It’s Monday 17th December 2012 and a moment with Lady Liuwa

This week, we will hear from Chris Meyer who just came back from Liuwa Plain! Over to you Chris.

“Not many people have been to the Liuwa Plain National Park in the far west of Zambia but many may have heard about it through the documentary “The last lioness” which highlighted the plight of the last surviving lioness in the Liuwa Plain in 2007-08. Although I had known about the Liuwa Plain, the logistics of trying to get there and through the Kalahari sands on roads that are not well maintained made the trip a distant dream but remained on my bucket list of places to see. Lady Liuwa like any other “celebrity” was a draw card and a more concerted effort was made to find a way of getting to see the Liuwa Plain and “The last lioness”.

Kalabo AirstripCrossing over

Arriving at MatamaneneLiuwa Plain

I was privileged to visit along with three other guests (Hugh, Wendy and Lynne all from America) and experience the thrill of the Liuwa Plain in early December 2012 and a chance encounter with Lady Liuwa. We had as our host and guide Robin Pope himself as well as Jason Alfonsi, who are both extremely knowledgeable and experts in their fields. Jo Pope joined the trip, and along with Robin we had two pioneers in the Zambian safari and conservation sector sharing stories and useful information that was both interesting and amazing.

Words and photographs cannot do justice to the sheer beauty and open expanses of the plains at this time of year with the onset of the rains, the transformation of the plains and pans in just the week we were in the area and the dark thunder storms with lightning bolts that lit up the evening skies.

The bird life in the Plain is phenomenal and the game sightings spectacular.

Hyena & Crowned Crain

OribiRed lechwe at Kings Pool

The animal sightings included lion, hyena, wild dog, side striped jackal, blue wildebeest, zebra, red lechwe, oribi and steenbuck whilst the night drives were just as exciting with large grey mongoose, Selous mongoose, striped polecat (Zorilla) and porcupine being spotted. The first evening drive did not disappoint with a clan of nearly 30 hyena bringing down and devouring an adult wildebeest.

Wildebeest in the thousandsHyenas and their wildebeest kill

Lion roaringWild dogs

Hyenas

The migratory birds return to the plain with the rains and join the resident birds to form a bird watchers heaven. Some of the birds that were seen during the trip included but not limited to: wattled and crowned crane, fish, martial, bateleur and tawny eagle, marsh, giant eagle and barn owl, secretary bird, pallid harrier, lappet faced, white headed, white backed and hooded vulture, black bellied, the list goes on with a total of 125 birds identified by sight or sound. The highlight of the trip as far as birding was concerned, and which caused the most excitement for all, was seeing and being able to photograph a whimbrel, a palearctic migrant.

Fish Eagles & KiteAfrican Jacana

In flight

On more than one occasion someone would comment on the fact that here we were in the middle of one of the least well known and least visited National Parks in Zambia, the only vehicle for as far as the eye can see and believe me it is far in the Liuwa Plain, no one scrambling for the best position at a sighting, no road rage, just us and the lions or the wild dog pack or just looking out for and catching a glimpse of a Marsh owl in the thick reed beds and grasses along the Munde Stream bed.

One such memorable sighting was when we were siting watching a Levaillant’s cuckoo fly past the vehicle and a few green pigeons in a tree across the Munde Stream at a place called Kings Pool when suddenly the Vervet monkeys started alarm calling and the first thought was leopard! Although leopard are not often seen anymore this was our reaction, then to our surprise and overwhelming emotional excitement Lady Liuwa and the younger lioness introduced to the Plain in October 2011 made their appearance. It was surreal; Lady led the lioness directly to a small opening in the reeds at the water’s edge and came down for a lengthy drink right in front of us making sure that we had good look and ensuring that we did not leave the plains without seeing her.

Lady Liuwa herself along with the other lioness (with the collar)

I was overwhelmed with joy, I could leave Liuwa Plain having had the most amazing and memorable time in a truly, unspoiled wilderness area and having had a moment with Lady Liuwa.

There were many more such sightings and moments during the 4 days including watching a pack of wild dog enjoying a meal of young wildebeest calf and the resulting interaction between the wild dog and scavenging hyena and vultures who would try and pick up the leftovers.

Wild dogs mobilizingThe kill

Vultures taking advantage of the wild dog kill

Watching sub-adult hyena rolling on a dead and well decomposed python ensuring that they cover themselves as best they can in the stink and smelly perfume.

Hyena with pythonyoung hyena

One of nature’s own magical displays was witnessed one evening upon returning to the camp from a night drive when we stopped at the Munde Stream and switched off the spot light and vehicle lights. It was an overcast evening so the night was pretty dark except for the thousands of fireflies displaying all around us. Truly spectacular and in some areas especially in the longer grasses close to the stream it looked like nature’s own “Milky way”.

Liuwa Plain and the beauty that it holds is a must visit for every wildlife enthusiast and birder alike. Thank you to Robin Pope Safari’s and the staff at Matamanene Camp for making the stay so memorable. To Robin, Jo and Jason for sharing your experience and expertise with the group, the researchers from Zambia Carnivore programme for sharing their stories and sightings of the wild dog and for the wonderful work they are doing to ensure that Zambia’s carnivores, prey and habitat are safeguarded.”

Thunder StormLunch under a sausage tree

Crowned cranes

Wonderful account Chris, and some great photos too!

That’s all for this Monday folks, enjoy the week ahead

Emily

Emily

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