We left Lilongwe mid afternoon with our new Dutch friends and made our way to Chipata, Zambia. Chipata is the first town across the border and a good stop off before heading to South Luangwa National Park. The government is in the process of paving the road between Chipata and South Luangwa until that is finished it will remain hectic. We had dinner at a local restaurant before heading to our campsite for the evening.
Eating with your hands is not only acceptable but expected.
On the road to South Luangwa…
Grilled cheese for lunch on the road side.
Snack time. Merv gave the dried fish a try. We had been seeing these little dried delights for sale along our whole trip and it was time to give them a go.
Our arrival was perfectly timed with sunset.
Flatdogs is the closest lodge and campsite to the park entrance. We had heard good things about it and were not disappointed. During our first evening there our campsite was infiltrated with two hippos looking for their evening meal. We should have known something was up when we were instructed not to walk around camp with out a ranger escort after dark.
Pictured above is a sausage tree. The tree’s fruit is a favorite for hippos. They were all over the campsite.
We listened to the grunts of the hippos while falling asleep that night. The next morning we were up early to watch the sun rise and try to catch a glimpse of the wildlife starting the day.
We are looking over the Luangwa river. On the other side is the National Park, hence the hippos in our camp. There is estimated to be at least 50 hippos per kilometre of the Luangwa River.
After watching the animals wake up they came to do some observing of their own. A herd of about 10 elephants hung out in the camp for several hours. We were a little nervous while snapping this photo. We had to run and our computers were still out. The elephants have a reputation of being destructive but not without cause. One cause is when they are looking for food and two when they are threatened or upset. Fortunately, neither of those situations applied to this circumstance.
Another cause for worry. A tree stand in the campsite. We were quite happy to be up there when the elephants started moving through.
Before even entering the park we had seen hippos, elephants, crocs, baboons (they stole a big block of cheese right off our table), giraffes, and a variety of birds. We booked into an evening safari drive the day after we arrived. It started at 4:00 and went until 8:00. The timing was nice because you get two hours of day light and two hours of darkness.
Our guide spotted this leopard in the tree about 15 minutes into the drive. Absolutely awesome to see up close and in the wild. We stayed and watched it for about 10 minutes when it decided to get up.
The leopard climbed down the tree right in front of us and walked past the vehicle. You may be wondering if this was a safe move. We were told that the animals are use to seeing the vehicles and do not see them as a threat. However, if one was to get out of the game vehicle the scenario could change.
First rate hospitality, the game drive included sun downers and a light snack along the river.
We returned to camp feeling entirely fulfilled with our game drive. We had plans to go back into the park the next day on our own. When you buy a pass into the park it is for a 24 hour period. We woke up early the next morning and set out again into the park.
This lagoon was my favorite spot to watch the hippos. They were gobbling up leaves as they walked through the water. Usually during the day they are not so lively.
Our Dutch friends were bird enthusiast and taught us a lot during our few days with them. Pictured here is a Pied Kingfisher. I had never really been into birding but found myself enjoying the birds as much as the big game. It definitely helps being with someone who already has a lot of knowledge about the types of bird and which ones are rare verses common.
We had seen this owl on our night drive and went back to the same tree to take a longer look. We were probably staring at it for five minutes when one of us realized a second one was staring at us. The species is a Great Eagle Owl. It was absolutely stunning.
The giraffe were fairly abundant both in and out of the park. During our self drive we stopped and took a nap under a tree, in the car of course. Sounds funny but it was mid day and fairly hot out. When we parked we saw a lone giraffe in the distance. It appeared as if it was walking towards us but was still far off. It slowly made its way towards us and stopped about 70 yards out. For the next hour the giraffe kept it’s distance but stared in our direction. Bizarre!
After 3 days at South Luangwa National Park it was time to depart our new friends. We had enjoyed the companionship and security of another vehicle but had to be on our way to pick up friends in Livingstone. We left very satisfied with our experience and the rich amount of wildlife we were able to see.