Friday, September 4, 2009

Lots of lions at Lufupa Tented Camp

August 5 – Lufupa Tented Camp

We were up at 0600 this morning, and sat down to a continental breakfast half an hour later, with maltabella porridge, cereals, croissants, vegan crumpets, a fruit salad, tea and coffee. By 0700 we were in the vehicles and off on our game drive. Within literally minutes we came upon a pride of lions: 2 males in the prime of their life, two 1-yr old cubs and 5 females. We sat and observed them quietly for what must have been the better part of an hour. The two youngsters started to tussle with some tufts of grass and then with each other, just like two little kids would do.

The two male lions were the most impressive, obviously young individuals just coming into their prime.

A slightly closer look.

And one in our direction.

There were also several sleek and very powerful female lions

Who looked ready to get up and pursue something at any moment.

The most 'entertaining' members of the pride were the two youngsters.

At first this one just looked at us.

And then started to make some faces, possibly to intimidate us.

Not bad for a baby lion!

Aren't I cute with this tuft of grass in the mouth?


How many ways can I bend this thing?

Ok enough of this game

Initially the other sibling just rested up all by itself, but it later ambled over to see what its brother was doing.

Not content with just a blade of grass, this young lion tried to rip up a small palm tree.

Typical youngsters, the two of them started a little 'let's see who is the strongest' contest.

The superb lion sightings certainly made the day. Even so, general game-viewing was on the quiet side, with mostly puku and impala to be seen. Later on during the drive we had some really nice views of a group of Southern Crowned Cranes and Yellowbilled Stork.

Back in camp we enjoyed the customary 1100 brunch, with eggs to order, pasta, a beef dish, a vegetable dish, delicious home made bread and a mixed green salad. Then it was siesta time until 1530. The afternoon activity consisted of a boat trip on the Lufupa River, specifically to try and find some African Finfoot, a rarely seen duck-like species which tends to skulk around the edge of large rivers, often in areas with overhanging vegetation.

A Dutch family observing and photographing the African Finfoot, while on a boat safari on the Lufupa River.

After seeing lots of other birds, including four types of Kingfishers (Giant, Pied, Brownhooded and Malachite) Darters, storks, herons and egrets, our guide Brian spotted a Finfoot and excitedly pointed out its whereabouts. “Finfoot, Finfoot - right there on the river bank!”. And so it was. An adult male Finfoot with the brightest of bright red feet and legs was walking from our left to right in a completely open area, enabling us to clearly see its distinguishing features. Definitely my best sighting of a Finfoot yet. But not for long. Hardly half an hour later, Brian saw a female Finfoot by the water’s edge. When we went closer to get some photographs, it quickly became apparent that this individual was completely relaxed. She swam slowly upstream, feeding all the time, totally oblivious to several lenses pointed in her direction. At one stage the prow of the skiff on which we were sitting bumped into a clump of bushes right by the Finfoot but instead of fleeing the scene she opportunistically went after some insects which were disturbed by the boat. We quietly followed the Finfoot all along the river’s edge for nearly half a hour, with Jan (a keen Dutch photographer) getting some superb pics. I managed a few myself, but I have a long way to go to match Jan’s expertise, especially with birds in flight.

Most of my African Finfoot pics are blurred (too little light...) but on this exposure the bird sat still enough.

Our evening meal was yet another marvelous combination of roasted peppers, potato wedges, butternut squash and a superb lentil stew, followed by a baked apple stuffed with almonds and raisons. The cooking at Lufupa Tented Camp is definitely at a very high level. Half an hour around a cozy campfire punctuated what was really a perfect day on safari.

As in most places in Southern Africa, there are lots of Impala around the Lufupa area.

We had some nice views of Crowned Crane, which we would again encounter in much larger numbers later, on the Busanga Plains.

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