It’s dark outside, not because its night time but we are booked on a Sunrise Game drive. I am excited for what South Luangwa National Park has to offer. I clap my hands and a porter arrives to escort me to the meeting point where freshly brewed coffee is waiting with some biscuits. It goes down smoothly and was worth the wait. My jacket is pulled on, camera in my pocket and I get to rub the last of the sandman away from my eyes. We all excited as we get into the 4×4, where Martin introduces himself.
The Safari starts off slowly with talks and stops of the vegetation, shrubs and trees. There are 5 different species of vegetation in South Luangwa we are told. It is show and tell and the sausage tree takes the next bow. We all very interested in the information that is being poured out to us, and we sit patiently waiting till we meet up with the Big 5.
Martin describes how the termites and red ants have their own battles, he jokes that we all wanted to see a kill. He tries to convince us that he accepted the challenge, and mission accomplished. We all burst out laughing and hope he is joking about this. He shows us seeds that are used to dye materials.
Then we do more stops on the various birds we see. There are 5 different types of hornbills he explains. As Martin drives he points out this bird in the sky and that bird. We all soon realize he is a birder for sure and we secretly hope he loves the big animals just as much.
Slowly we drive scanning the area and by now we have all taken photos of every tree and bird, finally we meet the Pukka – Zambia’s indigenous antelope.
At the baboons he tells us a story. He has another interesting story to tell us about the 2 different types of waterbucks and we listen carefully to each word as we take photos. We on an adventure and our senses are awakened to the sounds, sights and Martin’s good story telling. We eagerly wait to see more wildlife, the dangerous ones is what we are all after.
The morning sun has broken through and the grasses and roads are starting to take on a shimmer and sparkle from the morning dew. There is a slight breeze in the air and the road is bumpy. As we turn around the corner we see the gentle elephants slowly walking, yes gentle. We came across so many elephants that day and for once I never ever felt afraid, I realized the reason is: one, the locals cycle and walk through this area, and when they come across the elephants they respect them by giving them right of way. Secondly the elephants have never been threatened. It was a warm feeling knowing that we could come so close to them and neither of us feeling threatened. We took our time taking photos. We met many herds and some had calves, beautiful gentle giants of South Luangwa.
Giraffes were now spotted, plenty of them all rubbing against the tall thorn trees stopping to chew on a leaf or two, some walking gracefully across the road flashing their long eyelashes.
And then as we continue on our game drive we spot the Painted Wolf or wild dogs as they are also known, yes right in front of us. Not in a fenced enclosure but roaming and taking full control of the area. A pack of wild dogs walking and scouting, there must have been a kill as the one is carrying leftover food in his jaw. Then we spot the hyenas trailing behind and above vultures are circling. I felt as if National Geographic had just become live on a screen. We were all so excited and an energetic hush comes over us as we video and take photos. Our eyes are darting this way and that, trying not to miss out on anything. We felt satisfied and thrilled on witnessing this magic moment.
That evening we did another Safari drive and again we were not disappointed, in fact it was the best sunset Safari I have ever experienced in my life. Trust me I have been on many Safaris through Africa and this was the first time I had seen so much wildlife. I am not going to bore you with the leopard we saw or the family of Lions with 3 baby cubs. Did I mention a tower of giraffes sleeping, we learnt they sleep sitting up. And about 5 genets, owls, baby hippos, yes I could go on; this was all in one Sunset Safari. So if you want to experience what I saw and maybe more, get to South Luangwa National Park, only in Zambia.
Photo credit to Kerstin Bahnmuller for the Wild dog photos. Special thanks to Mahogany Air and Zambia Tourism Authority for hosting us.
This piece was published in hard copy and online by Afro Tourism Magazine