. If a scout ant finds a potential site, it will start to investigate it without getting into contact with the termites or entering the galleries, before returning by the quickest route to recruit its nest mates to conduct a raid. Although the scout ant is observed to lay a pheromone trail on the return journey to the nest, the other ants seem to be unable to follow this trail without the help of the scout. The scout ant therefore leads the raid from the front, with the other ants following in a column-like formation. Recruitment time varies between 60 and 300 seconds, with all castes taking part in a raid. During the outward journey towards the termites, all ants are laying a pheromone trail, making it much easier for them to find their way back to the nest later without having to rely on the scout ant.Approximately 20–50 cm before contact with the termites, the raiding column stops and agglomerates until all the ants in the column have arrived, forming a sort of circle around the raid leader (the scout). Afterwards the ants rush forward towards the termites in an open formation and overwhelm their prey. During the attack, a division of labour can be observed. While the majors focus mostly on breaking up the protective layer over the foraging galleries of the termites, the minors rush into the galleries to kill the termites through the created openings. After a foraging site has been exploited, the ants congregate at the same place they waited earlier, with the majors carrying the termites, and return to the nest in a column-like formation. These raids are always a single event and ants do not return independently to re-exploit a former raiding site, although the possibility of the scout ant remembering a site and reinvestigating it in the future for a possible second raid cannot be excluded … The ants create a rattling or hissing noise as they move, but will do this especially when threatened. You can hopefully hear this in the video clips below as well as see the dead termites being carried in the Majors’ jaws! … Fascinating stuff!!

It just goes to show that you always have to check the wood before picking up – this would have been a nasty scorpion sting! We chilled and unpacked the vehicles and did a thorough tidy up in readiness for returning the vehicles the following day.

It then dawned on us that we had run out of almost all alcohol except Hunters Gold cider… only a small bit or red and white wine …Disaster! We headed off on a wine hunt! On our drive we saw a family of three honey badgers playing in the road in front of us after the rain! No time to take a photo as they disappeared into the bush…we continued our drive and came across another two honey badgers in the road but again they ran off very quickly so no photo opportunities. We drove60Km round trip to a shebeen which was just about to close – they had no wine so we bought a few beers – I don’t even really drink beer (except occasionally on a very hot afternoon) … LOL. Paul did his Ben style, no hands driving and let the ruts do the steering! LOL. Nik was stuck in the car with the kids who were singing at the top of their lungs..highly entertaining!

When we got back it was raining again – we cooked a quick meal, I didn’t drink any of the beer that we purchased! LOL and we had an early night!

Our worst night – everything was wet and damp and uncomfortable in the tent! Yuck. Thank goodness we only had one night like this! It was raining so we decided t head straight out and heat up the previous night’s leftovers at the picnic site along the river.

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Go to: Pangolin Hotel, Chobe

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