Day 1 –
I step off plane at Lusaka airport and breath in the air scented with exotic flowers and plants. This is Africa, I am home. I breathe a sigh of happiness and a single tear escapes my eye, I am so happy and at peace.
Bruce from Ila Safari Camp meets me at the airport, he is very friendly and welcoming. He is going to drive me the four hours from Lusaka to Kafue National Park. Once we get through the usual hectic congestion of the city with people selling you goods whilst you are stuck in traffic (it is an amusing and part of the African experience) we start to drive through beautiful countryside.
We drive past simply build houses of mud and straw, people going about their daily routine of taking care of livestock and farming. Small villages with small shops made from blocks and corrugated iron are doted along our route, selling general wears. Along the road I see women carrying items on their head, I love the simplicity of the scene. Everywhere I pass seems peaceful and at one with its environment. It is such a hard life but seems happy and I love that. I also love the colourful detailed fabrics of the ladies’ Kanga dresses. No dowdy colours or trousers for these women, I admire and agree with their attitude to still look feminine whilst working hard. I cannot wait to change out of my travel clothes and into my brightly coloured African clothes.
Ila camp is on the river, the setting is just stunning. I am greeted by all the staff and managers, everyone seems lovely. Linda the camp manager could not be more helpful and friendly and makes me feel at home.
The tent is stunning, perfectly proportioned with everything I need. It is on stilts so the deck overhangs the river. It is blissful having this view right outside my tent. On the deck is an outdoor shower completely open to the river, I cannot wait to use it, I love showering like this as you feel so at one with nature.
I have a delicious late lunch in camp overlooking the river. I watch the slow current of the river, it is so still. The Kafue river runs into the famous Zambezi famous for its rapids and water falls.
We take a boat across river to the land cruiser, I love the feel of the wind in my hair and I breath in the soft scented breeze.
We embark on the other side and get in our open land cruiser. We drive past Impala, Puku and Reed buck grazing on the banks, it is quite idyllic. A Brown fish eagle flies overhead calling and looking for small rodents in the ground to swoop down and catch.
The reserve boasts large herds of Elephants, there is over thirty in the first herd we see ranging from small new born to the magnificent matriarch who takes care of the herd. They graze continually to obtain enough food to sustain their large frames. I love watching them use their large trunks and tusks to pull up roots, tear off large fronds of leaves and branches. Young bulls graze on the peripheral of the group as they are being exiled from the group to join other young bulls, if they do not they will try and mate with their sisters so it protects the genetics of the group.
I enjoy breathing in the intoxicating perfume of the flowering trees, it is aromatic like night flowering jasmine. This for me is the distinctive scent of Africa.
We drive through Acacia trees, Scrambled egg trees, Rain trees and Sausage trees. I love how they are named after their purpose of what they resemble. Most are in flower and provide beautiful colour, vibrant yellows and purples in contrast to the dry arid grey soil. It is so parched from the lack of rain. The rivers are low and are in need of replenishing.
We drive past another herd of nearly forty Elephants. They keep their babies in the centre of the group as they march over the plains. They protect each other and are a strong family group.
We find the Shishamba lions, two dominant males around ten years old. They are asleep in the grass, I sit and take in their majestic beauty. They have full dark manes due to their age and their strong dominant faces are covered in small scares from various battles. One male rolls over onto his back legs akimbo showing he is having a happy dream! It is most amusing you can almost see the smile on his face. Lions may be king of the jungle but they are not blessed in all areas. Even so they are my favourite wild cat because of their majestic beauty, regal air and undisputed alpha dominance.
We then find the two Shishamba Lionesses with five 6-month-old cubs. The cubs are very active play fighting and play mating and clambering over mum. I can sit and watch them for hours. I love their small squeaks as they bite and chew each other they test their dominance and strength from a very young age, after all this is the wild.
After a rather exciting first game drive I watch my first ethereal African Sunset of this trip. It never ceases to touch my soul. The sky is lit up with striking primary vibrant colours, purple, red, gold, yellow and orange. The whole forest and plains are set alight and bathed in this heavenly beauty. We have our sun downer drinks whilst watching heavens light show.
We drive back to camp after the sun is fully set. Joe our wonderful guide uses a night light so we can see prey in the dark. The night game drive affords us a view of the wild night activities.
Back at camp I chat to Linda over red wine around camp fire.
Dinner is a sublime treat of gastronomic delights; my taste buds are overwhelmed with happiness.
I sleep peacefully and contented after such a wonderful first afternoon. Nature really gave greatly today. I feel so connected with nature here. I could not be happier to be home.
Day 2 –
I feel so rested after a blissful night’s sleep. The sound of the lapping river was my lullaby along with the gentle grunting of the hippos. Freshly brewed coffee is brought to my tent and my senses are awakened by the delicious aroma. I dress quickly so I can stand on the deck over the river, the sun is beginning to rise and the Kafue river is like a millpond, just gentle ripples on the surface. I meet my lovely guide Joe by the river and we jump in the boat to the other side to pick up our land cruiser.
As we sail downriver the sun is rising, I breath in and fill my lunges with the fresh crisp air perfumed with the scent of exotic plants. The breeze caresses my face and I feel so at peace, relaxed and happy. The sun starts to rise above the trees a perfect sphere of blazing red orange and gold fire. It’s fiery glow illuminates and brings to life everything it touches. On my left the camps tents on stilts are silhouetted on the river bank. Ahead the sun now moves over the river, it is perfectly reflected on the surface of the water a double image of such ethereal beauty it takes my breath away. The water shines like diamonds as the sun rays’ spreads across the sky. The sky is a perfect azure blue with not a cloud to spoil its perfection. It is the perfect start to the day.
We jump off the boat and transfer our provisions to our land cruiser and set off on our days adventure, who knows what nature will give us. As we start our adventure we see Kudo grazing and Hartebeest meandering through long grasses.
Tall Euphorbia trees or Candelabra trees rise out of the ground like large cactuses, their spiny sharpness in contrast to the soft prettiness of the scrambled egg tree with its fronds of yellow flowers. A lone adolescent male bull Elephant slowly wanders through the trees, having probably recently left his herd, he will join other bachelors.
As we drive through dry river beds with trees overhanging their roots exposed and twisted we see grazing groups of Kudo and Waterbuck. There has been no rain since March so the ground is dry and parched. The sun is still low so it lights up the long dry grasses and they shimmer green and purple, swaying in the gentle breeze.
Plump beige Puku graze amongst a troupe of baboons. They look so peaceful grazing together in the grasses picking up seeds and insects as the glow of the morning sun warms their bodies after the cool of the night. Other baboons sit in the twisted roots of African Ebony tree, it blesses them with dropping its jackal berries to the ground for them to pick up with their long nimble fingers and graze on. Young baboons frolic in the trees. When they get nervous they jump on their mums back for protection.
A great herd of around 40 elephants from new born to the impressive matriarch march through the bushes. They stop at a big beautiful Acacia tree and pull down large fronds of leaves and small branches with their trunks and push them into their mouths to munch. The babies take the opportunity to suckle on their mothers. It is a peaceful idyllic scene. The small bulls charge around playful in the heat. The elephants are stunning grey against the green yellow and purple shimming grazes. I love watching them walk around with branches hanging out of their mouths as they chew the leaves slowly. As we pass through a cheeky male with large tusks trumpets at us and pretends to give chase, it is a relatively friendly warning.
We stop for breakfast by the river. It is very beautiful with architectural trees twisting into interesting shapes. Birds sing around us as we sip our delicious coffee. It is an idyllic setting as we talk about our morning and safari experiences. Joe is an excellent knowledgeable guide and as he was born in this area he shares his interest and information.
We drive past an African Ebony Tree we see a large Monitor lizard laying on the branch of the tree. His brown/green scales are so well camouflaged against the gnarly knotted thick branch of the tree. He is cold blooded so he is warming himself in the sun. He feeds on invertebrates, birds eggs and chicks.
A large herd of Puku sit quite relaxed in a clearing. They are plump and beige and quite fluffy and cute in contrast to their sharp horns.
Not far are a large herd of Kudu again very plump fluffy and beige. The big cats do have good game to hunt here. With that on a mound in the distance we see a beautiful female Cheetah which I have named Lwmuno meaning peace as she is quite serene as she watches the herd. She then wanders over to her sub-adult cubs one female one male, they are around 3 years old. The Kudu start to make an alarm call as it is clear they want to hunt. Cheetah are such stunning athletic cats their bodies built for speed agility and endurance. They can be identified by the spots on their chest and inside their thigh. I love their grace and beauty and the stunning black lines of their faces. These of course deflect the sun away from their eyes whilst hunting. They are the most successful hunters amongst the big cats.
Driving through a clearing we find four Ground hornbills looking for insects in the grass. These are large beautiful black birds with iridescent feathers and impressive large red curved beaks. One has a prize, it has caught a tree squirrel so he walks along with it hanging from its beak. They have great poise and statue, very refined to watch.
On a natural lake, we see Yellow billed stalks wading through the water looking for insects, their twig like legs incongruous to their plump white feathered bodies. Attractive colourful Egyptian ducks swim past. This is a wonderful place to stop for lunch in the shade as it is now quite hot. We lay out a blanket and sit by the water under the shade of a sausage tree. Lunch is as always delicious. Joe and I chat about charity projects and he tells me about the Panthera project that monitors the big cats in Zambia, they do incredible work protecting and conserving the wildlife.
On our drive, we see a herd of Zebra walking towards the lake. They are quite shy so we keep a respectful distance.
We head back to the Cheetah and they are now sat together, it is a heart-warming sight. On closer inspection, we conclude it is a female with two adult cub males. As they are over 2 years old she will be teaching them to hunt and then they will have left on their own as she will mate again. They are very affectionate towards each other, rubbing heads and grooming. They sit up, heads close together as they observe the Puku grazing in the distance.
A group of Zebra graze with a group of Puku, as we pass they look up at us curious. It is an idyllic picture of wildlife in harmony against a back drop of twisted trees, green bushes and swaying green and purple grasses.
Driving past the lake again a Selected hinge terrapin sun baths on the bank, quite still. Behind him Yellow billed storks and Grey cranes perch on tops of bushes in the middle of the lake.
We are blessed with finding another two Lionesses and two cubs around six months old they are playing on a mound. They are quite shy and the mothers grunt for them to follow them into the protection of the bush. Most Lions are quite comfortable with vehicles but some prefer to be private.
A stunning Rain tree with fronds of bright purple flowers is above us as we look in the bushes for Lions. It is quite spectacular against the dryness of the soil. The azure blue sky behind it does compliment the colours. It is dry season, it is dry and hot during the days and the ground is parched but there are so many beautiful colours still.
Downstream of the Kafue river becomes a stunning shimmering back drop for the final most coveted sighting of the day. We find a regal incredibly handsome adolescent male Leopard sleeping by a tree in the long grass. As the sun brings its glow of gold to the already golden grasses the gold fur with the stunning rosettes are almost camouflaged. He looks up at us his alluring green eyes assessing friend or foe. Sensing friend he closes his eyes again and stretches his impressively muscular body. After a short while he stretches and yawns again and rolls over. We are just five metres away from him with just the African scented air between us. I look into his beautiful eyes and he stares back meeting my curious gaze, there is nothing but peace and calmness. As he is an adolescent he starts posing by rolling about giving me the best views of his stunning fur. The sun is starting to move low in the sky and his body is illuminated with the red gold and orange of the sun’s rays, it takes my breath away at the sheer beauty.
As the sun begins to set the Leopard starts to wake fully and sits up and starts gazing at the Puku. He gets up and starts stalking through the bushes, the suns glow lights up the gold of his fur, he really is quite magnificent, I am in awe. The Puku are aware of his presence and are grunting letting him know and as he is an ambush hunter he changes direction to find other prey to hunt. He moves onto the track walking right next to me in the vehicle just two feet away, I am privileged to be so close, he then moves in front of us and starts walking down the track. He starts marking his territory by shooting urine into the bushes. He then stops to defecate; the smell is quite strong and pungent the result of a rich meat diet. We follow him at a respectful distance he is so beautifully illuminated, Spur foul hop onto the track in front of him, the birds screech an alarm call to other prey. They clearly annoy him so he gives chase. They panic, squawk and flap into the air. He nearly catches one as he amusingly chases them into the bushes. We watch his agile muscular body leap into the air after the bird. He is just having fun teaching them a lesson for giving his location away. As the sun fully sets we leave him to hunt.
As we drive back to camp, Bush hares, Puku and Kudu dart in front of our path. On our right, we see Hippo grazing in the bushes having come out of the water.
We head down to the river to pick up our boat for our journey back to camp. It is now fully dark and it is a night of a thousand stars. The sky is inky black and it is covered in heavens light show, there is nothing like the African sky, the stars seem to shine brighter here. The moon is new and just a slither of a smile, I am overcome by the ethereal beauty of million stars overhead. They reflect on the still waters like a million diamonds as our boat cuts through the still waters, it is quite breath taking, I tip my head back and breath in the freshness of the air scented by the plants. I feel so at peace, it really is the perfect ending to a perfect day.
When we get to camp I thank Joe for such a wonderful day and then head to the camp fire with a glass of red wine to relive the memories of the day. I am so happy to be home, Africa really is a magical county.
After a delicious dinner, my Askari walks me back to my tent, we do so quietly as there are Elephants in camp, in fact as it turns out right next to my tent drinking from the lake and munching on the bushes.
I fall to sleep blissfully to the sound of the Elephant crunching away, he is quite content as I am.
Day 3 –
I wake to the sound of Lions roaring right next to camp. I lie listening to their grunts and low growls, it is the most beautiful sound. I smile as it is the best wake up call. I sip my delicious coffee as I continue to listen to them. This is the wild and what could be wilder and more exciting.
I head down to the river and meet Joe by the boat. As we head out the Kafue Lake is once again a beautiful flat millpond. The sun is rising and it is perfectly reflected on the river which becomes a perfect mirror image of the blue pink and orange light of the sun rise. As the water ripples, out from our boat it creates the perfect Monet painting, the beams of the sun are blurred in perfect beauty. The fireball rises a perfect fiery sphere of red gold and orange, it is wonderfully reflected on the water with vibrant rays connecting them giving two visions of power and life-giving energy. Everything the sun rays touch lights up and comes to life.
As our boat reaches the other side of the river the sun is high and burning bright. We jump out of the boat and transfer our days provisions to our land cruiser. As we drive out the cool crisp air is already starting to warm. I breath in the freshness of the early morn and feel so blessed to be in such a beautiful land.
As we drive out we see a lovely group of Puku grazing, their fluffy downy golden bodies beautifully lit by the sun. They are warming up after a cool night in the bush. They must breathe a sigh of relief in the morning as the Lions would have made their kills in the night.
A large herd of about thirty elephants walk past, there are several young in the group of just a few months old. The herd keep the young in the middle of the group for protection. As they walk they kick up roots and pull them up with their trunks. I love watching them munching as they walk. They chew slowly as it is hard to digest such tough foliage. The youngsters charge around having fun whilst the adolescent bulls trumpet their warning at us if we get too close. They are a strong group and protect each other, it is lovely to watch.
We see a group of Hartebeest walking up from drinking in the river. They are stunning antelope with their horns curved in a heart shape hence where I assume they get their name. They are tall and graceful, they walk with such elegance and poise, I enjoy watching them.
Down by the small lake we decide to have our breakfast, it is already very warm. We put out our chairs and relax whilst listening to the song of the birds. The river ripples with occasional crocodile activity, we see their long snouts and eyes bob just above the surface. We eat a lovely breakfast and drink our delicious coffee whilst chatting about our morning. We have spent the morning looking for Lions but we have instead seen some lovely prey. Joe and I both know with safaris you must have patience and just see what nature will give you.
After breakfast, we drive through the forest and see groups of Puku, Hartebeest, Impala and Kudu wandering through grazing on the grasses and leaves.
Down in the valley a large herd of Elephant slowly make their way down the side of the banks to the water. They use their large trunks to draw up gallons of water. They also use their impressive trunks to spray water over their bodies to cool themselves. Youngsters enjoy immersing themselves completely in the water enjoying the cool freshness. As they walk up the far bank you can see the water line of their bodies where they have bathed.
The Kafue park is rich in prey it is also has the most wonderful fragrant plants and trees, my senses are constantly stimulated by the intoxicating scents. Our vehicle brushes past a wild mint bush and the heady aroma of the mint delights me. There are many trees here I have not seen in other parts of South and East Africa. Many bear stunning flowers that are a stark contrast against the arid dryness of the soil and grass.
We drive under a canopy of trees by a small lake, it is so incredibly hot now we decide to stop for lunch. We take our chairs and sit by the water, the Puku who were drinking decide not to join us. We spend a very pleasant hour enjoying the relative coolness of the canopy and gentle breeze. It is so wonderful eating out in the bush, it is a unique experience and so peaceful and relaxing.
After lunch, we continue our search for Lions. At the moment because it is so dry the grasses are long and dry and once Lions lie down in the vast plains of four high grass it is extremely difficult to spot them. In the meantime, on our quest to get the chance to just enjoy the beautiful scenery, trees, plants and prey.
Late afternoon as we drive back to camp we see a male Lion sat upright right outside camp! He is magnificent with his dark mane glowing black and gold in the setting sun. He is intently looking at the grasses as the Lionesses have started to hunt Puku. I sit and observe him, he is so regal and magnificent and just sits and waits for the Lionesses to hunt for him. If they are successful after all that hard work he will eat his full first before they can enjoy their kill. We cannot see the Lionesses as they are stalking low in the long grass undetected by the prey.
We drive into camp and I thank Joe for another wonderful day. On the deck by the river a fire is lit, I sit with a glass of red wine and watch the sun set over the river. The trees are silhouetted against the brilliant rays spreading pink purple red and orange light across the sky as the sun disappears behind the hills. It is a stunning sunset.
I walk back to my tent it is growing dark but it is still very warm. I decide to rinse the heat and dust of the day away under the thundering water of the outdoor shower on my deck. It is blissful showering outside right on the river watching the river flow past and last colours of the sunset. I feel so relaxed happy but revived. The moon with its smile looks down on me and the stars light up the inky blackness of the sky. I stand looking up at the constellations so clear and visible.
As I am escorted back to the main camp area the Lions come even closer to camp. It is safe but we walk carefully. A Leopard is also spotted darting into a bush.
I dine with the managers tonight and enjoy discussing the various charitable projects Green safaris support and are involved in. This is a wonderful camp they really focus on the environment, sustainability and wildlife.
I sleep peacefully listening to the lullaby of the river and gentle grunting of the Hippo.
Day 4 –
I wake once again to the roar of Lions just outside camp. They would have hunted in the night and will be calling each other to walk to a shady spot to sleep for the day. I dress quickly and drink my rich aromatic coffee before leaving my tent. The view from my deck is just breath taking in the morning as the river gently ripples and sparkles in the early dawn light.
Joe and I head out in our land cruiser to find the Lions. The grass is quite tall and driving through it is a challenge as in places it is as high as the top of the doors of the vehicle. The sun begins to rise and it spreads it glow of pink gold and orange rays across the sky. It is natures gift, a masterpiece of impressionist art across a soft blue flawless canvass that is the sky. The sun rises a perfect sphere of bright red orange and gold light. I am always in awe of the magnificence of the sun when it is perfectly round like this, I am drawn to the energy, power and life-giving properties. The grasses and leaves of the trees take on ethereal qualities as they shimmer purple green and yellow in the dawn light.
We see the male Lion sat in a clearing. He is magnificent powerful strong and dominant. His black and gold mane is ablaze in the dawn light. His posture is strong and regal, this is his domain and he gazes around it. His belly is very large and full, the Lionesses must have made a kill in the night, probably a Puku, they are plentiful here. He looks at me but I am not his prey and he is used to vehicles. He has a muscular strong face covered in small scars from battles with other males over territory and from mating with the females, they are quite rough with him. I can sit and watch him for hours taking in every whisker, scar and pattern of hair. He is around ten years old; his mane is very dark and his nose almost black.
He gets up, stretches his muscular body and strides right past us. It is a beautiful sight watching a Lion walk they are so purposeful and confident. I watch every careful movement, every muscle move. He decides to sit again as the sun is warming very quickly. He is full so he lays down flat, I observe the rise and fall of his large full belly, he is contented. He sneezes from the dust of the ground and uses his large fluffy paw to brush his nose, after all he is just a big pussy cat. After a while he gets too hot and gets up to walk again to find shade. He walks within two feet of me, I am in awe and privileged to be in such proximity of this king. It strikes me as he passes that from behind how incongruous his large mane and rotund belly is with his very narrow back hips and small bottom, it makes me smile. He spots a Puku in the long grass but he is too full, hot and tired to bother with it.
All the while he is being observed by his three Lionesses, the Queens the Huntresses. These Lionesses are powerful, dominant females, they exude regal beauty and strength. They are the main hunters of the pride, they are organised, efficient and skilful. For me the Lioness is what I aspire to be. They are fearless, dominant, alpha but extremely gentle, loving and loyal. I sit and observe their beauty, taking in their colouring, markings, whisker pattern and scarring. This is how you can identify each female. I watch them lick their large paws and wash their faces, so gently and thoroughly. They yawn exposing their large lethal teeth that can tear through flesh and muscle if its prey. They are serene sat in the sun warming from the cool of the night when they would have hunted. When the sun becomes too hot they stretch their powerful bodies giving me a wonderful view of their frame and muscles and they head into the long grass to sleep for the day.
I feel blessed and privileged to start my morning with such an amazing pride. However, nature blesses us again a very short distance away. In the clearing in front of a beautiful twisted architectural Acacia tree a male Leopard sits peacefully viewing his territory. We keep a respectful distance as Leopards are not like Lions they are private shy solitary cats. He looks at us with his big round stunning green eyes. He really is a stunningly attractive cat. His strikingly individual black rosettes are set so perfectly set against his golden fur. He is literally perfection. Leopards do clearly give off an air of do not approach, you can admire me but only from a distance. I admire their confidence. I just sit and watch him taking in all his beauty. This is perfect terrain for him as the long grasses provide the perfect cover to ambush his prey. His large muscular body is built for strength not speed. After a while he grows warm and starts to walk into the long grass affording me the perfect view of his body.
As we drive across the forest we see a herd of Zebra grazing. Further along a large herd of Elephants march through the trees pulling at branches as they go to munch on.
We stop for breakfast under a tree the sun is now high and hot in the sky. We have only been out for three hours but it has been an eventful morning. We talk about the history of Zambia and how it is has changed over the last few hundred years, it is a most interesting country.
A baboon sits high in the branches of a tree eating the leaves, it starts to make an alarm call so we wait to see why. Most times it is warning other animals of an approaching predator but this time is becoming clear he is calling to the rest of his troupe.
Another large herd of Elephants can be seen grazing peacefully on the leaves of a nearby tree. It is wonderful watching them use their trunks to reach up high into the branches to pull down large fronds and push them into their mouths. Their large tongues help pull the leaves in and turn them over.
In the plains of long dry grass shimmering and swaying gold and green in the sun light we see Roan Antelope and Zebra grazing together, it is always lovely to see mixed herds, it feels as peaceful.
Picture the scene we drive by a small lake surrounded by succulent green luscious Water Berry Trees. It is the last river crossing at Shishamba. Around the edge of the lake is almost white sand. On the far end a beautiful twisted dead tree lays sun bleached twisted gnarly on the sand, it is perfect and sculptured like drift wood. Next to the tree under the low canopy of a small Water berry tree lies a magnificent graceful Leopard. Her coat stands out radiantly against the whiteness of the sand. The paleness just extenuates the dark goldness of her fur and blackness of her rosettes. She is so beautiful. She is about fifty yards below us and she looks up at us with her perfect round green eyes. She is panting so I can see her long pink tongue lying between her lethal canines. It is so hot now the midday sun beats down intently. She is waiting for prey to come down to the lake to drink so she can ambush them and have her lunch. She is patient and sits gracefully and elegantly pants to keep cool.
Puku are resting under a tree nearby it is so hot but they do not walk down to the lake as we think they must have seen the Leopard walking down.
We drive to a nearby tree to have our lunch under. From here we can also observe the Puku under the tree a few hundred yards away in case they decide to go down to the river to drink.
We sit in our chairs enjoying a very delicious lunch. It is incredibly hot today so we hope it encourages the Puku to seek water. They sit down comfortably too.
After lunch, we drive back to the Leopard she has not moved, she is lying down and just stares up at us when we approach. She is quite comfortable when we stay at a respectful distance they are not known to tolerate having their personal space invaded. The Puku do not appear to want to drink so we decide to drive around.
Across the meadow of tall dry grasses as they sway in the breeze we see a small herd of Buffalo. They have just come up from another watering hole. We drive through the grass to where they are but they head into the bushes to seek fresh pastures. Down in the watering hole Marabou Stalks wade in the shallow waters. They are ugly evil looking birds, they are scavengers that pick the bones of carcasses clean. They have an important role to keep the plains clean rather than having rotting carcasses about but they really are quite sinister.
We drive back round to where the Leopard is. Before we drive around the lake we see the Puku have got up and moved closer to the water so we stop and wait to see if they go down to drink as we do not want to distract them. After only ten minutes they head down to the lake and we follow at a distance. The Puku walk around the edge and start drinking the water cautiously. We can see the Leopard watching from behind the fallen dead tree. The Puku keep walking around the lake close to the Leopard but it seems she is too young and inexperienced to hunt at this range. As the Puku walk off the Leopard settles down again on the white sand. She will probably wait until dark to make an ambush.
We have spent four wonderful hours with the Leopard, the time flew by! You really need a lot of patience on safari to observe the behaviour and personality of the Leopard.
As we start to drive back to camp we see beautiful herds of Elephants pulling down leaves and branches of trees, there is about forty in the herd. They trumpet at us as they have babies and they are very protective of them.
It is peaceful in the sunset, herds of Zebra, Impala, Puku and Waterbuck graze as the air begins to cool. It is quite a relief after the intense heat of the day.
The sun sets splashing red, pink, yellow and orange light across the sky. The trees are beautifully silhouetted against the Monet colours. I love the intense vibrancy, it is the perfect ending to a remarkable stunning day.
We arrive back to camp and I thank Joe for another amazing day. I then head to my tent for a refreshing shower under the stars on my deck. The moon and stars are my light, I need no other. I adore showering outside overlooking the lake, it is so free and natural. I feel alive and relaxed at the same time.
My final dinner in camp is just so delicious, I am so impressed with the quality of the food, the beautifully appointed tents and the stunning views over the river.
I sleep well knowing this is just one part of my fabulous safari, who knows what the next part will bring.
Day 5 –
This is my last morning in Ila Safari Camp in Kafue National Park. This really is a beautiful camp. I do not think I have stayed in a lovelier tent, also the position on the river is breath-taking. The Kafue river is so stunningly beautiful at sunrise and sunset, it is like a millpond so it beautifully reflects the light of the sun rays. What I love is how at night the billion stars and moon are reflected on the surface, it is incredibly romantic. I will miss my outdoor showers on the deck with only the light of the moon and stars as my light. I will also miss Linda my wonderful host, she has made my stay so comfortable and happy. I will also miss my wonderful knowledgeable friend and guide Joe without whom I am sure I would not have seen and experienced so much.
We drive out early just before sunrise we want to catch the Lions after they return from hunting. It is a surprisingly cool morning and the crisp fragrant air fills my lunges. We drive around for several hours watching game warm their bodies as the sun rises above the trees. It is a quiet morning, this happens but I enjoy taking in the scenery. It also gives Joe and I over breakfast a chance to talk about the different seasons in the park and how the flora and fauna changes. I am looking forward to coming back next May to see the park green and luscious after the spring rains.
We see a side striped Jackal run across the road, he is probably heading to his den. He is an attractive little dog, with very detailed markings. Jackals are very efficient hunters and hunt in packs. They of course will also scavenge after a big cat has made a kill.
Just before we head back to camp we find the other pride male Lion. His impressive golden mane is lit perfectly in the morning sun. He is sat up observing his surrounding, he looks like he has fed well in the night, the Lionesses clearly have been busy. He is a large male of around ten years old, his mane is still half golden the rest has taken on the blackness of age. He has a regal bearing and looks like the king he is. I sit and observe him, taking in every detail of his face and muscular body. I am always in awe of Lions magnificence.
Sadly, it is now time to say goodbye to all the wonderful staff in camp and Linda and Joe. I have had such a wonderful safari. I get asked often why I safari several times a year. My response it always the same. Each safari is unique, the experiences I have with the wildlife really take my breath away each time. There is still new wildlife to discover and experience. Africa is so friendly and I enjoy making new friends on my travels. I love the African culture, the colours, the scents, the wonderful friendly people. It is no wonder I leave my heart hear each time.
Bruce drives me to Lusaka airport which is four hours away. It is a scenic drive partly through the Kafue National Park and then through villages. I love observing village life, the simplicity and colours. We stop on route so I can buy some of the stunning vibrant coloured patterned Kanga fabrics the women wear. I plan to make some new clothes for my next trip.
It is only a short hour domestic flight from Lusaka to Mufuwe. Jonathan one of the guides from Flat Dogs Safari Camp meets me at the airport he is very friendly and I can see we share the same passion for wildlife and full day safaris. He understands how important it is to be out in the wild immersing yourself and experiencing all nature has to give.
The drive to camp is lovely, we drive through villages with round small houses made of mud and straw. I love how natural the structures are and just blend into the environment. School children walk along the road, they have a long journey home but they appreciate the education. They have such delight in learning they seem so happy, I like that. Women in colourful vibrant coloured dresses carry children on their back and water or food of their heads. It is fascinating to watch I love learning about other cultures.
Instead of going straight to camp Jonathan drops me with a group already out on a night game drive. I like the open land cruiser you are truly open to nature. We see an Elephant shrew scuttling through the bushes, it is tiny with its furry body and long nose. Further along the guide spots a Chameleon resting on the branch of a bush, perfectly camouflaged green about the foliage.
Herds of Elephants graze on nearby bushes, they seem quite relaxed even though they have young with them. They march and munch enjoying the coolness of the evening air after such a hot day.
In the distance, we see something scurry across the road. As we get closer in the clearing next to some bushes we see a Civet cat, it is black and white stripped, a member of the mongoose family but as large as a badger. It is beautiful cat like mammal with distinctive beautiful markings. It is in the same family as the Genet cat I often see in camp in Kenya. It is nocturnal and I have never seen one before which makes my evening.
Down by the river we see Yellow Headed Storks wading in the shallow waters. A large owl sits on top of a tall dead tree stump watching the scene. It is looking for small rodents to catch. It is staring intently.
Scrub Hare scurries in the bushes, they are so small compared to the rest of the wildlife almost incongruous with the environment but perfect prey for smaller African cats to hunt.
In the bushes, we see Hippo coming out for their nightly graze, their bodies quite cumbersome out of the water. They are quite vulnerable on land from predators as they tend to graze alone.
We see two Hyena darts across our path, their lopping gait very distinguishable even in the dark. Their large jaws, solid necks and longer front legs have been perfectly constructed to hunt and drag their prey.
Marabou stalk start making nests up in the trees for the night. They are very large birds and look precarious balancing on such small branches.
We head back to camp listening to the sounds of the night. We can hear bull frogs croaking on the river, crickets violining and Hippos grunting. As we arrive to camp Hippos are grazing in front of the main area. It is lovely to see them so close up. Obviously, they are dangerous volatile animals so we keep a respectful distance as we alight from the vehicle.
Camp is a lovely setting right on the river. As it is dark I will not see its true beauty until tomorrow. The manager warmly greets me and I am delighted there are two resident dogs to keep me company over dinner.
I head to bed after dinner and listen to the sounds of the night. I will sleep peacefully.
Day 6 –
The night was a cacophony of sound, a Leopard was stalking outside my tent, Hippos were honking and grazing, Elephants were tearing up roots and Lions were roaring in the distance. I like how open the camp is to the wild.
I wake at 5.30 and quickly get up and go to the mess area for coffee.
Jonathan and I head out at 6. We see Thorny Croft Giraffe just in camp, they are the smallest of the species. There is a Tower of around eight of them grazing on the trees. I like watching their slow elegant gait.
Crossing the river, we see a raft of Hippo wallowing in the water. On slower inspection, we see one is dead. When the river is low Hippos fight for food or territory, of course he could have died from disease such as anthrax.
A herd of Impala are grazing in a clearing. It is a group of females with the dominant male. A bachelor herd is never far away to challenge this male so they can take over the herd and mate. This is called ranking. The dominant male only stays with the females a few days.
We see a Hippo grazing by the river it has a nasty cut on its nose which an Oxpecker is picking at to clean it. The Hippos systolic acid keeps it cool during the day and it also acts as an antiseptic to heals its wounds, Hippos do fight a lot. Hippos have sensitive skin that is why they graze at night and then head back to the cool waters during the day.
We drive past a woolly Capparis bush with soft velvety leaves and beautiful flowers with thin feathery petals and a pink centre. It has the most intoxicating heady aroma like jasmine, it is incredibly intense. The leaves are used in cooking.
Standing tall is an impressively large Baobab tree it is around 500-800 years old, it is thought to now not be a tree but a succulent as the centre is made of water.
We find the Mufwe pride of Lions. The pride is split as it was becoming too large which means it becomes harder for the females to make enough kills to feed so many. The pride has two dominant males, Ginger and Garlic. Garlic is lying next to a Capparis bush, he is an impressive regal male of nine years old he has a sumptuous full mane still mainly golden. His face is strong and handsome with small battle scars. He sits up as we approach. We are in a fully open vehicle and stop just twelve feet from him. He looks up at us he is quite used to vehicles. I love gazing into a Lions golden eyes. I watch him stretch and yawn and settle back down in a peaceful slumber. His breathing slows and I can see his large hairy paws twitching as he dreams.
In the long grass near him six females are laying in the sun. There golden fur camouflaged against the golden grass. It is an idyllic scene as the grasses wave in the breeze around them.
To my delight their cubs of around three months old come out of a nearby bush. There are four of them so small and fluffy and spotted to keep them camouflaged whilst they are babies and still sucking. They are quite playful as they come into the long grass. The Lionesses sit up alert to watch over the cubs, it is growing quite warm now in the morning sun. They stretch and yawn and stand. The Lionesses walk over to the cubs and greet them by nuzzling and licking them. The cubs make small mews as they welcome them. The Lionesses head for the shade of the bushes and the cubs follow. The mothers lay down to suckle the cubs, it is an endearing scene watching the tiny cubs use their cute little paws to prod at their mother’s belly to induce the flow of milk. Their tiny mouths suckle and they look so contented.
Sadly, this idyllic scene of pride life is shattered as one of the cubs is left in the grass it is very weak and sickly. We can see it is limping, dehydrated and its eyes are rummy. My heart breaks, it tries to follow the rest of the pride to the shade but it keeps stumbling in the long grass it is too weak. Each Lioness goes over to it to smell it and encourage it to stand they use the gland in the roof of the mouth to test the status of the cub, this is called Flehmen. They each leave it as they know it is very sick. Lions are strong and this little cub is clearly a fighter and it gets up again and struggles but makes it over to the rest of the pride. Sadly, it will not survive but at least it is with its mother.
On the Mufwe lagoon we find a crocodile sunbathing on a log in the river. His grey scales are perfectly camouflaged against the dry grey bark. Crocodiles are cold blooded reptiles so they need the heat from the sun to warm and energise them. Because they only feed twice a year this energy is very important.
On the bank, a Nile monitor lizard is slowly making its way down the trunk of a tree. This is a land lizard and I can see its long serpent tongue darting in and out tasting the air. They are called monitor as they monitor the eggs of the crocodiles and try and steal them.
Under the shade of a Natal Mahogany tree (the leaves of this tree are used to induce vomiting if someone has swallowed something poisonous) we find the other dominant male Ginger or as I will call him Malika (Angel). He is ten years old and is possibly the most beautiful male I have ever scene. He has unusual genetics he is almost albino as his fur is very pale blonde, his mane light ginger and his eyes rather stunning pale gold. Even though he had small scars on his face he is for a dominant male quite unscarred, he must be a good fighter. He is sat up a picture of majesty and regal bearing. I am in awe of such beauty. He surveys his territory and gently pants in the heat. He has a full round belly and looks contented and happy. He lays down his powerful beautiful face resting on his magnificent paws, the perfect cat poise. He knows he is the ruler. He sighs and stretches out fully to sleep. I sit and watch him, it is a privilege to sit so close to such a magnificent cat.
We stop for breakfast by the river. As it is dry season it is very shallow with little islands of dry land emerging from the waters. The river has beautiful lush green trees overhanging it on either side, the scene is tranquil.
Driving though the lust green forest we find a very large male Kudo with the most impressive twisted horns. He is stood under a branch and stretching his neck up to reach the leaves which he pulls at with his long tongue. He glances at us but is unconcerned as he is a dominant male standing around five feet. To show us his alpha status he starts horning the bushes.
Further down a small herd of Waterbuck graze on the bushes. The male is statuesque with large horns and stunning markings. They have a white ring around their back end so the rest of the herd can follow them through the bushes.
We drive down and stop at another picturesque lake, a large herd of around thirty Elephants are bathing and drinking in the shallows. They use their impressive trunks to suck up gallons of water to drink and spray it over the hot bodies. Some roll around in the water completely covering themselves. They emerge from the water and either roll around in the dusty soil or use their trunks to spray themselves with dust. The dust sticks to their wet skin providing them with the perfect sunscreen.
Baboons also come down to the water to drink and graze in the marshy shallows. It is an idyllic setting the low water provides a luscious emerald green marshland. We stop for a while here under the shade of a tree to enjoy the shade and take in the stunning vista.
Coming away from the water we see a beautiful Fish Eagle sat on a branch, its white head, yellow beak and black body are stunning against the cloudless pale blue sky. The Fish Eagle is Zambia’s national bird.
We head towards another small lake to have lunch, it is a beautiful setting. A herd of Puku graze in front of us and stare at us curiously as we get out. We spend a wonderful hour chatting and admiring the scenery. The area is quiet so we take a short walk along the dry river to stretch our legs.
We drive past three bachelor Elephants who have been exiled from their herds as it is time to strike out alone. They have formed an easy friendship and wander peacefully through the bush.
A rather female Giraffe has her legs splayed as she bends her long neck to drink. She cannot stay in this position long as she is vulnerable to predators and also too much blood rushes to her head. As we approach she stands upright and stares at us through her pretty long lashes. It always amuses me how curious Giraffe are.
A little further along we see a large Hippo immersing himself into a small pool of muddy water. In front of him stands an Egyptian goose, from the perspective I am looking it looks like the goose is right in front of the Hippos face. To a casual observer one may surmise they have stopped to chat. As I take a photo the Hippo opens it large mouth to show its dominance but in the photo, it looks like he is laughing at a joke the goose has made!
We pass another beautiful lake I admire the stunning vista of white sand that surrounds the nearly dry bed. As I am scanning and taking in the detail I see three gorgeous adolescent Lions laying on the pale golden sand almost camouflaged. Their pale blonde fur merging with the pale golden sand. The sand will be wet and cool, perfect to help cool off the Lions in the afternoon heat. Of course, from a distance they look like they are sunbathing on a beautiful sandy beach. I adore adolescent males; these ones are about three years old they are almost fully grown and they have the fabulous Mohican of hair that will grow into a full mane in the next couple of years. When these three brothers are around five to six years old they will form a coalition, and start their own pride.
These are perfect examples of how pictures can capture a moment but be completely misinterpreted. A caption under a photo can change the viewers interpretation of what is really happening in a scene. A perfect way to manipulate an audience.
Further down the river we stop again the scene is quite breath-taking. It is late afternoon and the sun is lower in the sky, the water is low and very calm. A large dead tree lays in the middle of the low waters, dry and sun bleached. The roots are twisted in unusual patterns and the branches curved. It is perfectly reflected in the water, a perfect art sculpture. To the right the emerald green bank of trees on the edge of the river are too stunningly reflected in the water, it is a Constable painting of elegant perfection.
We see a group of Buffalo grazing on a nearby bush. It a utopia as Zebra and Puku join them in perfect harmony.
Two large bull Elephants of around forty to fifty years old walk in front of us. They have impressive tusks of mammoth proportions. They flap their ginormous ears to keep themselves cool. Both have huge branches sticking out of their mouths as they chew the leaves. These males will be the ones that will mate with the matriarch in the herd.
Three Buffalo are grazing by some trees. As we approach they move off and we can see one has a bad limp. If the Lions come across him later he will be an easy target however the other two Buffalo will defend it against any attack.
I breath in the scent of another exotic plant. To my surprise it is a group of indigo bushes, they smell like fresh pine. The leaves are boiled with the seed pods to extract the indigo colour to make the dye. It is so fascinating.
Another group of Elephants march by slowly the air is marginally cooler now and the sun is low in the sky. A soft breeze caresses my face as we drive by.
We head back to the pride. Garlic as suspected is still asleep, as we approach he stretches yawns and rolls over to go back to sleep. The Lionesses and cubs are laying in the long grass also sleeping. Even though it is now sunset it is still very warm. They will conserve their energy until it is time to hunt.
The sun is setting so we head to find Angel again. He has only moved a hundred yards and he is sleeping very peacefully on his side. In the distance, we hear the rest of the pride roar a calling to him. He sits up and as we are so close to him we are nearly deafened by his roaring calls back to them. They are low throaty and extremely loud and can carry for over five miles. He gets up stretches yawns and starts to walk through the long grass. It is now dark so we head back to camp.
After a refreshing shower cleaning off the dust and sweat of the hot day I head to dinner. It is lovely chatting to the managers about Zambia and with other guests about what they have seen.
I sleep peacefully after a very full very happy day.
Day 7 –
The dawns bright and quite cool. We head out into the National Park to see what nature will bring us today. We see three Buffalo grazing by the side of the road.
We are looking for Leopard so we start looking up into the Sausage trees with their thick branches which are perfect for Leopards to lay on. Also, the Sausage trees are in bloom right now they have stunning purple orchid flowers with a sweet aroma. As the flowers drop to the ground Puku, Impala, Kudo and other Antelope will come and feed off them around the base of the tree which is perfect for the Leopard ambush.
A large herd of Elephants are peacefully grazing in a clearing, they age from just cute little two-month olds through to the impressively large male with his mighty tusks. We watch them kicking up small plants with their feet and using their trunks to shake off and soil. The end of the Elephants trunk is as agile and sensitive as fingers so they are able to even pluck small leaves and flowers. They choose their food carefully as they only have six sets of teeth, which on average come through every ten years. So, when they are around fifty years old they will start choosing very soft leaves and plants otherwise they will starve without teeth, they live on average to around fifty to sixty. When they reach this age, they will leave the herd and head off by themselves to the Elephant graveyard and die. The rest of the herd with visit the graveyard and scatter the bones whilst detecting the scent of the herd member. Elephants usually always die in one place.
Driving through the forest we find a clearing with a deep gully, the whole Mufwe pride is there. Angel is laying on his side his beautiful blonde mane perfectly lit by the morning sun, in contrast Garlic sits majestically upright a few yards away his dark mane glinting. They are brothers from the same father but they have different mothers and are a year apart in age. I love looking at the contrast between the two males, they are very different in colouring but very powerful and dominant. The seven Lionesses are sat up in the grass surveying their surroundings they look like they want to hunt so they would have hidden the cubs in the bushes. In the distance, a small group of Zebra and Warthog start grazing. The Lionesses spot them and head down into the gully so they cannot be seen. They crouch down low and start stalking the prey. All the Lionesses follow down into the gully and join the hunt. Neither the Zebra or Warthog are aware of them, the atmosphere is adrenaline filled. The tree Squirrels make alarm calls from the trees but the prey cannot see the predator though. A younger inexperienced Lioness not one of the main huntresses gets excited and pounces out of the gully prematurely to chase the Warthog but they are quick and she misses. The Lionesses cover is now revealed so the Zebras run off. The Lionesses retreat to rest and will hunt again later. Angel and Garlic watch the action from the distance and will be disappointed with the lack of kill. The dominant males lay back down again to sleep.
We drive past a group of bushes and can see a Leopard kill in a bush, it is an Impala. We cannot see the Leopard but it will return later to eat it, so we will return to it.
Large groups of Waterbuck graze in the bushes enjoying the coolness of the cover. They are shy Antelopes.
We stop by a dry river bed with herds of Zebra and Puku grazing on the lush grass to drink our morning coffee. It is a peaceful idyllic setting. Two Zebras stand with a very small foul it is so young it still fluffy and has light brown stripes.
North into the park we drive through a stunning avenue of architectural Ebony trees. A herd of Elephants are grazing under the shade of the cool canopy, it is a stunningly beautiful area and peaceful.
It is very dry in this part of the park, there is hardly any water left in the river. Hippos wallow in water only covering three quarters of their bodies. You see a lot of prey down at the watering hole as there are few left until the rains come next month.
It is very hot and dry today so we have our lunch on the white sandy banks of the river under the shade of a Sausage tree. Baboons sit in the branches above us picking the leaves and berries. We watch Puku, Baboons, Wildebeest and Zebra come down to drink and graze. It is a utopia of wildlife. We sit and relax watching the wonderful story unfold in front of us, animals living in harmony.
Further down river the water is slightly deeper, a herd of Elephants walk down the sandy bank to drink and cool off. They use their impressive trunks to suck up gallons of water. They then wade through to the other side of the river as it is shallow enough to do so.
Nature gives such wonderful beauty and then can snatch back with brutal coldness. Safaris are not all about “Lion King ” moments although I have been blessed to see many. As we drive by a forest we see a young adolescent male Lion of around a year old. From a distance, my heart skips a beat as he is so beautiful, he is laying his lovely head of a tree root and he looks peaceful. Below him a herd of Elephants graze so close to him but they have not seen him. I take some amazing photos with the Lion and Elephants, it looks incredible. Then we get closer and my heart completely breaks and for the first time on safari of which I have done nearly thirty I think I may cry. He is so so skinny and sick. It must be illness as there is plenty of prey around. He is listless and dehydrated and I can see his ribs. I must drive away and let nature takes it course but it is very very hard.
Goodness if you love Elephants this would be the place to come there are herds of twenty to thirty everywhere you drive. It is good their population is recovering; the ivory trade did badly affect their number thirty years ago.
A large male Giraffe runs next to our vehicle it starts to assert his dominance by almost doing a bouncing gallop it is most impressive and amusing at the same time. This motion included him kicking his legs which would be lethal to a predator.
The South Luangwa National Park is home to the Greater Kudo, it is the second largest Antelope, the Elan is the largest. It is a beautiful Antelope with large curved horns and stunning striped markings. The females will graze together as one herd and the males in another and when a male wants to mate he will leave his herd and follow the female herd finding females in season, they will then decide whether to mate with him.
Antelopes are ruminators, they have four stomachs so the grass, leaves and plants they eat gets chewed thoroughly before passing through these four chambers. This means all the minerals and goodness is extracted. When the Antelope defecates the stools have no nutrients. Unlike Elephants and Hippos who have one big stomach so when they defecate other animals such as dung beetles, elephant shrew, mongoose, squirrel and baboons can pick through it and extract seeds, nuts and other undigested waste.
We return to Mufwe pride and they are where we left them in the morning. As we approach we see Angel lying next to Garlic in the perfect bromance, the contrast between the colours of their manes beautifully apparent as they lie head to head. The seven Lionesses are lying nearby. They are beautifully back lit by the setting sun. The reds, yellows and oranges reflect on their golden fur. To the left two adults and one small baby Elephant start walking across the clearing. The Elephants are not happy with the Lions presence as they have a baby to protect. They trumpet loudly their warning to the Lions then decide to give chase. The Lions are startled as they are relaxing in the sun and jump up and start running away from the aggressive dangerous Elephants. Even Angel and Garlic know better than to stand in the Elephants path. Lions and Elephants do not live together peacefully they can kill a baby Elephant if the pride is large enough. The Elephants head into the forest and the Lions can once again relax.
It is now dark; the sun has set so Jonathan and I stand in the vehicle and watch the constellations appear on the inky black sky. It is a quarter moon. It is a perfect night sky.
On the drive, back to camp we use the spot light to see if we can see any nocturnal animals. The light reflects off the eyes of crocodile in the river and Puku in the bushes. As we approach camp we see a perfectly small spotted Genet cat. It is more mongoose shaped than cat but it is very pretty and shy.
At camp, I have a drink with Jonathan and talk about the day, it was quite the adrenaline rush. Nature is an unusual creature, it is kind, it is hard and always unpredictable.
After a delicious flavoursome meal of African stew, I head to bed and listen to the sounds of the wild. I do feel blessed to spend so much time in this wonderful country.
Day 8 –
There is a little bit of cloud cover this morning so the air even at sunrise it warm and soft. As we drive into the park I feel the soft warm air caressing my skin and I breath in the intoxicating scent of the Capparis flower.
Within minutes we see three African Painted Wild Dogs. They are medium sized dogs with large fluffy ears and stunning markings like someone has taken a paint brush and swirled paint all over them, it is very beautiful. They will be in a pack of up to 24 dogs and will live in a den. The alpha male and female will be in the den with the pups and the rest of the pack will be helpers going out to hunt food. When they make a kill, swallow the food and take it back to the den and regurgitate it for the puppies. The average age of a wild dog will be 12-15 years old. They will not often live to this age though as they suffer from many diseases including rabies.
Not far along we see a very large herd of around fifty to sixty Buffalo drinking in the lagoon. The lagoon has a cover of film of green algae which looks emerald green and shinning in the sunrise. The Buffalo wade through the water creating beautiful ripples. The Buffalo start walking out of the lake up the bank and across the track, there are so many they create a road block. We must wait for them to cross, some just stop and stare at us. The herd has a dominant female called the pathfinder, she will dictate the route they take. The dominant male’s role is just for breeding and protection. The herd is a breeding herd they range from young calves through to the dominant adults.
Angel and Garlic the dominant male Lions of the Mufwe pride are still by the gully. They are laying on the grass quite sleepy on their backs with very large round turgid bellies. As we approach the reason for their contentment comes into view, they must have ambushed a baby Hippo in the gully, killed it spilling its intestines in the gully and dragging it up to the grass verge. They ripped open its belly and eaten all its soft internal organs and flesh. From one side, the Hippo looks intact like it is sleeping but from the other you can see the hallowed-out carcass. Angel and Garlic’s faces are covered in blood, it would have been quite a feast in the early hours, they would have had to get their faces right inside the cavity of the body to gain access to the softer flesh. It is a popular misconception that the males do not hunt, they are excellent hunters. A herd of Elephants march into the clearly from the trees and head down into the gully to drink, they could charge the Lions but as they have no babies with them they ignore them and carry on drinking and then move off. Angel is uncomfortable his belly is too full and he keeps rolling over to find a comfortable position to sleep. He gets up and walks down the gully to drink, he bends forward his strong muscular shoulders bending forward and uses his long raspy tongue to lap up the water. The long trail of the Hippos intestines is next to him coiled around pink and grey like a snake. Angel rests in the gully too full and tired to walk back up.
We drive through the trees dappled with morning light, the vehicle brushes past a Wild Gardanier bush the yellow flowers have a sweet pungent scent.
A male Leopard has killed a Baboon up a tree as we approach he has finished eating and Hyena have detected the smell of blood and want to finish the carcass. The Leopard jumps down from the tree his powerful muscles flexing as he lands. He walks purposely through the bushes his striking coat lit up in the dappled light. He pants and I can see his sharp canines and long pink raspy tongue. He will look for shade as the morning is now warming up. We follow him at a respectful distance watching his powerful graceful walk. He finds a lovely shaded point and we sit and observe the pattern of his rosettes individual to each Leopard and his strong face and thick neck. From these physically characteristics we can see he is a dominant male of around 8-9 years old. He is not skittish like most he exudes a quiet confidence and power as he has a large territory.
We go back to the Lions. The Lions have dragged the Hippo kill into the bushes out of the heat of the sun. They are panting and very full still, they will not eat again until this evening but will stay next to their kill to stop scavengers eating it. I can imagine by tonight in this heat the carcass will start to smell quite bad.
We drive down to a beautifully scenic part of the river for breakfast. We put out our chairs and relax with coffee and muffins and watch Hippos grunting in the river, Crocodile slide into the water and the shine of the sunshine on the shallow waters. The river is so low the banks look like white sandy beaches it is so dry. We chat and laugh about our remarkable morning, you really do never know what nature will bring.
We drive through stunning Ebony forests with their dark towering trunks covers in luscious foliage. Kudo, Puku, Impala and Elephant graze under the vast canopy, it is refreshingly cool under here.
Zebra stand in the hot sun with Oxpecker sitting on their backs picking mites and skin. The Zebras are quite affectionate towards each other, I enjoy watching them nuzzling each other and grooming.
I have never really observed before how Impalas groom each other, they are very affectionate. One grooms the other for a few seconds then the other grooms them, each for the same amount of time, it is very sweet.
We see towers of Giraffe stretching their long necks to reach fresh leaves in the trees, I enjoy watching their long tongue wrap around the leaves and pull the foliage down so they can chew them slowly and methodically.
The watering holes are almost dry the rains are needed and the temperature is rising daily. On the plus side, it is wonderful seeing a utopia of animals. Zebra, Impala, Wildebeest, Puku and Baboons drink and graze in perfect harmony.
We lunch under the shade of a large tree it is incredibly hot today, the breeze does not help as it is very hot too. We sit and relax and watch the herds in front of us, it is so incredibly peaceful and relaxing. It has been such an incredible morning. Jonathan is such a great guide and friend, even after all these safaris I have learned a lot from him.
We spend a lovely couple of hours driving around the south part of the park, it is so incredibly scenic. The luscious fragrant trees and plants in complete contrast to the white dry earth, cracked and parched from the lack of rain. It is almost desert like.
Giraffes are interesting animals, they are not vocal but their actions speak louder than sounds. We find three staring at the river, they do commonly stop and stare if they see something interesting, intriguing or threatening. They seem to have quite a high level of perception and quiet intelligence. So, thank you Giraffes.
As we drive to look down the slope into the river we see Lions mating by the Luangwa River, they are a dominant male and female from the Manzi River Pride. It takes my breath away it is so dry it looks like a white sandy beach next to a sparkling sea. The Lions are laying on the sand their beautiful golden fur in stunning contrast to the white sand. Behind them an architectural sun dried bleached dead tree is laying on its side its twisted roots exposed. It is quite idyllic. Within minutes of us arriving the Lions begin to mate; the female stands and rubs her back end against the males’ muzzle so he can scent she is ready to mate. She crouches in front of him encouraging him to mount her from behind. He is tired but does so as this is his role. The mating is aggressive quick and functional. They snarl and growl at each other as he finishes and she swipes her paw at him. She then rolls over onto her back to aid the impregnation process. He walks away and lays down. They sit apart until she is ready again. It is the most unromantic copulation in the most romantic place. We smile at the irony and sit and watch to see if they will mate again, this of course will depend on where they are in their mating ritual.
The sun begins to set, the sky is awash with blues, pinks and reds like a Monet painting, it is quite stunning.
Angel and Garlic are still guarding their kill. The light is low and the temperatures is cooling slightly. Garlic walks over to the kill and drags the Hippo carcass out of the bushes. As suspected it is beginning to smell quite rotten. There is not much left, the ribs are jutting up and Garlic picks off the flesh. A hopeful Vulture hovers nearby to pick up scraps. Angel is still bloated from this morning and just sits nearby panting in the heat.
On our drive, back to camp we use the spot light to pick up the eyes of the prey in the bushes. It is still quite warm and humid. At camp, I thank my wonderful friend Jonathan for an amazing day, he is great company and very knowledgeable and interesting.
I enjoy a delicious dinner under the stars in camp by the river. It is so blissful and relaxing. As I sit and relax a Hippo casually walks twenty metres away from me. Tonight, I will sleep soundly.
Day 9 –
I wake to the sound of an Elephant munching plants next to my tent. I love how animals freely wander through camp.
This morning we drive through the lovely rural villages. Even though it is early everyone is up to either start work for the day or head to school. Further out into the countryside is a rural life, people work hard on the land.
We drive through Nsefu which is part of South Luangwa National Park. We see large herds of Zebra and Buffalo grazing on the long dry grass and a lone Wildebeest next to a bush obviously separated from its herd.
This part of the park is well known for its hot spring which feeds into a large natural water hole rich in salt. The herbivores love coming to drink of the mineral rich water and lick the salty white soil. The temperature of the water is around 45 degrees it is hot to the touch but as it flows into the watering hole it cools to a more ambient temperature. A large Hippo is wallowing in the warm waters.
We drive down to the river for breakfast, the river is a utopia of animals, Zebra, Puka and Baboons graze on the mainly dry river bed. It is a very beautiful scene. We enjoy a relaxing breakfast in the shade it is incredibly hot. On our left about one hundred yards away we see Vultures circling in the sky and they come to land on a top of a tree there must be over twenty. They only usually do this when there is a kill to feed off. After breakfast, we drive off to explore.
What a wonderful sight three magnificent male Lions with a large adult Buffalo kill. We can see they killed it when it was going down with its herd to the water. Three male Lions can easily bring down a Buffalo. Once killed they dragged it up the bank and into the bushes. They ripped open the belly and have eaten the soft internal flesh and organs. The buffalos stomach full of undigested grass along with the intestines are spilled out over the ground discarded. One of the males is now guarding the kill from the vultures he is sat at the back end of the Buffalo with his paw on it demonstrating ownership. The Buffalo is laying on its side his head slumped backwards, eyes closed and mouth slightly open showing its teeth. It is an unusually peaceful sight. The Lion pants in the morning heat.
One of the three brothers get up from the bush and heads down to the water to drink. He bends his muscular frame to lap up the water with his long raspy tongue, the sand will be moist and cool under his body. These brothers are around nine years old their noses are nearly black and their manes growing dark. What is also interesting about these males is they have quite dark fur, instead of golden it is more dark beige like the Asiatic Lions. Of course, not all Lions are the same colour it depends on their genetics. These are the Nsefu pride, Nsefu means Elan.
The male guarding the Buffalo kill has gone into the bushes for shade as it is incredibly hot today so the Vultures swoop down, first the hooded vulture followed by the African white backed. They hop onto to the carcass to pick the flesh from the ribs. The Lion watches for a while then darts out of the bushes and sends the Vultures flying, it is most amusing watching them squawk in fright! The Lion settles back down with the carcass and starts eating the meaty rump.
We drive through the open plains, it is now hot and dusty. The midday sun beats down of us but the scenery is beautiful. Under a Sand Dry Betes tree we find the rest of the pride, fifteen beautiful regal Lions ranging from three months to the dominant females are laid in a tangle of limbs. I love how prides sleep, they love to spoon and rest their paws on each other. A head will lay on a body which will lay on a bottom which will have another’s paw over its face. The stretch yawn and roll over limbs stretching and coming to rest whether it lands even in another’s face. They are incredibly close and affectionate. Their faces of utter contentment in the knowledge they take care of each other and they are the rulers, the royalty of the land. I can sit and watch them for hours as they will always move and create some unusual sleeping patterns.
Down by the river a large raft of Hippos sunbathes on the banks of the river their grey and pink bodies being warmed by the sun. They stretch out and yawn showing their mighty jaws which could snap a man in two.
It is hot so we head to the river for lunch. Herds of Puku are grazing quite relaxed in the knowledge the Lions are asleep under bushes away from the heat of the day. Puku seem to enjoy the heat the need the vitamin D from the sun and it helps get rid of the parasites. We put our chairs out and sit and relax in the shade to talk about our incredible morning. All the while Puku graze very near us occasionally glancing our way in curiosity.
Within minutes of driving off after lunch we see a young Lioness stalking through the trees, she is clearly intent on hunting. A Bushbuck is in her sights, she gives chase but she is too inexperienced to catch it as they are quick and nimble footed. She walks to the edge of the forest and sits on the river bank watching the game.
In a clearing three large male Elephants with impressive tusks graze, as soon as they see us approach they are starting trumpeting at us and pretend to charge. They are quite skittish so do not appreciate our presence.
An African Fish Eagle with a white head black body and yellow tree perches on the edge of a branch over the water scanning it for fish. It is a beautiful bird. As we watch it in the distance we see movement around the trunk of a tree.
Six African Painted Wild Dogs start running out frolicking, playing and rolling round in the mud to cool off. It is an amazing bonus to see them as it is totally unexpected! They are so playful like any other dogs and I enjoy seeing their antics.
Down by the river the sun rays are reflected on the surface of the water it is quite dazzling like diamonds. A raft of sun baked Hippos relax on the sandy banks. Next to them crocodile lay like dry logs their mouths open. On our approach, some slither into the water.
We drive through the park watching the game and then heard back into the village. We stop at several shops as I want to buy some beautiful fabric to take home. The villages are so friendly and I love the bustling colourful village life. I choose some beautiful fabric that I will make into dresses for my next safari.
Near camp is Project Luangwa it is a charity that supports local young men and women in education. I chat to the wonderful team who run the charity and they tell me about their amazing work. The shop sells the most colourful handmade local crafts, they are very beautiful. I choose some stunning crafts to take home as gifts. I will personally be supporting the charity and do encourage others to;
Back in camp Jonathan and I enjoy a delicious dinner of African Stew under the dazzling African Stars, it is a lovely warm evening. Hippo walk past us coming out from the river for their nightly graze, it is very tranquil. After dinner we take a taxi into the local village where Jonathan lives to soak up the atmosphere in one of the bars. The music is African and I enjoy chatting to some of the locals and guides from other camps. It is a great atmosphere, very friendly and relaxed. As the evening progresses the music is turned up a little louder and we dance to the Afrobeat in the warm night air under the stars, I love this style of dancing, it has energy and passion. It is such a fun night and great to leave camp and experience the real Zambia.
Day 10 –
It is time to depart South Luangwa, I feel sad to leave my wonderful new friends especially Jonathan who has become a great friend and the co-writer of my blog. He has gifted me with knowledge and shares my passion for wildlife and conservation. I am positive and focus on the thought of I will be back in six months to see the park in another season, green and luscious.
I wave goodbye to Zambia and head to my spiritual home Kenya.
After an almost a day travelling I arrive in Nairobi, tired but happy. I am home.
As I needed to fly to Nairobi to get to Zambia I decided to stay here for a few days to catch up with my lovely friends and enjoy some of the Wildlife in the city.
My first stop is to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. They say “At the core of our work is the Orphans’ Project, from the rescue of milk dependent orphaned infant elephants through to their ultimate rehabilitation back into the wild. For the babies, their journey begins at our Nursery in Nairobi, where they receive dedicated hands on care and all the love and support they need to overcome the physical and psychological trauma of being orphaned and can start to enjoy the life they deserve.” They are open to the public just an hour a day between 11-12am and the wonderful staff bottle feed and play with the orphaned elephants whilst the tourists stand behind a roped off area. It was sad but beautiful to see the young Elephants clearly shriving and cared for by the staff. They frolicked in watering holes, played with and chewed on branches and generally were cheeky and mischievous. It was a delight to watch. One of the care staff talked about the individual babies, giving us their names and how they came to be rescued. The stories were varied and sad but he informed us of how they would be rehabilitated and introduced to herds in the wild. The majority of the babies were victims of the ivory trade and the organisation encouraged the visitors to boycott it and use influence on our governments to do so. It was a positive message. Before I left I sponsored a baby Elephant and would encourage you to do so, it is only $50 a year and this a good charity.
My next visit of the day was to the Giraffe centre. It is a lovely habitat for Giraffes and you are given special food to feed the Giraffes. I am not a fan of animals in captivity but this centre raises awareness of the conservation of Giraffes and their ethos is “The Giraffe Centre is the creation of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (A.F.E.W. Kenya), a Kenyan non-profit organisation. Our main purpose is to educate Kenyan school children and youth on their country’s wildlife and environment, as well as give local and international visitors an opportunity to come into close contact with the world’s tallest species, the giraffe.” I must say I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, you really get up close and personal with the Giraffes and they are very cheeky and friendly. I love how they use their extraordinary endlessly long tongues to take food from you, I did laugh a lot. Giraffes really are quite intelligent and pretty animals, especially when you are up close with them. They all appeared to be in good health and very happy.
The next day I visited Nairobi National Park, “A short drive out of Nairobi’s central business district is the Nairobi National Park. Wide open grass plains and backdrop of the city scrapers, scattered acacia bush play host to a wide variety of wildlife including the endangered Black Rhino, Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Hyenas, Buffaloes, Giraffes and diverse birdlife with over 400 species recorded. Visitors can enjoy the park’s picnic sites, three campsites and the walking trails for hikers.”
Having spent so many years on safari I was sceptical about visiting a park in the city hence why in sixteen years I have never. I must say I loved it. The scenery even though dry and arid this time of year was beautiful and in no time, you would never guess you were in a busy city. The park is 117 sq. Km and home to a diverse range of animals. Within 15 minutes we see a Black Rhino with a baby, it is a wonderful sight as they are endangered. Buffalos seem to be flourishing here and are well protected against poachers, which is still such a problem. He saw many different Antelope along with Buffalo, Hippo and Wildebeest. Most impressively to saw a lovely pride of Lions hunting. At sunset, the Lions headed down to the water to drink, it was stunning watching them silhouetted against the glow of the red orange and yellow glow of the sunset.
The Kenyan Wildlife Trust is an organisation I fully support and I hope you will to;
“The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) conserves and manages Kenya’s wildlife for the Kenyan people and the world. KWS undertakes conservation and management of wildlife resources across all protected areas systems in collaboration with stakeholders. It is our goal to work with others to conserve, protect and sustainably manage wildlife resources. The community wildlife program of KWS in collaboration with others encourages biodiversity conservation by communities living on land essential to wildlife, such as wildlife corridors and dispersal lands outside parks and reserves. The premise is that ” if people benefit from wildlife and other natural resources, then they will take care of these resources. Vision – “To save the last great species and places on earth for humanity”. Mission – “To sustainably conserve, manage, and enhance Kenya’s wildlife, its habitats, and provide a wide range of public uses in collaboration with stakeholders for posterity”. Core Values – “Passion, Professionalism, Innovation and Quality”. Mandate – Conserve and manage national parks, wildlife conservation areas, and sanctuaries under its jurisdiction.”
This was a wonderful end to an extraordinary safari, Africa is my home, my passion and soul. I am fully committed to raising awareness of wildlife conservation and supporting the charities I meet. With your support we can make a difference.