The Red, Red Dirt of Home

Kennedy Range NP

If you travel in outback Australia the red dirt, which blankets much of the interior of this country, invades your vehicle and, no matter how well you clean your car, you will still be finding pockets of red tucked into crevices and hinges for years to come. The red dirt settles into the blood and soul of some people and I’m happy to be one of them. 

For many years I relished city and urban life then grew to love living surrounded by bush or near the ocean. I still love the bush and the beach and the occasional visit to the big smoke but if I’m away from the red dirt for too long I get a yearning to return.

Winter is the easiest time to travel in the outback when temperatures are more comfortable. Our last few winters have been spent either overseas or on the east coast so as covid restrictions eased and we were allowed to travel within Western Australia my first request was to head inland, camp in the bush and enjoy a good campfire, and see some of that red, red dirt.

Kennedy Range National Park is a couple of hundred kilometres inland of Carnarvon on the west coast of Australia. Rather than follow the highway up from Geraldton where we had spent the covid lockdown period we drove inland and travelled for two days along mainly dirt roads through the tiny settlements of Murchison and Gascoyne Junction. Traffic was scarce and it was great to be out of town and away from civilisation.

We found a pleasant overnight spot to camp at Bilung Pool. It’s a permanent water hole which was used by the early settlers and before that by generations of Aboriginals. Paul enjoyed catching the late afternoon and early morning light on the magnificent white gums at the edge of the pool.

We reached Kennedy Range by the middle of the next day and found several other groups in the Temple Gorge camp ground. The range is an eroded plateau and the camp and most walks are at the base of spectacular cliffs that rise 100m above the plains. The best way to appreciate the range is from the air and Paul flew the drone early in the morning, well away from camp, and captured some of the beauty.

Some walks enter the gorges and you pick your way through the rocks and admire the formations and patterns in the gorge walls. Others take you along the face of the escarpment and past huge rocks which have fallen in years past. A Wedge Tail Eagle rode the thermal currents above us.

There are no individual fire pits at the campsites but a large communal fire was a great place to cook dinner and to sit and chat with other campers each evening. After months of travel restrictions everyone was happy to be back in the bush and the conversations, as always, turned to previous adventures and experiences and future plans. 

Wildlife on our Doorstep

Young BushBuck and Warthog, Chobe Safari Camp, Botswana

Chobe National Park in Botswana is one of great wildlife destinations in Africa and the Chobe river front section supports the largest wildlife population in the park. What a great place for us to enjoy a final safari before we finish this part of our African adventures.

Once we cross the border from Zambia to Botswana it is a short drive to Kasane where we are camping in the Chobe Safari Camp. We love our site next to the river and we are right on the border of the national park. As well as our great river views we can see elephants coming down to drink all along the river front and one evening an elephant approaches the edge of the camp, only an electric fence prevents him from wandering right into our camp site. As well as listening to the hippos snorting in the river we frequently hear the cry of the African Fish Eagles from the tops of the nearby trees, two sounds which immediately invoke wild Africa.

Initially we planned to stay for a few nights but we eventually leave after a five night stay. Several tame bush bucks and semi-tame warthogs with their young wander around the camp. The bush buck are so tame they walk right up to the camera and even allow us to gently pat their heads.

There is plenty of bird life including bright Red Bishop birds, Yellow Weaver birds, White-Browed Robin Chats and frequent sightings of Fish eagles. A bright green dung beetle investigates the droppings left behind from the warthogs.

We venture into the National Park early one morning. It is a short drive to the park entrance and we immediately head down toward the river. There is plenty of water throughout the park at this time of the year and during the morning we do not have much luck spotting animals at the river. There are plenty of water birds though and we stop frequently to watch them.

Game we see in the morning includes two hyenas heading down for a drink and investigating interesting smells on their way. As well as Impala, Kudu and Waterbuck, the park has good populations of the water loving Red Lechwe and a small population of the endangered Puku.

Chobe is well known for its elephant population and we are surprised that we don’t see any down by the river, especially as it is early morning. By late morning we have gone as far into the park as we plan and we turn back toward the entrance. Very soon we start seeing family groups of elephants heading toward the river and from then on we see more and more elephants heading down for a drink and a splash or swim. Before long we have seen hundreds.

A special sight is watching a baby elephant suckling.

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By this time the hippos are also ready to emerge from the river to graze.

The next day we take a boat cruise from the camp in the late afternoon. The water was calm and the reflections beautiful.

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Chobe Cruise, Botswana

We get some nice close views of the birds.

And get even closer to a Fish Eagle bathing in the river before he flew off to a neighbouring tree.

A large herd of buffalo were grazing on Sedudu Island.

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Buffalo Grazing on Sedudu Island, Chobe National Park, Botswana

And a family of elephants drink at the water’s edge.

We stop by some crocs basking in the late afternoon sun.

Before enjoying the river scenery on our return cruise to the camp.

Late afternoons and early evenings are spent watching the changing light and the sunset from the Sunset Bar but at other times we just watch the river from our camp site. Its no wonder we extended our stay but finally it is time to move on from this camp but we’re not going far.

Senyati Camp is less than 20 km from Kasane and not far south of the town of Kazangula so it doesn’t get us far on our journey but is well worth a stop over. The camp sites are very comfortable with lots of trees, a private shower and toilet and a sitting area with a sink. The real reason for coming here though is the waterhole with a fresh water fountain which the elephants love and an underground hide so you can get very close. On our last visit it was the dry season and we saw a steady stream of animals visiting the waterhole including hundreds of elephants over the course of the night, as well as wildebeest, buffalo and impala. There is plenty of water around at this time of the year and we wonder if the water will attract the animals anyway. When we first take our positions near the waterhole there are no animals nearby. As we sit we gradually see giraffe moving across in the distance and as time goes by we see more and more of them.

Senyati Camp, Botswana

Next a single male elephant approaches the waterhole for a drink and he is followed by several other males.

Later, as the sun is setting, a family group comes to the waterhole and as the evening progresses we see more and more of them. It has certainly been worthwhile making another visit here.

Senyati Camp, Botswana