The title of this post should be: BECAUSE HE CAN, based on the main photo. If you have to ask why……. don’t.
Our beauty sleep was constantly interrupted by the honking and bellowing of the many hippos that had emerged from the river to feed. They were all around us but as far as I know none came into the campsite but they were damn close.
We planned our day in the Nsefu Sector of SLNP to maximize our short exposure and shortly after gate opening time we were at the seldom used Milyoti Gate. After the usual slow but genial filling in of and paying for the permits, we were on our way. The same charges as at Mfuye apply. Interestingly enough this gate and route through the park is used by pedestrians and cyclists on the way north. I don’t know if I would feel safe cycling through this area. As it turned out only 3 vehicles entered, one of the other being David and Yvonne.
Following advice from Victoria Wallace of Zikomo we drove north to the well-known game viewing hotspot of Chichele Hot Springs and then slowly wound our way back along the River Route. However this time we were on the southeastern bank on the other side of the Luangwa River and further upstream than had been the case in the Mfuye Sector further west. Which of the 2 sectors did we enjoy more? Difficult to say as the Msefu section has magnificent trees and scenery. However the lack of other tourist traffic in Nsefu swings it for me. Also the drives right along the river edge are more extensive. Nowhere will you see more hippos than in the Luangwa. Game numbers are very high here with extensive herds of impala and puku. We also saw giraffe, zebra, warthog, baboons in fair numbers. We did not manage to nail down a leopard yet again.
The hot springs area has a large area of pools in a chain stretching for some distance. They must be a massive magnet in the dry and already the bird and animal numbers were impressive. A large number of bones and skulls were scattered about attesting to the action that takes place here. It somehow reminds of Chitake Springs in Mana Pools Zimbabwe. The water is really hot and the flow from the spring impressive. There are quite extensive areas of open plains here but we did not encounter any of the buffalo, eland, zebra or wildebeest herds this area is famous for, too early in the season perhaps.
However any disappointment was dispelled by a magnificent viewing of a pair of male lions in their prime. They were resting up in the shade right next to the road and the river bank. They appeared exhausted and the reason became evident when they limped off to seek more shade. They had obviously been involved in a clash with other male(s) trying to take over the pride.
Most of the roads had recently received some work after the rains and in preparation for the coming peak season and were in reasonable condition. There is especially an extensive network along the river front and other permanent water containing vleis. We did not manage to find the renowned stork nesting colony.
Make no mistake SLNP is well worth a visit and to those looking for a more off the beaten track destination don’t hesitate to choose Zikomo and the Nsefu Sector. Do not expect too many frills at Zikoma but the basics are excellent and so is the hospitality. However it is its location away from the relatively busy Mfuwe which is the matchwinner. Most would stay in one of the camps in Mfuwe as well. We think the eastward diversion to SLNP of over 1,000km, from our northbound quest, was worth it.
The final thumbnail is of the Milyoti Entrance Gate, which illustrates how little used this part of the park is.