Wandering and Wondering

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Close Encounters

In my last few weeks in Africa we got closer than ever to some of the wildlife. In South Luangwa national park in Zambia we were driven around in a small jeep, so we could get a lot closer to the animals than we could in Etosha where we were forced to stick to the main roads in our truck. Our guide in South Luangwa also knew the national park like the back of his hand, so was able to drive us to places where we were more likely to find animals. It was actually on a night safari that we spotted our first leopard for the trip, enabling us to tick off the last of the "Big 5" animals. The leopard was hunting a herd of springbok, and stalked across the road right in front of our jeep:

Leopard


Our close encounters weren't just confined to the national park. At our campsite the next day, we returned to find a full grown elephant trimming the branches from some trees only about 20 metres from where our tents were setup:

An elephant invades the campsite


And elephants weren't the only animals to invade our campsite. Jake and Sarah were woken up at 1am to the sound of a hippo grazing right outside their tent (and I mean right outside - in the morning they discovered one of its footprints on their tent!). Then of course there were the monkeys, who would steal anything from the campsite that wasn't locked away:

Monkey food


After South Luangwa, the next major national park we visited was Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania. The main thing we were hoping to see were some lions, which until then we hadn't really seen up close. We weren't disappointed. First up, we saw a lion and lioness lazing in the sun:

Lion and lioness


Then, just before lunch, we stumbled upon a pride of 7 lionesses. They walked right past our jeep, and we realized that they were headed towards a herd of zebra, so we drove off and positioned ourselves right in the middle. A couple of lions held back and hid in cover just behind our jeep, while some others flanked the zebras from both sides. Eventually, the zebras cottoned on to what was happening, and starting running frantickly in all directions. A couple of zebras ran within about 10 metres of one of the lions that was hiding behind our jeep. The lion jumped up and gave chase, but the zebras were a bit too fast and made a lucky escape.

Lions

Zebra on the run


If our encounters with animals in South Luangwa and Ngorongoro weren't close enough, we managed to get even closer still in Nairobi when we visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Giraffe sanctuary:

Baby elephant

Rhino

Feeding the giraffes


It was a great way to end our 8 week animal odyssey. Overall, I can pretty much say that I've seen everything I was hoping for in terms of animals in Africa, so I'll be leaving quite satisfied.

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