Friday, 17 March 2017

ZAMBIA: Barking Baboons At Luangwa River

Michael is currently hosting at Nkwali, and then will be scooting up to our Mobile Walking Safaris when we open that for the season in June.

During his first few days, we decided to send him off to Luangwa River Camp to see the camp, meet the team and learn the ropes. In the true, unpredictable style of South Luangwa, it was not long until he found himself in the middle of the action.

When you’re in the wild, barking baboons are often a good indicator signal before a leopard sighting. So, when Michael and few of the other guys suddenly heard the local troop of baboons going crazy, they poked their heads around the fence to see what was happening.

While there was no leopard in sight, the baboons were not letting up and something was clearly agitating them.

With their curiosity piqued, the team began investigating. The baboons appeared to be looking at something on the floor and were tentatively attacking it.

On closer inspection, it turned out to be a 3m long python, coiled tightly around a young baboon. The rest of the troop were attacking the snake in an attempt to free their comrade.

Michael and the rest of the team noticed that the python was a breeding female and made the decision to try and save her from the baboons, which were clearly not letting up.

All the options were evaluated and finally, the decision was made to physically remove the snake from the area.

She was pretty shaken up, bruised and had a few superficial wounds, and by this stage was starting to lose interest in the food. Michael carefully picked her up and moved her to a nice quiet bush behind camp and away from the baboons, where she could lick her wounds, recover and get ready for her next meal.

Every year, approximately 10 million fruit bats make their way from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Zambia’s Kasanka National Park, where they take up residence in a small forest.

This is the largest mammal migration on earth, and seeing the fruit bats cover the sky at sundown is a unique Zambian experience. But the bats are under threat, and that could have dire consequences on the overall ecosystem in Kasanka.

The fruit bats play an invaluable role in Kasanka National Park for instance, they scatter seeds and pollinate blossoms.

The fruit of the forest attracts animals, and if the forest were to disappear, it would be a deadly loss for them.”

The two biggest threats to the bats are poachers and habitat loss, which are often inherently linked: poachers often start fires in the forest to scare animals out into the open, and this destroys the forest.

Environmentalists are trying to protect the bats’ habitat. One of their main tools is education. In communities surrounding the national park, protected wildlife is often still seen as a source of food, while many inhabitants, particularly children, fear the bats, as they can be carriers of ebola.

Educational outreach programs are helping to increase awareness of the importance of preserving Kasanka’s incredible biodiversity for the benefit of locals and international visitors alike.

Below is an informative short video about the park and its quest to protect the bats’ habitat, courtesy of DW.

To be in the heart of the South Luangwa National Park at peak flood time, with the river as your only access to the first camp built in Zambia, is quite the safari experience.

During Robin Pope Safaris’ annual River Journeys, guests get to explore parts of the valley which are normally inaccessible to the traditional game vehicle while staying at three different camps – Luangwa River Camp, Nsefu, and Nkwali. For eight days, safari lovers have the opportunity to twist and turn down the many lagoons and channels spotting Africa’s biggest and smallest river dwellers.

The rains are almost at their expected seasonal level which means we’re ready for River Journeys down the Luangwa!

Here are a few quick reasons why you should be ready for one too:

1. It is a genuinely relaxing way to experience a safari as you tranquilly float through the many lagoons, especially during sunrise and sunset.

2. It is a unique vantage point to witness wildlife in the water as well as the animals that surround the channels. We’re even talking about the occasional lion and leopard sighting.

3. It is a quieter and smoother form of travel compared to a traditional game drive. This makes it less-invasive to the wildlife and allows for some special encounters with animals that you can’t normally get too close to.

4. It is a time of prosperity. Every animal is in great condition during the rainy season. The impala leap higher, the elephants swim joyfully, and birds are busy building nests and raising their young.

5. Speaking of birds, there are plenty for birdwatchers to spot on a boating safari. South Luangwa National Park boasts approximately 400 of Zambia’s 732 species, including 39 birds of prey and 47 migrant species.

6. You are almost guaranteed to witness a good old-fashioned summer thunderstorm. One that flashes with ferocity through the doom-laden skies and echoes throughout the valley.

7. The dramatic skies and lush, green vegetation make for brilliant landscape and wildlife photography.

8. The Luangwa River is one of the last remaining major rivers in Africa, and even in the world, that has not been dammed by hydropower.