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Beautiful South Luangwa - a safari of elephants

Zambia South Lungwa

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#41 martywilddog

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Posted 11 November 2016 - 11:54 AM

So after that morning drive we were off to Kafunta, our last camp. Or not exactly, back to Flat Dogs first! Kafunta had agreed with Gavin they would pick us up from Flat Dogs since they had other new guests who were currently at Flat Dogs. Works for us! The moment we arrive we run back into John, which was a nice surprise! We gave him the doubles of our tsetse nuclear devices since François and Jose were going to Kafue next and we thought they might need it more than us. They mentioned afterwards by the way that the burning of the elephant dung at the back of the car really works! I had read that before (probably here I think :) ) , but when we mentioned it in SLNP the camp owners/guide gave us a funny face :)

 

Anyway, then we were off to the next camp. 

 

Wow, kafunta was beautiful! The pictures on the website just don't do it justice! The view from the main deck (where you have dinner and breakfast) and from their gorgeous infinity pool is simply to die for! Amazing floodplains with soooooooo many animals (impala, baboons, warthogs, zebra's, giraffe, elephants, hippo's, hyena's)! I had expected a luxury on the level of what Flat Dogs turned out to be, but it was of an even higher standard! Kafunta was the most upmarket one of all the camps we visited, but it was definitely reflected in the level of service and the whole look and feel of the place (that pool with that view!) It exceeded my expectations by far! 

 

We had one of the two suites and these rooms are easily worth the very small extra cost! They are infinitely bigger and more beautiful than the standard rooms (we stayed in the standard room on our last night - availability is an issue with the suites since they only have 2). The bathroom was the size of an average apartment. And the suite had two floors, with a very beautiful look out deck at the top floor with day beds. For some reason we didn't get at that time, they had a mosquito net hanging over them. Well we soon found out what that was for when the very nice manager Izzy asked us if we would like those day beds to be made up for a sleep out. Would we ever! Ok, perhaps a sleep out for wussies since you are right on top of your actual room and nowhere alone, but still, great experience! 

 

We highly recommend Kafunta! The lodge is marketed by most agents as midlevel I think, and that does it a grave injustice! It is amazingly good value for money at a very very high level of service! Everyone of the staff is extremely friendly and the manager Izzy is very very on hand to ensure all guests are enjoying their stay. 

 

It's a lodge, not a bush camp, but I am woman enough to admit I really enjoyed my pressurised shower after 3 nights bush camp bucket shower :) And when combined with their island bush camp as we did, then you get the best of both! 

 

Some pictures taken on arrival

 

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They have a very nice hide under the deck from which you can admire the animals at eye level! And we had a very accommodating elephant on arrival that came almost close enough to touch! What a great start! 

 

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While the big guy came from the right, this breeding herd came from the left. This picture was taken from our upstairs deck as we watched them come. 

 

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But we had to stop admire him and get ready for our first drive! A drive that would give us our second favourite sighting of the trip! 


Edited by martywilddog, 11 November 2016 - 11:56 AM.

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#42 Antee

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Posted 11 November 2016 - 10:00 PM

I agree, Kafunta is a really nice lodge. Priceworthy! Not overpriced and you get alot for your money! 

I had such a great nightdrives over there. 


Edited by Antee, 11 November 2016 - 10:00 PM.


#43 SharonV1

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Posted 20 November 2016 - 05:00 AM

Hi MartyWildDog:

 

Loving your review.  We were in SLNP the same time as you, mid September and so it's like reliving my own trip to some extent.  But we did not make it to Nsefu...and now I know that's where we will go next year when we return to Zambia.  Or at least one of the places.  Thanks for encouraging me to write a trip report as it led me to this area of the forum and I'll work on my own report eventually.  For now, just enjoying reading about your experiences.  We too encountered the dogs, but looking at your pictures, I'm pretty sure we saw two different packs.  Which makes sense since we were staying in the more central region along the Luwi river which is completely dry in September. 

 

Thanks again for sharing your report.  Will keep an eye out for the rest of it.

 

Sharon


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#44 Atravelynn

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Posted 20 November 2016 - 05:18 PM

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would see them [wild dogs] on our very first drive!"  Isn't that the stunning unpredictability of Africa? Good thing the dogs were not as elusive as the zebra.  It was another canine-ish creature that impressed me even more, though.  That baby hyena at night!  Wow!

 

So many eles in the river, a beautiful setting for them.  Eles behind wild dogs is not bad either.  Glad the dogs were more active for your second sighting.  That one dog with more white on it really stands out.

 

Your title is a bit of a misnomer, there was a lot going on in addition to elephants.

 

Congrats on your weddings and honeymoons!


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When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#45 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 01:50 PM

Thanks all for your nice comments and sorry for not finishing my trip report sooner! Life you know... :)

 

Come to think of it when looking at the pictures here you are absolutely right @Atravelynn! But it felt like there were elephants everywhere we looked and every turn we took. We did see a great plethora of animals though! (totally off topic and on the side, I just read your first Phinda trip report with the "Hunter" family - my god lady, you displayed serious patience, I salute you! It's my 2017 resolution to get less annoyed at things (and people), but I'd need another 10 years of good resolutions to put up with them folks' ;-) ) 

 

So let's get back into it and wrap up this trip report!  


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#46 optig

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 02:13 PM

@martywilddog@atravelynn@SharonV1 Despite having been to South Luangawa 3 times already, I can't wait to return in 2018. I'm staying at Chamilandu,Kuyenda, and Bilingumwe 

in part due to the fact that this is supposed to be the best area to see wild dogs and the scenery is quite different from the Northern part of the park. I'm also happy to stay in three completely new lodges. Phil Berry and his partner Arlette are considered legends in the valley even if Phil is no longer doing his own guiding. 



#47 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 02:31 PM

We set out on our first drive with Martin and from the minute we left the lodge we loved it even more! The area was just gorgeous. The very first animal we saw while driving towards the park was the prettiest bird I have ever seen. I am now a avid admirer of the lilac breasted roller! 

 

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Somehow the light made it's beak look almost gold. 

 

After my first encounter with the obliging LBR, we continued our way into the park. We had a convenient pontoon or river crossing to get into the park. Especially the river crossing always made me hold my breath for a minute (that's how adventurous I am ;-) ) but it was wonderful! So special to be driving through a river in the pitch black darkness of night. 

 

Since we were a bit later getting into the park than the other two kafunta vehicles (having taken a moment with the LBR) we could benefit immediately from their finding as we heard over the radio: leopard!

 

My personal favourite animal to watch on safari, so graceful, so beautiful, so wild :)

 

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Please forgive the poor quality of these photo's since she wasn't in the best position, hiding quite well under some bushes. There were also a couple of elephants around though so we could watch those and the leopard at the same time. 

 

However, since she was not in a great spot, this led the other car that had arrived before us to leave the sighting only a couple of minutes after we arrived. 

 

Our guide Martin wanted to wait though and see what the moment could bring. He wasn't sure whether the elephants had noticed the cat yet and they were headed in her direction. If they came too close he figured she'd get agitated and would move. And indeed she wasn't too happy that they were disturbing her nap. 

 

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So she got up.

 

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And we figured this was it. But to our surprise she didn't leave the area.

 

We hadn't yet noticed that there was also a hyena hanging around (Martin had of course). So he surmised she had stashed a kill. And no more than 5 seconds after he said that she started munching away.

 

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I was staring at the leopard (now in full view) with amazement when we started hearing a ruckus around us. I unfortunately didn't get a good picture of the interaction that followed because it was just too hectic, but oh my was it entertaining for us onlookers. The hyena that had been lurking about the leopards dinner was now spotted by the two elephants that had been leisurely strolling and eating and they liked her about us much as they liked the wild dogs. So they went in hot pursuit! You can probably imagine what an exhilarating moment that was, watching a leopard eat just a couple of meters away to our left and watching two grown elephants run and stomp and trumpet after a hyena to our right. We didn't know where to look first! We could feel the car tremble from the force of the elephants stomping. I had a millisecond worry that we were right in their path but it wasn't necessary.

 

I did feel for the hyena because she couldn't run very fast, being clearly heavily pregnant. No harm came to her though, the elephants soon gave up the chase when she left their immediate area. 

 

And before we knew it the sighting was over, all the animals went their separate ways, and we just sat there with this ridiculous huge grin on our faces :) We liked Kafunta! We loved South Luangwa! 

 

 

 

 


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#48 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 02:35 PM

After our wonderful leopard-hyena-elephant interaction it was sundowners time. I was amazed at the change of scenery we had being at another lodge but still in the very same park as before. 

 

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As our night drive continued we were rewarded with another leopard! 

 

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I am sure we saw many more nocturnal animals but this drive was all about the leopards and you don't hear me complaining!


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#49 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 02:49 PM

The next morning we joined a different car and group because our vehicle mates were very set on visiting an area of the park we were not so keen to go. So we requested to join another car which was no problem. 

 

Our new guide was the newbie of the team and though he still lacked a little bit the experience of a seasoned guide with 20 years in the bush, his enthusiasm and eagerness made up for all of that with abundance! Effi was my favourite person from the trip, just so incredibly sweet and happy to be doing what he was doing. He also talked a lot more, explaining things to us left and right. I had the feeling he felt he needed to prove he was equally as qualified by sharing his knowledge. But he did it in such an understated and shy way. You couldn't help but love the man. We sure did :)

 

I will let the pictures speak for themselves for this day and the next morning: 

 

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#50 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 03:11 PM

Right after lunch we were off to the bush camp! The drive there was quite harrowing, this was the kind of bush massage I could do without :) But we passed by some villages and a few animals (very very few - I had expected this to sort of be like a game drive, but we seemed to pass through no mans land). Three hours later we arrived at bush camp, all shaken, not stirred (sorry, I have a horrible sense of humour today). 

 

We arrived around 15.45 so we were eager to go out on the afternoon activity to stretch our legs. But the guide had already left without us :-( seeing our clear disappointment the manager couple (Hadley and Jomi) explained to us that generally people don't feel up to the afternoon activity after being in a hot and bumpy car for 3 hours but we would have much preferred to do it. I felt they should offer people the choice whether they are up for it or not. Now I just felt cheated out of an activity. 

 

All my whining aside, we were over it rather quickly when they walked us to their "in house" sundowners spot. Surrounded by snorting hippos and a gorgeous view a sort of tranquility descended over us and we forgot all about not being out on a walk 

 

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(so if anyone happens to be visiting kafunta and would really really want that walk, just tell the lodge to radio the bush camp that they should wait for you, they will happily do so. The thought they were doing us a favour) 

 

So we sat watching the view and listening to the hippos with a cold mosi and a chardonnay and chatted a bit with Hadley and Jomi about safaris. She was originally from the US and he was South African and they both just loved Africa. They were both qualified guides in SA but it was not easy getting the accreditation recognised in Zambia. They talked about their favourite places in SA and that led to our next safari plans: timbavati this coming March. Jomi also told us that he loves the kwazulu natal area so we are taking a look at that as well for another safari! 

 

Soon enough the other returned and we all had dinner together: we were introduced to Jeff, our walking guide and our camp mates, two other couples. We were absolutely blown away by the dinner that Godfrey (the chef) put together out there in the middle of nowhere in the bush! It was finger licking good! Especially the desert, a kind of crumble! (often I can't get to desert anymore, but here I happily made an exception!) 

 

So very happily we went to bed in our open chalet and honestly, best sleep of the whole safari! 


Edited by martywilddog, 22 January 2017 - 04:27 PM.

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#51 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 03:28 PM

As you have gathered probably from my trip report so far, we absolutely loved kafunta. But I have to be honest, the walking safari was rather disappointing. I know that a walking safari is not about the predators and the big game and more about being in touch with nature, being part of it, rather than sitting in a jeep. But after reading the amazing trip reports on Mana pools and reading left and right that South Luangwa is the birth place of the walking safari we had maybe too high hopes for this walking safari. I had expected it to be different than your usual (sorry to use this derogatory term) poop walk, but in the end it was rather the same as what we had done in SA (and shortly in Zimbabwe around victoria falls). 

 

Our first morning walk we were 5 people (one lady did a sleep in) plus guide in the front plus a helper taking up the rear. And maybe it was because we were too many people, but we really didn't see much (a very quick sighting of a bird that got one of the guests very excited but left us wanting :)

 

Both couples left after that morning though so that evening and the next morning we had the camp and guide all to ourselves!

 

On our next two walks we did get to see elephants while on foot and giraffe, and that was pretty amazing! But as everyone knows, the animals don't love people on foot so when you are spotted they skedaddle. 

 

First up were the Ellies: 

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During another walk we came upon a few giraffe and the two males had clearly been fighting. We would find the "arena" a bit further away where the sand showed clear evidence of a struggle. There was most likely a dispute over the the lady giraffe that was also around :) (there were 3 of them, but I never managed to get all three in one shot)

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I noticed also quite quickly that walking is less about the photography. It's awkward to stop and take a very quick shot and run to catch up. So after a while I just stopped taking pictures and enjoyed the experience. 

 

I did get one that gives a very good sense of the scenery and the tranquility of the area. It was really very beautiful.

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#52 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 03:35 PM

When we were back in camp the morning of our departure we were asked if we would like to do a kitchen safari? A whatta now? It was just a cutesy name for taking a tour of the kitchen of course, but wow! After we walked around there we were even more impressed with the food that Godfrey put in front of us for every meal! And he was clearly very proud of his kitchen and our praise on his food literally made his face light up :)

 

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After that we packed up and were taken back to the main lodge. Though the safari was a bit more subtle at the island bush camp (and our expectations for the walking safari perhaps a tad bit high) we left the bush camp feeling rejuvenated and utterly relaxed. It was a wonderful experience, also having the camp to ourselves for one of the two nights was a bonus because of the added feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, just you and the bush. 

 


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#53 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 03:43 PM

As a small intermezzo, here is another video clip from our first day! So back in time to Zikomo camp ;) 

 



#54 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 03:51 PM

Unfortunately at this point our safari was drawing to a close :-( We had one more night at Kafunta lodge and the next day we had to go. 

 

Our night drive continued with the tranquil pace of the bush camp and gave us the most beautiful sunset colours so far. The picture with the lone fisherman is a personal favourite of this trip. It just describes the look and feel of the park very well to me.

 

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#55 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 04:14 PM

In the evening we were immediately asked if we wanted to have a lie in the next morning and skip the drive. Euh no, most definitely and emphatically no! And if we had missed out on this drive we would have been so disappointed because it was amazing! 

 

Since it was our last drive I took the obligatory pontoon pictures to show how we crossed the river 

 

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So far we had seen Garlic (one of the two males of the lion coalition around mfuwe gate) a few times, but never his famous brother Ginger. We had heard so many people talking about this sighting of ginger or that one, but so far for us, zilch. Thank god our luck was about to change :) Parent advisory: the pictures are a tad bit gruesome.

 

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Even though they were eating, the brothers were very alert. It turned out that the meal they were currently enjoying was not their kill, but one they had stolen from this very unhappy lady and her pride

 

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Apparently she hadn't gotten the message that it was now lost to her and came too close. So both brothers set out after her chasing her off for a good couple of meters. Even though we only saw it from the side lines, the ferocity in this chase was blood chilling. 

 

While the brothers were off chasing, these guys helped themselves to a snack

 

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And as always the trusted hyena can't be far when there is food to scavenge.  

 

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After they were done chasing the lady, garlic decided it was time for a lie down and some posing 

 

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Ginger on the other hand went back to finish his meal 

 

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This was an incredibly thrilling morning drive, moving from the brothers together to the brothers chasing the female and splitting up, to the hyena patiently waiting for his share, to the frenzy of the vultures, to the lion pride whose kill was stolen, and back to the brothers. 

 

Ginger made us wait for his appearance, but what an appearance we got in the end! 

 

 


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#56 michael-ibk

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 04:16 PM

A real Leopard frenzy there, and lots of good other sightings. I also like the fisherman photo a lot, very evocative. And Ginger is a seriously good-looking lion.

Edited by michael-ibk, 22 January 2017 - 04:17 PM.


#57 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 05:34 PM

Thanks for tuning back in after my long hiatus @michael-ibk! We were very happy with our sightings indeed! 



#58 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 05:45 PM

A few final thoughts :)

 

We absolutely loved Zambia, or more precisely, the part we were lucky to visit: South Luangwa. If you are ever in doubt where your next safari might take you, definitely consider this part of the world. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming, the wildlife is prolific and the landscape and views add an extra dimension to the whole experience. 

 

Safari in Zambia is by no means cheap, especially not if you are going with one of the well known operators in the area. But there are alternatives out there if you are a bit more adventurous or if you need to be a bit more money conscious. We saw a lot of self drivers as well, much more than we had expected, so if that's how you like to safari, that is certainly an option too! I can wholeheartedly recommend the Zikomo camp site, a gorgeous Nsefu part of the park is at your feet and you can use all the amenities from the lodge. Plus you can book a night drive with the lodge if you want to take advantage of that (since for obvious reasons self drivers need to be out of the park before nightfall).

 

I will be back to Zambia. Lower Zambezi is very high on my bucket list and a return trip to SLNP is hopefully in the stars for us! 

 

After this trip I am also very eager to upgrade my camera gear. Though my little bridge camera does a good zoom in, the amount of noise in many pictures is unfortunate. As is the fact that its sensor is just too small for any good shots taking advantage of the "depth of field" - you know, the first lion is focused and the one behind it is blurry? (excuse my amateur photography parlance, I don't know how better to express what I want to say). DH is giving me a bit of push back on this (priorities...), but if anyone has good tips for an introduction DSLR please feel free to shout out ;) (I currently have my eye on the Canon 760 but could be persuaded otherwise). 

 

Feel free to send me questions by PM if anyone is planning a similar trip - very happy to share more of our experience. 

 

Thanks for reading along folks ;) !

 

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Edited by martywilddog, 22 January 2017 - 05:52 PM.

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#59 janzin

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 08:06 PM

Thanks for the great report! We're heading to South Luwanga and Lower Zambezi in Aug/Sept so this got me psyched all over again :) Interesting what you say about the walking safari--its a bit of a concern of mine that it will be like the rather uneventful ones we've done in South Africa, and I too have read so many great things about the walking in Mana Pools...I hope that our experience is more like those and less like what you had!

 

I do hope we get to see the beautiful Ginger, although I have a feeling we will be in the wrong section of the park for that (we are half in the Nsefu sector at Tena Tena and half in the far south at Bilimungwe.)



#60 martywilddog

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 09:01 PM

I wouldn't worry @janzin. Our walking safari is just one example and certainly not the only one in SLNP.

 

At the same time we were there, a more senior colleague of my husband was doing a week walking trail with his family with Robin Pope. After our walking safari we assumed they wouldn't have loved it. Au contraire! They had amazing encounters while on foot, including with lions! And they felt "off" afterwards, during the second part of their safari, just sitting in a jeep :) 

 

So though I hate to say it, maybe, just maybe, sometimes having a larger budget to spend can help :) 


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