Phil Clisby takes his family on a walking safari in South Luangwa National Park
Our guide Yotam talks a load of crap. Puku poo, buffalo poo, elephant poo and any other poo you care to mention, to be precise. We are on a walking safari in South Luangwa, and there are animal droppings everywhere. It’s only when you are on foot that you truly notice these things.
Earlier, when we set off, there was a tension in the air among our small group. Only the day before we had seen leopard and lion around here, but that time it was from the safety of a land rover. We walk in single file, to appear bigger as a group, a ranger with a rifle acting as scout.
It’s amazing to be walking in lion country. The initial apprehension turns to excitement. These guys know what they are doing, after all. I marvel at the stark beauty of the dry season terrain, the trees stripped bare, almost haunting looking. We walk alongside herds of zebra, watch elephants and see giraffe lolloping. But it’s the little things that you discover on a walk that are of interest… As well as poo, we follow animal tracks, come across a hippo skull, an impala antler and a porcupine quill and find a tiny antlion who has dug a trap for unsuspecting arthropods in the sandy earth.
There’s a sudden scrabbling sound not too far away, and we spot a hyena running off, clutching a baboon in its mouth – a fresh steal, perhaps? Another hyena appears – on the trail of the recently deceased primate. But he is too late. He runs around in circles trying to find it, but to no avail. His compadre is long gone.
It’s eye-opening or should I say ear-opening to hear the various bird calls and animal sounds as we wander through the bush. We follow a herd of impala, as are a troop of baboons. Though they are not necessarily the best of friends, they are often seen working together – warning each other of predators.
Yotam stops. He’s heard a danger signal from the impala. The adrenelin is pumping. But it appears to be a false alarm. Maybe it’s us who are the danger.
Back in our vehicle, the half-hour drive back to camp yields yet more surprises. Yotam spots some fresh leopard poo. You see, I told you he was a poo expert. He remarks on the scarcity of antelope in the area and then we see two warthogs running for their lives. There are two leopards, skulking in the long grass. “Brothers. About 18 months old,” says Yotam. We watch for a while, but they slope off: their chance for a kill gone.
We stop at a lagoon, where three giraffe are standing, legs slid apart, neck down, drinking. It really is an ungainly sight. There’s a huge rush of water and a croc rears up out of the water snapping at the nearest giraffe, but somehow she pulls her neck out of the way and the others also beat a hasty retreat. They regroup away from the water’s edge, looking furtively to see if it’s safe to go back. The croc eyes them, furious, I imagine. They think better of it, and move on.
Phil and his family stayed at Flatdogs Camp, South Luangwa National Park.