Snap-snap-snap-snap-snap – this is not the sound of crocs catching their next snack …it’s paparazzi-snap-happy Gray hoping that at least one of the 30 photos of the lions feasting come out well…
Drive number one of my first ever safari, 6:30am and we’re lucky enough to stumble across a recent lion kill of a buffalo. Vultures in their hoards surround the area, nestled in the trees and circling the skies waiting for their turn to pick at the scraps. Later on when dusk moves to night the hyenas will also close in to scavenge any carcass remains.
But for the moment, in pecking order, it’s solely the lions’ show. We are in the perfect position to watch them just some 4 metres away. Some lie lazily under the shade of the tree for a post-breakfast siesta; those waiting in turn lick their lips in anticipation… snap-snap-snap.
Perfect, I can’t believe my luck – some great shots to kick-start the safari album. Off we cruise into the bush in search of the next spectacle. After a quick flick through my stored photos, I see I have a series of 10 perfect, luminous white photos- no such evidence of any lion. My heart sinks… mega fail. Let’s hope we have another viewing of these beautiful cats before I leave.
Fear not, for South Luangwa National Park in Zambia has a haven of wildlife activity. Spanning at just over 9,000km2 and encompassing the Luangwa river, the oxbow lakes and pools increase the biodiversity leading to an impressive concentration of animals within the park, apparently one of the most impressive within Africa.
In the park there are over 60 animal species and a whopping 400 different bird species. The only void is sadly the rhino, which was poached to extinction here back in 1998.
Over the 5 game drives (2 day and 3 night) we saw so many animals, small and large. The sights, sounds and smells really ensure that you are swept away into a dream experience.
Warthogs, antelope, giraffe and elephants were part of the daily view, making daily trips to the small pockets of water that remains. The much anticipated wild dogs and leopards came out for our cameras settling close to the jeep, un-phased by our presence; prides of lions basked in the sun and lazily stared us out from under the trees . Birds of all sorts scattered the banks and trees… and it was here I found myself gaining some unexpected knowledge of our feathered friends; It would appear that my group of 18 holidaying Swedes were very much bird enthusiasts. I have to admit I was more concerned about seeing the big beasts and some ‘proper’ safari action, however I embraced the education and Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’ll be joining a bird watching group just yet, but I can now tell my blue lilac roller from my carmine bee-eater, yup get me! 😉
As many of you will know, it is hard to re-lay the true experience of a safari and give it the justice it deserves. With this in mind I have given a summary below of my ‘Big 5 moments’, and I have posted a small selection of my photos to tell some of the safari story – these are also proof that I did finally get slightly (not much) better at working the camera…
In summary it was a truly magical 4 days; more special than I could have ever imagined. It is so surreal to be in the middle of the amazing self-balanced ecosystem of the African savannah bush, face-to-face with the wilds, visitors on their turf.
I left South Luangwa feeling even more energised by nature and still longing for more. I also felt extremely well fed. It’s not only the animals who were feasting in the park; we were fed to the brim with four course meals and wonderful cakes, tea and more cakes! Thank you Malawian Style and South Luangwa Safari’s for an amazing work trip.
My big 5…
Elephants that lunch; While staying at Kafunta Lodge we had a family of elephants who chose to visit for breakfast. lunch and dinner. One of the males decided to join us in the bar area one day. He walks straight in and parks himself under a tree, grabs a few leafy branches, turns around, flaps his ears, has a big sigh and looks us straight in the eyes. Then as casually and calmly as he came, he wanders out. Those gentle, kind eyes looking back at us was something very special.
Reptile friends; On the night drive we were all focusing on spotting the nocturnal mammals, maybe a porcupine, hyena or civet, but we forget about our reptile friends. In perfect view ahead of our jeep we see a slithering spitting cobra which stops in the path and performs for us the spotlight, revealing his hood.
Not-so-lesser spotted Leopard; Just because I think they are beautiful! We were lucky enough to see them a few times, day and night…
Wild dogs, of course; Many people has visited the park numerous times and still haven’t been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the wild dogs. They cover a lot of ground so it’s difficult to monitor their movements. We were lucky; a pack of 20 with 6 younger ones lay very close to us one evening just before sundowners.
Mane of splendour; In jest I said to Chipuma, our guide, the final animal I’d love to see to top off this safari experience would be a male lion. Maybe from my childhood days, Aslam from The Chronicles Narnia paints a very special image of these majestic beasts. He came up trumps once again and we didn’t find just one, but four males, all dozing together in the dried up riverbed as the sun went down. After a few camera setting issues (once again) and 10 blanks…. I got the money shot. What a beauty he is!
Get some logistical tips from me on planning your Zambia safari here