It was time to set out on an afternoon boat trip at Kanana, everyone was eagerly awaiting the visit to the Heronry, one of Southern Africa’s most important Pink-backed Pelican breeding sites (Watch this space for the blog). What we didn’t realise was that the trip to Heronry would bring us just as much excitement as the destination itself.
We ambled up the Xudum River, marvelling at the beauty of the Jackalberries, Mangosteens and Gomoti figs that form the banks of this river system. As the River narrowed we began meandering through the narrow serpent-like channels, unique to the Okavango Delta. We spotted a couple of small crocodiles hiding in the papyrus as well as a few interesting species of aquatic birdlife. As we came around a tight hair pin bend in the channel we saw them, two Sitatunga antelope (Tragelaphus spekii) a female and her sub-adult offspring. They were surprisingly relaxed as these animals are generally very shy and quite skittish.
At times, these specimens are over-looked and the rarity of a sighting is often taken for granted. The Sitatunga is Africa’s only true amphibious antelope, they live in reed thickets and muddy swamps and their long splayed hooves allow for it to move in this marshy environment without sinking into thick vegetation.
We viewed the pair of Sitatunga for about five minutes before they started moving off into the thick papyrus and by this stage we had taken a sufficient number of photos and it was time to carry on to the heronry. We had hardly pulled off when we came across a herd of Red Lechwe grazing in a flood plain to the right of the channel, we stopped to view the herd and strangely enough, camouflaged amongst the Lechwe was a beautiful male Sitatunga.
It was truly spectacular to have witnessed these two sightings and it really makes one appreciate the unique experience of the Okavango Delta!
Story by Doctor (professional guide at Kanana)
Images: Mark Muller & Alison Flatt