Photo Safari Report: Arun & Reeta | Marula Lodge | 16 - 21 May 2016

26th May 2016
Without sounding like shameless promoters, there is no easy way to do justice to the early dry season as a time for game viewing in the South Luangwa; it is quite simply a beautiful, rewarding period which is slightly unpredictable, a trait that only adds to its appeal.

It's true that the sightings of predators on the move can be better in the drier months, and that the birding opportunities better in the rainy season. It could even be said that the mid-dry season is better, when all the roads are open but the bush is not yet too hot. But none of these times offer the diversity and variety of beautiful habitats that are on offer in May and June.

During six days of "off-season" safari last week, we tracked down 6 leopards (only one of which was at night), 3 separate groups of lions, 7 different Eagles and Hawks, 6 further raptors, all the plains game (including the endemic Thornicroft's giraffe) and some interesting bird behaviour too. Oh, and we spent nearly an hour following a pack of 17 Wild Dogs which hunted a distance of more than 4kms before disappearing into the bush! Yes, there are some things that we missed, but for 6 days in the bush, this is hard to beat!

So here is my summary of the week, in no particular order, with the hope that it showcases the diversity of sightings available in Luangwa in the so-called shoulder months!

White-fronted Bee-eaters huddle for warmth in the early morning sunshine along the banks of Luangwa.


With a freshly killed black-crowned Tchagra as a meal, this Little Sparrowhawk settled down to pluck and eat its prize.


In the late afternoon sun, young hippos scuffle over an unknown dispute.


The trunk makes an elephant what it is; here a calf greets an adult cow with a friendly trunk fondle.


While only one leopard showed up during our night safaris, plenty of genets did. But none matched the dramatic style of this one who eyed us from a nearby branch.


Early one morning, I heard the tell-tale call which Hamerkops produce when conducting their strange social mounting behaviour! This is not mating, and is not even courtship (sometimes you can find a pile of 3 Hammerkops!) and is not entirely understood. To see two pairs in synchronised fashion was really brilliant!


"Lucy" - a well-known young leopard from the main game viewing area - gave us a wonderful show one morning....


...although the impalas were not so impressed and snorted their displeasure!


Waiting at a waterhole, we found a large bunch of zebra stallions. Note the canines on the rear stallion!!


Spotting this Brown Snake Eagle up in a Winterthorn tree, we approached carefully and were ready when it launched from the top.


We were equally ready when this juvenile Martial Eagle took flight from the branches of a Natal Mahogany, to the terror of a large troop of baboons nearby!


While watching lions one evening, snorting impalas dragged us away to find this young leopard resting up in a small Sausage Tree! As the last rays of sun drifted across his nose, he dropped down and disappeared into the grass.


We sat for a long time to get this shot, waiting until her serene stare matched the hues of the surrounding bush.


What a poser! This is truly the holy grail of big-game safari and this big male certainly didn't disappoint us!


An African Harrier Hawk juvenile uses its large wings to keep it buoyant while searching for food in this dead branch.


Threatened continent-wide, Southern Ground Hornbills are doing well and we see them often. However, a group of 5 is still quite a treat, even if there is a feeling of the arrival of the undertakers.


The Circus Elephant - discussed more in a previous post - gave us several chances to capture his amazing antics; he reared up no fewer than 6 times into 4 different trees!


On our final morning, a herd of giraffes dithered around on the other side of the river, trying to decide whether to cross over. The light was fantastic and it marked a wonderful end to our trip.


If you like what you see, consider contacting me about an early-dry season safari. The game is fantastic, the park is quiet and the temperatures are wonderful.

It was a pleasure to take Arun & Reeta on safari and I hope that perhaps I'll see them back here again one day!

Comments

Photo comment By HANK TAN: Seeing your photos brings back all the fond memories of our visit in 2014. Yes, South Luangwa remains on our wish list. Great job, Ed, on your photo trip report.
Photo comment By Edward Selfe: Hi Hank and Pi-Lien, Thanks so much for getting in touch! I am glad this brought back good memories. I'd love to see you on safari again one day! All the best and hope life is still good in Canada. Ed

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