Today was another gorgeous day in the bush, my last full day. We started out at the usual time and soon found a whole group of baby banded mongoose in a tree stump. No adults were in sight, so it must have been the nursery! Buoyed by this adorable sighting we enjoyed the elephants, giraffes (including two neck fighting), and zebras we encountered. There were a few hyena on patrol and lots of vultures eating the final pieces of the dead elephant, but not much else was stirring. We gave the leopard area our best attempt but came up short. The impala was still in the tree, untouched since we'd seen it the night before. Kudu and waterbuck and plenty of impala and puku were out, as usual. We headed to where we'd seen the two male lions a few days back but soon got word they had moved on, so we turned back. We were almost back to the lodge when we heard the mother lion and her two cubs were nearby, so we went to find them. They were there, lying about, but it wasn't a terribly exciting time for them, so we let them be after a few minutes.
After a delightful lunch and a lovely siesta, it was time for my final afternoon/evening drive. As I got into the vehicle the lodge manager told me he'd managed to get me on a later flight out of Mfuwe tomorrow so I could spent a leisurely morning at the lodge and not have to spend eight hours at Lusaka airport. Success!
We set off in search of the lions and the wild dog, whose tracks had been spotted for the first time in days. We came up short on both counts but very much enjoyed the drive and the usual animals. The red billed queleas were in fine form again tonight. These remarkable seed-eaters band together in swarms of very large numbers, into the millions I've heard. These were likely a few thousand strong, and they moved in a seemingly coordinated wave, up in the air, down to the ground, up, down, around. It's a truly beautiful thing to watch.
Near the leopard area we found a hyena lying on its side, flicking its tail. Elias wondered if it was waiting for a leopard nearby to leave its kill so it could scavenge. But a thorough search produced nothing. So we headed to the nearby riverbank for sundowners. The drinks were just being poured when we started hearing the telltale calls of the impala and puku warning their herds that a leopard was nearby. We decided to pack it in and search out the cat especially since the family hadn't seen one yet. So, drinks in our hands, we piled back in and set back out.
The antelope were definitely on guard, but we couldn't find anything anywhere, even following their gazes. We were just about to give up when we all saw her at once, perched on a too-small-for-her branch in a tree next to the road. She had been on foot and jumped up when the antelope got wind of her (literally) and was now weighing her options. She had both back legs splayed over the branch on either side and was quite chilled out. She tolerated our oohs and ahhs and cameras and even preened a bit. This was the same cub who'd had the impala and aardvark the day before. Just as another vehicle approached she popped up on her branch, balancing like a professional, and then slowly climbed down. I think I caught this on video. She walked back into the thick grass, and we let her be.
The family jumped in another vehicle to head back, and I buckled down for the final night drive. The bugs were still bothersome tonight but nothing like yesterday. We did our rounds in the area finally returning to where we'd seen the cub earlier, and then we spotted her. Except that we soon realized it was actually her mother, Limping Mother leopard. The cub had disappeared. LML likes vehicles, and she took us on a short walk, marking a few trees with her scent, playfully batting a downed tree with her front paws, and staying entirely within view. We watched for a while but she didn't seem keen to hunt, so we went to find other night creatures.
I was really hoping to see a honey badger, but it was not to be. But we did see both a civet and a porcupine in open enough areas that I got photos, and a genet popped up in front of us with a freshly-caught mouse in her mouth. But she quickly ran off to enjoy her dinner. We wound in and out of the areas off the main road but didn't see anything else before arriving back at the lodge. Another lovely dinner under a sky full of stars, and now it's time for my last early night and early rise of this trip. It has been idyllic!
|So many baby mongooses!|
|Mother and babies - vervets|
|Giraffes neck fighting|
|Dead elephant, complete with vultures, many days after its natural demise.|
|Lions! Same group from a few days before.|
|Showing off his best side|
|Absolutely gorgeous leopard|
|The tongue cracks me up|
|Time to get down and hunt|