Our land program to Zambia recently came to an end, and we were lucky enough to receive some phenomenal pictures of the safari. A first for many of our travelers, they had incredible up-close views of lions and much more. Below are pictures and an excerpt from the journal of Lex Hes, our guide and one of Africa's premiere naturalists.
The trip got off to an exciting, if somewhat unusual, start when we discovered that the lions had booked out rooms 4, 5, and 6 at Shumba Camp, meaning that some of us had to share a room! Their presence ensured that we had great lion viewing at Busanga almost every day. It was an absolute highlight, seeing the lioness carry her three cubs on the first afternoon; it’s not often that one gets to see this kind of thing as it only ever takes place in the first month of a cub's life, and usually under cover of darkness. That the lioness also decided to show off by walking in front of camp during the heat of the day and chase puku right in front of us, was a great sight.
Another VERY exciting time was spent on the mighty Lufupa River, getting us up-close and very personal to many hippos. At one point I counted about 60 hippos within extremely close proximity to the boat as we drank our morning coffee.
Apart from the big animals, we had a wonderful vista of the plains from a hot air balloon where we saw herds of puku and red lechwe, as well as a variety of waterbirds including yellow-billed storks, the Goliath heron, ibises, and plovers. The magnificent crowned cranes were seen everywhere, as well as many wattled cranes and the pretty rosy-breasted longclaw.
It was at the Kalamu Camp in South Luangwa National Park that we saw the greatest diversity of mammal species of the trip—a total of 26 species, including special sightings of Sharpe’s grysbok; plenty of bushbuck including the beautifully-marked rams; Thornicroft’s giraffe, unique to the Luangwa Valley; the yellow baboon, a new species of baboon for many of us; the tiny four-toed elephant shrew; and two magnificent porcupines on one of the night drives.
The death of a hippo in the Luangwa River produced one of the great spectacles of the trip with over a hundred Nile crocodiles hanging around in the vicinity of the carcass. And of course there were hippos everywhere, walking on the sandbanks resting in the water, basking in the sun, and standing in the bush.
But the highlight, and very likely dinner-time conversation for some time to come, has to be the walking safaris where both groups encountered lions on foot and were subjected to some aggression from the large male. It has to be one of the most humbling experiences to be threatened by a lion like that! Our walking group also found a leopard after following up on the alarm call of a monkey. The walking trips in these great wilderness areas added a whole new perspective to our safaris.
In Lower Zambezi National Park we had a variety of activities—cruises up and down the river looking for birds, hippos, crocs, and elephants; fishing trips in search of the impressive tiger fish; game drives with great viewing of lions and elephants, as well as nocturnal mammals including civets, genets, thick-tailed bushbaby, and white-tailed mongoose; and wonderful guided walks.
We ended our safari with a final night viewing, and again in the early morning, of a female leopard and her cub on a kill. What a great way to end a phenomenal journey.