Saturday, December 12, 2015

South Luangwa Day Three - PM

Rain was the theme for this afternoon. Ever since the ten day forecast online showed the days I'd be on safari I was stalking it for rain updates. November is the beginning of the short rain season, but they often begin later in the month. I had wanted to come here in October, but the rates were almost double   what they were for November, so I decided I'd risk a little rain. In some parks the first rain means a complete dispersal of game and tougher viewings because there are more water holes and the grass starts to grow. My internet research told me that the first few rains in November would be fairly short and shouldn't interfere too much with wildlife sightings. So even when the Tuesday afternoon/Wednesday morning rain predictions grew to higher percentages, I decided not to worry. Too much.

When I woke up from my post-lunch nap (a hard life, I know), there were clouds in the distance, but it was still pretty clear by the lodge. I couldn't see the lions from this morning while I was having tea on the veranda, but we decided to go look for them anyway. And, sure enough, they were there. I was wrong earlier - it was a mother and two growing cubs, but one was male and one female. And at the moment they were being backed away from their resting spot by an angry elephant who wanted them gone in the worst way. The female cub (probably a few years old) had already retreated, but mom and son stood their ground for a moment before giving up and finding a new spot to rest. Mom wore a radio collar and is said to be an excellent huntress. The cubs, however, are still learning. This was proven to be true when the female cub took off across the field heading for some antelope and using the gully as cover. Her plan was reasonably sound except that the angry elephant and two of its friends were now in the gully and caused quite a ruckus when they saw her trying to hunt. They were loud enough to chase off all the antelope, and the cub sulked in a mud hole in the gully. Mom and son had stood at the sound of the elephants but now lay back down, Mom almost seeming to sigh and shake her head. We left them be and headed off.

The next two hours were very quiet as we explored some less traversed areas of the parks, seeing lots of evidence of animals but few actual animals aside from impala, puku, and baboons and monkeys. We spotted a few shy bushbuck and one female Sharpe's grysbok, a tiny little antelope. There was evidence of both lions and buffalo having been there, but it was quiet now. We continued to explore the thickets before heading to the river bank for sundowners, kept company by baboons, impala, puku, and hippos and crocs in the water. 

We had stayed sunny and dry thus far, but the rain cloud on the horizon was drawing nearer, and the thunder and lightning were closer and more frequent. We pressed on anyway, seeing the dogs a bit down the river bank. We drew closer to them and watched as the puppies played and jumped and howled and then rushed to see some of the adults as they returned, possibly with food to regurgitate. A few of the adults looked at the nearby puku, but it was almost dark now, and they don't see well at night. We left them and pressed on.

It took longer to really get dark tonight than it has the past two nights, and the DLTs seemed to take longer to settle down into the fields. We saw another vehicle stopped and saw, as we pulled alongside, the male leopard from earlier enjoying his impala. It was still under the same tree. This time he let us watch him eat for a few minutes, spotlights and all, before retreating away from the light. We left him in peace, as did the other vehicle, and headed on. Soon after Elias said the rains were close and we should head back. It was 7:00 so not too much earlier than normal, and I was pleased that the rains held off for as long as they did. But they came with a vengeance once we reached the main road. We all hurriedly put on our rainjackets, and I bundled my camera and binoculars in their bag under my jacket. We drove quickly, and the rain was that stinging type that hurt your face. I covered my face with my hood and held on tight. Luckily we were only a few minutes away from the lodge, but it was enough for me to be soaked from the knees down. Not too bad, all things considered. I was met with a dry towel instead of the usual cold one, which I accepted gratefully. I decided to go back to my room and change before dinner. 

As we walked to my room (there's always an escort at night in case animals are nearby), the walkways were getting very wet and water was pooling. Killian, the manager, asked if I might want to dine in my room, and I gratefully agreed. I took a shower and changed into pajamas and then enjoyed a lovely dinner in my chalet, watching the lightning and listening to the thunder outside. And now it's only 8:15, and I'm ready for bed! I might get a full eight hours tonight; I told them not to wake me early if it was still raining, so we'll see what the morning brings. The positive thing is that the rain is supposed to taper off in the morning, and that's the last of rain on the forecast for the week. So here's to cooler temps and happier animals!

Elephant/lion standoff on pause for a moment.

And there it goes again. 

Very relaxed young man.

I love this photo with the tongue!

Notice Mom's tracking collar.

The young female, an independent spirit.

Getting ready to explore.

Warily checking his sister's adventures.

Hiding from elephants in the gully.

Chasing out the sister.

No eating antelope on her watch!

See how close the lions are to the lodge?

The main building is on the left, my building is the one on the very right.

This building has two rooms; mine is on the right, obscured by the tree.

Sharpe's grysbok!

The grysbok again.

It's hard to tell, but the dogs are on the riverbed hunting here.

Red-billed quelea

Leopard again!

He's back for his antelope.

He was much more tolerant of visitors at night.

Blurry head, but that tongue!