Luangwa Rains is a blog post from the BeetleCam, Zambia category.

Luangwa Rains

Posted by Will on

Much has happened since my last South Luangwa post so a follow-up is long overdue! The dry season is now well and truly over. I will never forget 1st November, the day the rains arrived…

That day I awoke to find a veil of cloud had descended over the valley. There was a sense of anticipation as the parched earth and thirsty animals waited for the first raindrops to fall. However, there was also another cause for excitement that day; I had heard rumours that wild dogs had been spotted in the area! Ever since arriving in Zambia I had been searching for African wild dogs, a species that has always managed to evade me on previous trips. I set off in search of them, hoping that I wouldn’t be thwarted by the rain.

I found the pack after a couple of hours and enjoyed spending the rest of the morning with them. It was wonderful to watch them as they played around boisterously. After taking some shots with my long lens, I deployed BeetleCam. The dogs’ curiosity was instantly aroused and they crowded around the camera. I had always dreamed of photographing wild dogs from this perspective and the resulting shots were exactly what I had hoped for…

African wild dogs photographed with BeetleCam.

This was one of my last shots of the dry season… a few hours later, the heavens opened. Over the next 12 hours, 110mm of rain fell (approximately 10% of region’s annual rainfall)!

The bush camps have usually closed by the time the heavy rains arrive as the surrounding roads become completely impassable. However, this year the first deluge caught everyone off guard and as a result we were marooned in the bush for several days whilst we waited for the sodden landscape to dry out.

On the third day it was time to attempt an escape. This was easier said than done as the roads had turned into rivers of mud! Fortunately there was a four-wheel drive tractor on hand to tow me out of the boggiest areas. After several hours of battling mud we eventually made it out of the park. The next challenge was going to be cleaning my car!

Emerald Season

Over the following days and weeks, South Luangwa underwent a radical transformation; the hazy atmosphere and dusty colours of dry season were replaced with beautiful clear light and vibrant greens. Watery lagoons and lush plains appeared in areas that had been dust bowls a few weeks earlier.

Elephants crossing a flooded lagoon.
A puku in the Emerald Season.

Now the “Emerald Season” is here and the valley seems to be bursting with life. The herbivores are fat and healthy and baby impalas have taken over the valley. Times are also good for Luangwa’s leopards as the dense bush and tall grass afford plenty of cover for hunting. The cats stand out beautifully against the verdant backdrop.

A leopard watching monkeys in a tree.
A leopard in thick undergrowth.

Dazzling jewels also stud the greenery as colourful migrant birds arrive and residents flaunt their breeding plumage…

A red bishop exhibiting its breeding plumage.
Woodland kingfishers migrate to South Luangwa in the wet season.

…and there are kingfishers everywhere!

A pied kingfisher with a fish.
A malachite kingfisher beside the Luangwa River.

River Safaris

In the last few weeks, the Luangwa River has risen enough to make river safaris possible. This has allowed me to photograph the park from a different perspective. Exploring the river by boat has also bought me face to face with some truly monstrous crocs!

A tiny sandpiper and a monstrous croc on the banks of the Luangwa River.
A big crocodile splashes into the Luangwa River.

Luangwa is famous for the astonishing density of hippos that it supports and the boat was forever dodging them as we cruised up and down the river.

An adorable newborn baby hippo.
Mother hippo in full charge... terrifying!

On one occasion, we came round a corner to find a newborn baby hippo and its mother on a sandbank. We cut the engine so that we could drift past quietly. I had my lens focussed on the adorable baby when I became aware of a frantic pattering noise emanating from my right. I swung my lens round and was greeted by a terrifying sight… an angry mother hippo in full charge. We had no time to start the engine and escape. Fortunately she stopped a few metres away and we were able to beat a hasty retreat!

Win a Safari!

Win a $12k African Safari!

I have partnered with Norman Carr Safaris, Chongwe Safaris and Proflight Zambia to bring you an incredible new holiday giveaway! This is your chance to win a luxury 8-day safari for two in Zambia worth over $12k! You will start by spending 4 nights with Norman Carr Safaris in South Luangwa National Park and then fly down to Lower Zambezi National Park for 4 nights with Chongwe Safaris! Whether it’s tracking lion on foot, catching (and releasing) a tiger fish, photographing the elusive leopard, or sipping a cool gin and tonic overlooking the river, you’re guaranteed to create lasting memories as you switch off from the rest of the world.

Contest Closed

16 Comments

  1. Marvin Gentry said: February 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Pick me!

  2. Marcella said: February 7, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Also commented on FB. And as stated there your pictures are amazing. I enjoy seeing them. I’d say you got very lucky that the Mom did not continue to come after you and a wow picture for sure. Love the baby hippo – how totally cute is he/she.
    Great pictures – and that fish is almost to big for the bird!
    Thanks again for sharing

  3. Graham Shonfield said: February 7, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    As an aspiring photographer, this sounds like an incredible adventure! I love all your photos! Truly magnificent! That one at the end with the baby leopard captured such a cool moment in time!

  4. Graeme Williams said: February 7, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Fantastic prize…. Always wanted to do Zambia! This IS the top safari…

  5. Lionel unitt said: February 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Love the charging hippo. You hear they are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa , seeing the photo I can see why.

  6. SuzyR said: February 7, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    Spectacular photos, as usual! The baby impala is so beautiful, and the newborn hippo is adorable. Mother hippo is frightening in her intensity (“Don’t touch my baby!”) And those huge crocs are scary, too. The colors of the birds are stunning, especially the Malachite Kingfisher. Thank you for sharing your marvelous photos of such a gorgeous area with its equally gorgeous wildlife.

  7. David Jacobs said: February 8, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Exquisite photographs, the woodland Kingfisher picture has the most wonderful composition.Each image is so clear and perfect, I can only dream of the light which is in Zambia here in the drab old UK

  8. Karen said: February 8, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    What an amazing talent you guys have, it’s one thing to capture an image but yours speak volumes!
    I’d love to spend just one day out with you to grab some tips, you’re work is truly beyond brilliant!
    Well done, I’ve shared you on our Facebook wall http://www.facebook.com/StarKatz.Photography/

    Thank you for sharing your talent!

  9. kerim said: February 9, 2013 at 1:30 am

    incredible shots!!! PICK ME!

  10. Shadi said: February 9, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Hi I write from Iran. I love your pictures. You are so talented. keep going!!
    I loved the baby hippo too. very cute :D

  11. Iain Williams said: February 12, 2013 at 5:30 am

    I think you are one of more talented wildlife photographers – your images inspire and educate

  12. Murray Clark said: April 21, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Incredible photos, and we were there in South Luangwa and Chobe last July, and came home with some incredible photos, including an elephant that had been killed, with the whole trunk and head opened up, and a big leopard eating away about 20 metres from our safari vehicle.

  13. Rosii Pedler said: May 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Brilliant brilliant photography. How could you not fall in love with africa!!

  14. Paul - Alberta, Canada said: May 27, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Hippo Photos – Magnificent!

  15. JoEllen Arnold said: April 10, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Just back from the Norman Carr/Chongwe Safaris I was so fortunate to win through you! What a fabulous adventure! Still dreaming of elephant, and zebra and working through my photos and videos. Thank you soooooo much!

  16. Kathy Arnold said: April 25, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    the definition of your focal points in the frame are exquisite. Makes me feel as though I am there- present in the moment. Simply beautiful!

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