It’s Monday 19th January 2009 and wow, wow, wow!

I ’m going to hand over to Linzi Summers for part 2 of her birthday safari – please don’t get too jealous!

Cheers
Fiona

I volunteered to write the follow-on for my party, because as Fiona hinted, there was more to come.

Wow Wow Wow! was the call made by our excellent guide, Jacob when we finally tracked down the game we were looking for! Not for us the sedate game drive. No, everyday we would tell Jacob (in jest) what we wanted to see which always included aardvark and polar bears (just for fun) and it proved very successful!

Lion in South LuangwaGiraffes in South Luangwa

So after the superlative territorial lion battle, the photogenic leopard and the sad demise of the giraffe – what else could we find?

On my birthday I was asked what I would like to see. As a veteran of many game drives I have had the privilege of seeing most animals but I knew some of my guests were keen to see wild dog. There is a wild dog monitoring programme (AWDC) going on in the Valley, however the dogs had last been seen at Christmas, some 3 weeks ago. However I hopefully asked for wild dog

Heron  in South LuangwaWild Dogs in South Luangwa

These things always happen when you least expect them. We were all focused on a heron to the left when Jacob, ignoring our request for affirmation that we had finally got the heron’s ID correct, said “dog print”. I leaned over the side to where Jacob was looking. One paw print, I thought you needed at least four for one dog. Not convinced I turned back to the heron. “Two prints”, said Jacob – we politely pivoted away to look again at this dubious sighting. Then an alarm call, we all looked up in eager anticipation and Jacob took off. “Hold on tight” he said as he swung the vehicle around and there on the horizon we could see impala with the wild dogs giving chase.

We bounced around, dodged deep puddles, ducked under low branches as Jacob anticipated the arrival area of the dogs. We inadvertently came to stop and there in front of us were 3 … no 4 … no 9 wild dogs, all waiting for the arrival of their hunting mates. We sat in awe as the dogs came back from their (unsuccessful) hunt and were greeted with squeaky yelps. The dogs moved around (I think our last count was 13) and eventually they were surrounding the vehicle taking absolutely no interest in us at all. We spent the next hour happily absorbing the scene before heading back. Mission accomplished.

Nkwali team bringing birthday cakeBirthday lunch at Luangwa House, during the Emerald Season

How could we follow that? Back at the camp  Jo , Robin and their team had laid on a special birthday lunch on the decks of Luangwa Safari House as a surprise and what a magical setting. As well as a fantastic lunch, we had elephants wandering through the backdrop, baboons in the trees and flashes of brilliant colour as kingfishers and bee-eaters flitted in and out of the trees.

Wednesday was our final day. We had an average morning, one I described as seeing ‘not a lot’, until I got a poke in the ribs … apart from giraffe, elephants (loads) kudu, buffalo, bee-eaters, kingfishers, warthogs, vultures … ok, point taken.

Lilac breasted rollerPuku in South Luangwa, Emerald Season

On our way back to the boat crossing and within sight of the river, David coughed politely and said “I think I saw something”, we rolled back and forth – no there was nothing to be seen. “Well “, he said “it was either a yellow log or a lion”. We perked up and Jacob backtracked and followed his lead. There on the road were two ‘logs’ with a third a hundred yards away. We snapped away as these three lions (mother and two young adults) lazed in the sun obliging us with photocalls. Eventually they got up, stretched and leisurely strolled along the road casually looking for lunch. We followed. Jacob recognised where they were heading and (to cut a long story short) we stayed with them for another hour before the action started.

Lions in South LuangwaLeopard in South Luangwa

The mother lioness suddenly sniffed the air and all three dashed for a thicket. Within seconds, before we could register what was happening, a leopard leapt out on the thicket and jumped up onto the road. The lions had taken over the leopard’s kill – an impala and the leopard was left with nothing.

These are the highlights of 7 days game-viewing. It was truly awesome and the best 7 days game viewing I have ever seen in 20 years of safaris. Yes there is an element of luck but it was the tracking skills that Jacob brought that made the safari so exciting.

Cheers,
Linzi

Buffalos in South Luangwa

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