Notes From Day 10 of the 2013 Wetland Bird Survey

Hyena calling in the morning. Big herd of lechwe get a fright and run through the water right in front of us. Water extremely low. Big croc goes in the water right in front of us. Breeding herd of elephant from last night on the bank. Wildebeest. Giraffe. Impala. Pelicans. Spoonbills. Lechwe jumping. So graceful. Lots of Egyptian geese. Skimmers. Lucky with hippo so far, bird numbers unbelievable. First big flock of openbills on the south-western horizon. First pod of hippo, one wounded. BIG CROCS! Me and Giles chasing hippos down the channel. Thick mud. 2 big pools, 24–28 hippo. Long portage around. Crocs amongst hippo pods, crocs moving unseen under the grass. Just the grass moving where we were about to walk. Eerie. Hippo hell right in front of Mombo camp. Long difficult portage, thigh deep water, mud, soft grass. Water monitor. Narrow windy channel with monster croc. Area reedy, much disturbed by elephants, water muddied by hippo upstream. Walled in, poor visibility. Lots of malachites. Another big croc. Pretty eerie with narrow channel and huge prehistoric dog beasts. Two old male buffalo on the side of the channel. Then elephant close on the right, hippo closer, 7m away, sleeping, then elephant again, 1 right in front in the channel. Huge numbers of greenback herons and other birds. Crocs again. Thousands of birds, ducks, geese, herons, jacanas, kingfishers, fish eagles. Hippo to the right in the grass. Big croc. More hippo. Beautiful area, large islands. Big pod of 10 or 12 hippo again. 24+ wattled crane. Two buffalo. 8 more wattled crane. Fish eagles calling everywhere. Elephant in the way again, getting angry. Angry animals all day. Steve gets close, little mock charge. EPIC DAY. Elephant has weeping glands on the side of his head — must. Another elephant moving on island in front of us. Three hippo. Waiting to let them pass. Very quiet, watching ripples moving up the channel. Pops up 15m away in the middle of the pool, looking at us. This shit gets old. Get going, he pops up again, 10m, we gun it. Hippo again, sleeping, wakes, runs into the water. Nice area, beautiful wooded islands. 7 hippo in front, 3 youngsters. Narrow channel, luckily they leave the water. Bird life continues unabated. Hippos snorting in front. Portage past. Channel narrow, windy, floating grass mats. Difficult to move across, not to mention drag mokoros. Crocs again. Creepy. Shaking Palm from the first trip. Pushing for Simbira, getting late, getting dark. breaking rules…4m plus croc in the water just in front of Steve, goes right under all the boats up the channel. I can see his eyes, count the scales on his back. Lots of crocs now, every 20m, and a strong smell of rotting meat. Creepy. Vultures and marabous in the trees. BIG croc moves down the channel, turns, comes out of the water next to Steve’s boat, hits the boat. almost knocks him out. Mokoros scrape over croc skeleton in the channel. Really creepy. Another big croc in the water. Getting dark. Approaching Simbira now. Unbelievable day. Last pool of 14 hippo before the baobab. Portage. Elephant on the plain. Tsessebe. Baobab at last! 3–4000 years old, they say. After nightfall solitary hyena right in camp, then a huge pack, 30 plus. Huge racket. They go quiet when the lions start up. Baboons and impala alarm calling all around. I go to sleep listening to the buzzing of the huge beehive in a deep crevice in the tree close to me.

This is a post from the field on a National Geographic supported expedition to explore the Okavango River system from source to sand. 90 days, 1,000 miles, 3 countries, 2 rivers, 31 adventurers, 100% open data. Join us in real-time as we explore the beating heart of our planet.

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