It’s Monday 23rd August 2010 and an Aadvark sighted in the Nsefu Sector

Donald and John stayed with us late July in South Luangwa and had the privilege of experiencing a really rare moment during a game drive in the Nsefu Sector. This last week they sent me their story, lets hear from them:

“Robin Pope Safaris to South Luangwa was marvellous. After 20 consecutive years of safari trips to Africa including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ethiopia etc., we were astounded by the richness of game here.

Debbie and Luangwa Bush Camping TeamLuangwa Bush Camp tend

We especially came to Zambia to experience the 3 night bush-camping and walking in the Nsefu triangle with Deb Tittle . It matched every expectation. Deb is a phenomenon: in her knowledge, her deep connection to the bush, her willingness to allow herself and her guests to engage wildlife at close-quarters, her humanity and gentleness, and her subtle and welcoming hosting skills. We spent a few nights before at Nsefu and Tena Tena , and a few nights after at Tena Tena and Nkwali .

PorcupinesOwl

On the night before setting out with Deb, we went on a night drive from Tena Tena with our Bush Camp compatriots-to-be, Lindsay and Ian. Our driver/ranger was Nyambe and the night-spotter was Yona. It had already been a glorious ride, even before the Aardvark. Before sundown, we’d already seen the Elephants, Buffalo, Kudu, Hippos, Crocodiles, Bushbuck, Impala, Puku and others that are miraculously ubiquitous on most drives, not to mention the 14 Eland, nor the many new birds we were able to add to our list. After sundowners, by spot-light we’d already been blessed with sightings of the smallest and largest owls, a Scops-Owl and Eagle Owl, 3 types of Mongoose (White-tailed, Bushy-tailed and Marsh), 2 huge porcupines at close quarters, and a bush baby.

NyambeAardvark

Then Yona flicked the spotlight at a distant gleam, and Nyambe brought the jeep to quick halt. At first they couldn’t make out what it was, just 2 bright eyes in front of a hillock and overhang of greenery. The spot-light flickered back and forth. The chatter between them indicated that something was either inexplicable or incredible to them – but they weren’t yet ready to commit. We saw the shape of a face emerge; the eyes, the shape of the ears. Lindsay at the back whispered “What is it?” John, with his superb eyesight suddenly blurted “Aardvark!” Nyambe confirmed it….by basically hyper-ventilating and a letting loose an expletive that cannot be printed and would have offended even religious sensibilities if not for its appropriateness.

The Aardvark seemed frozen, and once identified, became an obvious shape – “but, of course!” Then it was gone. Yona kept flicking the light back and forth. We thought that was it. Then suddenly a movement and it emerged again, and began ambling in our direction. It was head-on. We could clearly see the face, the perky ears, preposterous snout. We watched in awe, mostly because Nyambe and Yona’s palpable excitement clearly indicated that we were seeing something extraordinary. Yes, we’d read that an Aardvark was a rare experience, but didn’t realize how rare until it disappeared again, the moment was over, and Nyambe exclaimed: “I’ve never seen one here!”

There had apparently been only a few sightings in different Reserve-areas. Norman Carr had never seen one in his forty+ years. Simon, the manager back at camp, explained that the only sighting he personally knew of were uncorroborated and by rangers after a long night of drinking! He was forced to concede: “Well, if 6 of you saw it, that’s a fact”. He made us feel like we’d glimpsed the mythical Kraken. Needless to say, we had a well-toasted, celebratory camp-dinner that night.

mating-lionmating-lion

We saw many marvels on the trip thereafter: the 2 mating-lion pairs and the drama of the interloping males and suspected cub-killing in the Nsefu pride; the leopard with its kill in a tree losing it to a hyena who then was chased off by lions (we missed the chase but caught each consequence); the parasitic Honey-guide chicks being raised by their unsuspecting Bulbul “parents”; another male leopard with a bushbuck kill and the adult female leopard he’d stolen it from still growling and pacing in frustration below him; the hippo charging out from under a bush with us on foot, and Deb protecting us…..but the Aardvark! Well, that was special.”

Wow, so many great sightings!!

I’m counting the days to get back to the Valley next week to attend Rocky’s wedding in the Nsefu sector. Can’t wait to see everyone and the magical South Luangwa!

Have a wonderful week.

Tena Tena Camp South Luangwa

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