Imagine arriving at your abode shortly before a scarlet sunset and finding a flock of Helmeted Guineafowl gathering on the opposite bank of the Olifants River before disappearing into the tall reeds;
a pair of Egyptian Geese foraging between the large rocks in the river; and a large crocodile easing its way into the water in front of you.
Now imagine waking to the sound of hippos grunting contentedly and observing them emerge from the water to flop down on a stretch of river sand to bask in the sun for much of the day;
a Giant Kingfisher hovering above the water; vervet monkeys frolicking in the grass in between seeking tasty titbits; and a pair of Egyptian Geese standing sentinel on a large rock.
Imagine all this and you will find yourself in Ekuthuleni (the place of peace) situated in the Blyde Olifants Conservancy near Hoedspruit. I have just had the good fortune to spend a few days in this warm Bushveld paradise.
The winter veld not only looks dry: it is dry and it feels dry.
Lifeless it is not. Bushbabies flit through the trees at speed in the early evening, leaving rustling leaves in their wake; giraffe nibble on the leaves of trees that tower over the drab surroundings;
and tree squirrels dart about, throwing up little puffs of dust as they skitter across the dry ground.
A slow drive through this desiccated landscape provides an opportunity to appreciate the variety of trees, such as the Common Cluster Fig, Leadwood, Tamboti, Red Bushwillow, Narrow-pod Robust Thorn and Marula. One comes across animals unexpectedly: a duiker on the alert behind a thin curtain of dry grass;
a herd of blue wildebeest gathered around the remnants of their supplementary feast of lucerne;
and zebras at the waterhole at dusk.
Sunsets seen from the viewpoint are spectacular.
So too are the impala lilies and the surprisingly wide variety of birds.
I especially enjoyed a close encounter with several pairs of Wattled Plovers on the open grass near a grove of Fever Trees.
My bird list for Ekuthuleni is:
African Grey Hornbill.
African Yellow White-eye
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Turtle Dove
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
White-crested Helmet Shrike