Sunday, 29 July 2012

Exploring Zambia Part 1: The Wildlife

Well I'm back from Zambia and settled back in the UK's beautiful sunny summer. We must have brought the hot African sun back with us!

6 weeks in Zambia was a great experience for me as a photographer, filmmaker and just as a person. I got to know some great people in our team as well as out in Zambia and we met some amazing children at the different placements we were working at. But I'll put up more about the actual sporting side of things at a later stage once I've gone through all the photos fully. This blog is about the wildlife.

We spent a weekend in Livingstone being Muzungu (white people!) tourists. A weekend is not enough time to take in all the sights around Livingstone but if I had stayed longer I would have spent a lot more money! I did however go on a walking safari, saw tame cheetah, stood at the top of Victoria Falls and took a sunset cruise on the Zambezi. The following are a small selection of photos from the weekend.

I was picked up for the walking safari at 6:30am. We drove to a few other camps to pick up some other tourists and then to Mosi-Ao-Tunya National Park, Livingstone's local park named after the Victoria Falls.

This zebra was among the first animals we saw as we drove into the park at about 8am. I was surprised to not see more zebra but then they are savannah animals.

Vervet Monkeys are a favourite of mine. We used to have a troop at the bottom of our garden in South Africa until the council cut down all the blue gum trees that were the monkeys' homes. This looks like a mother and her babies. They were foraging in the leaves next to the Zambezi River.

Impala, Baboon and a Buffalo with her calf.

It was the first time I've seen buffalo. Another of the big 5 ticked off the list! These guys had calves with them and were watchful of us but not too bothered that we were there.

This is a bird I didn't know existed until this trip. A Sparrow Weaver apparently. I've heard of sparrows and I've heard of weavers but together? Interesting.

The Sparrow Weaver's nest. A bit of a mess but with the characteristic weaver shape with added sparrow nest characteristics!

There were lots of grey hornbills flying around. But the red-billed hornbill was a bit more elusive. Every time I got close enough with my camera he would fly. So I had to make do with the grey hornbill.

Buffalo posing for me!

And her calf! Family resemblance?!

A tiny heard of wildebeest gave us a bit of show.

The rangers drove us to the other side of the park to view these rhino. A Mother (right) and her calf (left).

The rangers told us this was a dung beetle. But it's not. I have yet to find out what it is. If anyone does know please leave a comment on the bottom of this blog.

My next adventure was the most anticipated. I've always loved the cheetah and Livingstone has a rehabilitation centre that they also use as a tourist centre for big cats. They do cheetah walks for tourists.  So once again I had an early start to see the cheetah up close.

According to my diary the three cheetah we encountered were called MacGuiser (Not MacGuiver), Suzie and Lili (Short of Lillian). I'm not sure in my photos which is which sadly. I do remember though that Lili had a green harness on.

He had a stick with a flat football on it that the cheetah liked to play with!

Typical cheetah pose.

The beautiful tear marks.

Cool, calm and collected in the early morning shade of tourists (or lunch)

Early morning light and shadows. Couldn't resist this shot but it seems the cheetah didn't want to be in it!

We were not allowed to stand or sit in front of the cheetah but I was able to get a few nice shots of their faces from behind.

One of the keepers took this shot for me, showing off those beautiful amber eyes.

One of the cheetah really liked the football! My guess is it was MacGuiser (the only boy!)

Cheetah waiting patiently while we all have our picture taken with them. Poor things, they've had enough of the camera and refused to look at it, except they didn't know mine was pointing at them too!

No second thoughts when the keepers said if we put our hands in front of their faces they would lick our hands. Oh and that's me by the way.

As a final treat before we said goodbye we got to see the cheetah run. In the enclosure they've rigged a pulley system that has a ball connected to it. When they turn on the engine the ball moves fast as does the cheetah! MacGuiser was first to go because he was the slowest.

If you compare the dust in this to the photos following you will see how easy it is to tell the relative speed of one cheetah to another. The dust has already settled behind MacGuiser by the time he's making his next stride.

But Suzie is already a few metres away and the dust hasn't settled yet!

And Suzie caught the ball at the end of the line.

Lili was the fastest of the three cheetah.

She caught the ball at the far side of the enclosure and had to be brought back for another run!

And she caught it at the end again.

Our next stop was Victoria Falls, a must see if you're in the area and I didn't want to leave Livinstone without seeing the falls. Below is the photo of our first view of the falls after paying a meagre amount.

And around the corner we were at the top of the falls looking at the constant rainbow that has been in so many photos.

We all sat on a rock at water level and took in the view from the top of the falls, not much when the mist sprays past but just being at the top was amazing. David Livingstone apparently stood on the edge of the falls and looked down the 300ft drop. Of course the water was too high to get close enough to the edge to look down.

Another walk around the corner and another view of the top.

Apparently a few hippos have fallen over the falls. This poor guy seemed a bit stuck and that grassy bit is quite near the edge. Hopefully the rangers were able to rescue him.

A view before crossing over the bridge and getting soaked by spray. It was like standing in a South African rain storm.

While we were waiting for those wanting to buy curios we saw this zebra on the other side of the fence.

As a group we went on the sunset cruise, also known as the booze cruise. While the others went wild over free drinks, I concentrated on the African wildlife.

These two are rollers, Zambian's national bird. I saw plenty of them while in Livingstone but this was the only photo I got.

A huge family of hippos were bathing on the bank. The group included some calves as well and some very large males.

These two pied kingfishers flew around our boat for quite a while and I was able to get a few shots of them.

Never smile at a crocodile...? I think his smile is the best! He looks pretty pleased to see us all! EEK.

Egyptian Goose showing off his body.

Beautiful sunset over the Zambezi River.

Sunset sky in the east.

Sunset sky in the west.

I didn't have to travel all the way to Livingstone to see Africa's wildlife though. In our back garden in Lusaka we found this cute guy.

I named it Chris the Chameleon because I don't know whether it's a male or female and Chris works for both. The tree Chris is in is 'his' home tree and we found him a few times in this tree. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to sit and wait for him to catch his food.

On my last week in Lusaka I found this beetle in the garden. If anyone knows what it is please use the comment feature at the bottom of this post.

While we were having a closer look at the bug he flew away from us and into a spider web. I did rescue him don't worry.

I almost forgot about the bird and butterfly I captured when we went to the rural placement for a day.

The bird is a female red-cheeked cordonbleu or red-cheeked waxbill I think. It could also be the blue-cappped cordonbleu if the beak is more pink. I have zoomed into the original photo and I can say that the beak is more pink so but the blue-capped has as the name suggests a blue head not a brown one. So after that I can say pretty confidently that this is the red-cheeked. The male has a small red stripe behind the beak.

As far as I can tell this butterfly has the rather boring name of the African Butterfly which is a pain to google.

That's it for the wildlife in Zambia. My next blog will focus on portraits and sports photography I got while I was on placement. But that will take another few days as I choose a small selection of my millions of photos and then wait for them to upload - don't know if it's my internet or blogger but upload is the slowest it's ever been!