The Carnivores of South Luangwa
Seven wonderful days spent on daily, morning and late afternoon/evening game drives in the Zambian bush.
This is a summary of my carnivore encounters during my visit to South Luangwa in May following the end of the rainy season. This is not the most popular time to visit the park as following the rainy season the vegetation is plentiful and watering holes and lagoons are full, resulting in animals being spread further apart and possibly harder to locate. A bonus of this time is that rates are cheaper and the park is quieter enabling more intimate animal encounters.
Leopard: Whilst South Luangwa is not a ‘big five’ destination it has a great reputation for leopard sightings. Of our time spent in the bush we saw leopards on four of the seven days. Many days having several sightings of different leopards during a single day, peaking on the third day where we spent time with four different leopards. Each time we managed to sight one of these beautiful creatures we were fortunate to be able to spend considerable amount of time with them, with only perhaps one other vehicle with us if we were unlucky!
Lion: Despite hearing lions often calling during the early morning and then again late at night we were not as lucky with locating them, only managing one sighting of a pair of males at considerable distance. I understand that this is not normal however we did spend considerable time trying to locate them.
Caracal: These elusive cats are not often seen in Luangwa, though when they are spotted it usually causes a bit of excitement within the valley We were fortunate to have this wonderful creature pass by us during our first night drive, before quickly disappearing back into the dark of the night. Our rare sighting even made it into the Robin Pope Safaris weekly newsletter!
Spotted hyena: We saw hyena on four of the seven days, mostly in close proximity to a feeding leopard, though also spotted at night along the roadside.
Wild dogs: I have included wild dogs to my list despite not seeing them as they are possible to see in the valley. The closest we got to them was a bit of wild goose chase trying to locate them following our guide hearing of a possible sighting, though sadly it was not going to be this trip. Later we were to learn that the wild dogs had run along the beach in the front on Luangwa River Camp whilst we were all out on the morning game drive.
Large spotted genet: These could be spotted easily during night drives in the park, though never hung around too long. We did have one lovely sighting of a mother genet with three kittens.
Civet: We only saw one civet at distance during a night safari.
Nile crocodile: The presence of these predators in the Luangwa River quickly puts off anyone paddling in the cool waters during the heat of the day. We had daily sightings of these reptiles and they could often be seen located in the shallows of the river or basking on the banks.