I should mention something sad about South Luangwa. I found an old guidebook from the '70's that said the park was famous for its large black rhino herd. There were a few thousand rhinos in the park. Within 20 years, however, the entire herd had been poached to extinction. I have also read that the elephant herds had also felt the pressure from time to time. This was somewhat surprising since we did see quite a few elephants. On the other paw we DID come across a carcass of an elephant that had been poached just outside of the park boundary. We essentially followed a cloud of vultures to the stinking corpse. It was a rather sobering experience.
And now pics and stories! I'll lead off with one of those crocodiles I saw from the bridge leading into the park. There were quite a few basking in the sun.
One animal that was found all over the park were hippos. We had many encounters with them. The best was when a parade of hippos was walking from one pond to another. They walked right past a pride of lions. At one point this little baby hippo walked within a few feet of a lioness. Would the lioness go for it? Our guide said it could go either way. If the lion got caught by mama hippo, however, the hippo would likely snap the lioness in half. Alas, no drama. The 2 groups passed in the night. These hippos were right at the entrance of the park.
I also mentioned "strange antelope" in yesterday's post. We quickly learned that this was a puku. They were found all over the park in great numbers, but I guess they are not widespread across southern Africa. This one was wandering right off of our balcony. The egret walked along with the puku in hopes that its hooves would stir up tasty bugs.
As I also mentioned yesterday a group of elephants wandered through the lodge grounds. We kept a nice safe distance until they wandered down into the channel.
Also found in the channel was a waterbuck. I really loved these guys! They have a big white ring around their butts. This was my first pic of one. I took a much better one a few days later. It became one of my favorite pictures from the trip.
At one point I wandered down into the channel and just soaked up the scene. This pic doesn't look like much, but to me it captured a deep meaning. I called this shot "Eden" because at that moment it certainly felt like I found the Garden of Eden. The air was warm and still but alive with the sounds of birds. If you look closely you can see baboons, elephants, and puku all living harmoniously together. It was such a splendid moment.
Speaking of baboons, they were everywhere around the lodge. These guys were hanging out on the balconies of the cottages. I made the mistake of leaving my copy of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" out on the balcony one day. When I went to get it later, it was full of teeth marks. *lol* We learned to pay attention to the barks of the baboons. If they started going nuts, we knew that a large predator was close by.
Speaking of large predators, the park is also famous for its large population of leopards. Very early one morning on our game drive, we heard barking baboons and crying pukus. Just then we catch a glimpse of a leopard running across the road with a baby puku in its jaws. I quickly swung up my camera and managed to get off a few pics before the leopard disappeared into the brush.
The other great leopard encounter was during a night drive. I don't have any pics of it, but I do have some video. We were watching a large pride of lions all crashed out near a water hole. Baboons were going nuts but we assumed it was because of the lions. Suddenly a leopard comes strolling down a small channel and right into the pride of lions. There was an "Oh shit!" moment as they all stared at one another. The leopard took off with a couple of male lions in pursuit. The chase only lasted a few yards as the lions gave up and returned to their nap.
Of course there were lions in the park. Most of our encounters with them, however, seemed to be at night so there weren't too many pics. Later in Botswana, however, I managed to get a LOT of lion pics. Those will be in a later post. We did manage to spot this one lioness fairly close to the road during the daytime.
There we also numerous encounters with "traditional" African animals. It was almost a joke that by the 3rd or 4th day were were already saying, "Oh yeah. Another zebra. Whoopie. Another giraffe." *lol* They were everywhere! It was nice, however, to see them in their natural habitat and not in some zoo.
And now something for furahi
Yeah, I was singing "Hakuna Matata" quite a bit.
Oh, and warthogs had this weird habit when they ate. They kneeled down to get closer to the grub. OK. Insert your own joke here about warthogs getting down on their knees.
So I think that should cover S. Luangwa. I suppose I should mention something about insects. This park has so much wildlife because of the tsetse fly. Because the flies were so prevalent, very little development for livestock was done. I was a bit concerned because they carry sleeping sickness which is fatal to humans. And yes, I was bit MANY times. Those fuckers are worse than horseflies! Fortunately there was no occurrence of the disease going on, so the risk was minimal. The flies prefer large bovines. When you're walking around, they don't bother you. When you're in a vehicle, however, you are large like a buffalo so they will attack. It was really weird. The other insect I should mention are bees. I had to learn to not swat at bees that were bothersome. This was Africa. ALL bees were Africanized a.k.a. killer bees! There were also mosquitoes which is one of the deadliest animals in all of Africa since they spread malaria. Unfortunately malaria is now resistant to quinine in Africa so I had to take some meds with some nasty side effects. Fortunately they were mild in me but suicidal tendencies is one. Could you see me running at a 15' croc yelling, "Eat me!"
Stay tuned for more pics and stories!