Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Night game

The air was heavy again when we set out on the evening/night drive. Grey clouds hung around menacingly, flashes of thunder lit up the distant hills. No good light for wildlife photography, but great for land and sky-scapes.

Off we went across the bridge over the river, past the hippos, still wallowing in the cool water, about 30 side by side, next to the bank.

After seeing the first few elephants, getting ready to cross the river and descend on the local villages to steal their mango crops (one has never seen as many mango trees as there are here in Zambia and they are all full and loaded with the most delicious ripe mangoes at this very minute!), and seeing the first impalas leap out of the vehicles way, it was clear we were on a mission.... to spot a big cat or more....

Before we got to the highlight of the evening we had to pass what was almost desert, where elephants had eaten and destroyed vast areas of forest and turned it into a sandscape. There were 100,000 of them here in the 1960's and early 1970's until hunting and poaching reduced their numbers to the current 10,000, which would seem to be more than enough, looking at the environmental destruction taking place.

Anyway... it got progressively darker, the wind got up, the sun started sinking and throwing an orange glow across the sky, as we neared the river and saw the sand being blown about in the wind. There was a message of the walkie-talkie and a sudden change of direction and withing five minutes we were there at our quarry!

A lioness lying down on a grassy bank by the river, four more higher up the bank, under a large tree and another further on. Six in all. All lionesses (we never see male lions). Fantastic. We got in reasonably close and took a few snaps, including one of a giant yawn before it was time to make our leave and have a drink.

The remaining two hours were spent in darkness with a torchlight and we managed to see some genets, elephant shrews, many impala, two giraffes, some hares, a nightjar, some mice, a mongoose and some wandering hippos. Great!

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