The Rising Ash

Khwai, Botswana

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Khwai is a world of wonder. A place of striking beauty even throughout the dry season. The Khwai river shapes the torched and perished lands like a jigsaw, and has now become the home for so much wildlife during this time of the year. Zebra, Elephant, Springbok and Red Lechwe are just a few of the animals that are found within this playground.

Away from the river and further out into the bush, the lands have become desolate. The rising ash blows across the landscape, leaving its carbon like mark on anything it comes in contact with. The ash you can still find burning away on the end of tree trunks like a flame melting away a candle. Mother nature has left very little in the way of vegetation in these areas.

On the other side of the river, the mopane forests are still in their vibrant green coats and are home to an array of birdlife. Fish eagles soar above the towering trees and Kingfishers patrol the river beds before making a splash. These areas are magical and feel like scenes from the jungle book.

Wherever you explore in the Khwai region, the imagination becomes a reality, and as you drive through the snaked and dusty roads of Khwai with both the supermoon and the sunrise out as one, you are sure to be left overwhelmed with emotion.

G O L D U S T

It was 4 am on the 14th of October 2019 and the sounds of the Hippos coming from the river banks put a smile on my face as I began to brew my morning coffee.

As I left the villa to begin loading up the Hi-lux for my morning drive, everything around me was so still. The air was fresh, and I could still see the twinkling of the dark skies above me. I was already hugely inspired and I could not wait any longer to start my self drive through this magical place.

I had decided the night before that I would stay close to the villa during my first drive out, and with just a short distance away, I found myself following the river towards the open plains. As the darkness gave way to the light, I pulled over not far from the riverbank, and the scene was just heavenly. There was a haze in the air and a low hanging mist that created a creamy texture to the landscape. Right in front of me was a herd of grazing Lechwe, which to my surprise were happy for me to be sharing their space as the golden sun slowly began to rise.

As I layed there patiently, I noticed a pair of Lechwe on their own, and as the light and mist created a goldust effect, I was able to take the below image, which was to be my very first photo from my time in Botswana.

The blend of mist and light creates a goldust effect during my first morning in Khwai.

Lepeche graze the plains during sunrise in the Khwai reserve in Botswana

Days of solitude

The next few days I wanted to just explore a little deeper into Khwai without having to pressure myself into taking all of my equipment out with me, and so I spent the majority of my time on days two and three drinking coffee amongst the elephants and reading born free by Joy Adamson in the comfort of giraffes and Zebra. There really wasn’t much else you could ever wish for in moments like those.

Days two and three also gave me the opportunity to meet some local people from within the community. Khwai itself is home to a development trust in where income from tourism is used to great benefits to support the local people in this region of Botswana. Whether that is through the building of houses, or to support the elderly in times of need, the trust is a fabulous program, and one of Botswana’s best managed.

A herd of Zebra make a quick escape as the wild dogs suddenly appear.

Zebra escapes a pack of wild dogs during sunset in Botswana
T H E  C H A S E

Day four soon came and I was persistent in my search for wild dogs, but it wasn’t until day six that my luck began to change.

I left the villa at around 4.30 pm and by 5.30 pm I witnessed something quite special. I took my usual route alongside the river but decided to take a left and drive further away from the river. Travelling across a clay-like pan, I took a glance out of the passenger window, and to my surprise, two wild dogs were out in the open, bathing in the white clay dust next to the dried out waterhole.

Seeing the two of them was a special moment for me but soon two became five, and then that very evening, I spent almost one hour alone with this pack, and my face never stopped gleaming.

For the duration of those sixty minutes, I watched and photographed this pack of wild dogs until their final flourish found them chasing a group of Impala across the torched lands of Khwai.⁠

Immediately the car was covered in sheets of dust as the whole pack descended upon the Impala, reminiscent of the white smoke I had seen burning from the dead trees the day before.⁠ Reaching speeds of up to 35 mph the chase was on, however, soon as I made my way through the clearing in the dust I soon realized, like many other hunts before, the wild dogs chase had ended in failure. ⁠

It is hard to explain the feelings one can have in witnessing events such as this, the adrenaline that flows through you is something to behold, and one I will remember for a very long time.⁠

6.30 pm and I made my way back to the villa to reflect on what I had actually just witnessed. I backed up my files, made myself a nice Yorkshire tea in the middle of the wilderness and sat watching the night skies as the silhouette of a giant eagle owl set the tone for the evening.

In the comfort of silence, apart from the rustling sounds of elephants passing later on that night, I thought to myself, I really don’t want to leave this magical kingdom.

Botswana was to be my last trip in 2019. I had planned to then go on a hiking trip through the Dolomites during Autumn, but with travelling to Africa later than expected I had to postpone my week in the Dolomites.

As we edge so close to 2020 I am so excited to tell you where you will find me throughout next year.

January will see me travel to Lake Kerkini, with ten days to follow shortly after in Iceland. From then onwards I have huge plans for Africa once again. Spending considerable time in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, to then spending time in the Serengeti of Tanzania.

2020 is going to be a wonderful year and I am very much looking forward to starting the journey off in Lake Kerkini in just four weeks’ time.

To read more inspiring blogs from the wild, why not visit my blog page to check out all of my latest adventures!

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Fine art portrait of a wild dog in Africa, Khwai