Luangwa Valley in August

Photographer, guide and local lodge owner Peter Geraerdts reports from South Luangwa:

We’re progressing into the 2016 dry season and it’s that time of the year when Luangwa’s lagoons and oxbows are drying out. Feeding parties of storks and fish-eating birds congregate offering an interesting addition to the wildlife viewing. These yellow-billed storks work together to funnel down fish.

yellowbilled storks funnel fishing

Splashes & teeth

Crocodiles have the ability to endure hot, dry conditions, but they need to regulate their body temperature by seeking water, mud or shade to stay cool. And while lagoons are drying up they need to relocate to the main Luangwa River.

This mid-sized crocodile was cornered in a shallow part of an oxbow and had only one way out, towards me and my camera.

splashing croc

Fossil in the making

I was surprised to see an old crocodile in this condition moving over land for a few hundred meters from a dried out lagoon to the Luangwa River. This specimen must be over 70 years of age.

fossil croc_3

Competition for water and space

The Luangwa houses an estimated 20,000 hippos – the biggest concentration anywhere in Africa and drying up lagoons are not good news for them. The big bulls turn the remaining lagoons into battlegrounds.

fighting hippos

However, for the top predators – lions and crocodiles – it’s a feast guaranteed!

Lion prides are getting bigger during these drier months. Hippos become weaker as they have to walk longer distances to get their daily meal. On top of that, territorial fights make hippos weaker and an easier victim to lions.

Buffalo, an animal that is very dependent on water, will have a more predictable daily routine by using tracks leading to the river or a lagoon. Lions are aware of this and will hang around these ‘hotspots’

But this lioness took time out to just enjoy the view.

Lioness_with a view