**Pictures will be uploaded on better wifi
Another early morning for a morning game drive! I am beyond excited! Pickup time is 6am and I am ready to go! The goal of today is Leopard, although I am trying to keep my expectations low, as this can be a rare sighting.
Our driver is Moses, and he is really great. He seems to have a lot of knowledge and is great at fielding our questions. We head out to South Luangwa National Park, and along the way we spot Elephant. Once we get into the park, we cross the river and what I can only assume to be at least a hundred hippo all in the water. I spot some baby hippo as well. Mixed in, you can also spot some crocodile! I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing Hippo. It is crazy since most of them are all together and just look like rocks in the river.
We saw some different bird species, and some antelope with babies. We also spotted a large male Kudo who was feeding on some type of fruit. Then Moses speaks to another driver, as we are off! This was definitely a time when you held on with both hands. There are 9 of us in a 4×4 safari vehicle, with just bars on the sides to keep us in! Thankfully he is a skilled driver, but I may have some bruises come in from this ride! We pull up to a pack of Wild Dogs who are getting a drink by some Water Buffalo. Wild Dogs are an extremely rare sighting since they are practically extinct. In this herd, there are over 20, with a good number of pups. The markings on them make them almost look like Hyenna and they are very cool to watch. Once they leave, we head back out and spot some Zebra. The colors on the Zebra in this park seem to be a lot more vibrant! We also spot a very masculine warthog!
As we are traveling through, the pack of Wild Dogs cross in front of us, after a gizelle. It was so amazing to see them chasing down an animal, although sadly, which it is weird to say that, it got away. The pack then took this oppertunity to rest under the shade of the trees. We were so close to them, we really got to check them out, and we waited around a bit to see if they would attempt a hunt or not. They did not. It was interesting to learn about them from Moses, about the alpha male and female, and how she is typically the only one to produce offspring, and she can have up to 16 in a liter. Also, once the pups are old enough, like the ones we saw, they join for the hunting activities, although they stay behind the pack and do not actually participate in taking down an animal.
Once we left the dogs we saw a Warthog with her very new baby, we saw some Giraffe, which again seemed much more brightly colored than some we have seen before in other parks. We also took a bit of a scary ride down to the river bed to check out these birds, I want to call them bee eaters, but I cannot recall their full name. They come to this park for 3 months to breed, and build their nest into the side of the river bank. There were hundreds, and they were so cool to watch and their colors are amazing! There was also a water monitor there who, by the looks of it, claimed some of the chicks for a meal.
We ended the morning back at the Hippos at the river, where I witnessed a Hippo pooping! He was standing out of the water to poop, and while he did, his tail acted a bit like a windshield wiper set on high, and sprayed it all about, pretty great!
After an exciting morning, we came back to camp for a really great brunch of bacon, eggs, beans and corn fritters, and then spent the rest of the morning/afternoon bumming around the campsite and pool.
We are limited to how far we can walk around camp, but we are allowed to make the trek over to reception, which I had to do to pay for the game drives. It is about a 5 minute walk parallel to the river bed, and you basically follow fresh prints made from a Hippo in the past couple of days. Again, super awesome, but it makes you a bit wary! Once again, we had an afternoon rain shower, but thankfully this one was a quick one, and did not create the mud as the day before.
The evening game drive starts at 4pm, and we are once again hopeful for Leopard. This park has a large population of Leopard, so it is one of the best oppertunities, if we are going to spot one. I am also hopeful for Lion.
Once again we see a lot of the animals we have been spotting. I also manage to get a tree to the face early on, but thankfully it barely left a mark and it didn’t get my eye. We do find a massive herd of Water Buffalo, over a hundred of them. It is unreal to see so many all together, and to be in the thick of them. We got to watch them move through, and one of the calves was making quite a fuss as its mother was taking a bit longer to get a drink at one of the puddles of water.
We spotted more Zebra, but this time with babies as well, as well as a mother elephant with her calf and a warthog with her babies. While we were heading to find a spot for sunset, Moses saw a fresh path with tire marks, so we headed in as well. Up in a tree was a dead Gizelle. This was a kill from a Leopard, but there was no Leopard in sight. He told us after sunset we would return, to see if the Leopard has also returned.
At sunset, he told us that the African Elephant got its name because the ears of it, look like the continent of Africa. I thought this was a fun fact.
After sunset, we now use a guide with a spot light to look in the dark for eyes. This is the time when you see a bunch of the smaller animals around the park, but also looking out for the Lion and Leopard. We went back to where the Gizelle was in the tree to no avail. However, shortly after Moses recieved a phone call, and once again we are on a wild ride! We arrive to see THE LEOPARD!! This makes number five, and it is so amazing. It is walking past, but with the low light, it is impossible to get a good picture. It was crazy to see it walking by, with its mouth slightly ajar. It is a bit scary to look at, as it looks quite fierce.
We are all so overjoyed by this sighting! The rest of the game drive is spent spotting smaller animals, but we also ran into a bunch of hippo out of the water grazing. It was funny spotting them, as they had a bit of a “caught in the act” look to them. Again, still cannot get enough of them!
We get back to camp in time for dinner, which is beef poikee and squash, which I really enjoy, as it is basically stew over rice.
We have super early 4am start again tomorrow as it is a 12 hour drive day, so I am off to bed early after dinner. Plus all the bugs are out again, and between being pinged by them the last two hours of the game drive and being surrounded at dinner, I am ready for some solace from them in my tent.
I should also mention, thankfully another incident free evening bathroom run!