The Infinite Intrigue of the African Skimmer

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Whoever said that long distance relationships don’t work never fell in love with the African skimmers of the Zambezi River.

Perhaps it’s easier with birds, but my love for these rare African vagabonds of the sky has never dwindled, even though I know that just when I have them by my side, on the water at Royal Chundu in Zambia, they will, soon enough, leave me again. It is their nature as migrants. Perhaps a nature that makes them all the more alluring.

The skimmers arrive on the Zambezi around the month of July, in the dry season, when little sandbanks peak out of the great river and call the migrants home. Here they roost and breed, usually between August and October, and leave around November.

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During this time, the promise of glimpsing them in the glow of the river at golden hour calls me from my bed every morning and evening. And while taking a moment to put down the camera and simply be with them, I find my mind completely taken over by the life of the river itself. The intricate and beautiful life, its changes and its constants.

And isn’t that what love does to us? It makes us see the connection in everything, the beauty, the little things along with the big. During his own time on the Zambezi in search of skimmers, photographer Will Goodlet had similar thoughts…

“Drifting slowly down the Zambezi in search of Skimmers I couldn’t help but to reflect on the river itself. It’s at the centre of so much animal and human life in the region, a fabled realm that still holds a mythic place in my own consciousness. I can never quite believe that I am there, swept on by its green current, much as Livingstone might have been. It seems too strange…

It’s more than just a river. Cultures sit astride it and the river brings them all together, like a common thread drawn through the African continent.

It was fascinating to see the local people living with the river. Perhaps more interesting was to see how this area, on the very edge of the conflict between humankind and the world of animals, survives.”


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Below, our love affair with the African skimmer reveals itself through photographs… Discover more about life on the Zambezi at Royal Chundu.

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“African Skimmers are found in small flocks and are monogamous breeders. Their courtship is a sight to behold – boasting aerial chasing and calling as well as low-level synchronised flights close to the water. They nest as solitary pairs, but are usually found in small dipersed colonies. They will return to the same nesting site each year if it is undisturbed and remains free of vegetation.” – Pangolin Voyager


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“Despite the dangers of nesting on sand banks regularly trampled by hippo, predated by monitor lizards, and even disturbed by humans, skimmers and other birds such as lapwings and plovers return to successfully breed on the river each year.” – Encounter

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The African skimmer “is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the international conservation community and the population is thought to be declining. … Human disturbance is thought to be largely responsible for the gradual but steady decline in African Skimmer populations throughout its southern African range. Its breeding areas have been much reduced by human management of river systems, in particular dam-building, which causes flooding in upstream areas and smaller flows downstream.” – Encounter


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Skimmers

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Sunset at Royal Chundu


Discover more about the silent art of birdwatching at Royal Chundu in our blog and contact us to find out more about going on your own birding safari during your stay with us.

The Myriad Moments of Wild Magic at Camp Jabulani

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Time spent in the presence of Africa’s wild animals changes you with each sighting. While witnessing the bonds within a herd, pack or pride, a wobbly elephant nuzzling its mother, a rhino offering its horn to scratch the itch of a brother, wild dogs curled up together, nose to rear, like a patchwork quilt… While watching the human condition applied to the animal kingdom; the same urges and needs playing out across the wilderness. Anger, love, hunger, thirst, jealousy, desire…

Every new sniff, sound and sight opens the world up to you a little more. You poke your little pangolin head out of its burrow and the world looks brighter and more alive.


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But I’m not sure we’d be able to make much sense of it all without some kind of guide. The kind of guide known as the Ranger. The star maps to our day and night skies. While time spent with wild animals changes us as people, I have found my time beside the trackers and rangers of the bush just as vital to my growth, as both human and safarigoer.

One such ranger, Ruan Roos, inspires us not only on the ground (or in the game vehicle) at Camp Jabulani, but also through his photography, through his talent for capturing the myriad moments of wild magic in the Kapama Private Game Reserve of South Africa.


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Through the lens of his Canon 7D Mark II lens, he reveals a love not only for the Big 5, but also the smaller, curiouser characters. Below is a glimpse into the world of Ruan Roos, South African, Field Guide, Conservationist, Amateur Photographer (his description… we think you’ll agree amateur isn’t quite the right word.)


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Elephants utilizing the last light of the day.

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When the light touches your face and you feel its warm embrace.

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End of a glorious day in the lowveld.

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Rain rolling in over the lowveld.

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In An Octopus’ Garden With You

Mauritius

I have spent my life living beside the sea. With its coastal winds calling me out of the house, on whichever side of the city of Cape Town I have been at the time. Sometimes it’s the Atlantic calling, sometimes the Indian. I blame the ocean for my restlessness as much as my restfulness, because it, like me, is a contradiction, a changing animal that one day dances wildly with the shoreline, and the next refuses to get out of bed, lying still, peacefully, blissfully, luring us to curl up with it.

I grew up not only with the sea but the songs of The Beatles and Ringo Star’s Octopus Garden… sending me back out into the water…. to “our little hideaway beneath the waves,” where “we would sing and dance around / Because we know we can’t be found.”

Beneath the water or beside it on the shore, the Indian Ocean’s call, in particular, reaches its neighbours, like a me and maybe a you, but also homes far away, homes inland, homes under rainclouds, homes of travellers aching for the touch of warm sun on their backs, cool water lapping their toes… and for an octopus’ garden in the shade.

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’ garden with you.

To remind you of that touch, of the sea’s sights and sounds and smells, of the happiness of ocean days and island life, here are a few photographs from our seaside wanderings in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

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Where To Stay

20° Sud Boutique Hotel, set in a coconut grove at the water’s edge, in the heart of a quiet area of ​​the north coast, a few minutes by ferry from the lively town centre of Grand Baie. The ubiquitous ocean gives a glimpse of three islands in the distance, a row of dots between you and the horizon.

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Read more about Mauritius in our blogs:

IN THE COMPANY OF AMAZONICAS AND ALDABRAS
THE PERKS OF PARADISE
THE ODD MOMENTS THEORY OF FATHERHOOD