This is Big Sky country – just like Montana in the US. Even if you not thinking about it, it just happens to occur to you: how vast and big the sky is. The plains are flat and open and wide and beautiful. There are clumps of bush areas that you think may be formed the same way as the Okavango Delta islands are formed, but they are not. This is the floodplain of the Lufupa River which joins the Kafue River at Lufupa Camp. The Kafue is a mighty river that eventually finds its way into the impressive Zambezi River. And there in the plains, standing all alone in the middle of somewhere is Lone Fig. It stands out as a landmark, just as the Eiffel Tower does in Paris or the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island or Big Ben in London.
A short heli flip from the airstrip in the northern part of the Kafue National Park is a delight! We have had the great fortune of being flown in a Eurocopter B4 which is as smooth and comfortable as sipping cocktails at sundown at your favourite spot in your home town or your dream location. And the pilot is in his element – he obviously knows and loves this part of the world as he enthusiastically points out game that we can see from the air as well as the very impressive Lone Fig. Although it was only around 10 minutes long, the heli transfer was a wonderful game drive because on the ground it is a little more tricky and up here you cover great expanses of area quickly and can see the game so clearly over the huge open spaces. Great if you want to attach a “go pro” to the heli belly (and you can do that if you choose). Guests who visit Busanga Plains can book the heli for game viewing as an extra option to get a really great appreciation of the expanse of the plains and the extent of the game that can be seen at this time of the year.
Lone Fig marks the boundary for the two resident prides of lions in the Busanga Plains around the Wilderness camps. The one pride is called the Busanga Pride and the other is the Papyrus Pride. What is for me the most unique distinction between the two is that the Busanga Pride are tree-climbing lions whilst the Papyrus Pride have not been seen climbing trees. Apparently there are other places in Africa where lions climb trees and these areas are north of Busanga. I don’t know exactly where these areas are so need to find out more about that. Also, I don’t actually know WHY lions climb trees. I am told it is because they can. But I am not sure about that. Clearly Lone Fig gives a great vantage point from which to survey your domain if you are a resident of the Busanga Pride. On thinking about it, I think Harry Wolhuter would have had a very different story to tell if he had encountered his lion-misfortune with two lions of the Busanga Plains near Lone Fig.
On our first evening game drive we headed out past Lone Fig in search of the Busanga lion. We had heard him calling earlier when we arrived and we took an opportunity to nip out in the mid-day heat like mad Englishmen to go and find his location. By now the early evening temperature had dropped just a bit to make it comfortable for respectable lions to go hunting. We crossed over four rickety bridges – much more rickety than one feels after a few glasses of the Rickey Bridge Sauvignon Blanc from the Franschhoek district in the Western Cape! If these bridges were not there, to get to where we were going would have been a three-hour game drive! Eventually we found him. He had moved from where we had left him at mid-day resting sensibly in the shade. But now we noticed that he was feeding on a baby Lechwe. I always have such torn emotions at these stages. I feel sorry for the poor mother that has lost her baby, for the baby itself and then I feel sorry for the lion that would go hungry if it wasn’t for the baby. A real conundrum indeed.
We were positioned so beautifully at that moment that Mike got the most amazing picture. The sun was setting. Lone Fig was in the background. The mid-ground was filled with lechwe grazing as far as one could see. There were birds and buck and millions of things going on. And in the foreground was the magnificent lion who was just going about his business of being regal. A more spectacular setting you could not imagine. Huge sky above: wild Africa below. Makes my heart feel happy.