It's Monday 24th May and Lucinda goes to Liuwa Plain
This was a week of hellos and goodbyes. Laura left us for her next adventure in Uganda. Lucinda arrived from Liuwa where she worked for a week covering for Michelle. After a week in the valley with her family, Michelle has gone back to Liuwa to join Robin Pope and the team.
Lucinda brought great stories from Liuwa – over to you Lucinda:
“I could hardly believe my luck – Michelle, our lovely Liuwa Plains Hostess was coming to Nkwali for a few days with her family and therefore someone – namely me – needed to go to Liuwa Plain to cover for her. After hearing all about it from Robin , Jason and Michelle for so long, I was getting my chance to go – and it certainly did not disappoint. It is an adventure from the very beginning and the flight to Kalabo from Lusaka is extraordinary. The route takes you over the Zambezi Floodplain – which is a spectacle all by itself. It is literally water for as far as the eye can see, with the deeper river channels visible amongst the huge expanse of water.
Kalabo itself leaves you with the impression of a frontier town – a very good description from Jason as we marvelled at the quantity of goods being transported on the long boats that are used in this part of Zambia. The drive into camp takes you through some villages at the beginning, and for me it was fascinating to see how differently they construct their houses in the Western Province, having spent all my time here in the South Luangwa in the Eastern Province. They are also cattle farmers so we saw the cattle being driven to the fields for pasture.
None of this could have prepared me for, or could compare to, the utter splendour and majesty of the Plains themselves. You are always told you can see for miles – but believe me it is further than I ever thought possible. Everywhere you look there is something to see – a bird, wildebeest, zebra or just the extreme expanse of land and view laid out in front of you. There is a carpet of wild flowers and ferns forming beautiful backdrops to the wildebeest or the Wattled Cranes, and lagoons covered in water lilies, in full bloom and bud.
The light here is extraordinary, and it is a photographers dream. Everywhere you look there is something else begging to be captured. If photography is not your thing but birds are then this is a truly wonderful place. I saw more birds than I thought possible and really very close as well.
The Wattled Cranes were beautiful and something I have never seen, the crowned cranes are always stunning, but there were also plenty of Herons, Egrets, Storks, Whistling Ducks, Terns, Pelicans, Pratincoles, Sand Grouse even a Secretary Bird and so many more it is impossible to list them all. I was also lucky to see the White Breasted Bustard and the Dennam’s Bustard. We saw a Tawny Eagle in the early morning light taking a kill into a tree and then you have the ubiquitous call of the Fish Eagle – something that for me is one of the sounds of Africa.
As for the mammals they were also extraordinary – it seems that everywhere you look there is a wildebeest, but there were also plenty of Zebra, Hyena, Red Lechwe, Oribi and Steinbuck – the last three another first for me. The guests also saw a Serval. This is the first time that Robin and Jason have seen one on Liuwa – and it posed for them for about 15 minutes! One morning we woke to the sounds of the lions killing a wildebeest and the hyena taking over the carcass, so after a quick breakfast, the guests went out to investigate. They came across the hyena devouring the remains of a wildebeest, only for the hyena to abandon the carcass and gallop off. They followed them and saw – and heard – the hyena on another wildebeest which they had just brought down.
All pretty exciting and dramatic! The hyena are the primary predator in the region, and on a morning drive a couple of days later we saw them feeding on another wildebeest. They then took the remains back to the den, where they had some pups, and we were rewarded with the pups coming out of the den to investigate their delivery! The hyenas are also incredibly curious about the vehicle, and a couple came trotting up the vehicle to investigate the situation and smell. It was obviously decided that we were safe as after that the pups left the safety of the den entrance and crossed in front of us in chase of the carcass which had been carried away again. A wonderful spectacle!
Perhaps though, one of the most amazing events, and certainly one which I will carry with me for many years, occurred on the last night during sundowners. We set up the chairs and the table with a lagoon behind us and a water channel on our left, looking into the sunset. The sunset was stunning that night – and then the event started. As we were looking at the horizon the sky started turning black – hundreds of Pelicans were in formation heading for their roost – the lagoon behind us. We watched as wave after wave of Pelicans, we estimated it to be over 700 but perhaps closer to 1,000, flew overhead and landed behind us, always in formation. Add to this 5 or 6 African Skimmers skimming up and down the water channel on the left of us, with the pink sky reflected in the water, and you hopefully get the picture of a truly memorable event. I felt privileged to have been able to watch it.
Overall Liuwa has left a lasting impression on me and one which I believe will stay with me for a long time to come. It has an aura to it that is truly magical and part of this, I am sure, is that it is so remote, unspoilt and wild that you feel as if you really are part of nature, and how a lot of the world would have been many years ago.”
Remember Rod from Kutandala, who was running the London Marathon for the rhinos in North Luangwa? He sent a thank you note to all who kindly contributed, saying that he completed the London Marathon (in 3hrs 54 minutes):
“it was a great day with a fantastic atmosphere. Getting to the start-line was probably the hardest part as it was just after the volcanic-ash air-space close-down, but with the help and kindness from many quarters a seat was found at the last minute on an already very full BA flight.
Thank you to you all for your generous contributions to the fund-raising appeal - the grand total is now over £10,000 and raising the money was a huge motivating force in keeping me following my training schedule, particularly on days I'd rather not! We now look forward to the arrival of 5 more rhino for the North Luangwa on Wednesday.”
From the sunny South Luangwa, have a wonderful week!