Saturday, 9 July 2011 – Bush, day 2
Well, yesterday’s game drives certainly set a high standard for today, and I wasn’t sure if we would be able to match that experience. The morning drive started off as it had yesterday – there were plentiful grazers munching the grass, lots of birds and waterfowl in the rivers and lagoons alongside the many hippos lazing the morning hours away. I was fascinated with the fact that hippos seem to be almost fixed to one position in the water or on a bank, and the guide explained that they feed at night. That must’ve been what I was hearing next to our tent last night (actually, it was, I later learned). Apparently, that is why hippos are the most dangerous animals in the African bush – not because they capsized fishermens’ small canoes and attacked them, as I had envisaged, but because they trampled and gored people who stood between them and their precious water source, baby, etc. When you see one of these massive, toothed animals upclose, it’s not hard to imagine some serious, if unintentional damage caused by even the briefest altercation.
Around 10:00am or so, we made our way a spot on the Luangwa River, not far from our camp, and parked the truck after spotting an elephant on the opposite bank. The elephant, a large female, was making her way down to the water, and right behind her followed another, tiny elephant – her calf. Behind the calf followed several more, until an entire herd stood in single-file fashion before us, forging their way across the river. This was a spectacular sight, as 11 of these magnificent beasts made their way across, surrounding the youngest members of the herd from crocodiles and other predators. Two younger males fell behind before reaching shore, and began to roughhouse one another – these were two young boys clearly driven by rising testosterone levels. Eventually they rejoined their matriarch, and disappeared into the bush on their way to their favorite feeding ground.
After breaking for the afternoon heat and making a trip to Mfuwe, the nearest village, we set out on another afternoon/night game drive. After watching one of the most beautiful sunsets on the Luangwa, we set off in the truck with a spotter to search for nocturnal wildlife. Just as it was nearing blackness, I spotted a medium-sized shadowy figure making its way slowly into the bush in the distance, and shouted ‘Lion!’ We watched the figure for a minute or so, as it disappeared from sight, and when we asked why such a small lion would be alone in the bush at this hour, the guide told us that that had been no lion – we had been watching a leopard! It was hard to see the leopard’s spots, in fact it was hard to see anything but the general cat-shape, it’s spots helping the animal to blend so well with its surroundings, especially at this time of the day. So in theory, I have seen a leopard, but I don’t really feel like I have seen a leopard. I suppose there’s always tomorrow…