This Might Just Be The Best Place In Africa To Spot Wildlife
Explorer in Residence, Dan Grec, travels to Zambia to get up close and personal with The Big Five.
I have been in Africa a long time now, and have certainly seen my fair share of wildlife throughout the major national parks and game reserves. At this point I’ve seen thousands of elephants, zebra, giraffe and gemsbok as well as hundreds of lions and other big cats. Even so, I was utterly unprepared for South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.
Each morning I’m up and moving before sunrise, careful not to walk directly into any elephants wandering through the lodge grounds. After a bite to eat and a coffee, I load into a 4×4 with other guests, and we set off on a game drive into the actual park. Our driver stops multiple times before we have even crossed the river into the park – there is simply so much wildlife around.
In the past I have have spent hours driving around aimlessly looking for wildlife, whereas it’s clear these professional guides and drivers know exactly where the greatest concentration of animals is. When we do spot lions, leopards and other special wildlife, the drivers even know them by name, and are not at all surprised to find them where we do.
On the first morning in the park I see more wildlife than I have ever seen in any single park in Africa, and we manage to get close enough to really enjoy the experience. I am continually impressed by how good the guides are at predicting the movement of the animals, often parking in the perfect location for a stunning walk-by of a pride of lions, herd of elephants or a lone hyena up to no good.
The highlight for me comes in the form of a walking tour, where we go on foot into the National Park. From ground level we see zebras, giraffe, elegant and even a lioness. She stares intently at us, though the guides assure us we’re in no danger. They explain it’s essentially unheard of for a lion to attack a group of people, and although the guide carries a large caliber rifle for safety, I can see he is not worried in the least. He may be relaxed, but to stand at ground level eye to eye with a lioness less than one hundred feet away still makes my heart rate skyrocket.
In the evenings we venture back into the park, our 4×4 now equipped with massive spotlights. The nocturnal animals are on full display, and for the first time I spot many of the smaller elusive cats. One huge male leopard is happy to laze about in the beam of our spotlight, even yawning multiple times to show off his monster teeth.
If you only have time to visit one National Park in Africa, I can highly recommend South Luangwa in Zambia.
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