It’s been an emotional week with lots of excitement about the birth of my little nephew Julien and also a bit of sadness about leaving the Netherlands after 4 amazing and super busy months. This emotional rollercoaster makes it extra hard to go through the security gates at Amsterdam Schiphol airport. But I take a deep breath, hug my parents goodbye and turn around. Back to Zambia I go.
My last flight (out of 3) lands at 9.30 am in Lusaka and I quickly clear immigration (hooray for work permit). An extra victory dance is in place when both my bags appear on the luggage belt unharmed. After some quick things in town, the taxi driver takes me to Caz and Kevin’s house, where Daan is to welcome me back.
The rest of the day I spend helping Daan, eating one of my last restaurant meals for a while and resting.
I spend another day in Lusaka and where I get to catch up with my friends Caz and Kevin whom I pick up from the airport. Good to catch up after not having seen them for over 4 months!
I’m lucky again, there is no need to rush to Mongu as I will only be able to enter the park tomorrow. And so I take the ‘late’ bus, which leaves the busstation (my most hated place in the whole of Zambia) at 10.00 hrs and eventually get to Mongu at 19.00 hrs (not in a rush either) and spend the night in Country Lodge.
First some food shopping at Shoprite Mongu, then it’s an hour’s drive to get to Kalabo by taxi. I pop into the AP office to say hello to some people and then meet my colleague Teddy after over a year of not seeing each other. Together we cross the pontoon and drive into the park. After 2 hours of sand, dust and catching up, I finally reach my destination. My home: Matiamanene in Liuwa! After 4 days of travelling I couldn’t be happier to be back. I'm ready for a busy dry season that promises many new adventures. Bring it on. I’m back in the game!
My first motorbike fieldday in 4 months! I have only one goal: Must. Find. Hyenas. So I set off early and drive to the Mutata area. On my way I see the lions from a distance as they casually stroll away from the kill they made overnight, leaving 5 feasting jackal with the scraps. As I approach the carcass to take samples, the lions decide to turn around and move back to their kill. Because neither me, nor the jackals plan to be next on the menu, we bolt and make room for the mighty Liuwa pride.
I arrive at the Mutata den only to find out that it was abandoned and they moved. That is a bit of a bummer as I’m now fairly sure I won’t get to see any cubs today, but I’m still determined to find some adult hyenas and maybe even their new den.
After covering about 40 km I’m almost starting to get disappointed with myself. Have I really lost my hyena tracking skills in 4 months of absence? The answer is no. Because just after I decided to head back to camp I see the familiar shape of a hyena head sticking out of the yellow grass. I’m over the moon when I approach and find out it’s LHY-525 (Muloho), one of the hyenas I’ve seen the most last year, and a female whom I recognise as LHY-076. Even though they are sleeping in the blistering morning sun, I still spend some time with them, just because I’m so happy to see them.
At the same time I realise that I will continue to struggle to find hyenas these next few months. The park has barely had any rain this rain season and it shows. It is incredibly dry, dusty, yellow and there is hardly any pans in the south that hold water. As a result most wildebeest have already moved up to the north, followed, by most of the carnivores. We will see what this year will bring, but it will be different and interesting for sure.