Theatre Dinner at Chilo Gorge Lodge, hyena chorus and lion opera……

14th January: A return to Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge for meetings, good company and plans for the future, finds us all sitting on the wooden deck overlooking the wilderness of the Gonarezhou National Park opposite us, enjoying a dinner under the stars and the nearly full moon. Sadly, we have to leave again tomorrow….
We have barely opened a bottle of Painted Wolf Wine, (a shiraz; rich, red and yummy…) and lifted our glasses, when the whoooooooo- ooop of a hyena floats across the water, from the densely vegetated far bank of the swollen Save River.
Is it at the den, where we heard cubs growing up and learning to whoop last year?…and if so, are there new cubs?…an exciting thought!

hyena and cub

hyena and cub

What a gorgeous, evocative African sound……..
But it does not end there…as if saving all the drama of the wilderness just for us on our one night in this special place, the serenity of the evening is replaced by a rising chorus of yodels, as more than four or five hyenas start calling, louder, louder, until the very air around us is filled with the voices of this unique, eerie choir! The shivering stars above us dance to the music, and the silt-brown, flooding river below us is lit by the buttery light of the rising moon.
Then….a low reverberating rumble rolls across the water…a lion has added his voice! The hyenas giggle with fear and anger, and we can hear that something serious is happening, a confrontation between these two arch enemies, the super predators….the choir has become an opera, a drama unfolding in the dark depths of the far bank, beyond reach of the gentle moonlight.

lion paw print

lion paw print

We all stare at each other, wide eyed in the moonlight. Has the lion found the hyena den and attacked the cubs? Or has the lion made a kill and been challenged by the hyenas?
Sitting on the high balcony, we can only guess and marvel at what story might be unfolding out there. This is a theatre dinner of a different order, a priceless and elemental experience.
Going to bed that night, I open the folding doors of the room. Perched as we are in the tree canopy on the steep cliff, we drift to sleep surrounded by the gentler sounds of Africa, hyenas now silent…. we know that birdsong, baboons and hippo grunts will wake us satisfyingly early. Wake up call is earlier than expected…at 3 am the lion suddenly roars, loud and explosive, only once. Wow. A baboon barks in fear from the baboon roost on steep rocks above the river.
After that, lion and hyena dreams fill my mind till morning.

lions and hyenas at Chilo Gorge

lions and hyenas at Chilo Gorge

Gardening and pruning the Mahogany tree on the deck occupies my morning. The fabulous cry of a fish eagle attracts me to the edge of the deck, and a glance upstream reveals a rising spiral of vultures above the rocks where the baboons roost. Have they just been down to a quiet backwater to drink and bathe, or does their presence signify a death…a sequel to last night’s opera?!


Climbing to the top deck within the lodge, to write this blog, I get a different perspective of the silty Save, and the far bank whose deep vegetation hides the dramatic nocturnal story….what really happened there last night?!


About wineandwilddogs

Lin Barrie The Save Valley Conservancy stretches along the upper reaches of the great Save River in the south east of Zimbabwe. The Gonarezhou National Park laps against the southern banks of the Save River and between these two nestles the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. These three celebrated wildlife areas form part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, (GLTFCA)- a unique wilderness jewel which is home to the “Big Five” (endangered Black and White rhinos, elephants, buffalo, lion, leopard) and the ”Little Six” (Klipspringer, Suni, Duiker, Steenbok, Sharpe's Grysbok and Oribi). Endangered African wild dogs, Cheetah, Brown hyena, Bat-eared foxes and a host of special birds and plants contribute to the immense variety of this ecosystem. Communities around the GLTFCA contribute to innovative partnerships with National Parks and the private sector, forming a sound base on which to manage social, economic and environmental issues. This is home to artist and writer Lin Barrie and her life partner, conservationist Clive Stockil. Expressing her hopes, fears and love for this special ecosystem with oil paints on canvas, Lin Barrie believes that the essence of a landscape, person or animal, can only truly be captured by direct observation. Lin Barrie states: “Through my art, and my writing, I feel an intimate connection with the natural world, and from my extensive field sketches of wild animals, people and landscapes, I create larger works on canvas. Lin's work is in various public and private collections in South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Australia, England, Canada, Sweden and the United States of America. She is represented by galleries in South Africa, Zimbabwe, England, Kenya and Florida, USA.
This entry was posted in Africa, african wildlife, beauty, Chilo Gorge, eco-tourism, food, gonarezhou national park, Painted Wolf Wines, predators, Rivers, serenity, theatre, Uncategorized, wilderness, zimbabwe and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Theatre Dinner at Chilo Gorge Lodge, hyena chorus and lion opera……

  1. Ann says:

    Wonderful description! Thanks.

  2. Ingrid Barflod says:

    Would you sell me the sketch above with the hyena. It is impossible to find anything with hyenas. I Love the wild dogs too, but I am sure that I cannot afford the oil paintings. They are beautiful!!!!!!!

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