What lies in the darkness?
8-April-2017, Zambia. Chinzombo Camp, South Luangwa River, Zambia.
The open skies never looked so dull and dry! The entire morning I drove in anticipation seeking few cats but in vain. There were pug marks, here and there, but nothing beyond. I assumed the South Luangwa pride might have retired deep into the bushes. It was yet another day, it was yet another disappointment. I got back to my camp for lunch with mixed emotions. On one side, there was this anticipation of what is in store for the next few days while on the other side, the dry game drives literally had made me desperate.
A light lunch and I looked up towards the sky. Black clouds began to whisper and I had to kick myself for the luck I am in for. In few minutes, it rained and rained. I was sipping a home made lemonade at the verandah of my camp watching the heavy rain lashing all over the park. All of a sudden, a huge bolt of lightning struck and where? Right next to my camp burning the internet transmitter! Well, this was the last thing to happen. I would be lying if i say I was never so much dejected in life than at that time. Rain stopped in a while and around 3 in the afternoon, i embarrassingly got ready for another drive. Deep in my mind I was feeling awkward even to step into the boat that would ferry me to the other side of the river where my jeep would pick me up! I looked up, smiled and told myself - Well, the game is not over, until its over!
A dull but damp evening! The rain had literally made all animals scurry around deep into the park. Few tuskers here and there went on with their own business but that didn’t make me happy! My naturalist and friend, Brian, looked at me, tried all his tricks to pep me up! He then told me - I will not let you go until you get what you want! I smiled ear to ear as we stopped for sun-downers. Sipping coffee, i looked around as hope sprung up deep within. As the evening sun hid behind the thick clouds and darkness enveloped all around us, our dear friend, Simon took the search light. Yes, we ducked ourselves into night-safari! Minutes passed by and an hour flew by! We looked around and finally decided to check the north side of the park once again!
The air was very wet. I could literally smell the wetness in it as cool breeze lifted my spirits. I re-looked at my camera settings. The wet night clouds sprayed some rain drops here and there as the crickets ensured we hear their music all through. A quiet night and my jeep ploughed through the water logged park with that water splash sound. Night-jars flew in and around us, perhaps getting attracted to the light. It was a moonless sky. I was at least hoping i could see the stars but even those had disappeared. Far across a Hyena hooted but that definitely did not make me smile. Few minutes passed when I suddenly asked Brian to stop the vehicle!
Roooooooaaaarrrr! It was the roar of a lion, a faint one though! The jeep came to a screeching halt as we used our experience to navigate. We moved in the direction where the roar was coming. It became stronger and stronger. Our jeep moved into a very narrow path that led to a clearing and suddenly Brian exclaimed! Sanjeev, That is Ginger!
Here was this Pride Male, the majestic Ginger sitting in middle of the clearing and roaring! Every time he roared, the sound pierced through the silent night, creating waves! I could feel the decibels hitting our jeep. With the light on him, Ginger was shining! He was shining like a burning star in a moonless night. His mane was glittering! His cold but intense and fierceful eyes almost popped out when he gave a stare at us. I could sense his sound, rather, feel his sound, every time he roared! It was as if he was calling some one, perhaps his brother! His roar would travel miles and miles and here I was, watching this king from a very close quarter. I had goosebumps. I had such an unexplained feeling of watching him. The forest was silent but with his Roar! And his roar was joined by another one, presumably Garlic’s! That's Ginger’s brother. Eventually, both brothers got together, nudged and went into the thicket, perhaps calling it a day!
As we headed back, Brian and Simon, were the happiest since they could see me smile - ear to ear and what an evening it was! A truly Exceptional! A true Zambian night safari! As i got into the boat that would ferry me back into my camp, I was not embarrassed. I was not feeling awkward for not having seen any cats for the last two days! My heart was thumping, my heart was pounding! I had to scream. I wanted my scream to be so loud enough to reach some one back home in India :) More so, I wanted her to respond back. And I screamed - Loud but not as loud as Ginger's roar! It was only heard by Brian and Simon. Late into the night, when i was about to retire to bed, I could see few stars burning but then I just ignored them! I had seen my star already! I had my star already!
The night was cold and wet.. and guess I got pulled into a dream and was sailing with Ginger and Garlic, all through the night!
Venue: Chinzombo, South Luangwa River, Zambia.