Bird Calls & Chocodiles…

We’ve had a nice, lazy couple of weeks on the Maramba River, half way between Livingstone and The Victoria Falls at the Zambia / Zimbabwe border. The weather has been a bit changeable, and the rains have hit us with some tremendous downpours and thundering storms like a skip full of cymbals falling from the top of a towering cliff. But that just means (thankfully) that the humidity has dropped a bit. It’s easier to sleep at night and we get some wonderful skies.
View from The Penthouse:  
Top Tip: if you need a Carnet, use ADAC in Germany.

We’ve been waiting to see what would happen with the Carnet we ordered from ADAC in Germany, to replace our RAC Carnet when it expires in April. 

Sure enough, with typical German efficiency, it was dispatched from Munich only 1 week after we deposited the money in their account and sent in our application form by email (the RAC historically took up to 6 weeks to issue their Carnets); it arrived in Livingstone via DHL 1 week later (the RAC typically took 2-3 weeks to send theirs out); it cost only €190, plus a €5k refundable deposit (RAC cost us around €4,000 of which only about 50% is refundable); it’s valid in all countries throughout the world, including Egypt (for which RAC charge a 400% premium!); and it’s post-dated for a month in advance so that there’s no wasted period while they courier it or any unnecessary overlap with our old document (something the RAC refused to do).
Personally, we’ve had some very good service from the RAC regarding Carnets in the past, although we know of many people who seem to have had a terrible time. However, by comparison, the typically German efficiency of the ADAC service has been outstanding. 
While we’ve waited for our Carnet, I guess we could have made ourselves busy. Instead we’ve read books, listened to loads of music that we downloaded from Ed & Carmen’s collection back at Chitimba in Malawi, drunk too much Windhoek Draft lager from Namibia and just generally watched the world go by. 
With very little Big Game wandering around the camp at this time of year, we’ve focused on the smaller visitors we get: 
A caterpillar that we’ve named Dougal… 
…who, I assume, retired to Africa and is living off his royalty cheques from The Magic Roundabout. 

There’s also a few of his 1980’s Punk cousins around… 

It’s come as a bit of a shock to me how many hours can be whiled-away just by baiting and watching ants. So far, we’ve discovered that they don’t care for carrot, onion or cabbage but they like chicken bones, banana, bacon, apple, and they LOVE Bombay Mix. 

We’ve got a huge colony underground at our camping pitch, with a series of entrances that are industriously cleared out after every rainstorm. Two of the entrances are used by the smaller ants whose job it seems to be to collect food. Two other tunnels are used by the Ninja Raiding Parties. These are the bigger tough-guys who head out in a phalanx every couple of days in a very well organised and determined column. 

Around 30-60 minutes later they return with their treasure: eggs from a rival ant colony (new slave workers) or eggs from a local termite mound (food supplies that can be kept almost indefinitely fresh). 

The monitor lizards don’t bother with the ants much. Surprising really as you’d think they’d provide a plentiful supply of food. 

And the little iridescent Skinks seem positively scared witless of the ants, they dart across the ground from one tree trunk to another as if petrified that the ants will pounce on them. 

The wet season is supposedly the best time of year for birdwatching. We’ve seen some beautiful Jacana, Fish Eagles, Owls, Giant Hornbills, Sand Grouse, Ibis, Storks, Woodpeckers, Weavers, etc. Just as we’ve been fascinated by ants, we’ve become interested in the beautiful bird life that hangs around the camp including the Open Beaked Stork… 

…and a selection of beautiful Kingfishers. 

In addition to the recognisable birds that we have pictures of, we’re even becoming quite expert at recognising the piercingly loud bird calls of some species that we haven’t actually seen yet. There’s the ‘Hoochy Koochy‘ bird, the ‘Go-Away‘ bird, the ‘Thanks For Doing The Dishes‘ bird, the ‘Monkey Business‘ bird, the ‘Che-Boiiing‘ bird that sound like a breaking spring on a cuckoo clock ….. and the Cartoon bird, that has the most outrageously, obviously fake, piercingly loud ‘TWEET‘ ever heard.

The hippos are much more easily recognised (& smelt). They are ever present around the camp, whatever the weather, day and night. One particular family have a calf that seems to have survived a pretty nasty encounter with something dangerous.  
It looks like it’s been grabbed by the neck at some point. Although it seems otherwise quite healthy and mobile and doesn’t seem to be in any distress, with a wound like that we can’t help thinking it won’t be long before some predator finishes off the job. Maybe one of the bigger crocs that hunt this stretch of the river?  

There’s a few crocs about, mostly around 2 metres long, but there’s one big boy in particular who lies out sunning himself in the heat of the day and then slips into the chocolate coloured Maramba River to majestically patrol his beat as the sun goes down. He’s over 3 meters long, probably around 40 years old and although he may look like a chocolate croc in a bath of caramel milk, I certainly wouldn’t want to get too close. 


  1. […] of the price RAC were charging. Highly recommended and painless. Link to details on our blog: Bird Calls & Chocodiles… – wearthefoxhat Happy to provide links to documents etc if you contact us. Good luck Scott Ps- subsequently have […]