As the sun bids its rapid equatorial adieu, the sky blazes fifty shades of red on one side of the river, whilst aggressive fork and flashes of lightning illuminate the ominous grey horizon on the other. We gaze over the river Luangwa, watching the elephants plod peacefully off, spotting hippos and surrender our souls to this idyllic Africa.
“Kumbuku, Kumbuku!”, excited chattering crackles over the radio – it is a tipoff for a leopard sighting. Lurching the gears of our ancient but trusty open-air Defender, our guide, Moses, speeds off at full pelt, masterfully whipping the jeep through the darkness, whilst the other ranger shines a spotlight into the trees, hunting out reflective eyes.
“In 11 years of going on safari, I’ve never seen a leopard” declares Saskia. She’d never experienced rain on a game drive either…tonight was to be her lucky night.
Suddenly, like a beast pouncing on its pray, several things happen in quick succession. The guide’s spotlight falls upon a leopard, slinking out of the darkness, its muscly frame just metres from our vehicle. Whirling the light round, he picks out a rare glimpse of another leopard feeding on an impala kill, hanging awkwardly in the branches of a tree, all splayed limbs and blood. Our silent elation in witnessing the big five’s prize jewel is momentary. The heavens open – the nut-dry air is suddenly full of thick, fat, African rain spewing from the sky, soaking everything in moments. Out of nowhere, a gale force wind gathers breath, sucking heat from the day. Our driver is racing into the blackness through newly-formed puddles, issuing orders to grab ponchos and dry boxes for our equipment. We try and fail to stay dry under supposedly-waterproof ponchos. “Row, row, row your boat’ someone pipes up merrily on the bumpy, wet drive back to camp, where, oblivious to our soggy plight, it remained miraculously dry.I wrote this piece for the MyWanderlust writing competition and was Highly Commended.