Sacred Combe Safari IV
Try and get there before the guests. At least a day. Like a good warm-up before the big match: get your eye in, get your ear in, get tuned in to the sights and sounds of the Luangwa Valley in Zambia. So we – that’s me and Chris, co-leader of the trip, founder and CEO of Wildlife Worldwide — put up for a night at the lovely Flatdogs camp near the Luangwa Bridge, and there we ate and drank with old friends. We felt part of things once again, for we have both been here many times.
The following morning we were out in South Luangwa National Park. We saw a small group of lions, a nice big male and four females. They too made us feel part of things. Familiar things, lions: what a miracle it is, to be able to speak of lions as familiar things.
But no matter how well you know the Valley there is always something unexpected. We came to a stretch of open water – Luangwa Wafwa – and there we were brought up short. Because there was a fishing party in progress, Towards the end of the dry season, as these waters grow shallow, the fishing gets easier and easier. Then the birds come crowding in to exploit the resource, and it is the immense disturbance of the immense numbers that makes the system work. You could hardly see the water for the birds.
I counted them. Always count, because there is a certain magic in the numbers. I made it 220 white pelicans and 500 yellow-billed storks, plus ten African spoonbills and three marabou storks.
I don’t know what triggered it. One of the marabous grabbed a fish – and all at once the full frenzy was on, the pelicans beating the water with their wings in unison, driving the fishes mad, and so beak after beak suddenly pointed skywards, transferring a fish from the immense trawl-net of the beak down to where it would do most good. I saw five storks in a row, each with a large fish athwart its beak.
Lord, this valley is full of wonders, full to the brim. Point of information: the answer to the question at the head of this blog is, of course, “one rode a horse and one rhododendron”. Already it was clear that this would be a special trip. Better get to the airport and meet the guests.