Zambia – The Last Animal Kingdom – African Safaris

Matthew and I have traveled across most of Southern Africa, but decided that it was eventually time to head further north towards Zambia. The two of us have been on African safaris for the last two years, but for some reason we have never gotten as far as Zambia. Known as one of the last unscathed African wildernesses, Zambia is the place to appreciate nature.

Our dwelling

During our stay in Zambia, we stayed in a thatched cottage at the Luangwa Valley. Situated by the Luangwa River, we were in the perfect spot for game-viewing. Every now and again we witnessed a buck, elephants or a herd of buffalos coming to the riverbanks for their daily drink of water.

Staying in a cottage felt like heaven after months of sleeping in a tent on a paper thin mattress. Don’t get me wrong, both Matthew and I enjoy camping, but I think that after awhile you start to miss small luxuries such as a bed.

After a nice long shower, I sat on our veranda overlooking the valley at sunset. With so much beauty in the world, a sunset still is one of the most beautiful. It seemed dead quiet even though there were people having a good laugh in the background. All I really heard was the soothing sound of the water and birds calling softly to each other. I was at peace and soon joined by Matthew when he came back from the local supply shop with a bottle of wine.

The rest of the evening we enjoyed our dinner, some wine, but mostly the sounds of nature. Being on the road for almost two years now, I can say that the both of us have become more peaceful within. The topic of discussion was how many, or how little, people enjoy nature these days. Matthew was making the point that he felt people would enjoy life more if they could be surrounded by nature more, go camping, safari or even just picnicking. But life seems too rushed these days.

The land of the free

The following day we headed out in the early morning hours on our first day’s drive. Zambia is well-known for its vast protected wilderness areas. It’s the sad truth that Africa’s wildlife areas are rapidly disappearing thanks to economic growth and with it Africa’s wildlife, but countries like Zambia have been committed to saving Africa’s wildlife and their land.

The Luangwa Valley specifically is any bird-lovers paradise. According to the tourist information they have recorded over 400 bird species in this area alone. During our drive we saw quite a few Antelopes, buffalos and zebras. But it was only after lunch that we were granted a special scene of survival plays. Not everybody would enjoy witnessing the oldest war in nature, that between lions and hyena.

Lions are by far the stronger between the two groups, but hyenas have another factor counting in their favour: their numbers. This was a fight for territory. It’s a well known fact that specifically lion males hate hyenas with a passion. It was quite a big pride of lions, and it seemed like this was a no-contest match, but never underestimate the cunningness of hyenas. Using their even bigger numbers to intimidate, it seemed like the hyenas were going to win this one. But when a young male lion stormed forward, we knew it was the end.

The lions were too strong and soon the hyenas ran off. My heart racing throughout the entire ordeal, I did not know whether I should watch this display of hatred and dominance or simply look away, but the sounds alone were horrifying. Some would say they were lucky to witness such a fight, I say it was heartbreaking. Matthew tried to film as much of it as possible, but it was difficult trying to focus since it all happened so quickly. This was definitely very unusual spectacle to witness, as usually the game rangers are very careful not to take their tourists to the actual killing scenes, but rather the aftermath. When we spoke to the game-ranger he told us that we really did observe something rare, since most of these situations only happen at night. This time round, we were at the wrong place at the right time so to speak.

After that we headed back to the cottage. I think we were both a bit stunned after the episode. I’ve seen videos of this kind of fight before, but never in my life would imagine witnessing such a thing in real life.

Well however the fight happened, I’m sure that neither Matthew nor I would ever feel the same after that. It was the incident that would forever change our lives. It reminded us that there is more to life than the hustle and bustle of city life. That life is intended to be enjoyed and that you should experience every thrill wholeheartedly. Zambia proved to be one of the most thrilling African safaris we’ve ever experienced, and yes, we will go back!

Mary J. Gibson

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