Safaris Aren’t for the Faint of Heart

Foreign Service Life
January 18, 2017

We’ve been fortunate in that during our first 6 months here we’ve managed to go on 1 – 2 hour boat safari, 1 – 4 hour walking safari and 9 – 4 hour driving safaris. Not too shabby for 6 months in, aye? The coolest part of it all though is that the awe of being that close to wild animals never disappears. It was just as cool the first time as it was the last. There’s something so raw and powerful about being up that close to nature, especially considering how unpredictable it can be.

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Speaking of unpredictable, I have to admit, it was at times a wee bit scary. Like in the scene above when the lion that was less than 10 feet away suddenly roared and took off after another cat. Or that other time when we came around a corner and ran into these two.

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Another time the male lion walked right next to our car (like touching the edge) and I leaned in and put my body over Nia instinctively. It was just a little too close for comfort at times. And unlike our safaris in Majete, there was no armed guard in the car with us – and during those 6 safaris we never even saw a single lion! All I kept thinking was how this would never be allowed in the States….

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The lions were definitely one of the highlights of the safari. We had the good fortune of finding them on all 4 of our game drives. Our first encounter was watching them tear apart a buffalo that they had killed the night before. What was even more fascinating was that you could see the natural order playing out. The lions were guarding their kill, but the vultures were inching closer. And then on the periphery were the hyenas, patiently waiting their turn.

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Ever since we arrived in Malawi, everyone’s been raving about Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park as this world class safariing destination. Poor Malawi used to have massive populations of animals, but they were poached heavily and are only now rebounding in numbers. Despite it being rainy season, we decided to take a risk and go over the past 3 day weekend.

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I understand now what all the hype was about. It truly was world class. And the best part is it’s still relatively unknown (translation: cheaper and less crowded). And man oh man were there animals. Massive families of elephants, hundreds of buffalo in a herd and lions on every drive. It was very surreal.

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Nia came on all 4 game drives and made it 15 hours. She was enthralled when we were with animals, but struggled when we were driving around trying to locate them. Let’s be honest – sitting still and being quiet are not her strong points. She desperately wanted attention from the other adults in the car (she was the only kid), so she’d start singing or sticking her book in their faces. We had to do a lot of Nia management. But when we were near the more dangerous animals and noise could have caused them to panic, she didn’t make a peep. So for that part, we were really pleased.

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She had gotten some new binoculars for Christmas and was really into using them to spot the animals. We were very grateful for those. We eventually gave her a camera to use as well, as we were getting desperate to keep her occupied with non-noise-making activities.

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One last thing I’ll mention is that the babies were out in full force. I’m pretty sure we saw a baby of all the major species – giraffe, hippo, monkey, zebra, lion, buffalo and elephant. Dang were they cute.

I had a hard time deciding what pictures to share, as there were so many incredible moments. If you’re interested in seeing them all, check out the full gallery here: https://minnesotagal.smugmug.com/Travel/Africa/South-Luangwa-Safari-Jan-2017

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PS – Is this 800 year old Baobab tree not the coolest thing? I was so enamored with it!

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