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Stalking lions, crocs on foot in Zambian national park

South Luangwa National Park

WE WERE walking through a remote wooden savannah in Zambia when dozens of baboons dropped from a nearby tree like acorns in autumn and bounded away into the bush, sounding the alarm as they went. They were warning of a predator—one that wasn’t us. Fannuel Banda, our safari guide, lifted a pair of binoculars to his eyes and scanned the spiny bushes and elephant grass before us, tinged rose gold in the morning glow. “A leopard has made a kill,” he whispered before adding, “Let’s get closer.” We crept through the thicket in a single file line—a national park scout bearing a rifle, Banda, myself, three travel companions, and a guide-in-training—as silently as we could but not quietly enough to evade the big cat’s attention. When we peeked into the clearing, all that remained was a felled antelope. “She’s not far,” Banda said, as we hurried back to our Land Rover, parked under a leadwood tree a mile away. We were in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, where its namesake river supports an astoundingly diverse wildlife population that spans the feathered and furred spectrum, including Thornicroft’s giraffes (found nowhere else), elephants, zebras, lions, crocodiles, hippos, baboons, and more than 400 species of birds. The concept of walking safaris originated in the park in the 1950s and helped give rise to CLICK TO READ MORE