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June 5, 2013 / samwilson60

South Luangwa by day…

We were off first thing but glad we hadn’t pushed it the night before – it was a slow, dusty and at times confusing 150km to camp but arriving at lunchtime we had all afternoon to relax and enjoy the spectacular surrounds. The camp itself was enormous and, although we weren’t allowed to venture far (elephants on the rampage), our spot by the river was perfect. We spent the rest of the day shooing blue-balled monkeys away from the biscuit box, counting hippos in the water and planning how to make the most of our park fees.

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We soon threw the budget out of the window and decided on two guided drives, one first thing in the morning and the other last thing at night. Unlike our Harare decision-making sessions, this was one we didn’t worry for a second we’d live to regret! By six the next morning we were in our safari vehicle with our guide and driver, Big Joseph or BJ, our friends Ben and Jen and two others. It was quite a surreal experience being driven around on a real safari and, although he had a limited repertoire, we enjoyed BJ’s jokes, anecdotes and random facts about the resident wildlife (elephants love mangos and baby zebra eat their mother’s poo). We saw elephants, hippos, zebra, warthogs and our first puku but the real draw was the chance of a leopard and we couldn’t help our impatience every time we stopped for a ten-minute “Did you know?” session about animals we’d seen before and could again. That said, they were pretty awesome in their own right.

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We’d initially pinned our hopes of seeing any big cats on the night drive but since arriving at the campsite we’d heard so many stories of early morning sightings too that instead of feeling lucky if we did see anything, we were in danger of feeling cheated if we didn’t. By 9am it was looking decidedly unlikely that this was to be our morning so we really were blown away when we spotted one of the spotted ones darting down a bank to the river. We were even more blown away when she reappeared, toured around all the other vehicles that swiftly appeared and took a seat by our front wheel. The leopard was magnificent – more pristine and spotty than we’d ever imagined them to be in the flesh – and we spent a good five minutes up close before BJ decided we should leave her in peace.

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We assumed at this point that we’d be heading back to camp, having almost exhausted our four-hour limit, but after much conferring with other drivers, BJ was off on another mission. He took us way off in the wrong direction in search of a pair of lions, via the most beautiful warthog and a herd of the most comical buffalos to date.

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Even our guide was starting to lose the lion faith but kept on “cruising” (read gunning it) around the park until we stumbled upon them – a trio in fact, one lady out in front leaving the obvious couple to it.

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Ben & Jen’s photo of the lioness was too good not to post. I hope you don’t mind guys 🙂

 

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