Day 2: Safaris and Sunshine

After the long day of travel I slept like a bear in hibernation. So much so I missed the break of dawn and (almost) my morning safari. I had time to make it, but not only enough for throwing a little water at my face and a ten second inhaling of some corn flakes. Why must these animals awaken so early?

The scramble couldn’t have been more worth it though. Our car set off at 6:00am with our guide, Yotam, at the wheel with Byron, a guide in training, in the passenger seat. One of best parts of this park is the high standard to which the guides are held. The guides self-study for two years to learn everything from the littlest insect in the grass to the biggest eagle in the sky. Latin names, distinguishing features (especially impressive for all the birds), family behaviours, and on and on are memorized with amazing accuracy. The guiding position is one of the best paying in the region but it is a very merited value indeed. Also in the car with me was a couple from Australia and their friend who I would end up taking many of my rides with. Paul’s giant telezoom lens along could have held about ten of my point and shoot cameras… but at least I didn’t have to carry a bag!

The back of Yotam’s head and the entrance to the park over the Luangwa Bridge.

The morning was spectacular. Before we even crossed the bridge we were met by a crowd of baboons slinking along the roadside, hippos littering the river and a herd of elephants fording the river, so picturesque in the orange morning light.

The daily crossing of the river, quiet and graceful defying their great size.

We met with another herd of elephants just inside the park, which we followed along for a little while – the elder female leading the way with one little one in tow.

Pictures don’t do justice to capturing the entrancing animation of elephants. I could sit an watch them all day!

They ended up passing by a small pond, which we stopped at to also take in two crowned cranes feeding. The cranes had such beautiful colours and seemed almost too artful to be feeding in the muddy pond.

The still water of the pond made for a wonderful sight.

After running into the elephants for a third time (but really, who is complaining) we set off into a new corner of the park where we had heard there were some wild dogs about. With only about 5000 alive in the world, such a sighting would be a special one. Yotam had the pedal to the metal on the way there, only stopping briefly for my fresh eyes to take in a giraffe by a pond. The giraffe, standing alone on the plain, made for a beautiful scene in the heavily saturated colours of the landscape. The giraffes always brought a smile to my face in the way they intently watched you, sometimes peering over a bush, using their strong sense, sight, to make sure you didn’t pull any fast ones.

These giraffes, the Thornicroft Giraffe, is endemic to South Luangwa and has a smaller stature than its giraffe cousins.

After a little longer searching for the wild dogs we called it rest time and had our morning stop for tea and biscuits in the middle of the flood plain. Sounds like a good break to me!

The safari truck at our tea break. Cruising in safari luxury; the seats were extra comfy.

The reminder of the morning was in search of the dogs, which was ultimately unsuccessful. However, along the way we ran into the elephants (again) and a couple of male impala in the middle of a territorial scrap. Sore skulls ensued.

Males fight over territory to determine who has the breeding rights to the females in the area. Keeps the gene pool strong!

After returning to camp four hours later, it was time to explore a little and get to know my tent by daylight. After a cool shower in my open-air bathroom (so welcome after baking in the morning sun – I forgot my sunscreen in the rush and was a little toasty) I decided to snap a few pictures of my tent and take a wander along the riverfront. A comfortable place to rest my head and beautiful sights just out my front door.

My super awesome outdoor bathroom. There was something about being under the afternoon sky showering that rocked.

My humble (canvas) abode. The perfect set up for the trip I’d say!

After some more wandering of the camp I settled down for a midday nap. The made it hard to ward off, so I decided a little rest couldn’t hurt to keep me attentive for the night drive!

A comfortable, shaded place to rest my head.

We set off on the night drive at 4:00pm in search of some evening grazing and the predators stalking under the cover of darkness.  Much of the remaining daylight only revealed herds of impala and puku dotting the wide floodplains. Still no sign of the dogs, but even the little animal activity was more than offset by the beautiful landscapes we rolled through.

Impala, fields of green, and the glow of the late afternoon sun.

We stopped for our “sundowner” by the river – the sky and water painted in deep shades of yellow, magenta and purple. A few crocodiles spotted the opposite shore and the hippos had started up their comedy act again, laughing at each other’s flatulence I would assume.

Best place for a Mosi – if it weren’t for the neighbourhood being a little wild I’d put a bar patio here…

My camera didn’t function too well in the dark so I am mostly without photos from that leg of the safari. Byron’s job in the night was to operate a big spotlight (with safety goggles to defend against the light-drunk beetles hurtling themselves at him) and scan the surroundings for animals. The light hypnotically passed back and forth, revealing a few creatures of the night such as genets, a couple hyenas, a hare and at one point, a cobra.

After returning back to the camp I set down for a tasty thai dinner and a beer before heading off to my tent for some much needed rest and reflection on the day. What a day it was!

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