Jul 19

On Doc’s Latest Safari, Cats and Dogs Reigned

Dr. Lee G. Simmons (Doc) has been leading safaris for groups from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium for 35 years, so he generally has a good idea of what animals they can expect to see.

On the most recent trip, which was in June, the travelers stayed at Lion Camp in the Luangwa Valley and Chiawa in the Lower Zambezi, both of which, Doc says, are among the best resorts to ever host him. “Between the two of them, you get a wide variety of experience. They are beautiful, luxurious resorts with excellent service, and they offer game drives both during the day and at night, on land and on the river, so we knew we were going to see plenty of elephants, zebras and giraffes.”

Leopards, however, tend to be another story. “I’m always careful to let everyone know how difficult it is to spot a leopard,” says Doc. “We’ve never been completely skunked and not seen at least one or two of them, but that’s because we work very hard at it. Some safari groups don’t ever see one.”

This time, however, leopards were everywhere. “We saw three on kills, two in trees eating their kills, one making a kill on an impala,” Doc says gleefully. “And then we saw something I've never seen and neither had the guides: a spotted hyena tried to take a kill away from a leopard. Of course, the leopard wasn’t going to have any of that, so the hyena went over next to him and they shared, side by side, until they were both stuffed full.”

Between the two camps, the group saw 17 leopards in total, and then something Doc says may be even rarer: a pack of wild dogs. “We followed them for about five miles,” he recalls. “This was the first trip to Africa for many of the people on the trip with us. They’re going to have a hard time beating it.”