Sunday, January 10, 2016

South Luangwa - Day Six PM

This afternoon/evening's drive was absolutely lovely. But what I'm going to remember most are the bugs. The first rains bring a lot of new things - grass, waterholes, births, etc. But they also bring new bugs. Namely flying termites. Oh how I remember these things from Kidepo in Uganda after the first spring rains, but they were nowhere near as bad as tonight. It was a constant onslaught from these winged devils and their beetle friends. I had to keep my glasses tight to my face, my mouth and nose covered, and I was still constantly flicking them off of me. And don't even get me started on the ones who found ways up my pants and down my shirt. Shudder.

Let's back up. A lovely young family of four arrived at the lodge this afternoon, Lusaka dwellers who are frequent safari goers. Their two young girls were amazingly well behaved on the drive (you never know...), and they even correctly identified many animals (even the one still in diapers!). We spent the afternoon winding our way along the river, encountering lots of impala and puku and few giraffes and zebra. We drove unexpectedly in the path of a herd of eleven elephants heading to the river. They were presided over by a very pregnant matriarch and protected by a relatively mature bull with big tusks and a loud trumpet. There were two toddlers, babies between 1-2 years of age, one of them still nursing. They were a bit nervous, so we kept backing up, but after the bull did a mock charge and a trumpet he decided we were fine and moved on. 

We went a different way and met them at the river and watched them cross in an area where upon my arrival there had been no water but now the babies were up to their backs. They splashed and played a bit and made it to the other side with no casualties, much to the dismay of the crocs.

Now that the rains have come, the babies are coming too! We found a brand new impala, still wet from its birth, with mom licking him over and nudging him into the thicket as he tried out his legs. Several pukus not much older were also practicing their walking. It was lovely to see. 

There were several good vantage points for watching the Southern Carmine's bee eaters again, with swarms as large as this morning. Quite amazing. We stopped for sundowners, and then the family joined another vehicle to take them back to the lodge, while I continued on for a night drive.

Now that we knew where the leopards were it was easy to start our search. We were just starting our circuit around their favorite fields when we heard the baboons go crazy. So we followed the sounds to their source, and, sure enough, there was a leopard right there. It was the second of Limping Mother's cubs, a littermate of the one we'd seen earlier. She was a bit shy and kept to the thickets as she prowled. One baboon in particular was going absolutely nuts over her presence and was shouting and dropping branches and doing his level best to warn everything nearby. We shined the light on him and were treated to quite a show!

The leopard kept walking, crossing the road now and then to rub against trees and leave her scent, but she never really made a move to hunt anything. Maybe the baboons scared her off after all. We let her be and went to find her sister's kills. The impala was still in the tree, seemingly in the same state we had last seen it. I don't think she returned. We didn't find the aardvark but got sidetracked by a (live) porcupine who wanted desperately not to be seen.

A dozen or so hippos, including a few very young ones, were out grazing, and one of the babies seemed terrified by our presence, running in a zigzag and stumbling several times. His mom just watched. She seemed to be able to distinguish predator from vehicle, but the young one did not.

We saw several genets and another porcupine at a distance, as well as a mom and baby bush-tailed mongoose, but that was about it. Aside from a few hyenas, but they're becoming a bit old hat. Come to think of it, though, we saw one earlier who had a hurt leg, possibly broken. I'm not sure what will become of her. 

Back to the lodge we went, and I was so happy to be away from the bugs. But they were also evident in the lodge, though not quite so in-your-face. One of the staff found a small scorpion in the dirt by the main entrance and showed me. He said they're not poisonous but they do hurt when they sting. I had no intention of testing this out! And then it was time for dinner, a shower, and bed. Only one more full day left here.

Just born puku

Hyena with a bad leg

Elephants heading to the river 
More bee eaters in the air

Testing the waters

Halfway there!

Keeping baby in the middle 

Feeding frenzy once again!

Marking territory

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