Part 8: Lions and leopards in Chindeni

Photography and report by Bert Duplessis

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We were up and about at 0545 on Saturday August 15, for an early morning walk in the Chindeni area. Plans changed when we got word that a large pride of lions had been spotted in the Kapamba area. Off we went driving for about an hour, crossing the Kapamba River in the process. Not long afterwards, we came upon the pride of 9 lions, one of them (a male) running with his head held high and something hanging from his mouth. We took some wild guesses as to what the item was; shortly afterwards we found out it was a fleece belonging to someone (a ranger from Yellowstone Park) in a different vehicle from Kapamba Camp. The fleece had fallen of the vehicle and was then picked up by the lion. By the time we got close enough to see what was going on, the male lions had already run into the woodland, out of sight. However we got some pretty decent photographs of several of the female lions.

Crossing the Kapamba River

The return crossing, from a different perspective

One of the three males in the Kapamba pride. This was not the ‘fleece-stealing’ lion.

Two of the females in the same pride

We were alerted to the presence of the pride by this female, walking across the ‘beach’

Starting to settle in for what may be a long rest during the warmer part of the day

To round off the morning activity, we embarked on a 35 minute walk through the woodland, with Peter discussing various interesting things en route, such as the fruit of the fried egg tree, animal rubbing/scratching posts, grape plant (vine-like plant which releases clear water when cut), tactics employed by elephants and warthogs to get rid of ticks, lucky seeds, a warthog home in an aardvark burrow, etc. It was a very interesting and relaxed walk, with a few small mammals scattering upon our approach.

Our capable guide Peter in action, with Michael (a guest from Australia) looking on

Kathleen and I visited two other Bushcamps during the siesta break: Bilimungwe, a typical Zambia bush camp, has a great location as all the others. It also has 4 rooms with a very nice lounge & dining area overlooking a permanent waterhole. We understood that the camp was due for updating, and that it might be completely rebuilt.

From Bilimungwe, we traveled a fairly short distance to Kapamba. It is likewise a small 4 room bushcamp, with large open rooms (stone walls) with enormous sunken baths. Guests are able to walk in the Kapamba River, and the camp often serves meals out on the water in the hotter months of the year.

Part of the lounge area at Kapamba Bush Camp

A bedroom (double) at Kapamba

The huge sunken bath at Kapamba

Inside of a room at Bilimungwe

The lounge and dining room at Bilimungwe

Tea was taken at 1600 and we then departed on an afternoon game drive. Today’s drive was quite the opposite of the previous day: almost right away we started seeing things such as elephant, several with tiny babies, kudu, & more. One of the highlights of the drive came very early: a stunning Painted Snipe male, in great light not too far from the vehicle. One could clearly see the golden sheen on the wings. As pretty much everywhere, the Painted Snipe is a rarely seen bird in the South Luangwa; it had been seen here at Chindeni once before a couple of weeks ago, and not for 4 years prior to that.

We had several good sightings of elephant on this game drive

Once it was dark, the drive got even better when we spotted two hyenas at the base of a large tree. Peter noticed that they were active and predicted that there may be a leopard in the area. Practically right away we noticed the remains of an impala high up in the tree, with a young leopard (unfortunately obscured by branches) feeding on it. Literally seconds later William spotted the eyes of a large female leopard in the grass below and behind the tree. With the vehicle repositioned, we had a relatively clear looks on the leopard, and I got some decent photographs. At one stage the leopard tried to get closer to the tree, was briefly pursued by one of the hyenas and then scampered away.

The leopard whose cub was feeding on an Impala in a tree nearby

We saw this civet on the way back to camp after the leopard sighting

August 16, 2009

We went back to check on the previous night’s leopard sighting. The now rather smelly remains of the impala was still in the tree, but there were no leopards lurking anywhere. A mile or so further on, we parked the vehicle and went on a very nice, relaxing walk along the Luangwa River. The group made some interesting observations such as looking at a wild basil bush, which the villagers crush and rub on their walls, or use to relieve sinus congestion. Our guide also pointed out a striking example of a strangler fig, which had just about totally engulfed its host tree, a sausage tree.

Just another day at the office for our very capable guide Peter

There is always something to be learned from a pile of elephant dung

Standing on the banks of the river, we looked down on a crocodile nesting site, with the remains of some egg shells everywhere to be seen. Peter remarked on the breeding behavior of these massive reptiles; how the females lay about 80 or so eggs, keeping an eye on the site until the eggs hatch, and then transports the hatchlings in her mouth to a quiet backwater where they grow to fingerling size before going out on their own. It takes young crocodiles up to 3 months before they eat anything. They have many natural predators including other crocodiles, large fish, various birds, and the long term survival rate is only about 4 percent. On the way back to camp we encountered several elephants, including one which we had seen earlier, with a hole in his ear. I got a few useful photographs.

The food at Chindeni was amongst the best on the entire trip; with some very creative items such as this beetroot and pear salad.

By midday we said goodbye to everyone at Chindeni and took a short drive to the crossing point over the Luangwa River at Nyamaluma for a boat transfer across the river. A local boatman poled us across, which took only a few minutes, and then we scrambled up the banks of the river to where our guide for the next couple of days Luckson from Kalamu Lagoon Camp, was waiting for us.

Continue to Part 9

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