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Summer in Africa

  We are entering the “cold” season in Zambia.  I drive the boys to school around 6:40 every morning and wear a sweater and occasionally turn on the heat in the car.  It isn’t that cold but it is colder than many imagine of Africa.  Along with the cold comes the dry season.  Dry season means that the grass dies and waterholes dry up.  In other words, we are approaching prime safari season.

  Last weekend, I took a quick trip with two of my coworkers at iSchool.  We left Lusaka around 7am on Saturday and drove about 3 hours west to Kafue National Park (the closest park with predators).  We arrived and setup our tent and started the braai (the afrikaans term for grill) and cooked some borewores (afrikaans for sausage, I believe).  Around 3:30, we climbed into Ian’s Land Rover and started out.  While dry season has started, it is not yet the best time for animal viewing because the grass, while dying, is still high and the waterholes have not yet dried up.  However, my philosophy is that seeing animals is a matter of ‘luck’ so the more you are out, the more chances you have to be lucky.

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Our campsite on the Kafue river

  I have begun to dream of being a guide and the more time you spend with the pros the more pointers you pick up.  OK, so some of it isn’t that hard.  If you see a bunch of antelope and zebra staring off in the same direction, it is a good idea to stop and see what has their attention, so we did.  They were quite far from the road but we stopped and got out the binoculars.  Cheetah!!

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  We sat and watched them for quite a while, hoping to see them hunt.  Cheetah don’t rely on stealth so despite the fact that the animals were aware of their presence, I was hopeful.  There was even a lone puku (an antelope similar to an impala) between us and the cheetah.  However, they didn’t seem interested.  Then I had a thought… Cheetah are normally afraid of humans and, technically, they are on the opposite side of the road so they aren’t in the national park, which means… we can try to walk closer to them!  Ian thought it was a good idea but Musonda, who was facing his fear of the bush by just coming with us, thought we were crazy.  We left the keys to the Land Rover with Musonda so he wouldn’t have to search for them after the cheetah were finished with us.  We were pretty confident the cheetah wouldn’t be interested in us but asked Musonda to keep an eye out for lions and honk the horn if he saw anything dangerous.  However, after just a few meters of walking in their direction, they trotted away from us.  We thought there were just two but after reviewing our photos there were 3 or, possibly, 4.  Later on the drive, we saw a small group of lions, a female and several young males whom we can only assume were her, rather old, cubs.

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  We woke early the next morning and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over the river.

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  The morning drive was quiet but as we were returning to our camp, we spotted lions laying in the road just near our camp.  There is a fairly major road that passes right through the park which makes it possible for a short trip like ours.  We saw a large bus coming down the road and expected it to fly past and chase the lions away.  Instead, it slowly stopped and parked in the road while everyone on the bus got a good look.

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  We returned to camp, ate breakfast, packed up the tent and returned home.  A one night safari divided three ways cost just under $100 (fuel, food, camping fee and park fees) and netted the following:

  • Lion (about 8 or 9)
  • Cheetah (3 or 4)
  • Jackal
  • Elephant
  • Warthog
  • Hippo
  • Crocodile
  • Water monitor lizard
  • Slender Mongoose
  • Vervet Monkey
  • Yellow Baboon
  • Zebra
  • Kudu (antelope)
  • Waterbuck (antelope)
  • Puku (antelope)
  • Impala (antelope)
  • Hartebeest (antelope)
      I could do this every weekend.  If only I could get Cynthia to sleep in a nylon tent surrounded by lions, leopards, elephants, hippos, wild dog, and hyena with the toilet 70 meters away. Smile

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