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South Luangwa + Victoria Falls and Chobe


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@Kitsafari I'm so glad I'm not the only one who doesn't drink alcohol. The problem with rare sightings is they know when you can't photograph them properly. Every single rare bird alert I've ever made has been when I don't have a camera with a decent zoom, just my binoculars. I've received a lot of push back from people about rare sightings that don't have an accompanying photo, and I've learned not to care about the naysayers. They can think whatever they want, doesn't matter to me. I know what I saw, and they weren't there.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


I'm still putting together my list of birds seen, and I have an id thread going on over here: 


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It was my last day in South Luangwa. It felt bittersweet, because while I was ready to move on to my next destination, I felt that I could be here for years and see something new each day. My last day went off with a bang.


First, we had a send off of impala butts. They were in beautiful light.




As we came to the plain, a herd of twelve giraffe ambled across, walking with purpose and keeping an eye on the vehicle.


Next a family of elephants came across the plain, followed by another family of elephants. The matriarchs greeted each other, and there were 36 elephants in all. It's still hilarious to me to see the water lines on the adults compared to the babies who are just wet all over.






Both families of elephants and the giraffes had come from the same direction. We headed in that direction to see what had spooked them.

The answer was lions.


The ladies had caught an impala, and one male was chowing down while another male slept on the river bank.




The lionesses and cubs watched as the male refused to let anyone share the kill. Oh how the cubs tried. They tried so hard to get close to that kill.




At one point they must have because one cub chewed on a leg. 




The cubs kept crawling closer, slowly on their bellies, until the male thought they were close enough and snapped at the cubs. One cub, the youngest, tried to sneak up behind the male on the slope. The male turned around and swatted the cub, who slid back down the slope. The cub tried it again with the same results.




Bothering mom


The cubs were so anxious about it. They kept going back to the mothers and headbutting and trying to suckle. The cubs were very vocal about their dismay.


It was fascinating to watch the pride dynamic, especially because of that one male asleep on the riverbank. Had he already eaten? There wasn't going to be enough food on one impala for two adult males, three adult females, and five cubs.




Then the vultures showed up, keeping their distance in case the lions decided to eat them too. I still can't get over the blue eyes of the hooded vultures.




Close-up of the babies trying so hard, with mom behind them. You can clearly see their different ages:




We were the only people there, and we watched for about twenty minutes before anyone else showed up. We moved on once we saw the flock of vehicles coming our way. 


We found a herd of buffalo in a dried river. They were following some puku. The herd seemed like the young herd we had seen the first day.




Then, birds! I'm still compiling my list and still trying to identify everyone.





Also, the bushes had started to flower. It was incredible how quickly plants responded to just the hint of the rainy season.




During the midday break, I finally laid eyes on the jerk who had kept me up the night before hunting in the thatched roof: an immature Nile monitor. It eyed me ambitiously. 




Then it was my last night game drive and last chance to find the fishing owl.





We found a flock of Meyers parrots, and we checked on the lions, who were all passed out in undignified positions. Nothing that day could top the lions with a kill - unless we saw them take down an impala, which we did not. Once night fell, we saw the lionesses and cubs moving off towards the buffalo herd we had seen earlier.





We continued on found all sorts of interesting things including a young female leopard, a young male leopard being barked at by baboons, a genet in a tree, several mongoose, and a small herd of buffalo - old men, but no Pel's fishing owl. Guess I'm going to have to go back.



Edited by roseclaw
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The 4 cubs all pointed the same direction with Mom behind is an exceptional shot.

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I had a small breakfast before my taxi came to take me to the airport. We stopped at Tribal Textiles along the way, and I was able to see their workshop and purchase some gifts for my family.


I made it to the airport with time to spare. However, I never got used to the fact that there are no bathrooms after security. So I had to go back and forth as there would be no bathrooms on the tiny plane.


The flight to Lusaka was rough. I arrived, made it to the bathroom before grabbing my bag, and heading out to the tarmac again to board my flight to Livingstone.


The flight to Livingstone was so much worse, but it was a larger plane, and they had cold water. I had to stay on the plane to control my stomach so I didn't lose my lunch, that I had yet to eat. Everyone was very helpful. I flight attendant, Happy, did some breathing exercises with me, and every man offered to escort me to the terminal. I did not end up needing an escort, but I was still shaky when I left the plane.


Apparently, a retired general was on our flight, so the entire flight got a military welcome and a rose each. I ended up giving the rose to my driver, because what was I going to do with it? I told him to give it to his wife.


The Livingstone airport was the first place I saw pied crows.


Once I settled into my hotel room, a splurge, because I booked a room with an a/c unit, I stopped over at the tour office and booked three trips. I tried to book a fourth, but apparently I needed two people to book a bird trip. I booked a cruise on the Zambezi aboard the Lady Livingstone, a walking safari to see the rhinos, and a day trip to Chobe.


I took a nap, and then went to wait for the car to drive me to the David Livingstone hotel to board the Lady Livingstone.




I was still very queasy from the flight and the malaria pills, so I was not too worried about how much food would be served. Thankfully, I knew not to expect a full dinner, but I didn't want that. I wanted a peaceful trip along the river to see birds, and it was.




I settled onto the upper deck with a cola to settle my stomach and watched all the birds. There were a few new ones: darters and cormorants. There were not that many mammals, and there certainly weren't the numbers there were in South Luangwa. But it was also nice to just relax from my very stressful flights.



There was also a giant wooden fish for decoration, and I loved it.



I definitely took advantage of the unlimited drinks to suck down all the water I could.

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Mosi oa Tunya


The vehicle to pick me up at the hotel was a safari vehicle. I was the last to be picked up. I joined three Swiss, a Brit, and two Chinese women. Once we got to the park, there was a change of vehicles, we picked up a guard, and I stayed with the Swiss tourists.  The others were going to stay with the vehicle, and we would be walking. We parted ways after breakfast.


Wildebeasts watched us eat. They stayed a good distance away, and it wasn't until well after the vehicle left did the guide point them out. I think there's such an innocence to them, with their long faces. Although, I wouldn't want to be too close to them.




It was interesting to be on the ground after a week of being in the vehicle. I could see farther from the vehicle, but I could see different things from the ground.




Our guide kept asking questions about what we were seeing. He'd point out footprints and ask if we knew what was what and which direction they were going. He became very frustrated with me, because I was able to answer correctly. I mean, it's a horse footprint, so of course it's a zebra print. He even tried to be tricky and pointed to the guide's footprints and was upset when I said, "Wellington boot." Same with monkey prints. The tail was dragging so he wanted someone to say it was a snake. My dude, that monkey walked by not a minute ago. I watched it.

He also neglected to point out a flock of helmet strikes and a flock of woodhoopoes.




There were very few animals compared to South Luangwa. Too small a park and too close to people.




We rounded a corner, and a large vehicle came rumbling down the dirt path, and dumped greenery on the ground. A few moments later, the rhinos showed up. While it was amazing, it felt disingenuous. While the guards are with the rhinos at all times during the day, and the rhinos' locations are known throughout the day, the fact that the drought is so bad that they're feeding the rhinos was distressing.




I also felt we were way too close to the rhinos. While I was able to see every inch of their prehistoric skin, if one decided to charge, that would be it.




There was also a young one, about four months. It had a hard time staying upright for long periods of time.




We watched the rhinos for a good chunk of time, and then we went on to meet up with the vehicle again. On the way, we passed a South African giraffe, and it was interesting to see the difference between them and the Thornicroft giraffe. Same with the Burchell's zebra and the Crawshay's zebra.




We met up with the other tourists who stayed in the vehicle, and we went off to a spot for lunch along the river. There were openbills and sunbirds and a crested barbet.




From there, we got back in the vehicle to return people to their hotels, passing slowly through the park so see what else was there. The answer was not much but enough: one of this, two of that, with vast emptiness between them. That was how I knew exactly how spoiled I had been in South Luangwa.




After the safari, I went to high tea at the Royal Livingstone, and that was an experience. I sat out on the veranda, watching the river. Everything was delicious albeit a bit too sweet. The tea was lemon bush tea, and it was amazing. Smokey and creamy. I couldn't eat everything, but I was able to take home a box filled with the leftovers.






I had two red-winged starlings come investigate my tea, but they kept their distance.




I stayed to watch the sun go down over the falls.





Edited by roseclaw
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The military rose had to be a surprise.  Your high tea photos show quite an exquisite array of china and delicacies.   The elephant snorkel is a great catch.  Fine job spotting the Wellie tracks!

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19 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

Fine job spotting the Wellie tracks!


I noticed them when we first started out, because I always look for interesting tracks. It took me a moment to figure it out, but that was well before the guide asked.

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Chobe NP


This was one of the strangest border crossings I've ever done, and I'm glad I was with a tour and didn't need to navigate it myself.


There were six of us leaving from the hotel, and we met up with two more on the other side of the river. It took about an hour to get to the boat ramp, fifteen minutes after arriving at the border. That time was spent navigating around the massive trucks, vans, cars, and foot traffic. It was chaotic, but in a way that felt alive.


Our water taxi was waiting for us at the boat ramp, and we could see the progress of the bridge. It was nearly completed, but I doubt that will eliminate the traffic jam, just the need for a water taxi.


We crossed the river quickly and met our guide on the other side.


After immigration, we headed for a small tour outpost along the river. We passed many long tailed black birds too quickly for me to identify. Widowbirds? Magpie shrikes? Whydahs? No clue. They were sitting on the fences and phone wires.


We arrived at our destination ten minutes later. There was a dock, a kitchen, and a gift shop. Of course there was a gift shop. After using the toilets, we all boarded a small boat, and went down the Chobe River.


The light was amazing, and we ended up uncomfortably close to several animals, like water buffalo, hippos, and elephants.




I saw many firsts including mammals and birds not found on the other side of the river in Zambia. Sable and lechwe among the most frequent. Sable were so shy, though. 





There was also one Goliath heron. He looked a bit worse for wear, but he was indeed massive. There were so many fish eagles, too. So many. And I think that second picture of an openbill is the best I took this trip.


I didn't ask our guide to stop for every bird, because I know other people become frustrated stopping that frequently. I snapped photos to identify later. I'm still trying to sort everyone out.




At one point the Japanese tourists were taking pictures of a partially submerged log, thinking it was a croc, while she was sitting on the bank, watching her nest, not ten feet away.






I loved the juxtaposition of the red sand of the land and the green plants of the river. We came across so many buffalo, albeit too close for me, and hippos getting it on while the waterbuck watched. I've determined that the waterbuck are the voyeurs of the bush. Waterbuck would stare at everything out of the ordinary: boats, people, a squawking bird, hippo fornication. If it made a noise, they were watching.




There were few skimmers but so many pratincoles. So many.


Then we came to the elephants. It started with a dozen, then two dozen, then well over a hundred elephants coming down to the river to drink. It was surreal.





The plovers and herons took advantage of them stirring up insects.


After watching the elephants for ages, we returned to the dock. We ate one of the best curries I'd ever had, and then we went off in a safari vehicle to view what we could in the park.





We were really rushed through the park, spending most time viewing the lions, because apparently that's what most people want to see. We zipped by what was maybe a herd of wildebeest but also could have been tsessebe. The guide didn't even point them out. Granted, they were well away from the road.




We stopped for giraffe and a dead baby elephant. The guide said they burned the ones that died along the road to keep them from getting too smelly. It didn't work. The maribu storks and vultures found it amazing, though.





Then back to the river border crossing and back to Zambia.



Edited by roseclaw
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Nice first trip @roseclaw. Really good range of wildlife sightings and you are doing incredibly well with the birds. 

Sounds like you are having a similar experience to me on my first trip in that you did the best bit of the trip first and you arrived at the end of a terrible drought! 


I think sometimes the reason the rest of us don’t experience mosquitos is that there is always some kind mosquito magnet like you around, donating blood so that the rest of us can come home and say “Mosquitos? What mosquitos?”

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11 hours ago, pault said:


I think sometimes the reason the rest of us don’t experience mosquitos is that there is always some kind mosquito magnet like you around, donating blood so that the rest of us can come home and say “Mosquitos? What mosquitos?”


I know some people are not allergic to mosquito bites, so they think they're not being bit but really are. However, mosquitoes love me so much. I can't really find a definitive reason. I've read that one must be obese, pregnant, or diabetic due to an increase in CO2 output. I am none of those. In fact, I have been at an outdoor family picnic with people who were obese, pregnant, and diabetic, and the mosquitoes still favored me. But new research is emerging about the cholesterol in the skin and microflora being more attractive to mosquitoes.

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The Smoke that Thunders


Today was the day to see the falls. I decided to cross to Zimbabwe first: that way I'd cross when it was cooler out. I took advantage of the free shuttle to the falls, but since I was the only one, I asked to be dropped off at immigration.


I made my way quickly through and crossed the bridge. I walked quickly and with purpose, stopping once to stare at The Boiling Pot and the cliffs.


Unfortunately, I attracted attention from the hawkers. I knew to expect them, and I was told a firm no would be enough. It was not enough. I am small, white, blonde, and female. I'm used to attracting unwanted attention, more so because I was alone. I was also one of the first tourists across the bridge that day. I was the only target.


I didn't take my camera out to take photos. It stayed in my bag. I kept saying no whenever I was approached, and it changed nothing. One man would back off, and another would seize the opportunity.


This was exhausting, despite my mental preparation. I ended up attaching myself to a local family crossing, and the calls of "taxi" and "bungee" stopped until I hit the other side of the bridge.


I learned to ignore anyone who called me "miss" or "sister" and most definitely "rude girl" and "baby." If I was addressed as "ma'am" or "madam," then I would give my attention, because it was only people in service roles who called me those: border agents, waiters,  guides, and the like.

Passing through the immigration on the other side of the bridge was easy, except for when I tried to figure out how to get around the gate. The answer was to go through the barn. Okay, then.


I made it to Victoria Falls Park in Zimbabwe half an hour after I left the hotel Zambia. But I had already had all my water, so I needed to buy the expensive bottles in the park. I should have bought some along the bridge, but I didn't want to take my wallet out within view of the hawkers.

Hawkers were not in the park, thankfully.




I still laugh at this picture of a ceologyne that is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Pretty sure it can't be found in the park. Calanthe, yes.




I wandered through the park, along the cliffs opposite the falls. The water was going over the cliff up to Livingstone Island. Then it was bald cliff face with aloes hanging off.






The park wasn't crowded, but there were a few guided tours. I decided to move at my own pace, which worked for me, especially when the birds showed up. Who are they all? No clue. Actually, I know all of them except the brown one. Any ideas?




I wandered around the park as much as I could, before having lunch at the restaurant within the park. I ran into the Japanese tourists who were in Chobe with me the day before.




I mentally braced myself for the walk back.


There were even more hawkers and people who wanted to do me favors, like take my picture or escort me across.


It took half an hour from immigration to immigration.


I went into the park on the Zambia side. I knew there wasn't any water going over the cliff, but I wanted to go down to the Boiling Pot. I made it a few hundred steps, before the baboons arrived. They settled down in the path and wouldn't move. I waited about ten minutes before giving up and heading back up.


That was when more hawkers descended. They wanted to escort me around the park or help me get rid of the baboons. I declined.




One of them was so aggressive he followed me around the park, asking me to buy his wares, which were most definitely not made by him as he claimed. But he kept saying "support local artists." And I kept saying, "I understand, but no."


I understand my position of privilege, I really do, but I was also the only tourist in the park, and he put me in a position where I felt unsafe, and a man aggressively following me over the Knife Edge Bridge was deeply unsettling. This was the only time that day - that trip - I felt unsafe (except when we were way too close to a buffalo but that was different).


I was able to shake him only when I left the park, ducking into the Avani resort. I told the security guard I was meeting someone at the Royal Livingstone for tea. I also wanted to walk along the cliff on the other side, but aborted that idea to shake my tail.


On the other side of the gate, another security guard asked me if I wanted a ride to the resort on the golf cart. I declined, because I really needed to decompress before I could be in human company again.


My spirits were instantly lifted when I came across a family unit of banded mongoose who were settling down for the afternoon nap. They formed two piles of mongoose, grooming each other and drowsing.




I came across a pair of zebra butts next.




As I passed the Avanti's rooms, a guard beckoned me over. I hesitated for a moment, but checked to see what he wanted: he did call me "ma'am."


It was a giraffe. Right there, not ten feet away but around the corner of a building.


He asked if I wanted my picture taken right up next to the giraffe. That was a big nope. He even said it was safe, that they were used to people. Still a big nope. Not getting close to the megafauna. I did take pictures of the giraffe, though. He laughed about it, thankfully.


I stopped at the deck at the Royal Livingstone for a Fanta, and then took a taxi back to my hotel.






That ten minute drive ended up being half an hour, because there were so many elephants in the road, especially a baby, who was having a grand time dragging a stick across the road. The taxi driver had to keep calling clients and telling them he was going to be late because "elephants, yes, elephants in the road."


The next day was a relaxing day. I only left the poolside to cross the street for lunch and the grocery store.


Then it was off to the airport.

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@roseclaw Really enjoyed your TR, thank you, and for a first time visitor to Zambia, your bird id skills are most impressive! I love the way you've tiled your photos - and very good photos they are too! I'm wondering if the brown bird might be a Terrestrial bulbul, but there are others on ST who know far more than I do, so you'll get an id soon, I'm sure. I'm most envious of your banded mongoose shots, they are superb and to have them huddle up and actually stay still, what a treat!

I felt for you on the Vic Falls walk. I've done it twice, once with a guide, once with (the now ex) OH and, no surprises here, it was fine. So annoying when you need a man to protect you from other men :angry:  It's a funny old place though, the space between Zambia and Zim and, even though I wasn't alone, it felt edgy to me. 

I'm with you on the mossies because they love me too! Also it tends to be day 10 for me for what's fondly known here as the Malarone Squits (the anti-malarial you were taking). And, while I'm comparing medical misfortunes with you, I don't want to be a harbinger of doom, but a word of warning about tsetse bites. Like you I had no reaction the during my first visit, just an 'ouch' and that was it. However, next visit saw a reaction which means I need to carry steroids with me now in case the swellings get out of hand. If you return take Benadryl itch relief stick (illegal in Zambia? Who checks?) I had to order it from the US as it's not available in the UK, only a much less effective cream, and on a trip to the Kafue last year, where the tsetses are storm troopers, it helped a lot. Just dab it on as soon as you get a bite, repeat a few times and it really keeps the swelling down.

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  • 2 weeks later...

@Galago Thank you! I think you're right: it's a terrestrial bulbul. I wasn't even looking in that part of the book! 


It's really annoying to need a man not to be harassed. So frustrating.


I'll look into that Benadryl itch relief stick. As I'm US-based, it shouldn't be too difficult to find. But I am depressed by the news that I could have a serious reaction to tsetse next time. 


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