TTS20 on Safari

Saturday, September 29, 2012

On Safari with TTS20 . . .

*Who knew the day would come where you would see 11 teenage girls, eagerly up and ready to go by 5:45 AM?? Perhaps I should add that we were off on our first safari drive, and that news does not come as such a huge surprise! Last week we all had the chance to do both a morning and a night drive at South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. We piled into the open air safari trucks and rolled through the gates, where entire troops of baboons lounged about, lazily greeting the day. Driving over the bridge, we watched as a lone fisherman navigated his way through hippo pods AND around spiny crocodile backs, laying his net. Our guide explained that because fish often feed by hippos, you regularly see crocs and fishermen close by. Making our way into the park, we spotted our first impala herds, interspersed with grunting warthogs and the occasional cape buffalo. As we continued along our truck slowed to a crawl--leopards!! A mother and her cub, barely discernible among the grasses. They were lying in early morning's warm light, eyes half open. About an hour later, our vehicle slowed again, this time for lions!! Three lionesses sprawled on the river bank. We let out silent screams of excitement and gasped at just how large their paws and mouths were--clearly capable of causing serious damage. By now, as this was Zambia, it was tea time, so we set up our thermos and mugs just downstream of the lions and watched giraffes as we sipped our milky morning drinks. We were sure we had seen everything good there was to see, but just as we were preparing to leave, we came across a final sight that almost topped them all--a mother puku who had JUST given birth to a baby. The baby could not yet stand; we watched the mother lick her baby for the first time, drying its fur and nudging it to stand. Our guide said that in his past seven years at the park, he had never seen a newborn.

We returned to our campsite and rested up for our evening drive. Just as the sun grazed the horizon, we again hopped into our safari vehicles. We sped through a blazing sunset background to pull up to a small grass stand, where there lay two more lions! This time we were seeing males, but only their stomachs: they were on their backs, their bellies extended almost to the point of bursting, in a true food coma! Moving forward a few hundred meters, we came upon a felled cape buffalo. The lions had killed it and had their full, and now vultures were out in full flock. We watched them do their funny hip-hop toward the carcass and then peck away. Our guide said we would come back after the sun had set to see if we could find any more happy scavengers. Sure enough, an hour later, under dark's cover, we watched a hyena tentatively scampering about, trying to decide if the lions had really left or not. 


For anyone out there who has not seen a hyena, they are the the most ridiculous hodgepodge of features--short body, long neck, and spotted fur that is scraggly and scruffy in all the wrong places. We waited with bated breath to see whether the hyena would make it out for her meal or not. In the end, she decided the lions were not coming back and went for it. After watching for a bit, we headed out of the park, feeling incredibly fortunate for all we had seen. Later, we found out that the cape buffalo carcass was completely gone by the next evening. Our guide also told us that we were incredibly lucky--often just seeing a lion or a leopard is cause for excitement, let alone seeing multiple of each in one day.

With our Zambian safari drives behind us, we can't wait to see what wildlife lays ahead in Mozambique and South Africa!

*This blog post was written when the group was still in Zambia. It corresponds with the pictures of the group in the open air jeep.


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