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South Luangwa & Lower Zambezi Trip Report June 2021


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linjudy
Posted (edited)

@Kitsafari, I read your report before our trip - it was really inspiring!! I've yet to see a buffalo/lion interaction. Something to aspire to next time, although part of me does not want to witness what you did.....

 

Yes, I loved everything about Mwamba. Sounds like it is a bit less rustic? There is now a concrete floor in the bedroom area, but the bathroom is still dirt. The hide was available, but not much action this time of year, so we visited only for a short time.

 

We just went, about a month ago, in June. I think everyone was surprised that it was so hard to find lions. Of course, they were still there, just hard to find. I think the pandemic has changed animal behavior. They seemed more skittish and less habituated to seeing trucks. Also, given so few tourists, not as many people out looking (the entire time we were at Mwamba it was just us and another person from Lion camp). That said, I've never seen so many leopards, so it more than made up for fewer lions. If there was a disappointment in our trip, it was that we saw exactly one very poorly lit carmine bee eater.

Edited by linjudy
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Marks

I enjoyed reading this trip report. I'm glad you were able to share it! You mentioned capturing the elephant charge on video--is that something you would be open to posting here? (Apologies if it's in the Google photos link--I can't get that to load on my work computer, but I can try later if so.)

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linjudy

@Marks, no, the video was not in the google photos. I uploaded it youtube. Link here.

 

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linjudy

The video was taken by my husband, who was sitting on the side of the elephant (incidentally, he was also on the side of the impala collision :). Here you can see how close the elephant got to him in a photo I took.

 

 

DFEA5FC5-410B-4507-8CC1-F834D3DADCB0_1_201_a.jpeg

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marg

@linjudyI chuckle, sort of, watching your elephants.  On our first trip, at our first camp some years ago in South Luangwa we had so many mock charges that I was frightened of ellies.  I did not tell my husband until much later.  Our guide told us that one charged a vehicle and the tusks went through the back of it.  And, in three trips to the area, although August/September there have always always lions.

 

Thanks for the report!

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linjudy

@marg, we've also been "mock charged" many many times. But this was a "real" charge according to our guide, and it certainly felt like one. It was weird that he didn't signal at all (flap ears, trumpet, etc). Just charged. I was pretty nervous around elephants rest of the trip :). I feel that the Zambia and Botswana elephants seem more aggressive than the East African ones, but that's based on very small sample size? not sure if true?

 

As for lions, I do think it was unusual to not see them for so many days, even in June. Everyone chocked it up to the pandemic.

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Whyone?

My 2p's (or cents!) worth on the charge is that it was a fairly gentle warning.


My understanding (and experience) is that when an ele charges with serious  intent, the ears get laid flat against the side of the head and they just keep coming!

Edited by Whyone?
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wilddog
3 hours ago, Whyone? said:

My 2p's (or cents!) worth on the charge is that it was a fairly gently warning.


My understanding (and experience) is that when an ele charges with serious  intent, the ears get laid flat against the side of the head and they just keep coming!

agree with @Whyone? but nevertheless when they mock charge it is seriously unnerving. It looks to me like a comparatively young bull 'flexing his muscles' as they say. Lovey video capture. I bet the family were impressed. :)

 

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linjudy

@Whyone?@wilddog, yeah, as Willie said, "teenager in a bad mood, behaving badly" :)

 

Nevertheless, unnerving and I def. had a bit of an adrenaline rush. I do NOT need to be part of a serious charge, ever! Because we had these senior guides to ourselves pretty much the entire trip, we heard many stories of close encounters, esp. while on walks. Great stories but I do not need to ever experience them personally!

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Toxic
12 minutes ago, linjudy said:

Nevertheless, unnerving and I def. had a bit of an adrenaline rush.

I bet!!  Nothing prepares you for the scale and size, even teenagers.  The fact we're like fleas to them :o

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Marks

@linjudyThanks for adding the video--that will definitely get your blood pumping! Kudos to your husband for keeping a steady hand on the camera.

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linjudy
Posted (edited)

My husband does videos and I do photos, and he is not as fast as me in getting them organized :). So that elephant video is one of the few I have.

 

However, here is one that Chiawa posted on their facebook that showed the hyenas feeding after killing the impala that ran into our car. Of course, they conveniently didn't say anything about the collision :)

 

https://www.facebook.com/chiawasafaris/videos/498375034708570

Edited by linjudy
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  • 3 weeks later...
optig

I have been mock charged several times; however, I was seriously charged by a female elephant in South Luangwa National Park. She charged our vehicle and the rest of the small matriarch herd followed. There were roughly a dozen elephants in that herd. I was staying at Tafika Camp at the time it was 2011. My guide Stephen Banda quickly drove off. He seemed to agree with me that that female was so anti human as a result of horrible poaching that went on in South Luangwa in the 1970s and 1980s.

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linjudy

@optig, wow, what happens in a "multiple" charge? do they all come at full speed? do they run into each other?

 

Yes, it was interesting and sobering to see and hear about the elephant history in South Luangwa. So many of the mopane forests are still just shrubs. But good to see the herds making a comeback.

 

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optig

The matriarch led the charge, and the rest of the herd followed. I sincerely believe that the herds in Zambia will grow in size.

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ForWildlife

That's a mock charge :). He stopped before reaching the car, if it was a real charge he would have hit the car. Young bulls like that often mock charge. I've had a big elephant bull do a mock charge, twice, from about 80m away, in Lower Zambezi too. We were using a car which sometimes had starting issues. We saw this bull in the distance and stopped as he was so big and impressive. He was feeding and all was fine. When I tried to start the car failed, but the ele came running towards us and stopped a meter from the side of the car. Then he wandered off. When he was about 100m away, I tried to start again, failed again and the elephant came running at us again. Stopped right in front of the bull bar, covering us all in dust.

Did have 2 real charged in South Luangwa (and countless mock charges). Both were family groups, both in the park, but very near a hunting camp on the opposite side of the river. In one charge we were just done with lunch and relaxing under a tree. Some elephants had crossed the river into the park and happened to come up the riverbank near us, but below wind. The first elephant freaked out, and ran at our vehicle (a closed top, ambulance type landcruiser), despite a warning shot from the scout he smashed the car, blew up the spare tyre on the back, dislodged the back door and broke one tusk. Fortunately he then turned around and ran off, the rest of the family following.

In the other charge I saw some elephants across an open area and they were behaving nervously, so I stopped a long way away (at least 200m), I was on the road, and the road was leading towards them. The moved off, but after a few minutes the passed a fallen tree, while most of the group passed the fallen tree on the far side, the matriarch passed in on the near side, and that must have triggered her nerves and she turned and came racing towards us. No sounds, just moving as fast as elephants can. I quickly turned around got out of there.

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wilddog

South Luangwa was also my first full on charge and near the hunting area apparently. Never to be forgotten experience, finding out if the vehicle could outrun the elephant on the bumpy tracks. No film of course but I can see it in my minds eye as I watched it approaching the back of the vehicle from where i was.

 

My sense of it is that the elephant cows i.e matriarchs/aunties are the more likely to charge, in the main, to protect the herd and particularly the very young.

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linjudy

@ForWildlife, that is interesting. Does that mean that if elephants are charging for real, they almost never stop on their own? What if they stop because of some noise? In our case, we revv'ed the engine really loud. I like to think of it as a roar :). And that seemed to cause him to stop, but maybe he was going to stop on his own?

 

I guess for us this was the mock charge that came the closest. Usually on the other ones they stop some distance away :).

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ForWildlife
4 hours ago, linjudy said:

@ForWildlife, that is interesting. Does that mean that if elephants are charging for real, they almost never stop on their own? What if they stop because of some noise? In our case, we revv'ed the engine really loud. I like to think of it as a roar :). And that seemed to cause him to stop, but maybe he was going to stop on his own?

 

I guess for us this was the mock charge that came the closest. Usually on the other ones they stop some distance away :).

 

If an elephant charges for real, not much will stop it. I've sometimes wondered though, what would happen if you open the front doors at the same time, like an elephant, flapping the ears wide.

Making noise might make an insecure elephant stop, but holding your ground will do the same. But with elephants, it really pays to know the area and how the elephants in the area generally behave (and that can vary within a park!). But even then, there can be big differences between the attitudes of individuals, through time and over space, so each encounter should be assessed seperately imo.

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wilddog

the doors....could be worth a try...🤔 @ForWildlife? but no, failure could be disastrous. 

 

Note... please do not try this at home/ test this theory.🤣

Edited by wilddog
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ForWildlife
On 8/12/2021 at 11:30 PM, wilddog said:

the doors....could be worth a try...🤔 @ForWildlife? but no, failure could be disastrous. 

 

Note... please do not try this at home/ test this theory.🤣

 

Indeed, it might not work out well!

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Julian
On 8/12/2021 at 10:14 AM, wilddog said:

South Luangwa was also my first full on charge and near the hunting area apparently. Never to be forgotten experience, finding out if the vehicle could outrun the elephant on the bumpy tracks. No film of course but I can see it in my minds eye as I watched it approaching the back of the vehicle from where i was.

 

My sense of it is that the elephant cows i.e matriarchs/aunties are the more likely to charge, in the main, to protect the herd and particularly the very young.

@wilddog

I didn’t know there was a ‘ hunting area’ in South Luangwa?

 

 

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wilddog

@Julian on the boundaries I understand.

This was  many years ago now and it could well be that we were near a FORMER  hunting area.

 

As I am sure you know, elephants have long memories and hunting, poaching or war can all have an impact on elephant behaviour for many years afterwards.

 

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linjudy

@Julian, we were told that there are "Game Management Areas" that act as buffer zone between villages and protected wildlife area. I believe farming, grazing, and some level of controlled hunting through permits are allowed in these areas. So even if hunting elephants is prohibited, they may be more aware of conflicts with humans?

 

Our experience is limited, but we definitely felt elephants were much more chill in East African compared with Southern Africa (e.g., Zambia or Botswana).

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wilddog

there are 36 Game Management areas in Zambia, in which hunting would be permitted compared to 10 National Parks where hunting is not permitted. If you look up the maps both North and South Luangwa and Kafue have numerous GMAs around them. 

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