Driving across Zambia to South Luangwa NP
It sure feels like our time is coming to an end with about 6 weeks left and we need to be selective to what we see, we decide to go quick through Zambia and spend more time in Malawi and Tanzania, so we spend 2 full days driving across Zambia to Chipata near the Malawi border, there are many police stops but we are surprised to be waved through all of them. I use my Marriott points once more to get a free night at the Protea hotel.
Nearby is South Luangwa and a gem stone in Zambia national parks, I'd read somewhere that it has the highest concentration of leopards in Africa. Leopards had proven elusive on our journey so far and it had gotten to the point where we were all desperate to see one.
We'd booked a site at the Croc Valley campsite. It like other campsites in Africa is unfenced but has a bar, restaurant, swimming pool, pool table and satellite TV, nothing like the wild experiences of Botswana and Zimbabwe, I guess a half-way house between them and Kruger. With such a setup it's easy to get complacent, but we shouldn't just 2 nights earlier and pride of Lions had made the toilet block next to our tent home.
There's nothing quite like camping by a fire, under a blanket of stars, listening to hippos grunting all around. It's magical. The kids love it. I often wonder how they will cope with sleeping in their boring old bedrooms back home.
Having said that, Edwina noticed some eyes in the trees when she was cooking dinner and asked me to go and investigate.
"It's just an impala," I called back.
Later, after we put the kids to bed, we heard the impala barking, always a sign that something isn't quite right. I got out of my chair and shone my torch around the camp. I saw a hippo about 10 metres away, luckily it wasn't interested in us and carries on walking.
The next day, we headed into the park at sunrise for a morning game drive, eager to find some leopards. Sadly, we missed each other and had to make do with spotted hyenas and plenty more hippos. I must admit, I just enjoyed driving the wild tracks, most of which were overgrown and it felt like I was making my own path.
It was the school holidays in South Africa, so there were plenty of other children around the camp. Within seconds, our lot were stripped off and in the pool, laughing and playing with the other kids. The disappointment of not seeing a leopard was quickly forgotten by the kids. As we prepared lunch the monkeys and baboons started getting closer, I find Luca catapult and try to scare them away, but packing up after lunch a monkey jumps into the kitchen area and takes our cornflakes, container and all.
We dragged the kids away for an afternoon drive and saw a lot more wildlife than in the morning. We got so close to a hippo that the kids could almost touch it from the car. And as sunset approached stumbled upon a pride of eight lions just lazing about under some trees. Still no leopards, though.
Park fees in Zambia are high, so the next day we decided not to go into the park and just chilled around the campsite instead. The kids were at a bit of a loss this morning as the other kids in camp have gone on a game drive in the morning and as happy as we are for them we are all gutted when they come back and tell us they spotted 3 leopards and a pack of wild dogs hunting. Too late to go in we have nothing more to do than smile as they excitedly tell us their stories.
The next day we head to our next destination, Malawi.