Tag Archive | Puku

Cats on our Doorstep

This morning, we took a boat across the river to walk in a part of the park devoid of tracks and vehicles. Despite the lack of human activity, we only saw herds of puku and one snoozing hippo, who got a very wide berth. Again, we walked through tall grass, palms and anthills – all unnerving with the reputation for lions in this area.

Returning to camp for brunch, we spotted four elephants headed into the water downstream from us. Chris and the staff retreat for siesta, so they left us alone to watch. One elephant wanted to cross, and worked at enticing the other three into the water. After much cavorting, splashing and bubbling in the shallows, the elephants organized themselves in a line and crossed the river.

We retreated to the deeper shade of our hut, showered and washed clothes. In Steve’s case, he just stepped into the shower clothes and all. The day was hot enough that everything would be dry before tea time. We flopped on the bed for a nap, when Chris suddenly arrived, quite excited, saying that the staff had spotted lions near the camp. We scrambled for shoes and cameras, quickly trotting out to Chris’s land rover. Both Steven and Gift were there, clearly dressed for comfort, not for serving guests, very excited.

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Just up the riverbank from the camp, near the campground (where we originally planned to stay), we spotted one, two and then three lionesses, all with fresh blood on their faces. A very alert herd of puku gave away their position. In the heat of the day, it was clear that the lions were trying to stay in the limited shade. The largest of the lionesses moved closer to the river, flopping down under a tree in full view of the land rover. We were able to eventually move the land rover into a position to see that one of the puku had become lion lunch.

We returned to camp: it was really hot in the sun. As we walked back into camp from the land rover, it was quite apparent that the hunting lions had actually walked through the camp: there were lion prints all over the paths between the huts and the common area! It was probably only a matter of minutes that Steve and I had missed the lions when we walked back to our hut, after watching the elephants crossing the river. Yikes!!

After tea, we loaded back up in Chris’s land rover to visit the lions. The offal was all that was left in the place where we had first spotted the kill. Each lioness had found a new spot: two were still working on pieces of the kill, while one lounged on her back, belly full, clearly undisturbed by our approach. We watched until it was almost too dark to see.

Kafue on Foot

By the next morning, it was clear that things had been tidied up when we went for our pre-walk coffee. The dirt between the kitchen and dining areas had been raked, and when we returned from our walk, someone had made our beds, supplied us with towels and swept out our hut.

The food was quite simple – the chef was on holiday – but a nice change from the more formal fare we had at the previous camps. Again, it felt like we were visiting someone’s home.

The animals are decidedly more relaxed near this camp, though. Puku graze not 20 yards from the “porch” of our chalet, and birds perch closely wherever we go. I am constantly entertained by the grunts, snorts and chortles from the nearby hippo pods, and there is regular elephant “traffic” in the camp, evidenced by the numerous dung piles and broken trees.

Our first morning walk was beautiful, although punctuated with uneasy moments. Dapper in a jacket and muffler, Chris had a camera slung over one shoulder and his rifle over the other. Steven, one of the young staff, accompanied us with water, snacks and the radio. We saw mostly relaxed animals: impala, puku, waterbuck and warthogs.

Chris is known for his lion research, done 40 years ago in Botswana. There are supposedly lions regularly near this camp, but we know that it’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time. We saw spoor, but no lions. That doesn’t mean that the lions did not see us. But, the relaxed game suggested that no lions were hunting in the area.

We crossed a dry river channel both on the way out and back from the camp – these moments creating the most anxiety. Partially, this came from reading our escorts’ demeanors. In Botswana, the time we had witnessed lions make a kill had been along a similar alleyway of bush. The riverbed seemed like a perfect place for an ambush, and it was clear that Steven had similar thoughts in mind. But, after 3 hours of walking, no lions. We’ve been told that lions can stroll through the camp with “stupefying nonchalance.” But, none yet.

We had a lovely afternoon cruise down the Kafue River on a double-decker pontoon. The upper deck gave us a view above the high banks of the river, and a kingfisher’s view of the water.