Wednesday, July 20, 2011

South Luanga, Zambia

(Photos at end. Frustrating computer...)

Once our travel troubles getting to Chipata ended, Zambia got much more applause from us and become our close encounter country. While transportation in this country was never easy, it was doable. However, the difficulty of getting around Zambia did ultimately play a huge factor in us deciding to stay only a brief period.

After hanging out a day in Chipata to regroup and catch up on sleep we met four British women also heading to South Luangwa National Park, reputedly one of the best parks in Africa. The next morning the six of us wazungus (white people) got on a minibus for Mfuwe village and the park. The ride itself was quite an experience. We fit 23 people in a 16-seat minibus and the top of it was loaded up with luggage, grains, and a new stove. There was no starter so anytime we stopped to let people on or off, which was frequent, several people were required to push start us. Moving the front windows down required just pushing them until they dropped into the door. You could see them. There wasn’t any inside paneling and many of the main parts of the bus, including the stick shift and door handles, were made of rebar. This minibus was quite possibly the most dilapidated vehicle I’ve ever been in and we traveled for 5 ½ hours on quite possibly the most dilapidated road I’ve ever been on. Anne and I scored the two seats up front and had the most comfortable ride of all on board. The dirt road had more potholes than flat stretches and the journey was a bit wearisome.

We made no reservations and found out the place we intended to go to didn’t allow camping during the busy season, so we joined Tellulah and Jo at Marula Lodge. Turns out we scored big time. The woman who just bought it is awesome and since the dorms are above her house and she’s not too keen on hearing stomping feet all night, she upgraded us to two en suite chalets for the same price. These were some of the most comfortable digs we’ve had on this trip. Plus, her staff was incredibly friendly and the grounds were lovely.

Jenny (the owner) woke us up at 7:20 the next morning to say there was an elephant in the garden if we wanted to see it. Turns out there are a few who frequent the property all day and come quite close to the bar/restaurant area and we beat our Etosha record of getting close to an elephant. We’re at 5 feet and counting now. Shortly after the elephant wandered away, Tellulah and Jo said there was also a pride of lions across the river that just killed a buffalo. Seriously.

We spent all day watching the lions – one male, approx six females, and three cubs – eating their kill, sleeping, and chasing off crocodiles and hippos. The river was wide enough that we were completely safe and had an unbelievable vantage point to watch their feasting. By the next morning the lions were gone and the crocs had finished off the buffalo and dragged it underwater. Talk about timing - we are so lucky.

The following day we did two game drives, one in the morning and one in the evening. Both were fantastic and we got to see a lot – giraffes, elephants, zebras, warthogs, baboons, hippos, crocs, a leopard, two genets, and more lions. The giraffes were a subspecies called Thornicraft which had darker patterns that ended at the knee. The zebras were also a subspecies and they didn’t have a brown “shadow” stripe so the black and white contrast was much more pronounced. The leopard was a highlight because I had only ever seen one at night before. This smaller guy had recently killed an impala and dragged it up a tree to feast in peace, and good thing because a spotted hyena was pacing underneath eager for any morsels to drop.

At the very end we came across a lioness and three cubs sleeping by the side of the road. Our
guide thought they could be from the pride yesterday that ate the buffalo. They were likely tired and satiated as the guide said, but still we got uncomfortably close to them to the point that Jo (who was in the lowest and closest seat on the truck) had to ask the guide to move further away. We were at most four feet away from a very, very large lion who was staring us straight in the face and could easily have jumped up and eaten us if she wanted to.
The trip to the park and Malula Lodge was awesome. We should have stayed longer…

seriously within striking distance

jeanette's so good with a camera!

leopard. really.

black spotted hyena looking for donations from the leopard

will you scratch that for me?

jo and tallulah 5 feet from mr. elephant

lions eyeing up the crocs who are trying to steal their lunch


hippo seeking attention because it doesn't actually eat buffalo

stop that! it's MINE!!

look! eagles are scavengers in africa too!


1 comment:

  1. The picture of the hippo in the river with the sunset is incredible. The hues are stunning! I hope the rest of your travels continue safely. This is the best reading material---let me know when I can edit your book. :) Smooches Pookie and Anne!