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michael-ibk

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Finally, our first full day!

 

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A tower of Giraffe was waiting for us as we approached our mooring point very early morning.

 

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Always nice to see them drink.

 

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Puku Puku everywhere.

 

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Many Impala were heavily pregnant, just waiting for the rains to give birth.

 

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Little Bee-Eater

 

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And their White-Fronted cousins - very common in South Luangwa.

 

The excitement factor multiplied when our master spotter Adrian found a Leopard! Unfortunately this big guy was in no mood to pose for us and quickly vamoosed.

 

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I just managed one hasty shot while the car was still moving. Into the next bush, and gone he was. Who knows, maybe he was on edge because of his wound.

 

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But he´d give us a much better show later on.

 

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Thornicroft´s Giraffe are a bit special, they only occur in the Luangwa Valley. I always enjoy seeing "new" animals and had wondered if they would be difficult. Not at all, plenty of them in the park. "Plenty" is highly relative though, according to Wikipedia there are only about 550 of them.

 

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One of the many ephemeral streams into the Luangwa.

 

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These cute Swallow chicks enjoying the view on Katete bridge gave me some ID headache for a while but they must be Wire-Taileds.

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We just wanted to go to Portugal, I swear - so how the heck did we end up in Zambia? In October. 2020 that is. The year which will forever be known as the COVID-year. The annus horribilis horribilissi

So, of course the obvious thing to be doing in the middle of a global pandemic, amidst various states of lockdown and with all travel to Africa under an “all but essential travel” advisory from the UK

Just one or two pictures to add to the morning drive.   Andreas taking that beautiful sunrise shot.   Impala everywhere   We were only an hour into the drive wh

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What a fabulous upgrade. That is some house. More like a villa in the bush. Especially like the disappearing staff- there for meal times and clean ups and then all by yourselves in true luxury in the midst of the bush. That pool is no plunge pool but the real deal. Yes we like simple canvas( well not too simple) and scoff at plunge pools but hey, find me someone who doesn’t like Luangwa House:rolleyes:

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michael-ibk

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Zebra were around in good numbers. As I understand it´s Grant´s Zebra on the West and Crawshay´s East of the Luangwa River, but I´ve never been very good with telling striped subspecies apart.

 

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White-Crowned Lapwing were everywhere along the Luangwa.

 

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No shortage of Crocs - as tempting as it might be to cool off in the river one should better not. No problem for us - we had a pool at home after all. B)

 

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Jona told us it was quite a difficult year for the animals. As we had witnessed ourselves in February in Southern Tanzania 2020 had brought massive floodings to this part of Africa. The whole area here by the river was often under water. And the river had carried such an amout of sediments that it was difficult for the vegetation to fight its way through. So this year there had never really been green carpets around the fertile riverine areas, so much more challenging for all the animals to find enough food.

 

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Our coffee spot, around Wamilombe IIRC. I haven´t mentioned the best thing yet. So far we had not met a single car. Absolutely no one. We had South Luangwa all to ourselves it seemed. So it was almost a shock when a second safari car disturbed our peace. Residents, as international tourists we really were quite a uniqe thing. As mentioned before we were the very first guests Robin Pope Safaris hosted this season. Good for us but terrible for all the good people working in the safari industry in Zambia. As much as I enjoyed the peace and serenity of seeing a gem like South Luangwa with not a single other soul in sight, I sometimes felt almost conflicted about my satisfaction, my enjoyment of this. We can only hope next season will revert back to normal, or at least recover. So many lives depend on it. And wildlife as well.

 

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After coffee we found some Lions close to the main gate bridge. But they were doing typical midday lion stuff, sleeping behind branches and bushes, and so we did not even take a photo.

 

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Bushbuck

 

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Some of the spots we passed reminded me a bit of Mana Pools. Well, it´s not that far away.

 

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Many, many sausage trees. The guides always warned us not to linger underneath. We complied. "Squashed to death by a sausage" would not look good on any gravestone after all.

 

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Long Pool, no?

 

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A very patient Banded Eagle posed nicely for us at Mfuwe Lagoon.

 

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It was really hot now, and all animals were sensible enough to hide away in the shadow. So we returned to our house. After all, our pool was waiting for us.B)

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7 minutes ago, michael-ibk said:

Our coffee spot, around Wakumba drive IIRC. I haven´t mentioned the best thing yet. So far we had not met a single car. Absolutely no one. We had South Luangwa all to ourselves it seemed. So it was almost a shock when a second safari car disturbed our peace. Residents, as international tourists we really were quite a uniqe thing. As mentioned before we were the very first guests Robin Pope Safaris hosted this season. Good for us but terrible for all the good people working in the safari industry in Zambia. As muc as I enjoyed the peace and serenity of seeing a gem like South Luangwa with not a single other soul in sight, I sometimes felt almost conflicted about my satisfaction, my enjoyment of this. We can only hope next season will revert back to normal, or at least recover. So many lives depend on it. And wildlife as we

Amen

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That's a very interesting and excellent shot of the Lapwing. I never knew they had spurs on the wings like that! I will have to research that a bit.

 

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12 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

I sometimes felt almost conflicted about my satisfaction, my enjoyment of this

I felt the same, you've got the point exactly. Sometimes I even felt like being guilty that I could manage it to SLNP and others not and becasue there were only a few tourists... and local people were without work. I hope, it will change soon.

Excellent photo of Lapwing! I like giraffe photos and especially silhouettes!

And Long Pool .. yes, it is like a Long Pool, definitely! 

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being back in Africa, feeling the warm sun, being in SNLP with the kindest people,  I dream of this. Enjoying your TR very much.

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Zim Girl

Just one or two pictures to add to the morning drive.

 

Andreas taking that beautiful sunrise shot.

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Impala everywhere

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We were only an hour into the drive when Adrian called out “leopard”.  Wow, already? Surely we can’t be that lucky!!  Unluckily, he wasn’t hanging around, I hoped this wasn't going to be my only picture of a leopard.

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This elephant was walking up from his morning mud bath for a nice back rub against the tree.

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Lot and lots of hippo lounging in the river

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Morning tea break was at 8.30am next to the river.

Michael can always find a bird somewhere to take a picture of.  If you look carefully you can see that single vehicle we came across in the top RH corner.

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I think I have spotted a bird Michael has missed :D

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Finally a couple more shots of that beautiful scenery.

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We got back to the house at 11.00am and this time we had giraffe waiting to welcome us.

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I found myself a monitor lizard crawling out from under the deck.

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Round the side of the house the resident gardener was keeping the lawn in check.

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After lunch we spotted the elephant family coming back to see us.

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I had to wake this one up to watch!!  (This is what happens when you are too well fed in hot weather)

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The elephants were after a good old wallow in the mud.

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Later, after the ele's had finished having fun, the giraffe came back to see us.

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An assortment of sizes here.

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Adrian caught myself and Michael trying to creep down the deck to get a closer look.

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Oops, spotted!

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On with the afternoon drive and first we stopped off at the carmine bee-eater colony on the riverbank.

So now Michael is in his element:).   He will no doubt regale you with a raft of stunning shots so I won't linger too long with mine.

 

It was a lovely setting and you wouldn't know from this picture, but there are dozens of carmines flying round behind me with a very happy Austrian chasing them!

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"Please take my picture too, these pesky birds get all the attention"

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Another day, another sunset!

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So now we were into the night drive.

 

During the afternoon I had asked Michael for a few tips on night photography.  I have never taken a decent night shot in my life and I was determined to rectify this. 

 

So, change to spot metering and (rather counter-intuitively, I thought), UNDEREXPOSE.  Mmm, really?, oh, because of the spotlight, I see!!  Well, hopefully my little bridge camera will manage that.

 

We saw civet and we saw porcupine.  No, you are not seeing my attempts at those!  Not going well this, must do better!

 

Then,  all of a sudden,  in the dark,  (just trying to ratchet up the tension here),  we saw it!    (Well, Jona saw it, but that's just detail).

 

Sitting in front of us, the golden spotted beauty of my dreams:wub:

 

Ok, so I have built that up, lets hope I can do it justice.

It was the male leopard from this morning with the wound on his neck, obviously feeling guilty he ran off without giving us a good picture and now he was going to make up for it.

 

Aren't I beautiful?  Not my best side at the moment though.

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Is that a bit better?

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Hello!!  What's going on here then!

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Just that irritating hyena getting in my space again!    He obviously hasn't read the rules on social distancing!

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Well, I know when I'm not welcome.

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Do you want my picture too?

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Now he's gone I can get a bit of kip!

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But hang on, there's something I need to do first.

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Can't go to bed without a final drink.

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Now, have you all got your pictures??

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Well, I had just died and gone to heaven!  The best leopard sighting we have ever had!

 

I will pass it over to Michael to show you some proper night photography but I was pleased enough!

 

 

Edited by Zim Girl
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AfricIan
28 minutes ago, Zim Girl said:

I will pass it over to Michael to show you some proper night photography but I was pleased enough!

I'm sure Michael has also got some great night photographs but you should be a lot more than just "pleased enough", yours are excellent

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Zubbie15

Continuing with the great narrative, and lovely photos. As usually happens when I read a SLNP report, I realize I've got to get there sometime sooner than later. 

 

Luangwa House looks awesome, which it should given the rack rate I found online.  My wife likes to buy a ticket for the lottery when the jackpot gets very high, just for fun. I think if we were ever to win I have found where we would end up living. :)

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PeterHG

Beautiful night shots of the leopard!

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I’m really enjoying traveling virtually with the four of you to SLNP. The landscape is so beautiful and serene and that house! How brilliant is this? Living and being catered to where wildlife congregates at the waterhole. Paradise found! 
Thank you for sharing your beautiful images and those night shots of the leopard are tops!

Thank you for keeping the Africa wildlife virus alive in me. 
Greetings from Florida, KaliCA

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shazdwn

Loving this report so far, fantastic tales and photos in an amazing setting.  The front door to that house is insane.

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SafariChick

Ah, I have been away from ST for a little and came back to find three lovely pages of this report.  I have to say it feels like absolute Heaven! Stunning photos, good humor, just seeing and hearing about all this makes me almost feel like I am there - thank you, all of you! Look forward to more!

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you mastered the night-photography @Zim GirlLove your pics of drinking leopard! The house-location is stunning, you just can watch all day the waterhole. I like giraffe pictures and a gardener ;-) looking forward for next.

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Zim Girl
21 hours ago, AfricIan said:

I'm sure Michael has also got some great night photographs but you should be a lot more than just "pleased enough", yours are excellent

Thank you very much for saying so.  I really was quite pleased given it was the first time I had tried doing it properly.

20 hours ago, Zubbie15 said:

Continuing with the great narrative, and lovely photos. As usually happens when I read a SLNP report, I realize I've got to get there sometime sooner than later. 

 

Luangwa House looks awesome, which it should given the rack rate I found online.  My wife likes to buy a ticket for the lottery when the jackpot gets very high, just for fun. I think if we were ever to win I have found where we would end up living. :)

Thank you. It was definitely somewhere I could live as well.

14 hours ago, PeterHG said:

Beautiful night shots of the leopard!

Thank you very much Peter.

9 hours ago, KaliCA said:

I’m really enjoying traveling virtually with the four of you to SLNP. The landscape is so beautiful and serene and that house! How brilliant is this? Living and being catered to where wildlife congregates at the waterhole. Paradise found! 
Thank you for sharing your beautiful images and those night shots of the leopard are tops!

Thank you for keeping the Africa wildlife virus alive in me. 
Greetings from Florida, KaliCA

Thank you very much, there is plenty more to go.

5 hours ago, shazdwn said:

Loving this report so far, fantastic tales and photos in an amazing setting.  The front door to that house is insane.

Thank you.  Yes the door was solid wood made from the same trees they used elsewhere in the house.

4 hours ago, SafariChick said:

Ah, I have been away from ST for a little and came back to find three lovely pages of this report.  I have to say it feels like absolute Heaven! Stunning photos, good humor, just seeing and hearing about all this makes me almost feel like I am there - thank you, all of you! Look forward to more!

Thank you and there will be lots more.

3 hours ago, ElenaH said:

you mastered the night-photography @Zim GirlLove your pics of drinking leopard! The house-location is stunning, you just can watch all day the waterhole. I like giraffe pictures and a gardener ;-) looking forward for next.

Thank you and yes you certainly could have spent all day in front of that waterhole - but we had an empty national park to explore:)

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The leopard drinking photo is a stunner--he's looking right at you! I'd print that and hang it on the wall!

 

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michael-ibk

A few additions from our afternoon. The day before we had had Elephant day at "our house", and now it was Giraffe day. This was really wonderful. It´s not that often that one sees them drink, and now they were doing during our siesta. Very cool!

 

I love Giraffe! Sorry, so I can´t resist putting up a few more photos.

 

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They were not as cool about our presence as the Elephants, when we tried to move out to our lunch deck they moved away a bit. So I mostly took shots from our pool. Where else? But not while I was inside the pool admittedly. B)

 

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One can really see how awkward a position it is for them to go down, especially in the muddy underground.

 

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I confess I really can´t see much difference to a Maasai Giraffe, and as I understand a good point can also be made they are in fact not a valid subspecies but the same. Here for example:"Data ... indicated a genetic similarity to the Masai giraffe. Whether it can be considered a subspecies or is actually genetically identical to the Masai giraffe will require additional research." So Thornicroft´s might just lose some of their uniqueness appeal in the future.

 

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As always I particularly enjoyed seeing the young ones.

 

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A bit of kinky stuff going on here but the afternoon programme did not develop into someting R-Rated.

 

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Seeing them run is also special, it always seems like something they are not designed for.

 

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Not to be outdone, the Elephants also had good fun at the waterhole again:

 

 

 

 

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michael-ibk

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A Brown-Hooded Kingfisher was always in sight when we were crossing the river but was not the most cooperative one. Always flew off. Pretty much the dominant species in Luangwa apparently, we saw them a lot.

 

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The Bee-Eater colony. This Puku was posing nicely, and I was lucky getting two shots with the Carmines flying by in the background.

 

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I was really happy with this photo, it just says "South Luangwa" to me.

 

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A Kittlitz´s Plover. Often a very common species but this was the only individual we saw on the whole trip.

 

On 11/25/2020 at 3:24 PM, Zim Girl said:

On with the afternoon drive and first we stopped off at the carmine bee-eater colony on the riverbank.

So now Michael is in his element

 

Actually while I was absolutely happy here this was not a proper "Carmine session". The light was far from perfect, and you really need the best possible conditions for getting them in flight. We only stayed for a bit more than ten minutes because we wanted to go South. Much more Carmine stuff to happen later on! (Yes, that´s a thinly veiled threat.:))

 

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Not mine - a photo @AndMicwas very happy about. Rightly so, well done Andreas!

 

We did not stay long because the plan was to go quite a long way South all the way to Manzi River to try to find the Dogs. Jona had warned us that we had to cross quite a long stretch of a rather barren and empty zone. It was, but no harm in trying. Well, we did not find any Dogs, and - spoiler - would not be successful later on neither. There´s a downside to being all alone in the park - nobody really knows where all the animals are, and with almost no cars doing their loops there are of course no reports coming in. But that´s a "downside" I gladly take.

 

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Edited by michael-ibk
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michael-ibk

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Night Drive time!

 

On 11/25/2020 at 3:24 PM, Zim Girl said:

We saw civet and we saw porcupine.  No, you are not seeing my attempts at those!

 

I have no such shame, but fast moving distant animals and night time photography are definitely not the best combination.

 

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Porcupine was even worse. Damn, these things really can get a move on when they don´t want to be photographed. And they never want to be photographed. Except by @ElenaH, check out her awesome trip report with a spectacular photo!

 

But uncooperative nighttime critters are soon forgotten when you share quality time with a Leopard. Angie already showed some perfect photos of that wonderful encounter, but it was just too nice a sighting not to do some more.

 

And some videos:

 

 

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The wound did not look too bad, and he did not seem to bother much about it. Still wonder what caused it.

 

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It was quite interesting that the same Leopard who had run like all of hell´s angels were after him in the morning now was so cool about our presence. Also the light did not seem to bother him at all. I guess they are very used to it in South Luangwa.

 

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The interaction with the Hyena was really interesting, have never seen that before. None of the two seemed particuarly nervous about the other one. Like two people not too fond of each other who keep bumping into each a lot. "What, you again?"

 

@AndMictook a video of their mutual dislike:

 

 

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"Blargh, Leopards stink!"

 

 

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This was quite an impressively shaped male, a thick head like a Jaguar.

 

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That he went to the waterhole was just the icing on the cake.

 

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This was such a magic sighting, the quiet night, the world around us pitch-black, just us and a Leopard. Everything we had hoped to get in South Luangwa and more!

 

 

 

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magnificent sightings, thanks for your joint TR and great footage and images.

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Peter Connan

I am really enjoying this trip report! Fabulous sightings and photos from all.

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Love that you took some videos, especially the drinking leopard!

 

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Zim Girl
14 hours ago, janzin said:

The leopard drinking photo is a stunner--he's looking right at you! I'd print that and hang it on the wall!

 

Thank you very much.  It will certainly be going up somewhere.

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Zim Girl

We had brought our trail cam with us and Adrian attached it underneath the deck at the house.  It didn't get that much of interest, but I quite liked this night time elephant.

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Another gorgeous african sunrise!

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Caught out this hippo still going home from his night time feed.

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Driving through the Park which in this area was completely devoid of vehicles.

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Today we drove north towards the main Mfuwe section of the Park.  This is where we did come across one or two vehicles but certainly nothing like the numbers that would normally have been here.  We passed by the lagoons near Mfuwe Lodge.  There were plenty of birding opportunities around here.  I will let Michael show you those but even I can't resist a Liliac-breasted Roller.

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We spotted a group of Banded mongoose running through the undergrowth to the side of us.

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Tea break is by a Wafwa (dead river).  A very tranquil spot and a great opportunity to stretch our legs walking down to the water edge.

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On our way again and further down the riverbank we surprised this group of Puku grazing in a gully.

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There is always a noisy hippo pod around for some entertainment.

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South Luangwa has a reputation for being extremely hot in October and indeed by mid morning it was very toasty, but overall nowhere near as bad as I was expecting.  I always think, just remember how rubbish the UK weather is going to be when you get back and make the most of the heat.

 

Possibly not sharing my love of the heat, these three male lions were flat out in this patch of shade.

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By now it was nearly 11am and we were heading back to the house. 

 

From the road we suddenly heard hyena calls and stopped to try and work out where they were coming from, we couldn’t see anything but Jona decided to follow a track which took us down to the pool that the leopard had been drinking from last night.  When we reached the pool we could hear and see lots of baboons alarm calling from the nearby trees. Jona said there might be leopard around so we took a slow drive around the bushes.  And sure enough there was a leopard, not the one from last night as there was no neck wound.  It came out from the bush and appeared to be watching the baboons. 

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They were going nuts and one brave soul even made a mad dash down the tree and across the path towards the leopard, but then he stopped in his tracks, obviously realising this wasn’t the best idea he had ever had and turned and strolled slowly back to the group so he didn't lose face.  Very funny to watch and I hope Michael might have a picture.

 

Meanwhile, we noticed what we thought was the hyena walking along the top of the ridge above the pool.  However, on closer inspection we realised it was a female lion and she had a kill!  Jona quickly drove back up the slope to the top of the ridge to try and find her, once there we caught sight of her dropping back down to the pool.  We went back down and this time she was stood there in front of us with a large, freshly killed warthog on the ground next to her.

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She obviously wanted to enjoy her dinner in peace so she started dragging it back up the gully again.  This time we let her go and drove back up to the road and home.

So that was leopard number two (not that we're counting!)

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