Zambezi Voyager: a Flummoxed Greedy Yellow-billed Kite

Andrew Reports:

Eagerness and excitement as we left early to try and find the pride of lions from yesterday, but when we arrived at the spot where they had been, they were nowhere in sight.

As we headed toward the Savannah backwater where we hoped to photograph Skimmers we first stopped for very busy Fish Eagles, who again seemed to show off their fishing prowess as they gracefully swooped to grab fish from the river.

Then a large pod of hippos with five small calves proved too enticing to pass up and again our cameras clicked and clicked.


We found the Skimmers but as it was windy they were not skimming/fishing, but seemed to enjoy flying around in the breezy air. 

Spotting some huge crocodiles on the riverbank we drifted slowly up to them, giving us the opportunity to capture some great closeups and portrait shots. We were still drifting when two monitor lizards appeared on the same riverbank and proceeded to forage about in search of food.

Then the highlight of the morning …

A Yellow-billed Kite appeared as if from nowhere and we watched enthralled as he dived down to within meters of our boat and grabbed a fish from the river. With the fish grasped firmly in his talons he flew away, when to our astonishment he dived again and flew up with a fish in each foot.

What to do now? He could not perch to eat, and as he tried to grab one of the fish in his bill while still flying he quickly realised that this was not going to work.

He flew on and around again, and then finally realised that his greed was not going to pay dividends and he dropped one of the fish so that he could enjoy the other.

This afternoon a very dark and stormy bank of clouds built up again, and with a beautiful iridescent rainbow we felt that the drama would provide a wonderful backdrop for a herd of elephants. Our luck was definitely in as we quickly found a small herd of five elephants bathed in bright golden sunlight on the riverbank. With that amazing sky as a backdrop the scene was set for the kind of photo many dream of! We drifted closer and used different lenses and settings to capture a selection of different, but equally amazing shots.

We moved on to Elephant Bay and arrived in time to see a herd of elephants running rapidly down the slope to the riverside, kicking up large clouds of dust in their wake and of course our cameras eagerly captured the action.

Then, while photographing the elephants we spotted a lioness lying on a mound, casually looking around and watching the action with some indifference. She slowly stood up, stretched and sauntered away without a backward glance.

The orange sky reflected radiantly on the water and a Pied Kingfisher provided a striking silhouette against the sky and richly reflecting water.

Another herd of elephants arrived and started to dig for roots, creating dust backlit by the golden sunset.


Fabulous! It was as though nature had conspired to give us the most sensational shots all afternoon long.

A drizzle started and we realised that it would develop into quite a downpour, so we started to head toward the houseboat.

But even in the rain we just had to stop for a herd of buffalo with that dramatic deep blue and golden-orange sky behind them.

Finally, we realised that we had to race the storm back to the Zambezi Voyager and we made it with moments to spare.

Now we are all gathered on deck, photographing the electrifying scenes all around with lightening striking somewhere every few moments. A fabulous end to a fabulous day!

Tomorrow we would like to get some more shots of Fish Eagles and Skimmers …