From the magnificent lions that stalk the savanna to leopards and fleet-footed cheetahs, big cats are the treasured—and endangered—icons of the African wilderness. On a journey developed with National Geographic Emerging Explorer Luke Dollar, delve deeper into the plight of these creatures with researchers from the the Society’s Big Cats Initiative. Set out on safari in three wildlife parks in Zambia and South Africa, and find out how our grantees are helping save the big cats.
Fly overnight to Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, and
transfer to our hotel upon arrival.
InterContinental Lusaka Hotel
A morning flight brings us to Mfuwe, just east of
South Luangwa National Park. On the way to our
lodge within the park, keep an eye out for a first
glimpse of leopards or lions. This vibrant sanctuary
of lush riverine vegetation and thick mopane and
mahogany forests harbors some 400 species of
birds and 60 mammals. Settle into your thatched
chalet before heading out on our first game
drive this afternoon. We may spot lions, leopards,
elephants, impalas, hippos, and Thornicroft’s
giraffes, unique to the Luangwa Valley. Gather for
a welcome dinner tonight.
Mfuwe Lodge (B, L, D)
After a morning safari, stop at the field site of the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) to meet with
its CEO, National Geographic Big Cats Initiative
grantee Matthew Becker. Matthew will demonstrate
how camera traps are used to monitor
big cats and discuss critical efforts to reduce the
snaring and poaching of lions, leopards, and other
wildlife in the Luangwa Valley. Matthew will join us
for the remainder of our stay in South Luangwa,
accompanying us on game drives and giving talks on conservation issues. Late this afternoon, return to
the bush for a safari and spot nocturnal creatures as
we drive back to the lodge after dusk.
(B, L, D)
Head into the field with members of the ZCP
research team to track lion prides by radio collar
and learn how researchers collect data and monitor
big cats. Then, pay a visit to a village school to
meet the students and hear about ongoing conservation
and education projects. Continue to the
headquarters of the South Luangwa Conservation
Society, where scientists will share another approach
to preserving the wildlife of the region.
After a sunset game drive, enjoy a performance
from Seka Theatre, a local troupe that presents plays with social and environmental themes.
(B, L, D)
Fly to Livingstone and check into our hotel. In
the afternoon, set off on a guided walking tour
of Victoria Falls, known locally as the “smoke that
thunders.” These breathtaking falls span more
than a mile and tumble some 350 feet into the
narrow Batoka Gorge. Cross the Knife’s Edge
footbridge for incredible views of the Eastern
Cataract, and if you wish, hike through the
mist-fed rain forest all the way to Danger Point.
Royal Livingstone Hotel (B)
After free time this morning, fly to Kruger
Mpumalanga International Airport. Travel overland to Kapama Private Game Reserve,
nestled between the Drakensberg Mountains and
Kruger National Park and home to an enormous
variety of species, including Africa’s “big five.”
At our lodge, meet Kelly Marnewick, a National
Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee, or one
of her colleagues from the Endangered Wildlife
Trust’s Carnivore Conservation Programme, and
learn about their work protecting South Africa’s
fragile cheetah population.
Kapama River Lodge (B, D)
Today, Kelly or her colleague joins us on morning
and afternoon safaris in Kapama, sharing insights
on predator behavior. Visit the Hoedspruit
Endangered Species Centre for an up-close
experience with cheetahs, wild dogs, servals,
and caracals that are being rehabilitated. Watch
cheetahs run and examine the unique markings of
a “king” cheetah. Alternatively, join local rangers
for a walking safari in Kapama.
(B, L, D)
Go for a morning game drive before we travel
to the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, the
oldest private reserve in South Africa, which
shares an unfenced border with world-renowned
Kruger National Park. Get settled in your private
bungalow within the reserve and then head out
on an afternoon safari in search of lions, leopards,
elephants, buffalo, giraffes, zebras, and a wide
variety of birdlife.
Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge (B, L, D)
Rise at dawn and venture into the bush to observe rhinos, wild dogs, blue wildebeests, and jackals
during their morning routines. Back at the lodge,
enjoy breakfast and free time to watch wildlife
from the terrace or go on a bush walk with local
rangers. On this afternoon’s safari, stop for a
sundowner cocktail as the sun hits the horizon,
and continue spotting wildlife after dark. Toast
Africa’s big cats at a farewell dinner this evening.
(B, L, D)
After a final morning safari, head to the airstrip and
fly to Johannesburg to connect to your overnight
Wildlife biologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Luke Dollar manages the Society's Big Cats initiative, which seeks and funds programs to save these majestic animals in their natural habitats across Africa, Asia, and elsewhere. He first came to Africa as an undergraduate field assistant in 1994, and went on to conduct more than a decade’s research on Madagascar's fossa—a catlike nocturnal mammal—and the lemurs on which it preys. The rate of habitat loss he witnessed convinced him that scientists must find effective ways to inform and influence public policy, and quickly, if wildlife conservation is to succeed.
Luke will join the following departure:
Jul 18 - 29, 2015
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single
room, add $3,500.
International airfare to Lusaka and return from Johannesburg and airfare within Africa are not included in the expedition cost. Group flights within Africa (Lusaka/Mfuwe/Livingstone/Kruger/ Johannesburg) are $1,900 (subject to change).
About Our Accommodations:
Mfuwe Lodge, Kapama River Lodge, and Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge are luxury safari lodges. Our accommodations in Lusaka and Livingstone are five-star hotels.