Although the South Luangwa is known for its sightings of big cats on a regular basis, this particular game drive exceeded all expectations.
My guests had arrived that morning and were keen to head out on their afternoon game drive a soon as possible. After a very quick afternoon tea, we jumped onto the vehicle and headed out.
I knew from the mornings game drive that one of the Lion prides in the area were resting up on the banks of the Luangwa just north of camp. After a very short drive I found the pride, exactly where I had left them that morning. All 19 of them.
No sooner had we arrived they made their way down the steep bank for a drink. After all members of the pride had quenched their thirst, one by one they climbed the bank and popped up just in front of where we had been waiting.
After this they headed off into the thickets. We decided to leave them be and head off to see what else we could find.
It wasn’t long until my tracker alerted my attention to a male leopard that was grooming himself in a fallen tree. We watched for a while as he went about his late afternoon cleaning ritual before moving off. Fortunately, it was a fairly open area so we were able to follow and after a short walk he crested a termite mount and posed perfectly for us whilst scanning his surroundings.
After a while we moved off and took this time to enjoy a quick sundowner before heading off into the night.
Whilst we were finishing up our drinks, a call came over the radio from one of my colleagues to let me know that he had found Malika, a resident female leopard that we knew very well. I packed up the cool box and jumped into the driver’s seat and within two minutes had found her walking along the river bank. Within a few minutes of being with her she stopped, looked towards a thicket, where out walked a young male leopard. He continued to walk straight towards her, completely unaware of her presents. Before he realised what was going on, Maliaka had launched an attack catching him completely off guard. Fortunately its was just a warning and after a good telling off she let him go on his way. Clearly sensing he was no threat to her.
We continued to follower her and within minutes, led us to the bottom of a beautiful fig tree, following her gaze upwards, we noticed that she had led us to where she was keeping her daughter, who at the time was six months old. After checking all was well Maliaka headed off into the night. We stayed with the youngster for a while until she took herself higher up the tree and out of sight.
I started to make my way back to camp and took a road that lead us through a beautiful ebony grove. Where in the beam of my headlights stood a juvenile Pel’s Fishing Owl. One of Africa’s most sort after birds.
Unfortunately, my guests where not as excited about this sighting than I was, so after a few snaps. I notified my colleague on the radio and upon his arrival left him and his guests to it.
About five minutes out from camp I got on the radio to notify the camp of our imminent return. The responded and informed me that they have been hearing a lion calling very close to camp. Great, I thought, I will have a check around before heading in.
No sooner had I put down my radio, I looked up to see another leopard crossing the road right in front of us. I stopped the vehicle and I quickly noticed it was a young female that we saw on occasion, she was a very shy cat and quickly crossed the road and moved off into the bush. That brief encounter took our tally of leopard for the drive to five.
As we approached camp, I heard the unmistakeable sound of a calling lion, I followed the sound, which lead us directly to a beautiful male who had moved into the area a few days before.
After spending a bit of time with him, he settled down and appeared in no mood to expend any further energy that night. We left him to it and made our way back to camp.
We pulled into camp and were greeted by a member of the team who asked how our drive was.
“Ah, it was ok, only 20 lion, 5 leopards and a pel’s Fishing Owl.”
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