Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SOUTH LUANGWA - TO FEEL LIKE AN EXPLORER..........

One of the greatest reasons for travel is to explore the new and undiscovered. However, of course today, there are very few completely undiscovered facts about our world but that does not take away the excitement of seeing something for the first time.

 Armed with the Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa by Chris & Tilde Stuart research is an essential part of the Safari Experience. A quick glance through the pages and the years ahead seem hopelessly inadequate for one to catch a quick glimpse of all of Africa’s rarer species. So it is a race against time.

South Luangwa is no slouch when it comes to providing the avid explorer with a different view and something else to see,  it was, therefore, with great anticipation that we boarded the plane at OR Tambo International and headed North.

It is of course, one thing to know about the animals and an entirely different thing to get a good photograph without knowing too much about the specific animal’s behavioural patterns. Here’s where a Ranger/Guide comes in really handy. The trip we undertook was with C4 Images represented by Isak Pretorius and we stayed at the amazing Sanctuary Chichele Presidential Lodge (chichele apparently means salt for those into trivia). To digress slightly here – the Lodge is to be recommended for anyone visiting South Luangwa. Great attention to detail, superb service and food. The nature guides of the South of the continent of Africa have taken bush knowledge to the nth degree. Very few questions go unanswered and no mis/disinformation is dished out. There is very little that you ask that they won’t do and they go out of their way to ensure your safety and security.

Armed with THE BOOK we struck out into the bush looking for some great new captures. Despite some rainy weather at the beginning we still managed to capture some different animals.
Firstly, there were some variations on old themes. We first observed how very small the elephants in this area are. Compared to the behemoths of the South the elephants in South Luangwa looked dainty by comparison and we certainly had some great moments. The chap featured below decided that he was going to flex his muscles at us and even came and tapped our vehicle with his tusk to prove his point.

The Guinea Fowl of the Luangwa are also a much brighter bunch. The blue cheeks appear so much more blue. It would be interesting to know whether this phenomenon is an actual pigment variation or whether the colour appears more brilliant due to a change in light quality.
Another variation to the theme is the Zebra. In Zambia on the banks of the Luangwa River we find the Crawshay’s Zebra whose claim to fame is an absence of shadowing stripes. The clever book reveals that Africa is home to three different species of Zebra and the Plains Zebra which is resident in South Luangwa is of the genus Crawshayi which is one of five variations. Who’d have thought that a pair of pyjamas can come in so many variations?
The Giraffe is another not so common creature. Under normal circumstances one view a Giraffe as a Giraffe but no, there are differences here too. The Giraffe comes in 8 different variations and the genus found in South Luangwa is the Thornicrofts version whose particular feature appears to be a very bumpy head. On our last morning we caught a couple browsing amongst some delicious flowering trees and we were privy to some wonderful tongue displays.
The Baboon appears to be a confusing race. THE BOOK reveals that the Baboon of South Luangwa is a Savanna Baboon in a yellow version. These agile and fleetfooted creatures appear to be a lot smaller than those in the South of the continent and certainly don’t appear half as threatening.
The Puku, an antelope with a darling little heart-shaped nose and a relaxed attitude is one of the specialities of the region. In the early morning when the sunlight dances off the blades of grass, a Puku provides copious amounts of fodder for the enthusiastic photographer.
As in many other Reserves that we have had the privilege to visit there are multitudes of birds. But, as mentioned before, I am not a birding photographer. In fact, I think I have made the conscious decision to only take photographs of sedentary birds. The special birds we managed to capture as firsts are the Carmine Bee-eater, the Red-necked Spurfowl and the African Grey Hornbill.
As with many of the places that we have visited on the continent of Africa, it is a place you should return to again and again for it has the potential to surprise and delight while still offering a sense of the African Wilderness.
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