Friday, September 05, 2008

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

We had an amazing time in Zambia, specifically at the South Luangwa National Park these last couple of days. It was the only reason we went to Zambia and we didn't plan on staying long at all but needed one last shot at a proper safari. We still hadn't seen a lion yet. The park had come highly recommended and although Zambia is currently the most expensive country in southern Africa, we figured we had to go. Not all of us thought that though because Bre didn't come, choosing instead to run off with Ben back to Lake Malawi where we will meet them in a day or two.
Zambia is really expensive, as I said, the fuel is nearly $3/L! The food, transport and everything else has gone up considerably as a result. It is also a cheeky country because it has jacked up its visa fees since it is now getting almost all of the tourism for Victoria Falls with the Zimbabwe crisis and they are milking it for all its worth.
It took us all day to get to South Luangwa park, having had to change transport 3 times and cross a border. The road in from Chipata, the town closest to the park is a horrible road of ~100km of hard corrugations and rattles like nothing else we've been on. Being squished the whole time doesn't help either and it took us a full 6hrs to make it.
The camp we stayed at was Flatdogs Camp. It's a very touristy lodge type place, but most people come in as campers in their own overland vehicles (like Ben). The camp is not in the park itself but is on the edge of the Luangwa river (which, being at the end of the rainy season now is really low), across which is the park. The park is not fenced so the animals wander as they like, including throughout the camp itself! At night the hippos come out of the river to feed on the grass and leaves beside our tents, as do the elephants (both day and night) and giraffes (day), and we have photos of the animals with them only a spitting distance away! I was camped on the ground but they have platforms in the trees for people to use too. The atmosphere is great. At night they won't even let you walk around the camp on your own and guards will actually escort you to the bathroom to make sure you don't get crushed by something. They have had lions in camp before too but the most exciting thing for me was watching an elephant kick someone elses tent a few times. Grumpy thing....
We spent one day just hanging out and enjoying the sounds of nature and on the second day went out for a night safari. Even though we've been in a few parks now, this is the first real safari because the others were in Kees' truck. It was 4 hours, from 4pm to 8pm so half in light and half in dark. Awesome! We finally saw our lions. 7 lazy beasts (most were cubs) just laying in the sand ignoring us and then at the very end we spent several minutes watching a leopard walking along the ground. What a beautiful creature! We've now seen all that we need to and what a great way to end it. I was surprised at how small both the cats were and it actually made me proud to have bears in my country. Now that's a scary looking animal :) My other thought was something about Bre being an idiot and missing the best place in all of Africa....:) I don't know if Zambia has any other redeeming features but wow, it was great.
Our good luck continued on the way out too because we managed to hitch a lift with an overland truck and got a ride out of the camp and along the dirt road under much, much nicer conditions :) We are back in Lilongwe, Malawi again and will head to Nkhata Bay next on the northern part of Lake Malawi for some more R+R and to meet up with Ben and Bre again.


At 4:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ammon,
Great posts, I'm with you on the Bre thing, she'll whine for sure about not getting there, and missing the wildlife. I'm guesing she was observing other types of wildlife..... is that my outside voice. LMAO. Sorry about the syntax question, just sounded like this lady seriously pissed you off..... roused my curiosity.
By the way was that bear comment a personal slight on my gazelle like figure? or was it my good looks?
I think I would put a Kodiak grizzly up against just about any predator in Africa..... there is something about 1600 lbs of pissed of grizzly to get your attenton. May I suggest a very large gun, say something in a 444, or 458, and very good running shoes.
Anyways, I'm sort of on the road right now, but remain a faithful follower of the Merry Wandering Watkins.

Love and Bear Hugs to all
The Big Bear (not quite kodiak yet, but damn I keep getting bigger)


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