While our tents are luxurious, some including private spas, the lodge is still more rustic then previous stays. I picked up my towel to dry my hands and a lizard jumped out. We have to keep our bathroom door closed to make sure baboons don't come in. Most of all, our tents are situated right on the side of the river and you can hear the sounds of the night. The frogs and insects let out a cacophony of sound and the hippos let out roars on occasion that make the ground rumble. Suffice to say, I was awoken many times last night by the animals that surround our camp.
As crazy as this sounds, I hope you don't grow tired of elephants. Today we did our first drive in the Lower Zambezi National Park and we saw more elephants then I can count, including a baby that was about 1-month-old.
Now that I've photographed a baby elephant there are really only two animals that I, and everyone else, am in search of -- the male lion and the leopard. The fact that we can spot rare animals at all is kind of amazing. It's like finding a needle in a haystack. We are a lone vehicle on a dirt road looking in a national park that stretches for miles all around. The land here is not the open savannah that one sometimes imagines as Africa or sees in National Geographic, but rather a dense bush. It reminds me of chaparral or mesquite groves. There are large trees scattered here and there and in between is a dense bush that is hard for the eye to penetrate.
That land here in the Lower Zambezi National Park is much more wild then the places we have previously visited. At Chobe the animals have become desensitized to safari vehicles; they barely look at them. Here in the Zambezi the animals are much more skittish. They run when the vehicle approaches. The trees hang across the road and our guides have to get out, break branches, and clear the road of debris on occasion. Still, the wildlife is plenty, and it seems that around every corner another family of elephants can be found. We came across a dead civet and a place where blood could be seen drying on the ground. We found tracks of a leopard but we still have not seen the elusive animal.
One thing different about our stay here in the Zambezi is that we have choices. We can canoe on the river, go fishing for tiger fish, go on a game drive, a nature walk, or a river cruise. This afternoon I choose to the let the leopard and lions be found by others, and partake in another passion of mine, fishing. I joined four other travelers and we set out on the Zambezi at 3:30 hoping that the wind would not ruin the fishing.
Tiger fish are unique to Africa. They are Africa's piranha, they have large sharp teeth and you have to use a metal leader so that the fish don't cut the line. Don, my fishing buddy killed it, while I had very little luck. I managed to bring in a couple of fish, one nine pounder, and two logs.
On one cast I hooked into something very large, the tiger fish can grow to over 20 pounds, and when my line started heading up stream I got very excited. I pulled and reeled and tugged, but the line kept going out instead of in. This had to be a huge fish and not another log. And then it happened, I saw something rising out of the water in the direction my line was headed, tiger fish like to hurl themselves out of the water while fighting, so I was super excited to see something break the surface. Something large, dark and brown rose out of the water with a roar, it wasn't a fish at all, but a hippo. I had snagged a hippopotamus on the head, near it's face. Billy our guide quickly cut the line. We all laughed harder then we laughed the entire trip. After catching the hippo we fished for a bit longer and Don continued his good luck. Upon returning to the lodge we found out that the people who went on the game drive saw the rare and wiley leopard by the light of a spotlight at night. I'm definitely disappointed that I missed the leopard, but I think catching a hippo is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Tomorrow is our last day of fun before two days of travel home. It's been an amazing journey so far and I hope it continues tomorrow. I have two more opportunities to view the amazing wildlife in the Lower Zambezi, and I'm sure I won't be disappointed.