Written by: Jaci Van Heteren
I thought it would be fun to spend 24 hours in our new terrapin hide, our waterhole’s photographic hide, given that photographer Olwen Evans and renowned Kenyan private safari guide, Simon Belcher of Royal African Safaris, were visiting Jaci’s.
The three of us started our 24-hour adventure in the afternoon with a wonderfully cool wind blowing through the terrapin hide. We took a short while to unpack the cameras, set up the Gimpro single/double pano heads and prepare for whatever animals decided to come visit. It felt like a camping trip and the excitement was building.
Loads of Cape turtle doves and francolin were coming and going and one lonely lapwing chick could be seen.
Then herds of elephants came down to swim! The sheer joy of watching them swim, face-plant into the water, sit back on their haunches, throw their trunks backwards and topple over was utterly sensational.
Even a big, ancient, wrinkly bull joined the teenagers in the waterhole while a teeny elephant stuck by his side the whole time, and all we could see every now and again was his thin trunk popping above the water like a submarine periscope.
As the afternoon progressed we could see all the tadpoles rising to the surface and the small, red, wriggly lava-type creatures that were latching onto anything that floated by, which was usually elephant poop.
Very welcome gin and tonics were delivered at 5.30pm and were most welcome as the wind had dropped and the accumulated heat of the day was warming up the hide. Double-banded sandgrouse arrived, gently calling to each other as the sun set, and they quenched their thirst and collected water in their feathers for their young. As the sun dropped, the bats came out and skimmed the water, catching insects using some impressive aerial manoeuvres.
The black-backed jackal slunk its way over to have a quick drink, his ears flicking and alert all the time. This was our first photographic sighting from the hide of a predator, although there have been many nocturnal visitors who left tracks behind.
A delicious dinner was also delivered to us, and the team at Jaci’s Tree Lodge ensured we were looked after and well fed at all times.
Watching the blood moon rise and set was spectacular and, even though my pictures did not come out well, I was delighted to have been awake to witness the rare event.
A fish eagle’s call in the morning had us hoping that it would scout out the waterhole and sit on a tree nearby, but alas it preferred the river option this time.
The black-backed jackal came down to drink again in the early morning before heading off to settle down for the day. And a warthog came to drink but landed up standing on the bank, half asleep, whilst the red-billed oxpeckers gleaned parasites off him. Watching him stretching and lifting his tail was a special and memorable moment for me.
16 giraffe tried to stick around for a drink but were constantly chased away by the elephants, and zebras also had the same experience when they tried their luck.
The elephants even chased the lapwings, which was very naughty indeed. But a large troop of baboons did manage to visit the waterhole, and we managed to take a photo of a female drinking with her arm securely around a juvenile.
The list of sightings goes on and on, and it was wonderful to sit in the hide and enjoy the anticipation of what the next sighting might be.
I’d very much recommend experiencing the Terrapin Hide at Jaci’s Lodges; we loved every minute and would prefer to still be there rather than back at our desks!