We visit the site where a buffalo was killed by lions and is now being fed on by vultures and eight hyenas. The sound of the hyenas crunching the bones with their jaws raises the hairs on the back of my neck, but I am also glad that every bit of this animal will be consumed. Sandy is fascinated by the hyenas – they scavenge for food alone during the night, but when they come across a carcass or a fresh kill, they call for their friends to come join them. They are strange looking creatures with short back legs, long tails, splotchy coats, long necks, and a face that looks like a bear cub.
We continue our drive and see zebra, such beautiful animals but who always turn their backs right as you snap the photo. I have so many photos of zebra butts that Sandy thinks anyone looking through them would think I have some sort of problem. The zebra here don’t have the shadow stripe of brown so the starkness between black and white is more pronounced. Apparently a baby zebra only needs six hours with its mother to imprint her stripe pattern and she will then always be able to identify her mother in a massive herd.
We come across a massive male buffalo, sitting idly under a shady tree in a riverbed. He refuses to acknowledge our presence. We see elephants nearby and stop to watch as a small breeding herd stalks across the plain. The matriarch leads the way while younger elephants follow behind with the youngest baby in the middle. They also take no notice of us. Remembering the chaos of the night before, I am amazed at how graceful and silent they are as they move.
We really hope to see giraffes. South Luangwa is home to a specific breed called Thornicroft giraffes. They are tall, graceful, and serene. Our guide, Nyambe, manages to find a herd and we stop to watch their antics. One female has the attention of three males and they follow her around like puppy dogs. An older male stoops down to get a drink of water – balletic considering they can’t bend their knees. A baby giraffe, less than three months old, and his mother share a tender moment. Three are curious about our vehicle and approach – they lumber on, curiosity sated, after we sit staring up at them in their shadow.
Robin Pope makes every guest feel special and they go out of their way to make each experience memorable. On this game drive, as we are expecting to head back to the lodge for a shower and lunch, Nyambe takes us to a large grassy plain where there are safari camp chairs set up and they are cooking brunch for us over the campfire. The surprise bush breakfast took lots of planning and effort, but means so much. We enjoy our corn fritters, eggs, toast, bacon, and screwdrivers while watching elephants slowly move across the plain, puku and impala graze, and giraffes huddle around discussing who we are and what we’re doing in their field.
And so we settled into the safari routine – up at 5:15, breakfast by the fire, game drive in the morning, stop for tea and baked goods half way through, back to the lodge for shower and a rest, lunch, the afternoon to nap or watch the crocodiles sunbathing on the island in the river, a swim in the pool that overlooks the lagoon, tea and more baked goods at 3:00 (the best were the carrot cupcakes), load up for the evening game drive, sundown drinks and snacks by the river while watching elephants cross in the sunset, riding in the cool evening under the stars while our spotter waves his powerful lamp across the landscape, finding genets, nightjars, and lions. Then back to camp, add a few layers of clothing as it gets cooler, drinks at the bar sharing stories with fellow guests and guides, and then dinner at our romantic little table by the river. A nightcap by the campfire before an early bedtime, and occasionally some nocturnal disturbances by hippos that particularly love the grass right around our cottage.