It’s Monday 4th June 2012 and cheetahs in the limelight

This week, we’ll hear from Liz and Jonathan who recently visited Liuwa Plain.

Touchdown Kalabo! More of a strip than an airport, with only a few derelict buildings around. We were stepping into the unknown. Then as if reading our minds out of the aircraft window, RPS guides Robin Pope and Jason Alfonso (known to us from mobiles and Nkwali), welcomed our party of 6 with customary RPS hospitality: coffee and tea and delicious muffins.

Liuwa Plain is not a holiday, it is a pioneering wilderness adventure! From Kalabo, across the Luanginga river, the harbour scene is typically African, colourful, chaotic and contrasting. A brand new quad bike sits next to an oxen cart with two reluctant animals in the yoke; people waiting for a boat, and others just hanging around. From river scene to woodlands and then the enclosed landscape gave way to the immense beauty and emptiness of the plains. After an hour of driving we spotted a large sausage tree guarding a lagoon and providing the perfect shady spot for some lunch. Having just settled down we were quickly packed back into the car – boiled eggs and wine jettisoned to one side as Jason who had gone on ahead in a separate car to us had spotted wild dogs! We ignored wildebeest and zebra both usually greatly appreciated as we made our way to another lagoon to find 6 dogs hunkering down away from the mid day heat, a hyena lurking with intent that the dogs would do the work and he would reap the rewards and an oribi grazing unconcernedly only 80m away.

Setting offWild dog

Welcome to Liuwa!

The rustic and wild setting at the camp was underlined by the possibility of animal wanderings, it being unfenced and open. Apart from Lady Liuwa, a frequent visitor to the camp surrounds were resident vervet monkeys, always liable to intrude into unzipped tents, or to appropriate toiletries, lift the cistern lid and drink. A sudden crash in the loo was a sign of this breaking and entering.

The CampLady Liuwa

A quick unpack and rest and then out to the plains for a sundowner. Words cannot describe a Liuwa sunset overlooking a lily decorated lagoon in a wildebeest and zebra dotted plain with myriad water birds – crested and wattled cranes, too many ducks to mention, ditto storks, plovers, stilts, terns, jacanas, populating the lagoon and the orange and purple sunset sky. We enjoyed a similar performance for each of our five nights.

SunsetStorks

After a lion and hyena serenaded night we went out early next day looking for Lady Liuwa. The world’s most famous lioness since Elsa did not disappoint. Arising from her prone position she stretched languidly in front of us in the brisk early morning air as our Africa Parks scout Jacob called softy “Hello Lady, hello Lady”.

Birdlife, mammals and scenery were simply magical and the essence of the experience was topped by the knowledge and calm understated teachings of Robin and Jason.

The wildlife continued to enthrall, none so more than our “cheetah day”. After over an hour of driving on the plains Robin suddenly stopped the car at the alarms of the vervet monkeys cries. Looking through binoculars we saw the cheetahs. Quickly retracing our steps back to the woodlands we found Lady Liuwa with a young wildebeest in her mouth being harassed by 5 cheetahs whose kill she had stolen. Having successfully defended her breakfast, Lady was left in peace to enjoy her spoils whilst the cheetah family of mum and 4 cubs (about 8 months old) moved on with the youngsters playing around spoiling several meal opportunities as mum led her energetic family away from one herd of wildebeest to another. From a distance with eyes strained and binoculars trained, we watched as the mother carefully and stealthily crawled her way towards an unsuspecting calf. Moving ever closer but still undetected our hearts in our mouths she suddenly burst forward but the wildebeest mothers’ instincts are too great and she protected her calf chasing the cheetah away.

Stalking the WildebeestStalking continues

Hungry and unsuccessful the cheetah family moved to new hunting grounds. Across the now blazing hot plains they wandered and we followed from a distance, determined not to give up and to watch the drama unfold. Long grass hiding them from another unsuspecting herd and for that matter from ourselves we sat for over an hour watching and waiting – then we saw her moving almost painfully slowly to close the gap, the cubs following and mimicking. Surely they can not miss this opportunity. Then as if propelled from a cannon, she exploded from her crouching position so quickly that our cameras and videos could not keep up. In a matter of seconds it was over and she had failed again. Thank goodness for the RPS tea box with refreshments and snacks but at this point there was no chance of us giving up so we kept going. Just as I was finishing my beer Jason piped up “they are off again”. We followed and very quickly thereafter we saw mum twisting and turning in the long grass. Before we knew it, an oribi had been killed and eaten and the vultures were circling. What a day and an experience that will never be forgotten.

Hungry cheetahs move onIn the long grass

Finally foodSatisfied

HyenaStriking a pose

with Robin

Whilst I could regale you with my other stories of our wonderful time at Liuwa, the only sad news was that our five days were over far too quickly. It was time for our 4.15am wake up call on the last day to start our return journey to Kalabo “airport” to make way for the next lucky team of visitors to enjoy this spectacular and exclusive experience. The final Liuwa memory is the view from the airborne plane of Robin standing on the road holding up any oncoming traffic and waving goodbye – or rather “until next time”

Wow what a trip! Thanks to Liz and Jonathan for sharing this with us…

Finally, we are delighted to share that Luangwa Safari House has once again made it to the finals of the Best Safari House in Africa category in The Safari Awards 2012. This is the fourth year running that the House has made it to the finals, with two of those years as a winner and one year as a runner up. We look forward to the final results to be announced at a Gala Ceremony at The Natural history Museum in London on 5th November.

Luangwa Safari HouseLuangwa Safari House by night

That’s all for this Monday. Have a lovely week

Emily

alt

This entry was posted in 2012. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.