It’s Monday 8th November 2010 and a walk in the park

Before I start want to wish happy birthday Jo Pope!

It was Jo’s birthday last week and she celebrated in the UK where I’ll be meeting her and the rest of the team for WTM.

This week Simeon and Kathy Dawes will share their Walking Safari with us last August.

“We had been on a safari holiday before, so the basic instructions “Stay sitting in the car” “Don’t get out without permission” etc were already known to us, but on mobile camp this all paled into insignificance beside the exhilaration of being on the same level as the animals.

Kathy hoped to see a leopard this time around, and would have been happy glimpsing a tail disappearing into a bush. Imagine her face when, as dusk approached on our first full day, we parked beside a female leopard waiting for darkness so she could begin her nightly hunt.

Leopard  Impala

Transferring to mobile camp, we were unsure what to expect. The camp-sites and staff however far exceeded any expectations we could have brought with us. Touring Alfred’s “kitchen”, after tasting the wonderful meals, bread and cakes that had been cooked there showed us just how talented everyone involved in mobiles really is.

Elephant Seeing game up close while walking is of course, much more difficult. The game was not used to our presence and either viewed us with disdain, or saw us as a potential threat. There are other treats though that you don’t get while in a car. Sitting silently under a bush at a waterhole for nearly an hour having tea, we were treated to close up views of impala and warthog just a few metres away. At such a time, you dare not even take a photo for fear of scaring them off. The Go-Away bird knew we were there, but he could not work out what we wanted, so we remained hidden from everyone else.

Being at ground level, rather than elevated in a car, you can appreciate just how big an elephant is. To be trumpeted at and mock charged, even if only a few steps towards us, forces adrenalin round the system in a manner we’re not used to experiencing. Later, skirting round a clearing to get a good view of one elephant, we came across the site of a second one, eating and drinking at the far bank of the river, completely oblivious to our presence. With the sun’s golden rays coming in from a low angle, it made a glorious sight.

Not everything you see on mobiles is in the far distance. While having our morning tea, we spotted vultures circling over some trees in the distance and determined to set off in that direction, hoping to find evidence at least of a kill, or better still, lions in the vicinity. As we walked along the river bank, a Bateleur eagle swooped low overhead, followed shortly afterwards by a juvenile Fish eagle. photographing something like this may seem easy for the professionals, but for the rest of us, you have to snap with whatever camera mode you happen currently to be using.

Bateleur eagle  Lion

Our walk brought us within 200m of a lion pride, the leader of which growled at us and mock-charged until we left. Being on foot, with no protection other than the ranger’s rifle brings home to you just how vulnerable we are in this environment and how precarious life is on a daily basis.

Journeying on to Tena Tena , we headed out early across the plain to reach the hot springs. We were lucky enough to find two lionesses and a young cub who had been missing from the Nsefu pride for some time. Seeing this little one playing in the bush and attempting to stalk our car made for a delightful stop as the sun came up that morning.

Returning to camp later that day, we encountered a small family group of elephants, one of whom took exception to our being there and chased us (as Simon predicted) along the road. The following morning, we set out to visit Kawaza village and were chased by the same large female, though this time it was obvious that she was protecting a youngster. The little one was estimated to be about 2-3 days old, still wobbly on its legs and unsure where to suckle from. Back at camp discussing these encounters, it was thought that we were chased by this little baby’s grandma; she is not normally so aggressive and will need retraining at the end of the season. That evening we saw them again, but this time stayed at least 500m away. We wanted to avoid continually upsetting a mother and her new baby even if they do make a particularly photogenic pair.

Elephant Elephant

We thoroughly enjoyed our time with RPS this year and intend to return in the not too distant future. Our thanks go out to all the staff in the permanent and particularly in the mobile camps. Such efficient behind the scenes teamwork allows everyone to relax and enjoy their stay, whether it be just for a few days, or an extended break like ours. There is so much to see, every day brings a new sight or adventure. You cannot help but marvel at the enthusiasm and care with which the scouts, rangers and all the RPS staff love and respect the animals and South Luangwa.”

Thanks Simeon. If you like to see more of Simeon photos you can find their drives and walks on their website.

Have a wonderful time,

Rita

Sky

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