In 1980’s the Government was offering private concessions within the pristine Wilderness Area of Hwange National Park, allowing for establishment of semi permanent safari camps within the park boundary for the first time. My father had his eye on one of these concessions , and so with us home from boarding school, my folks planned a camping safari off the beaten track in search of a site for the perfect safari camp. 5am saw us setting off loaded to the hilt, in our trusty old Land Cruiser and trailer, down what looked to me like an ancient elephant path towards the Botswana border. Our cousin Lara from Cape Town was visiting this holiday, which made the trip really special for us, but I suspect for her it was a life experience unlike any other she would ever encounter!
The winding dirt track seemed to go on forever and of course the inevitable tyre puncture along the way, close to a breeding herd of elephants, was an experience we would never forget, we eventually arrived at a place called Tsamahole Pan, our campsite for the next few days . We set about our duties of unpacking the land cruiser and helping pitch tents before the sunset.
Once the potjie pot was gently simmering on the coals, we set off on our first bush walk within the park, learning about the different tracks and the story of who had been to visit this pan in the last day before our arrival. Buffalo, three Elephant , a pride of Lion , a Hyena and a lone Waterbuck with limp. We sat mesmerized watching the orange sun silently slide below the horizon while a troop of Baboons barked and squealed as they prepared to roost up a tree near to camp. Gentle grey giants materialized out of the dusk as they hurried on by our camp in search of water to slake their thirst . The crisp desert air descended as sat around our campfire listening to the liquid calls of the Night jars and the distant rumblings of a pride of Lion. In the shimmering moonlight, a herd of over a hundred buffalo moved in to drink at the pan but as the wind shifted, there was a sudden tension in the air, and we could not help but wonder if they had smelt the lions we had heard earlier. A hearty, slow cooked, potjiekos and toasted marshmallows for desert lulled us into our slumbers and soon we were all burrowed into our cosy sleeping bags and fast asleep under a myriad of stars.
What we did not know what that the pride of Lions that had disturbed the buffalo earlier were waiting for our fire to sink low and then with the wind blowing in the right direction, the scene was perfect for them to begin their stalk! We awoke to the fearful sound of a heard of buffalo thundering towards us in the darkness. My Father, who was an experienced Guide, shouted the instruction for everyone to stay in their tents but of course Mum and her sister Jackie ignored this advise and shot up the tree that was just outside the front of their tent. We all lay very still, listening to the terrified buffalo being chased through camp within a meters of our tents . Their clever hunting tactic worked well that night, they brought down a buffalo not far from where we lay. We spent hours awake listening to the growling and snarling as they devoured their kill. Needless to say this was a very exciting night for us all , we did not get a wink of sleep, especially those of us that had decided to join the Baboons in the highest reaches of trees in the whistling winter wind.
This place was wild and beautiful, but was too remote to run a safari camp , so it was to the South East that we drove where Dad found the perfect site to build his dream camp, which he named Linkwasha. Mum would go on to fame as a tree climber of note, excelling herself on more that one occasion while on safari!
My brother in law , Gary Mackenzie on safari