In front of Seba Camp – fastened to the boughs of a magnificent sycamore fig – sways a steel-framed wooden wonder that is the best seat in the house! Not only did this swing send me into the lulling beauty of Seba’s lagoon, it made me feel part of the tree itself, which attracts an astonishing array of life. Suddenly I was a kid again and kicking off off my shoes, light and free under the brightening full moon.
And then I noticed little twinkling lights in the grass… fireflies! These little Lampyridae bush fairies are actually nocturnal beetles that produce their flickering glow from light organs under their abdomens. There are many different species and each one attracts potential mates by sending out a unique blinking pattern, like a Morse code.
My attention was then captured by the sounds and silhouettes of fruit bats, whizzing through the bits of sky between the branches above me. They make a sound that’s somewhere between a squeak and a hoot, very characteristic of warm Delta evenings. The Okavango has a large variety of fruit bat species and sycamore figs are clearly their favorite nighttime eateries! As darkness creeps in, the bats leave their dark daytime roosts in nearby motsaudi or African mangosteen trees (and the water tanks in Sebas’ staff village) to investigate the figs. Fruit bats detect fruit clusters by their amazing detailed binocular vision, unlike insect-eating bats that use their famous sonar sound waves to locate their prey. I was amazed to learn that in one night a single fruit bat can devour at least 20 large sycamore figs! Mother bats carry their baby bats along while they feed during the first few weeks, after which they leave them in the roost and return at intervals for the youngster to lick fruit juices from its mother’s mouth.
Also adding to the amazing evening orchestra were buzzing cicadas, croaking toads, whimsical swamp boubous, prrrrr-ing scops owls, and the whi-whi-whi of thick-knees.
Watching the happenings of Seba from the swing was just as entertaining during daytime hours. Brightly-suited woodland kingfishers were watchmen on the branches above me, swooping down again and again to pluck insects from the water’s edge. I had to watch out for black-collared barbets dropping bits of fig from their beaks! I loved looking up to admire their bits of bright red plumage.
Monkeys, though, are the real performers at Seba and it seemed that nothing escapes their notice. The drought has made them rather desperate for food and water and they were ever on the lookout for a crumb or two. It was hard not to grow intensely fond of these little hairy-tailed tricksters with their pink-faced youngsters clinging on for dear life as they ducked around couches and sprang along tables.
Vervets live in families that number as many as 50 individuals. Living in such a big troop has many advantages including safety in numbers, which helps them defend themselves against predators and rival monkey groups that may want to take over their feeding areas. Many eyes in the trees make them effective predator spotters (and their alarm calls are helpful for us to spot leopards too!). When it comes to eating fruit, their colour vision allows them to pick the ripest ones.
The lagoon in front of Seba, although very dry at the moment, attracts some great waterbirds including fish-eagles whose uninhibited cries echo throughout the camp. There are often big mammals (especially buffalo and elephant) that come to drink regularly. You’ll never get bored watching the world from the frame of Seba’s wonderful swing!