I have been a bit remiss in blogging of late. Somehow life got in the way but I'm back now – both mentally and physically after a wonderful trip to visit family in Virginia and Maine. The tough part (ie boarding the plane to Lusaka!) is behind me now, and having read Gretchen Rubin's 'Happiness Project' over the holiday, I am trying to mirror her ideas, by working on maintaining a positive outlook in all areas of my life. As a new colleague said “T.I.A” – This Is Africa. For better or worse! So we may as well focus on the 'better' aspects of our lives, wherever we live. By finding things to be happy about and enjoy, we can boost our own morale and motivation, thereby being happier as a result. Cheesy? Perhaps. But anyway, on that note…
With some very dear friends, who travelled all the way from the Isle of Man, we all travelled together to Mukambi Safari Lodge for a three night break. The journey was a pleasant surprise for me – good roads, very light traffic and easy to find. Perfect! We had reserved four of these 'chalets'.
We received a very warm welcome, even though we had decided the night before to make an early start, and pitched up a mere four hours too early. It was a holiday weekend here, so they were pretty full Friday and Saturday night, which added to the atmosphere. Also, a “problem with the roof” on one, (see the roofless building behind mine!) meant that we had three in a row, and our fourth one with twin beds was now on the other side of the main lodge. The visiting kids braved the wildlife and took the isolated chalet or (rondavel).
When I say 'braved the wildlife, I am not being flippant. No guests are allowed to walk between chalets and the lodge, or anywhere outside without a guard to chaperone. They have a night cam that regularly records lions, hippos and elephants, amongst other less dangerous wildlife. One of the employees stepped outside the lodge one evening around 9pm, only to meet 7 or 8 lions right outside the lodge.
And this is one reason why we were there. My main criteria for the location of this trip was: a) we have already been to the Lower Zambezi b)South Luangwa was very booked and a LOT further to drive – more like 11 hours to the lodge from the house c) I really wanted the opportunity to see leopards d) Kafue is wild.
I am told there are some in Lower Zambezi National Park, but as I remember, Kanyemba didn't advertise leopards. It was also an opportunity to visit a different area, and see Kafue National Park.
On all counts, we were not disappointed. In order to enter the National Park, the guides took us across the Kafue river, almost directly opposite the lodge. It took a matter of minutes. (At Kanyemba, a two-hour boat ride precedes the game drive.) We actually did three game drives – one before breakfast and two afternoon/ evening ones.
The morning game drive was great, lots of wildlife explained by our guide, Hastings, Somehow we managed to miss all elephants (in our desperate search for cats!), but they came out of hiding on on our first 'night' game drive. Due to the high occupancy of the lodge and the popularity of game drives, there were three vehicles out simultaneously for the morning game drive, and two for the night drives. However, as soon as we were all safely settled in our Land Rovers, we separated so it didn't feel too much like a Disney ride.
It was tremendously exciting – after a good search around in daylight, we stopped for a cold drink while the sun set. What followed was a spotlit search for the cats. Now, don’t get me wrong – we saw plenty of elephants. We discovered that they don't like a brilliant white light shone in their faces. Funny, that.
However, on the big cat front, nada. We were just about to turn back to the lodge for dinner when a call from the other vehicle reported a leopard spotting. We raced to join them and spotted this little sweetie – she (he?) wasn't at all bothered about us and kindly gave us tourists some wonderful photo opportunities (though my camera was nearly out of charge, so I only had one shot at it. Anyway, I was THRILLED.
Apologies for the over-exposure. The spotlight must have had a 2000W bulb in it! Maybe she didn’t move because she was temporarily blinded! Sorry, leopard.