Before I left the Lower Zambezi the park had one final surprise for me. As I was being driven to the airstrip for the flight to the South Luangwa we came across a pack of 14 wild dogs (five adults and nine pups). The pups were busy scrapping over the remains of what we determined to be a baboon, while the adults were back on the hunt and chasing impala around in the distance.
The flight to Mfuwe, the gateway to the South Luangwa, is about one and a half hours. On arrival I jumped into another vehicle and started the two hour drive to Kaingo in the northern region of the park. The park is mainly dominated by the Luangwa river, which at this time of year attracts most of the wildlife to its banks as it is the only water source left in the park.
The afternoon drive from Kaingo has to be one of the most exhilarating of any before. About halfway through the drive we came across a pride of nine lions lying flat out on the dry sand of the river bed. As none of them even raised their head to look at us, our guide suggested we carry on the drive and return later to see what might happen, as watching lions sleep is not the most thrilling. After an hour or so we returned and stopped for our sundowners on the bank above where the lions were still lying. At least this time they did raise their heads to see who we were. Lots of yawning and stretching followed and soon enough one of the lionesses was on her feet and heading towards us. As she did this, a hippo came into view as it came down off the bank heading straight for the lion. The hippo realised its predicament and instinctively charged the lioness to get to the water.
With lots of bellowing from the hippo and growling and snarling from the lions, we thought it was all over for the hippo. As did the male lion who chased off the female to take the prize for himself when the hippo stopped bellowing and the body went limp. At this point, two huge hippos emerged from the river and charged straight into the pride, chasing them off the seemingly dead hippo. With a nudge from one of the newly arrived hippos the one on the ground suddenly jumped to its feet, snarled at the lions and ran for the river. I think both the lions and us were in shock from what had just happened as there was a stunned silence before the lions lined up along the riverside to watch their apparently easy meal disappear from their grasp. As discussed back in camp, it really was a sighting you couldn’t have made up!