The last morning in Africa, was going to be the start of a very very long day. I woke to my alarm at 5:00am to get dressed and meet up with Alan to hike onto the island just off the property on the Zambezi River. We were going to try for Pel’s Fishing Owl one last time. It was just getting light enough to see when we headed to the river, crossing the mostly dry north channel to the island. It was a rather quiet morning--not a lot of birds singing, and not much wildlife around, besides the WHITE-CROWNED LAPWINGS making a racket along the shore...
On the island we hadn’t gone too far when we came over a small rise and we caught some movement going into the bushes ahead. Alan wasn’t sure, but thought they might have been AFRICAN CLAWLESS OTTERS. We cut around the hill where the bushes were hoping to cut whatever it was off on the other side--but once there nothing came out. We headed back around to where we first were and as we got there, we saw, them, an adult and young otter heading back through the puddle they’d been at, towards the river.
I hadn’t expected to be taking photos so my camera was not in the best mode for low light shooting--I snapped about 20 pictures as the two animals leapt and bound up and over another small hill and out of sight. The pictures I got weren’t great, but were still cool--seeing these otters out of water is a bit of a treat I guess.
I won’t spend any more time on what we saw on the island--because it wasn’t much. The loop we made was much like the one several days earlier--and we didn’t find the owl. There were a couple VERREAUX’S EAGLE-OWLS around, but no Pel’s. My 3rd international trip where I missed my #1 target bird--damn! But such is birding--and as I always say, it just means I have to go back!
As we headed back towards the mainland, I spotted a hawk perched in a tree on the far west end of the island--I wasn’t sure what it was, but Alan thought it might be a LIZARD BUZZARD. It was a beautiful little hawk and I enjoyed watching it for a few minutes before we finally left. We later checked the guides and confirmed that it was a Lizard Buzzard.
Back at the house Sam was already awake and packing--my queue to do the same. We had a couple hours to just relax before heading to the airport, and just spent it on the porch enjoying our last bit of the bush. A little before noon we were ushered back to Livingstone and parted ways with Alan. 3 flights and 36 hours later we were on the ground in Salt Lake. The adventure was over… or so we thought.
About a week after getting home, the tickle in my throat turned into a full fledged sore throat, and I was out of work sick for 3 days plus a weekend. When I finally started feeling a little better I went back to work, only to have a rash develop on my feet and legs. I had been home 13 days which is right about the average incubation time for a number of diseases you can pick up in Africa--I immediately headed to the doctor. The rash wasn’t some crazy African disease, but he didn’t know what it was--I was diagnosed with Pneumonia, and the doctor figured the rash was related in some capacity. I had gotten sick on my Pelagic trip , and the shark diving the following day only exacerbated things. Once back in Utah things just went south real quick. I visited a specialist who misdiagnosed my rash which only got worse over the following week. I went through a round of tests, and they took a biopsy. This revealed that I actually had a very bad strain of strep--which a rapid strep test missed before--the strep caused the rash and all the dots were connected.
Since then I spent the better part of a month house ridden--and now over two months after returning home am still dealing with the remnants of the illness-which the doctor said could last up to 6 months.
After all was said and done its apparent that I could have gotten sick and had the same thing happen at home--but the root cause was the two ocean activities in the south Atlantic. Needless to say the aftermath of the trip hasn’t been too fun--but the trip was one for the ages--a trip of a lifetime that I would do over and over and over if I could. Africa is one of those places I suggest every birder go at some point in their life--save for it, plan it out and just go--you won’t regret it--I don’t!
Every trip has highs and lows, and if you’ve read my series on Africa you have heard both sides--the highs obviously made up about 99% of the commentary. Africa is an amazing continent--in less than 3 weeks I saw over 350 new species of birds, around 50 species of mammals, Great White Sharks, a number of reptiles, and some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. The sunrises and sunsets on a daily basis in Africa were spectacular to say the least.
I’d always wanted to go to Africa, but never imagined it would happen so early in life. One thing that I have learned traveling the last few years is that if you really want to go somewhere, you can work to make it happen. I won’t drone on about the trip anymore, I think the posts cover that enough. Hopefully, if you are planning to go, or wanting to go to Africa, these posts were helpful in one way or another. Below are all my posts in order for easy access:
Birding Africa pt. 1 - Via France
Birding Africa pt. 2 - JoBurg, Airport Game Lodge
Birding Africa pt. 3 - Welcome to Kruger National Park
Birding Africa pt. 4 - Skukuza Camp & Lake Panic
Birding Africa pt. 5 - The Heart of Kruger Park
Birding Africa pt. 6 - Olifants & Letaba
Birding Africa pt. 7 - Exit From Kruger
Birding Africa pt. 8 - Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge
Birding Africa pt. 9 - Ga-Mailula to Sterkfontein
Birding Africa pt. 10 - Cape Town & Robben Island
Birding Africa pt. 11 - Cape Town Pelagic
Birding Africa pt. 12 - Great Whites & Jackass Penguins
Birding Africa pt. 13 - Cape Point, Kirstenbosch, & Rondevlei
Birding Africa pt. 14 - The Bushbuck River House, Zambia
Birding Africa pt. 15 - Victoris Falls & The Zambezi River
Birding Africa pt. 16 - Chobe River & National Park, Botswana
And the posts I wrote before the trip:
My Next Great Birding Adventure...
South Africa: My Top 25 List - part 1 of 2
South Africa: My Top 10 List - part 2 of 2
After we were back home, we both longed to be back in Africa--there is just something about a place that wild that tugs at your soul. We actually thought about going back next year, and just going to Botswana, cutting out layovers in France, and anything no wildlife related. But it looks like that’s on hold as I have to go to Belize and India for work in the spring--a tough life I know. So instead of Africa, it looks like we will spend a couple weeks at the end of my business trip exploring India--don’t worry though, the blog posts from that trip will be much shorter!
1 life bird the final morning / 358 total trip life birds / 382 total trip species
photos from the the last morning:
entire photo gallery from Africa:
eBird Checklists from this morning:
Bushbuck River House, Zambia