It’s Monday 16th July 2012 and what the Barretts saw

I hope that the Brits among you have not developed webbed feet from all the rain you have had over there!  This side, we are all busy as usual! We recently received a lovely e-mail from Richard and Barbara Barrett, avid safari goers and long time Robin Pope Safaris supporters,  so for this week over to them…

“All our trips have been great but this one topped everything. We did of course stay longer than usual – 5 nights on the Luiwa Plain and 9 nights in the Valley – this must have made some contribution to the fantastic things we saw.

As usual, we think the Liuwa Plain is one of the most delightful areas we have ever seen. The waving golden grasses, the lagoons full of water birds, the herds of Red Lechwe, the beautiful Zebras, the enormous herds of cows with calves of Blue Wildebeest, the heraldic solitary bulls holding their territories, oribi, steinbok, and above all the large bold hyenas with such lovely spotted fur completely unafraid of people and really interested in coming forth to study us more closely. It was great to see Lady Liuwa again and the unrecognizable two introduced male lions now grown into such magnificent fully maned adults.

Getting  to LiuwaLion of Liuwa

Other highlights included not one but TWO wild dog kills (one possibly combined with hyenas), following two side striped jackals really closely for a long time, a visit to a hyena den early in the morning watching female hyenas with their six, later seven puppies for an hour or two followed by a super BUSH BREAKFAST cooked by Alfred and assistants.

Hyena  & cubsThe Cubs

Side Striped JackalSide Striped Jackal

Bush  Breakfast preparationsTea time

There was much much more but best of all was the cheetah morning. We set off early as usual with Robin and Jason and within a few minutes Jason spotted a 2-year-old female cheetah sitting up in the golden grass. We followed her for about 45 minutess as she played hide and seek with the Land Cruiser, looking back to make sure we were still there. Then we all met up with her mother who this year has 4 cubs about 6 to 8 months old now big enough to hunt. There was very interesting interactions between the two year old animal and the others especially between the eldest daughter and her male brother. Robin thought that this might have been the first time that they had met. After a while the mother and her cubs set off purposefully and we followed. Two attempts to kill a wildebeest failed and we continued to follow.

Cheetah looking out for a mealMaking an attack on a wildebeest

We were all in a shallow valley when over some higher ground a line of wildebeest cows and calves appeared. Immediately all 5 cheetahs crouched in a slight hollow and as the wildebeest drew near at the same instant all the cheetahs put their ears down immediately looking like a slight mound of earth. They let all the wildebeest pass and then attacked from the rear killing one of the calves. 5 cheetahs made short work of eating the calf, leaving only a few bones and the head to the gathering vultures. The cubs had fun chasing vultures and we headed back to lunch, not as usual at 11.30 but about 14.30!!!

The feast beginsNearly done

Then after the magnificence of Liuwa, we went onto the very different but equally as beautiful South Luangwa Valley. A completely different place with groves of majestic ebony trees, lagoons, woodland, and the River. Our first thought that it might be a slight anticlimax after the highs of the Liuwa Plain was quickly dispelled by a visit to the stork colony with hundreds of Yellow Billed Storks nesting and countless well grown juveniles beginning to learn to fly. We watched a Martial Eagle plucking and eating a young stork and from there saw a honey badger in broad daylight. On the way lots of elephants, hippos, crocodiles, buffalos, baboons, puku and 2 fighting impalas. Then Daudi heard a leopard call and a little way along the track a large male leopard emerged and we watched as he approached with his tail held high and then followed him as he patrolled his territory. A male waterbuck with a number of females was closely followed by our first warthog of the trip and a magnificent male Kudu with some females and juveniles. Night drives revealed a female leopard eating an impala in a bush watched by her cub, genets and a whitetailed mongoose.

LeopardKudu & Impala

Fish EagleFish Eagle in flight

On to Tena Tena, where Bertram started off by tracking fresh lion footprints for quite a long way! He made a thorough search of the area when the footprints petered out and eventually found two male lions sleeping in the shade. We met these lions again, once on a night drive, and once after an unsuccessful search round a tree full of vultures, when they suddenly emerged from the forest and walked right in front of the vehicle.

Male LionLounging around

One young elephant hiding behind a bush put his trunk towards us and spent some time carefully sampling our scent. Sparring male puku, large flocks of Lillian’s lovebirds and clouds of red billed qualia added to the spectacle as did a sunbathing white browed coucal and several gymnogenes. A large group of female giraffes with young were watched for a while and later four adult male giraffes, followed at a safe distance by a fifth, were seen marching up and down, round in circles and figures of eight. Eventually two of the front-runners started to fight. Their heads being used as mallets, with each impact followed by a loud crash! Each one attempted to get its head beneath a leg of the other leaning its weight into the body of its adversary. In the end they walked away, one bleeding from the head.

Giraffes having a go at each otherRiled up giraffes

From our tent we were able to watch and photograph several bushbucks on the edge of the lagoon and night drives produced genets, scops owls, the best ever view of a charming elephant shrew and another honey badger.

Elephant Shrew

We only had 2 nights at Nkwali but the first night we saw a male leopard up a tree eating a very fresh impala. The next morning they were still there and as we watched the leopard came down from the tree and nearby waiting was another leopard.

LeopardLeopard and kill

Next we found a lion kill, a very fresh buffalo, one male lion, three lionesses and a cub. Vultures were just beginning to arrive so the lions finished eating and then spent some time scraping earth over the entrails. The lionesses and cub went into the shade and the male lion laid down and guarded the carcass from the vultures panting heavily in the hot sun. After this, a splendid bush breakfast and that night the icing on the cake was an aardvark right near camp about one meter away from the car!!”

LionessDigging  in

Wow, what amazing stories and quite a fantastic trip.  Thanks ever so much Richard and Barbara and hopefully we will see you both out here again soon.  So from me there is little else I can follow on with so I shall say toodaloo for now and hope that you all have a great week and catch up next Monday.

Cheers

Emily

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