So this is my first proper post from Africa! I have been in Zambia for two months and I’ve been keeping myself busy! August was taken up with buying a capable 4×4 and moving into our new house in Katete. Once set-up I was then able to get on with the important task of photographing some wildlife!
In September I was able to make several trips up to South Luangwa National Park, courtesy of two of Zambia’s leading safari operators – The Bushcamp Company and Norman Carr Safaris. My aim for this year is to document the changing face of the park through the seasons. September is the height of the dry season. Animals are forced to congregate near the permanent water sources such as the Luangwa River and the few remaining waterholes. As a result, the pickings for the predators are plentiful.
The Luangwa Valley is well known as one of the best places in Africa to see the elusive leopard and it wasn’t long before it had lived up to its reputation; on my first visit to the park, I came across a mother with two 9-month-old cubs in daylight. This was the first time I’d had the opportunity to photograph a leopard with BeetleCam so I immediately deployed it.
The leopard cubs responded rather like the lion cubs from previous encounters – they were bold and inquisitive. Fortunately, they were slightly more respectful than their lion counterparts and I was spared the sight of my BeetleCam being carried off into the bush or up a tree!
On my next visit to the park, I headed further north. There I found some incredible old ebony groves. The towering black trunks, green canopy and carpet of fallen leaves reminded me of an enchanted forest rather than a habitat I expected to find in Africa. By a stroke of good fortune, I came across a pride of lions in one such grove and used BeetleCam to take the image above of a lioness in this unusual habitat.
Next, I ventured further into the interior of the park, to a camp on the seasonal Luwi River. Here there is a permanent lagoon, which is the only source of water for many miles. This lagoon is stuffed full of crocodiles and hippos. During the day, the crocs haul themselves out of the water to bask in the sun. I decided to try and get a BeetleCam perspective of a croc emerging from the water. This turned out to be more difficult than expected… the crocs were very wary of BeetleCam and refused to come anywhere near it. Eventually, after several days of perseverance, I managed to the shot I wanted using a camouflaged remote camera.
September is the month that thousands of carmine bee-eaters arrive in the valley to start building their nests in the banks of the Luangwa River. They form large, vibrant colonies, which add a dazzling splash of colour to the muted tones of the dry season.
Over the final weekend of the month, I headed down to a remote camp on the banks of the Kapamba River. Here the local pride of lions consists of two lionesses and five large cubs. At this time of year herds of buffalo, puku and impala have no choice but to congregate near the river and the lions take full advantage of the situation. In one afternoon I watched them take down two impala in the space of a minute. It all happened less than 50m away and it wasn’t long before BeetleCam was on the scene, inching towards five ravenous cubs and the rapidly disappearing antelope.
September flew by and was full of excitement and photographic opportunities. I have really been enjoying the freedom that comes from having my own vehicle and exploring the vast African wilderness on my own. It is also very refreshing to have the luxury of time to really become familiar with an area and its wildlife.
As September progressed, the days grew hotter and hotter, a trend that will continue through October until the first rains bring some relief at the end of the month. After the first downpour, the valley will change completely, almost overnight; the air will clear, dramatic skies will start building up overhead and everything will turn green. The impalas will all give birth in the space of a few days and migratory birds will start to arrive from far and wide. I can’t wait to document the transition into wet-season. If you would like to follow my year in Zambia, please subscribe to my email newsletter. I am also regularly posting my latest photos on Facebook, if you would like to receive my updates, please “like” my page.