Game Drives

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Africa » Zambia » South Luangwa
October 10th 2010
Published: November 6th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

Doing two drives today; morning and night drive. The morning drive, which starts at 5:30 with a small breakfast, is lovely. It’s 30 degrees before 8am, but we stop for drinks- tea/coffee/cordial at this hour. Beautiful setting; areas of the park remind me of middle earth in Lord of the Rings. Less lush, as this is the driest season, but just as dramatic.

The night drive is just Haz and I and the guide and spotter. Paolo has made sure we have enough gin (i.e. a whole bottle) for our sundowner. On this evening’s we saw lion siblings just as they stirred and stretched their legs for their evening hunt, we went to a colony of carmine bee-eaters which are stunning birds, and when disturbed (by us!) seeing them in-flight against the setting sun is a sight I’ll remember always.

Game drives
Every game drive is laced with anticipation, as you can imagine; even if you’ve seen an animal multitude of times, it’s a new experience everytime: a different setting, displaying different behaviour, maybe with young ones around. The guides also stop for the smaller things; including reptiles and birds. You find with a lot of the longer term guests, after a week or so of going on morning and evening drives they are fairly ambivalent about seeing the regular animals like the giraffes and hippos and become really keen amateur bird watchers.

There used to be about 100K elephants in the park but poaching around 20years ago dramatically reduced numbers so now the guides estimate there’s about 20K. Though even with this number they expect that to preserve the habitat the Zambian government will soon have to implement a program to reduce numbers - sterilising, re-homing and the most controversial but cheapest, culling. My suggestion would be to increase the size of the park!

There are 3 lodges around the park that cater for hunting safaris. I honestly was surprised they existed, but apparently the Americans, Russians and lesser extent Germans still have an appetite for landing trophies of the big 5. An elephant, which I don’t see how they would be that challenging to hunt, they’re a pretty big target! costs USD 50K. They can apparently keep the trunks, though I thought there was a global ban on ivory, but maybe because it’s legal it’s exempt. Hazel has met one of the hunters that take out these rich trophy tourists and his view is that it helps conservation by keeping numbers manageable, but when the profits are so high (the elephant is the cheapest), it must be a huge temptation for the Zambian government to keep the practice going and quotas therefore high (e.g. there may be a quota of 5 lions and the 3 hunting safari lodge would buy one or two each.)

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