In the late dry season, when temperatures soar and all the standing water has turned to dust, the good and the great of Qorokwe begin to congregate at Sunset Pan. It’s a fine establishment, with freshly-pumped water on tap and a shady rain tree at the eastern end. A black-backed jackal is the unofficial custodian. He hovers a short distance behind the patrons like an over-attentive waiter. He’s picky about who he lets in and barks about right of admission at any leopard that dares to approach.
At first light, you might find the hyena clan there, stopping off for a drink and a dip on their way home after a long night of hunting. They’ll pick up a chunk of meat they’ve been refrigerating in the cool waters and wrestle over it as they gambol off to their den.
Later, herds of impala will file in, drink quickly then leave, as if they’re afraid to be seen there. The baboon troop, on the other hand, has all morning for grooming and lolling about on the shores. Warthogs join them, popping in and out for a mud bath several times a day.
Midday is family-hour for herds of elephants. A calf pastes himself to his mother’s side to drink in her shadow. He gawks at the strange apparition that is a male ostrich heading his way, and he edges nervously behind his mother. But the urge to swim soon makes him bolder and he strays deeper into the water to frolic with the other young elephants. Then come the adult bulls. They stand motionless, lost in their thoughts, trunks in the water and literally cooling their heels. They have nowhere else to be.
By mid-afternoon the pool stands empty. Everyone’s found a nearby tree for an extended siesta. Later, a giraffe cow breaks the stupor, approaching tentatively - too tentative for the ride-sharing oxpeckers on her neck. They’re impatient for this 5-metre-tall-Uber to get to the water’s edge.
Finally, at day’s end, the sun is the last to close down the waterhole. But of course, under cover of darkness, other late-night patrons sneak-in. You’ll read about their visits in the morning’s shoreline tracks.