In terms of sightings, we were extremely lucky – or as Nyambe pointed out, had excellent guiding. Our first night we came across two male lions who had just killed an impala as a snack. We watched as the two tried to politely share, but the bigger one (not the one who actually killed the impala, mind you) got fed up with sharing and took the impala and ran. The two snarled and argued and roared a bit but came to an agreement and manage to finish it off.
The next night we heard roaring throughout the game drive. We managed to find the source, a massive male lion resting in the middle of a field. Nyambe took us close and the lion looked over at the vehicle. Apparently, the lions see the vehicle and all the people in it as one massive object and so they leave them alone. We were cautioned not to stand up, as then the lion will realize the vehicle has individuals inside that might be delicious. As we watched the lion started to roar – it takes his whole body to produce the noise, and while it is not loud, the noise vibrates through you and carries far into the distance. We later heard the lion as we are enjoying dinner on our deck, amazed that the sound carried so far.
Our third lion sighting was during the day. Five lions, two females and three males were sacked out in some shade. As they hunt at night, they usually spend their days conserving energy. Before long, one of the females got up and seems to be feeling, um … randy. She went to one male lion who made it clear that he was not interested. She rolled over on her back and did a little seductive wiggle but he closed his eyes. She tried her luck with the other, more alert male lion. He had been staring at our vehicle, his yellow eyes were a color like I’ve never seen and gave me goose bumps. The lady lion sauntered over to him and tried again, rubbing her head and nuzzling his neck. He stood up and made it very clear that he also is not interested and swatted his massive paw at her face. Growling and roaring ensued in a brief standoff, but she finally gave up, flopped down and went back to sleep.
While we didn’t see leopards this trip, the lions more than made up for it. Besides, we saw so much else and saw them doing so many interesting things that we couldn’t be happier.
One morning we decided to go on a walking safari. Nyambe led us, along with an armed National Park guard, around a large area where he points out everything we missed on our game drive. He identified colorful birds in trees, found their feathers on the ground, explained termites mounds, told of spiders, ants, and other small creatures. According to Robin Pope himself, game drives are like watching a movie while walking safaris are like reading a book.
The staff at Nkwali Lodge had one more surprise for us. As the sun began to set on our evening game drive, we started heading for the river bank for our sundowners. As we reached the bank, we found a beautiful table on the edge, a bottle of champagne on ice, and some delicious looking hor d’oeuvres . We enjoyed the champagne and hot artichoke spring rolls by the river as the sun set, watching elephants on the far bank and listening to the hippos and their old man chuckles.
The trip was perfect – the accommodation was perfect, the food was perfect, the staff were perfect, the location was perfect, and the sightings were perfect. It was the perfect way to start to say goodbye to Africa. As we packed up and got ready to face that terrible road to Chipata, we were already planning our next trip back to South Luangwa.