Zambia (Part 2)

South Luangwa National Park



Sabbatical 2010





South Luangwa National Park, in Eastern Zambia, is about 700km north of Lusaka. It is a wild place. We stayed at Mushroom Lodge, once belonging to Pres. Kenneth Kaunda, and at Mfuwe Lodge, famous for their elephants that walk through the lobby of reception to eat wild mangos. We saw many lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and much more. The twice-daily game rides remained special, albeit long days for the girls. Our schedule: Wake-up and snack at 5:45am; Game ride from 6:30-10:30; Brunch at 11am; Siesta until 4pm; Night ride from 4:30pm-8pm; Dinner at 8:30pm; Bedtime by 10pm. Long but rich and beautiful days. The food was wonderful, the guides very knowledgeable, and the animals more than willing.

A dry woodland with towering mopane trees, animals congregate along the Luangwa River and its lagoons. Game viewing is easy.

From the Wikitravel site:

"South Luangwa is home to a dazzling array of wildlife. You'll see hippos and crocodiles as soon as you cross the bridge over the Luangwa River, and elephants are hard to miss along the river's banks. Thornicroft's giraffe, with white legs and faces, and Crawshay's zebra, without the brownish "shadow-stripe" of common (Burchell's) zebra, are both endemic to the park and easily spotted. Herds of buffalo roam the park, along with several prides of lions. The density of leopards is among the highest in the world, although spotting these nocturnal creatures can be tricky. All sorts of antelopes abound: impala are ubiquitous, the puku — rarely seen outside Zambia — is almost as common and there are plenty of waterbucks and bushbucks too. South Luangwa is a dream come true for birdwatchers, with over 400 species recorded. Depending on who you ask, the best times to go are November-December (when the rains start), April-May (when they end) or August-September (when the water levels are at their lowest)."

A few select memories:

  • The resident elephants walking through reception coming to eat their beloved wild mangos.
  • The girls being woken 5:30am when two baboon were fighting on our deck, three yards from their beds.
  • The guards escorting you to your chalet after dark.
  • Us being driven to our chalet because of lion on the property!!
  • Prides of 10 lion as close as 15 yards away.
  • An elephant eating leaves 2 yards off our deck, with us watching from above.
  • More hippo than we can tell.
  • Hearing the call of the fish eagle regularly.
  • Seeing a puku calf a minute or two after birth, still in the placenta, being licked clean by its mom.
  • Taking a shower while looking out over the river with elephant, impala, warthogs, waterbuck, and baboon in view. The chalets have no windows!
  • Off the deck we saw just about every animal except the elusive leopard and hayena.
  • Great food and interesting people.
  • We'll return when the girls are 12 (but hopefully sooner) to do a bushcamp and walking safari. The stories we heard from fellow guests were beyond enticing.

South Luangwa National Park is truly one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Here are some of the images etched in our minds.

Sunsets to remember with hippo just "hanging"

Thornicroft's giraffe, unique to South Luangwa National Park

The pool at Mushroom Lodge. Morning drive with Ernest. Next time we'll stay longer at Mushroom Lodge's roomy lodging.

We loved Mfuwe Lodge offering a view to die for. Some mornings you eat a lavish brunch in the bush, prepared over a fire. The photo of the elephant below was taken 2 yards from our deck! The girls loved the swimming pool watching elephant, baboon, waterbuck and buffalo, amongst a few animals, from the water's edge. We saw lion regularly from the deck next to the swimming pool. Guide Steve taught the girls much, including about the fruit of the sausage tree. They even celebrated Halloween, thanks to Aunt Beth!

Animals of all shapes and sides. The "Hershey Kiss" is vervet monkey poo!! I almost fooled the girls into trying the "chocolate." We saw both puku and impala shortly after birth. The mother eats the placents to gain back nutrients. We saw a few civits. The Boabab tree is the biggest in South Luangwa National Park.

Elephants remain a love. Here the cow dug a hole in the sandy river bed to give water to her young. Due to a genetic link, the elephants are small in size and have even smaller tusks. The latter might have saved many elephants from poachers.

Many hippo, feeding at night on the fruit of the sausage tree as they await the rainy season, wonder around. In the setting sun they shine pink.

For birders there is much to see. I love the African Fish Eagle and there are MANY in the park. Their call seemed to follow us whereever we went. Two different snake kites and an owl. The girls loved its pink eye lids. We heard and saw fish eagles regularly, but somehow I never got a good picture. A ground hornbill prancing around.

Luangwa has many prides of lion. The buffalo next to the young male lion was attacked as she was giving birth. Those who saw the kill said she gave no resistance. We saw the pride a hour before and an hour after the kill. All in all we saw more than 40 lion, trying not to count the same lion twice. Shaka was promoting his gene pool as the dominant male lion in the Mfuwe area. It is tiring work, as his big yawn shows.

We saw a few hayena. There was plenty to eat

We looked for leopards everywhere, but we saw only 3 of the elusive cats, all at night.

The girls made me promise that we'll return to South Luangwa National Park. We all had a wonderful time!