Tag Archive | Zebra

Hippo Serenade

It’s our last day of self-drive so we head out early. We decide to move in a more southerly direction, not certain what we will see. We are spotting zebra and elephants. Yes, elephants are difficult to spot. Despite their size, their grey color causes them to melt into the background behind even the smallest bush. You also have to be attuned to their slower stroll. Like giraffes, they can move fast if needed, but otherwise they seem to move with the landscape rather than through the landscape. It’s a rhythm unlike the many antelopes and zebras, especially the twitchy impalas.

Rattling slowly through the landscape, we don’t expect to surprise too many animals – they are more accustomed to vehicles in this park. But, we get delightfully surprised because we are hoping, but not expecting, for some great experiences. We round one corner to come upon a giraffe family, alert but not scared off by our appearance. We stopped and turned off the engine. To our delight, they went about their giraffe business, unperturbed by our cameras. They moved on, we moved on. More animals, fabulous birds, spectacular baobab trees. We haven’t spotted a carnivore since McBrides’ camp, even though the park is known for leopards. We look for the “lump” of a snoozing leopard on every likely sausage tree branch we pass, but we suspect they nap further away from the road.

We head back to camp for our last one-pot campground meal. While enjoying the cool breeze after sunset, we watch one very big hippo get out of the water on our side of the river, and start heading across the sand to a pool further upstream. He wags his short little tail while defecating, fanning hippo droppings far and wide. Interesting way to mark territory. A little while later, as the darkness settled in, we heard a hippo sing. No really, he was doing scales. We suspect it might have been the same fella that spread his dung – he was quite deliberate about his trip to the other pool so we suspect he may have been courting the lady hippos up the way. He easily ranged a good 3 octaves in his grunting wah wah wah’s, entertaining the entire campground.

DriveAbout

This is our last few days on our own. Heading into South Luangwa National Park, we are optimistic about seeing animals – the park is known for it’s wildlife and it’s walking safari tradition. We pay our fees and pick up our map at the gate, where our permit is filled out by hand, in triplicate, with carbon paper. We opt to circle around a lagoon not far from the park entrance and Mfuwe Lodge. We see elephants and hippos and crocs and plenty of birds. We follow tracks further out into the park, but it seems that the further we get, the fewer animals we see. Of course, we are now out in the heat of the day, so we opt to stop under an overhanging tree, drinking beer and snacking on cheese and crackers. We watch birds, puku, zebras, impala and kudu. Steve takes a nap, of course.

After about an hour or so, we fold up gear and start driving again. We realize that we really don’t know exactly where we are, but I’m pretty sure that we are not on the hand-drawn map they gave us at the gate. We relied on the GPS to keep us headed toward the gate, as the sun was moving lower on the horizon. We reached the better-traveled parts of the park, and did one more turn around the lagoon. Steve offered that we stop for a drink at the lodge, but I wasn’t really ready for that much civilization yet. Coming around a curve, suddenly there was an elephant in front of us, and then another. They were not mindful of us as they were having a shoving match with each other. One elephant was clearly bigger than the other, and had the upper hand, but that didn’t keep the smaller one from pushing back. They crossed the track and we buzzed past them and then stopped to watch through the back window. It was obvious that they were headed our direction and we drove away, not wanting the bout to become a three-way with the land rover.

The sun really low on the horizon, we headed for the gate, only to find a herd of water buffalo blocking the way as they ambled to the lagoon for a drink. Vehicles quickly stacked up on either side of the herd. Ugh – we had a taste of what we hoped to avoid by not going to Kenya or Tanzania. We pulled to the side of the road to watch the animals. They eventually ambled back out of the roadway and we headed back to camp.

We cooked, dined and showered after nightfall. While we were in a campground, we were still mindful that elephants and hippos could easily get up the banks of the river. Last night, we had an elephant amble in for a drink out of the swimming pool! After we tucked ourselves into our rooftop tent, we could make out the outline of an elephant moving into the campground, browsing noisily along the way. Unfortunately, one of our campground neighbors (in a tent on the ground), yelled and made noises to scare the elephant away. While it’s probably a good thing to keep elephants out of the campground, we were really hoping to peek out of our tent, eyeball to eyeball with a friendly pachyderm.