I really wanted to email you properly and tell you what a wonderful time we all had.
This time 2 weeks ago….we were having our first meal at Flatdogs and my Mum had just spotted her first hippo, in the camp! It was so funny because she didn’t quite know what to make of it. We just sat there eating our meal whilst one of the staff shined a torch on it for us to see. She kept saying, ‘is it ok?’ ‘are we safe’. I just said, ‘yes Mum, soak it up and enjoy the moment’. She didn’t sleep great the first night, she was a little anxious as she’s never experienced anything quite so wild, we had elephants eating all the trees right up to our tents all night. Even though she didn’t sleep that night, she soon settled straight in to safari life and was well away with it all.
Gary and I mainly wanted to go to Zambia to see leopards and wild dogs. We assumed everything else was a done deal, but those illusive lions proved to be the tricky ones. We had the most amazing guide, Geoffrey, he could see how passionate we are about wildlife, conservation and environment and went above an beyond to try and find us what we wanted to see.
So we saw our leopard first, got some great photos of him too. Then, quite unbelievably, using his tracking skills, Geoffrey found us a pack of hunting wild dogs !! First he found paw prints, then fresh poo, we back tracked for a short while, he pointed out where their den was, then there they were. A pack of approximately 20 wild dogs!!! I actually had a tear in my eye as I never thought I would see them. They were really lively. They had just made a kill and were sharing the food between them when an impala ran out from nowhere then they were back on the hunt !! They were unsuccessful on that occasion which I hate to say I wasn’t too upset about as Geoffrey had explained they ate their prey alive 😦 we were glad to miss that bit. We went on to see 2 more leopards and the same pack of dogs on another day.
After 3 safaris Gary and I were starting to worry that we weren’t going to see lions !! We shouldn’t have doubted Geoffrey, he knew what was on our list and lions were next. We drove far north and found approx. 300 strong herd of buffalo. Geoffrey said to us, ‘where there’s buffalo, there’s lions’ and he wasn’t wrong. He said to us he was going to look for a place for our sundowner then we would go on to look for the lions once the sun had gone down a bit more. So we circle around this area by the river, then we circled again, then again. Then there they were, perfectly camouflaged on the grass, 4 lionesses!!
So we watched them for a few minutes, popped off for a gin and a safe wild wee then returned just as they were moving off towards the buffalo. Oh my god Alex, it was so exciting and I felt so privileged as were the only car there and what we were about to see was amazing. The lions hid in the bushes, then one moved out and around whilst the buffalo tentatively moved through them. It was fascinating to see as you watch this on the BBC but were actually watching it real life. OK, so they missed the one they tried to catch, then they slipped off in to an area we couldn’t get to but they were following the buffalo and Geoffrey said he was certain they would be successful tonight. As we headed off back to Flatdogs, on a high from seeing 4 lions, we then went; on the see another 3.
The next morning, my Mum was very tired so she enjoyed some time on her own in camp whilst Geoffrey took us off back to the where we left then lions. We met a jeep on the way driving 2 girls, one was asleep and one was on her phone, Geoffrey asked the driver if he had seen the lions and he said no, but I thought to myself, why should that guide even bother trying whilst the 2 guest appeared to be showing no interest at all in where they are (we saw a lot of that indecently).
Anyway, Geoffrey, being the determined guide he was, was sure they would be there somewhere and thanks to the alarm calls of the puku and the circling vultures, he drove completely off track (I’m not sure we were supposed to be there!) and there they were!! 4 lions looking considerably fatter than they did the night before, trying desperately to fend off the impatient vultures. Amazing!!!
So I then jokingly set Geoffrey a task, I said I bet you can’t find me a porcupine ! Well he did !!! And a honey badger! I mean, what would be the chances. I shouldn’t forget our spotter too, Elias, with the torch, he as the one who found us a leopard one evening, meters in to the park on our last drive. he was working hard to shine the torch in the right places and even found us an African eagle owl!!
I loved Flatdogs, the management was very friendly, down to earth and easy to talk to, networking with guests each evening, it was also really nice how they met you from your safari each time you returned, interested to know what you had seen. The staff were just wonderful, I will never know how they remembered our names every time they spoke to us. The food was absolutely delicious and we had no worries at all about being vegetarian. The tents were totally adequate and I didn’t really want to leave there.
So then we were on to Chundukwa, where I can safely say I probably put on 5lbs hahaha. I don’t think there chef would be out of place in a really good restaurant in the UK somewhere. Knocked socks off most places we’ve eaten. I even asked for one of the recipes one evening. Really lovely setting, nice lodge, very comfortable and Doug and Gail were lovely. Poor Gail was really unwell with flu so we didn’t her too much much I could have talked to Doug for hours, he’d obviously led a very colourful life and had a real passion for conservation and local people which was really nice.
Gary and I tried a bit of horse riding, and we did the sunset cruise which was lovely too but my mum skipped that bit as she’s terrified of water and thought a hippo would upturn the boat !! hahaha. Got soaked at the falls, Gary and I walked to the boiling pot, then we went off and had lunch at The Royal Livingstone, lovely to experience but definitely not my style of accommodation, too many people, much preferred Chundukwa. We did the rhino walk which was really good too, very expensive but hopefully that money is being used in a good way and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity isn’t it?
Thank you Sarah for sharing your lovely trip with us!