When I imagine the African landscape, I often think of wide plains covered by wildlife and vegetation. However, the Zambian landscape is very diverse, with woodlands, riverbanks, savannas, and swamp areas. As I set out on safari in South Luangwa National Park, my senses were wide open, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells.
South Luangwa National Park lies near the eastern border of Zambia, and is home to 60 different animal species and more than 400 types of birds. Now that sounds like a bird-lover’s paradise! My fellow travellers and I set off by jeep with our guides early in the morning and didn’t have to travel far before we came upon impala, water buffalo, zebras, and long-horned kudu. As we passed the riverbanks, I could see hippos’ ears and nostrils break the water’s surface. Even though they seem like adorable creatures, hippopotamuses actually kill more people per year than lions, elephants, and crocodiles combined!
Although it was exciting to see Zambia’s wildlife from the jeep, part of our safari included a walking portion. As I jumped out of the jeep with our guides, I was a little nervous about walking where lions and elephants roam freely, but it did feel wonderful to stretch my legs after the bumpy jeep ride. Our guides showed me how to track different animals by the size of their footprints, evidence from where they had been feeding, and even from what they left behind!
One of my favorite moments on safari was coming face to face with the rare Thornicroft Giraffe. Also known as the Rhodesian Giraffe, the Thornicroft Giraffe is native to eastern Zambia. Only about 1,500 members of this subspecies exist, making it one of the most endangered animal populations in the world. The Thornicroft Giraffe is truly a magnificent creature, with its star-shaped pattern and rich coloring, but if something is not done to protect them soon, future generations may not be able to enjoy these tall mammals.