Words by Kim Sparrow Photos by Karen Lowe
Kafue National Park overflows with stories. Ancient relics from the Baobab and the Sycamore Fig, to the wildlife corridors deep-set in travel tales. This is what a photographer seeks - to capture the narrative of the animal kingdom, to witness and collect pure moments of nature.
Karen Lowe - photographer and safari aficionado - recently had an incredible few days with Mukambi Safaris. With travel currently on a pause, this expedition felt extra special - a small piece of Zambia all to herself, and her camera. Her time with Mukambi was, “Everything you could imagine and more”, a trip safely stored in the corridors of her mind.
Karen found Mukambi easily accessible with a 3 and a half-hour drive from Lusaka - the wild waiting patiently just beyond the borders of civilisation. Delving right into adventure - an evening game drive ensued, a long drive with many unexpected gifts from the wilderness. As a beginner birder, Karen had her binoculars and bird app ready - wonderfully surprised by the presence of a Black-Bellied Bustard and a Crested Barbet not far from camp. Filled with the excitement of immediate siting satisfaction, coupled with the electric energy of an impending storm, exploration continued.
Traversing along one of the various game drive routes, the safari vehicle was met with a backdrop of dramatic dark skies highlighting a pale lioness in the foreground. Stopping to observe this formidable feline, Karen took the opportunity to frame the moment. Akin to a queen, the lioness sat composed and undisturbed by the imminent storm - a contrast as much in colour as character. Karen managed to capture this composure with her camera, confirming the unwavering nature of Royalty.
Satisfied with such a powerful sighting, Karen barely had time to rest her equipment when coming across a dry river bed with puku’s on the ridge above, behind a veil of long golden grass. Lifting her lens to capture the diverse scenery, her eyes were not met with puku, but the unmistakable coat of a leopard. Sauntering into the scene, counting on the storm as an ally for camouflage, this leopard was on a hunt. She attempted a half-hearted mock charge at the puku, then proceeded to skulk off into the bush with no avail. This feline may have failed at its hunt - but certainly succeeded in gifting Karen with a photographer's dream shot.
Droplets of rain marked the beginning of the storm. With the decision to head back to camp, driving slowly through black cotton soil, contentment carried the vehicle through mud. A pride of lions broke through thoughts, sounds of playful cubs playing in the rain, the older members with faces turned to the sky. Kafue was bestowing Karen with the stories she sought, while the storm bestowed the earth with life source for new stories to grow.
The final stretch to camp was slow and deliberate. The heavens opened with hot, welcome rain, ponchos for passengers and reprieve for wildlife. The finale of the journey was spent looking at the smaller creatures in proximity - a pair of quirky and elusive porcupine blessed them with their presence, followed by the shy genet - gorgeous in coat and manner. A playful white-tailed mongoose ran parallel to the safari vehicle, stopping in its tracks to stare down its company with confidence, owning centre stage in the spotlight.
Reaching camp to be met with hot showers and blankets around the bar, the crew sat in awe of the day’s sightings. Reflecting in gratitude at the stories witnessed, a feeling of having read chapters of nature’s book - Karen looked forward to a new day, with a blank page to fill.