Breakfast on the boat in the still, magical predawn added an element of mystique and excitement to the early still dark morning.
We were on the water about five minutes before an absolutely spectacular sunrise. Fish Eagles were out early and were swirling around, diving, and grabbing fish in full view. These magnificent birds fishing against that warm, vibrant sky created scenes to behold.(And photograph!)
In a backwater we encountered a pride of lions. They had a kill close by but unfortunately for us they had dragged it behind a bush – inaccessible for our boat. But the interactions between the members of the pride and the arrival of hordes of vultures that were continually chased by the lions, only to return again and again, kept us busy until it was time to return to the Nguni Voyager for brunch.
After relaxing and thoroughly enjoying the surroundings from the boat, we set out again at about 15h00.
We traveled upstream photographing incredible numbers of different birds en route to Elephant Beach where, as though on cue, a large herd of elephants was at this appropriately named spot.
We all lay down as flat as we could in the boat, and without our profiles visible we were able to approach very close to the elephants. They were not at all concerned by our presence. As we lay there, we looked up at elephants and realised that we were right in the centre of the herd … there were elephants all around us, a mere metre away, drinking, some swimming, spraying and some just enjoying the water.
Words cannot describe the incredible, unbelievable, amazing, awe-inspiring experience as we lay there, an arm’s length from the elephants, listening to them splash around, drink and occasionally rumble. We were so close that we could actually hear the water as it slid down their the throats as they drank.
The wonder was that the elephants were completely relaxed with our presence, and some even swam right around us! None reacted in any way to us or to our cameras.
Needless to say our entire magical afternoon was spent with the huge, peaceful, tolerant beasts, and when we were forced by time to return to the Nguni Voyager, we all agreed that this afternoon ranks as one of the most amazing highlights of wildlife encounters.
Sitting on the deck again this evening, watching the stars emerge in that inky blue sky, we feel as though we have somehow absorbed the serenity of the area – and have become an actual part of the wonder that this untamed land offers …