02 – 03 September: South Luangwa National Park
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02nd September – South Luangwa National Park – Flatdogs
Today we pack all our stuff and make our payment to Croc Valley and head back to South Luangwa and take one of the Western tracks. After a short while we come across 3 hyenas moving with a purpose so we follow them for a while but lose them in the thick bush.
Hyena with a purpose – South Luangwa
We go on to explore the riverfront which is very pretty here as well, just as on the eastern tracks. There are some green floodplains which attract quite a bit of game. We watch some fishermen on their little wooden boats, and then see a hippo running very fast from some bushes, onto the floodplain and then it launches itself from the elevated river bank into the water with a loud splash. The fishermen are not as amused as we are.
Fisherman on the Luangwa River
Sunrise – South Luangwa
Photobombing Puku, South Luangwa
Crowned Cranes – South Luangwa
Run Hippo run! South Luangwa
Pukus, South Luangwa
Love you mom – South Luangwa
Giraffe Portrait, South Luangwa
After a while we come across the hyenas again, and discover their purpose. Two leopards are snoozing up a tree with an impala kill, which the hyenas clearly believe they are entitled to. It is funny to observe them watch the leopards and their kill wistfully waiting for scraps. In turn, we watch and wait wistfully for the leopards to show something more than a couple of spots and dangling paws.
Hyena, South Luangwa
Leopard up a tree – South Luangwa
Spotted Dreams – South Luangwa
Hyena wistfully hoping for some impala – South Luangwa
The leopards, which appeared to be a mother and her youngster are initially asleep but every so often wake up to nibble at what is left of the carcass. Most of it was consumed during the night.
Seriously, can it really be a comfortable arrangement? South Luangwa
Still waiting … and hoping. South Luangwa
Impala Breakfast. South Luangwa
After a while the youngster starts to descend from the tree. I am horrified, considering that in nature documentaries the hyenas are portrayed as a great danger to leopards, especially young ones – and the hyenas are literally inches away from it. But this one just hisses at the hyenas and climbs down the tree and struts its stuff around for a while before settling under another tree to have another snooze. The hyenas, rather than savagely attack it leaving the mother sad and bereaved, couldn’t give a toss. I make a mental note to start taking nature documentaries with a pinch of salt.
Spotted Fury – South Luangwa
What’s up there? Second thoughts about returning to the Impala breakfast perhaps?
Happy Elephant taking mud bath
It is getting hot, and it’s time to check into Flatdogs to take advantage of guides for walking and night drives – things that are a speciality of South Luangwa but you cannot do these activities alone as a self-driver. Flatdogs sits overlooking a beautiful part of the Luangwa river and we make the most out of it in a riverview tent.
River View Tent at Flatdogs, South Luangwa
The tent is simple yet spacious. It has a thatched shelter which is invaluable in this heat, and the bathroom is semi open-air. Mercifully it has a fan too so finally we can contemplate an afternoon siesta. The stern receptionist told us to keep at least 50m distance from all animals, especially the elephants. We find this extremely amusing – we are the elephant magnets, and the only way to follow that rule we would be to dig a tunnel 50m underground! One of the coolest things at Flatdogs, apart from the gorgeous sparkling pool with a little chute waterfall, is the restaurant which offers a la carte meals at whatever time you wish – even if you are on a fully inclusive package – and the food is varied and tasty. Keep an eye out on the daily specials! After a nice lunch, we have a siesta and shower – shared with the many cute frogs in the bathroom. It is funny how they relish the cold showers and recoil in disgust at any use of warm water.
Plotting his revenge after use of hot water. Flatdogs, South Luangwa
Refreshed, we join in for a game drive with a guide, where we meet up again with the leopard duo from the morning.
Cuddle time, South Luangwa
Then when the light was failing we saw a pride of very bloated, sleepy lions – we are told they had just feasted on a buffalo. I wonder whether that meant a buffalo each, judging by their bulging stomachs.
Sleepy Lions, South Luangwa
Undignified Stretch. South Luangwa
Then it was time for the night drive which I was really looking forward to, but I just couldn’t really enjoy it as it seems there was a disco in the bush – many cars, all with their strong lights that can be seen from far away and with no regard of shining them into the eyes of the animals. I am filled with guilt. We are treated to sightings of civet, genets and various other animals but none really close enough for a picture, which is probably a good thing as I am pretty sure the last thing any of those animals need is a throng of over enthusiastic flashing paparazzi to add insult to injury.
We arrive back at Flatdogs at around 8pm and enjoy a lovely dinner. It is nice not to cook and do the dishes every once in a while! After dinner we are escorted by the Flatdogs staff to our tent. During the night our tent is surrounded by elephants, really really close. They eat the leaves off the trees and shake some of them so that they drop their pods for them to eat. They really seem to relish these. We also get a couple of hippos right on the little tent verandah.
3rd September – South Luangwa National Park, Flatdogs
Again we are ready for adventure at the crack of dawn – time for a game walk! We learned a lot about signs of the animals in the bush – mainly poop, tracks, poop, mud swishes and did I mention poop? We saw some waterbuck, impala and elephant but everything seems to run away while we are on foot. The biggest surprise was seeing two elephant shrews – I had never seen any before and I had always assumed they were tiny. They are much bigger than I imagined, more guinea pig than doormouse! Unfortunately they are way to fast for me to take a photo.
Morning Game Walk – South Luangwa
Elephants – South Luangwa
After the walk we return back to Flatdogs and savour some time relaxing by the pool, until we are chased away by an elephant and the other guests furiously remind us of the 50m rule.
Flatdogs Pool, South Luangwa
Pool with a View – Flatdogs, South Luangwa
After a brief siesta we head off for another evening drive. We see all the usual suspects and in the night we see two leopard adults – A male which seems to have stolen a kill from a very angry female. The female is lying miserably on the ground, lights shining on her, her eyes shut tight. Guilt eats at me once again and mercifully we quickly move on from the sighting and leave them in peace.
Playing around with some of the compact camera’s fun settings – Miniature Elephant
Giraffes having a sunset snack – South Luangwa
Ghostly egrets, South Luangwa
Guest in the bathroom, Flatdogs, South Luangwa
Guardian of the sink, Flatdogs, South Luangwa
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