We departed Lusaka on September 7th on our first organized tour ever and headed North East along the Great Eastern Road for a long drive to our pit stop in Petauke. The drive took us through many small villages and one of the things that really stands out was the name of some of the roadside businesses. “Tell Jesus Barber Shop”, “Happy Boozing Place” and “God Willing Hair Salon and Battery Charge Station” were just a few of some very hilarious names.We had a nice little bungalow in Petauke and departed early the next morning for our 2 night stay in South Luangwa National Park. Along the way we passed through many small villages and when we slowed down the local roadside vendors tried to sell us their goodies… skewered roasted field mice. Now I am usually quite adventurous and will try pretty well anything but I decided to pass. Not enough garlic and pepper for my liking plus they were very well done when they should have a little pink in the middle!
As we neared South Luanga National Park we entered the town of Kakumbi which sits on the south banks of the Luanga River and the point where we crossed an ancient old bridge spanning the river. The town is well-known for the dried river bream fish they sell at roadside stalls.
Our final stop for the next two nights was Wildlife Camp. It was a great spot with camping and bungalow accommodation along the banks of the Luangwa River. We felt a big ping of yearning to be camping again, just the two of us, no schedule or regimentation that was driving us crazy with this group tour. Wildlife was abundant in the area with elephants, giraffe, monkeys and baboons wandering freely throughout the camp. We did two fantastic game drives the next morning and evening and this along with the children in Malawi was the highlight of our 10 day tour.
South Luangwa National Park
We left at 6:00 am the next morning for our first drive and it was not disappointing. Elephants, giraffe, wildebeest, impala and lions and a leopard. As we approached a bend in the road we saw several vehicles stopped. Obviously something interesting caught their attention. As we neared I spotted the attraction, two female lions feasting on a recent kill of an African buffalo. We pulled up and were within 5 metres of the lions but there was more. In a nearby tree a leopard sat patiently, probably waiting for the lions to leave so it could get a free meal before the vultures and hyenas arrived. We sat watching for probably 15 minutes and then departed to allow other safari vehicles to get their chance to see this amazing sight. This was by all means a very successful morning drive but there was more, much more to come on the evening drive.
We actually had a few hours to relax after our morning drive and we looked forward with anticipation for the evening drive hoping to revisit the lion kill site and see some lion cubs that were reportedly seen in the morning but we had yet to see so far in any of our 3 plus months in Africa. We were not disappointed. As we neared the kill site and no more than 15 metres away we saw them. Not one, not two but four young lion cubs making their way to the kill. And as an added bonus three more lionesses had joined the party along with a huge flock(?) of vultures and nearby in the tree, the leopard still waiting patiently. What could be better than this? You will soon see.
That was just great. Wow! We left the lions in peace and drove to the banks of the river to watch the sunset and have a small snack and sun-downer (drink). Another beautiful sunset and then we headed off with our spotter and his spotlight to see what nocturnal animals would emerge in the darkness. We saw a Civet, a white-tailed mongoose and nearly hit a very large hippo as he ran across the path in front of us. Things became a little confusing as our driver took a quick diversion from our path, dimmed his lights and drove slowly out into an open field. What’s going on we wondered? How can he even see where he’s driving? As we approached the open area the guide mentioned a leopard had been spotted preparing for a kill. Within minutes Joyce spotted in a moment of light the leopard no more than 3 metres away from us crouched down and waiting stealthy. The truck came to a stop and we waited using red lights to see the leopard, apparently this color of light does not bother them or the nearby impala she was stalking. What a sight. We waited close to 20 minutes and then bam! It happened so fast but the leopard made its move and in a blink of an eye had made it’s kill. Incredible and this is something we were told is rarely witnessed. We watched in awe as she slowly suffocated what looked like a very large pregnant impala and then through several bursts of energy dragged the limp animal towards a large tree. The leopard made a couple of attempts to haul its prey up the tree but failed each time. In the mean time, a male leopard showed up and prowled nearby and then made an attempt to steal the prey but was thwarted by the very exhausted but determined female leopard. She made one final attempt to drag the impala up the tree and almost made it but she lost her grip and both fell several metres to the ground. Extremely exhausted at this point she decided to start eating her prey to either lighten the load or at least get something out of her kill before scavengers showed up. This is another one of those “we will never forget” moments. Amazing.