Zambia part 2: South Luangwa NP

Once we arrived in Lusaka, we had to say goodbye to our swaying 4×4 (those shock absorbers were completely useless at this point). However, we were getting our old and trusty minibus back. Yes, our next safari we were planning to do a self-drive in South Luangwa national park in a (2×4) minivan! We left quite early the next morning, however because we chose an ‘alternative route’ along the way, we only arrived right before sunset at our campsite on the Luangwa river. We stayed at the wonderful Track&Trail river camp, really close to the park gate!

This time, we at least remembered to bring a full gas canister. So tonight we cooked a delicious macaroni. Right after dinner we heard some rustling, about 15 meters away from us. When we checked (with torches) it turned out there was a hippo grazing! It is already fairly well-known that hippo’s can be quite dangerous. So it was a nice reassurance that there was electric fencing between us and this enormous animal. Although he did not seem very impressed with us being there.

A grazing hippopotamus just outside the fencing of the campsite

The next morning we woke up to the sound of baboons rustling through our trash. There were some iron bins provided, but the night before we could not seem to open ours. And thus we had left a banquet for the baboons.

Into the park

Despite all the wildlife on the campsite, we really wanted to enter the park early. Once inside we started with the River Drive. Rik and I saw three leopards there last time. On this route was also the elephant crossing, which is at its busiest in the morning. Unfortunately we did not see any leaopards this time. Also, we managed to completely miss the turnoff to the elephant crossing. So we drove on beyond the parts Rik and I had seen before with our guide a couple of months earlier. Heading down in this direction, the road got more sandy. There were only small patches of loose sand, so we could still get over it with our bus. Until the moment the road got more than just a few meters of loose sand.

We were stuck. Again.

And again in the middle of a park. Next to a – crocodile filled – river. Sounds familiar… Well, we did not have a lot of choice, so we got out of the car in order to dig us out. Because our minivan has automatic transmission, it was impossible to swing it back and forth to get out of that ditch. As soon as the tires lost traction, they would spin insanely fast, even after pressing the brakes! Now we were getting really deep in the sand. We did the only think we could think of: digging out the tires with our hands and poke big branches underneath them.

We did not manage to get the stick under the tires this way, so Rik got the car jack. Now we had a little bit of space underneath the tires, so we could stick all the sticks we could find under there. In the distance we spotted a safari vehicle, but they did not seem to notice us. It did not matter, because at this point it seemed our work paid off. Rik got in the car and put it in reverse, while we (my mom, sister, and me) were pushing. This time the car rolled back a couple of meters, in the direction of the solid road. Unfortunately we did not make it all the way and we got stuck once more.

This time we knew what were were doing, and we did not end up so deep in the sand again. In the meantime the safari vehicle, which we had tried to notify earlier, drove our way. They decided to help us push, but this time it was already so much easier to get out of the sand. I have to say that I was quite wary around patches of loose sand for the rest of the day… Back on solid road we continued our way to the north of the park. Because we had been stuck we were already in the park for 1,5 hours without really seeing anything.

The first sighting

At the top of our wish list were lions and leopards. And hyenas, because my mom had never seen those before. Well, she was lucky! Within five minutes of being back on the road, Rik suddenly yelled: ‘Wow, a hyena!’ The hyena was standing in a ditch, while we drove over the little bridge over it. This way we got very close to the hyena, and he even looked right at me ‘for the picture’. I was really happy for my mom that she could see a hyena from up close. By the time another car appeared, the hyena dove under the bridge. Out of sight.

Another highlight

After waiting for a little while, hoping the hyena would return, we decided to move on. At least we have seen one, and we took some nice photos! South Luangwa is an extremely beautiful park and we have seen many things. Yet there was another highlight: lions!

I had never seen such a big group of lions before. Only this time, we were not the only ones that spotted these mighty animals; the lions were almost surrounded with cars, if it wasn’t for the cliff and the river bed behind them. On one hand I was a bit disappointed that no one complied to the park rule of only 3 cars per sighting. On the other hand I completely understood that many people wanted to look at these beautiful (but lazy!) lions. We did stand out with our minibus amidst all those big 4×4 cars. However we too managed to get here (without too much problems if we would’ve stuck to the main roads).

Down here I put some more pictures out of the many we took in our 1,5 day self-drive in South Luangwa National Park.