Monday, 15 July 2013

Safari Day 2: South Luangwa National Park

Our safari 4x4 with the French couple we were 
sharing our safari lodge with

I woke just before our 5am wake up call and was lying in bed listening to the hippo dawn chorus from the river below us.

We set off just before 6am and seemed to be the first safari truck into the National Park for the second day in a row. We started by heading to site where we saw the leopard hunting a puku the night before. Godfrey, our guide, was hoping that our leopard would have managed a kill after we'd left and there might be some hyenas in the area. We didn't see any signs of the leopard, hyenas or a kill.

Baby elephants by the road

After a quick look round we headed off to a part of the National Park that we hadn't been to before in search of lions. We saw plenty of paw prints and tracks, but no actual lions. I was still buzzing from last night and enjoying the amazing scenery so wasn't disappointed by the lack of lions.

We drove through wooded sections, followed a dry river bed and saw open plains. There weren't as many animals as yesterday, but we saw plenty of zebras, were trumpated at by elephants, saw giraffe, buffalo, waterback, puku, rhino and different birds. Quite a lot really!

Ed and I at morning tea

At our morning tea break Godfrey was explaining that the area of the park nearest to the gate currently doesn't have a pride of lions. There used to be a pride containing two males, three adult females and a number of cubs. One of the males was baited across the river by some hunters and then a pride from the north came into the area and killed the other male, all of the cubs and took the three adult females back to the north with them. It will take a year for all of the old prides territorial markings to disappear and a new pride to move into the area.

There is a smaller pride of one male and two females to the west of the park entrance, but they are currently roaming quite a lot and hard to find.

Herons sitting on the back of hippos

We got back to our lodge around 11am and had an early lunch under the trees next to the river. After lunch we walked into town as we wanted to get some cash out of the village ATM. It was a hot walk in the blazing hot sun and the ATM didn't accept any of the three cards that we tried!

When we got back to the safari lodge I jumped into the pool to cool off.

To bushbacks looking quizical

We set off on our evening drive an hour earlier than the previous day, at 3pm, as our French companions preferred their safaris in the light rather than the dark. We saw a group of fifteen giraffe as we approached the gate of the National Park.

We spent the first couple of hours driving towards the Presidential Lodge that is situated in the park. It was getting easy to become blazé about all of the animals we were seeing. On our drive we spotted a large herd of buffalo, baby elephants and giraffe only a few months old, waterback and kubuku. The 'golden hour' before sunset is a gorgeous time to the in the National Park.

Enjoying a sundowner

We stopped near the river for drinks before sunset and could see a couple of fisherman's hunts on the far bank. Just before the sunset we set off again to head towards a watering hole where the small pride of a male and two females had been spotted a couple of days before.

Before we'd reached the watering hole we found a lion sitting by the riverbank. We were the third 4x4 on the scene and a fourth arrived not long after we got there. (The drivers weren't in radio contact, so there must be some science to their tracking.)

The lion was just sitting there, totally unfazed by our presence and seemingly wanted to sleep.

I was sitting on the back of a safari truck, drinking a beer and watching a lion with stunning scenery all around. Does life get any better?


After taking some shots we drove off and the sun quickly set and our search light came out. As we were driving I could see another 4x4 in the distance away to our left. They had their light focused on something and Stephen scanned out light in that direction and proclaimed a lion. How he could tell from so far off I have no idea!

We turned round and tore off back down the track we were on and down another side track to get a closer look. We arrived just in time to see the lioness stride in front of our vehicle and into the bushes. It was only the briefest of glimpses, but it was amazing to catch sight of two lions in one night.

Enjoying a beer while watching a lion. Does life get better?

After the lion sighting we headed for home. We drove up a track through a wood that we hadn't been up before and came out not too far from where we'd seen the leopard the night before. As we were heading across the plain we saw two vehicles in the distance shining their light up into a tree.

The same leopard we had seen hunt was sitting up in the tree with her baboon kill. She'd climbed the tree to protect herself from hyenas. She was sitting their quite peacefully, with only the tail and a few bones of the baboon left. We saw her scratch the tree which is apparently quite unusual.

Our leopard from the previous night who had carried 
a baboon kill up into the tree

After a few weeks (and three different photo angles) Godfrey announced he wasn't feeling well and we needed to get back. When we got back to the lodge, Dave the manager, said he thought Godfrey had malaria and sent for strong drugs. I can't believe he was able to drive us on safari while he had malaria, he must have felt dreadful.

There was a snake in the dining room which we were told was poisonous. Thankfully it didn't get too close to us.

After some confusion about booking out taxi for the morning we headed to bed. I wasn't feeling too well as I turned in with a mild fever. I don't have malaria, I don't have malaria...


  1. I've been loving your African adventure reads - friends of ours are just back from spending a month there and they were utterly seduced by the land and their experiences. Your safari tales reminded me of theirs so much - crazy how close you can get to the animals. Glad you didn't get malaria - deadly tropical diseases are definitely a drawback..

    1. Pleased you are enjoying the posts Trina. I can imagine you enjoying a safari, although maybe not for a few years now....