The artificial water-hole by Crocodile River Camp is a kind of stage for the theatrical performances of the bush. Watch it all day: the thinking man’s television. A rosette of a dozen impalas dared to drink all at once: bottoms up! Lillian’s lovebirds and red-billed buffalo soldiers dropped by in numbers throughout the day. A kudu male drank with a fastidious air: his twisted antlers giving him a special dignity.
The water-hole is not big: perhaps twice the size of your bath at home. So how did four elephants manage to get in at the same time? Admittedly one was small and one was medium, but other two were both XXXL and might have considered waiting their turn or turning the others out. But no: the whole lot of them had to go squelching in together, to get all mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful and to spoil the drinking for any pernickety fellow-mammal for hours.
It wasn’t just the biological imperative for thermo-regulation that got them in: it was the delight of being all together, sharing the experience of thick gloopy mud, all of them turning into chocolate elephants at the same time. It’s not hippos that insist on mud, mud, glorious mud, it’s these fellows.
A little later I had a closer took at the walls of the water-hole, which was now a mud-wallow. Hard at work on the soft wet walls were more mud-worshippers, elegant beasts with black and yellow legs that glowed with grandeur against the drab background. These were mud-dauber wasps. I had already seen an example of their architecture: a lemon-sized structure packed with small cells, each of which contains an egg and is provisioned with still-living prey for the emerging grub to devour at leisure.
Mud is a precious stuff to a mud-lover, and in the dry season it’s as rare as diamonds. Here elephant and wasp were united in delight… dragging their names into the mud.