These are tough cookies. They look prehistoric. The staff at the lodge witnessed a fight between one of these lizards and a cobra, last year in the car park. The lizard won easily and dragged the dead cobra back to its lair.
This series of photographs was taken at Luangwa Wafwa, an ox-bow lake. Remember your geography? The Luangwa River used to flow in a big loop but the course changed one rainy season, and the Wafwa was left high and wet. The name Wafwa apparently means “dead” in Kunda language. But it is overflowing with bird life, ducks, geese, herons, storks, waders and ibis. But there are lots of reptiles here too. And the good thing about water monitor lizards is that they eat crocodile eggs. They sniff out the nest sites with their forked tongues and gorge themselves. Perahps that is why this lizard looks like it’s smiling.
The claws on their feet are scalpel sharp. Their tough skin is patterned, beaded and resistant to snake bite. I don’t think their eyesight is very good. Three water monitors pottered around my vehicle, Phyllis, while I took photographs. Occasionally they would perk up when the shutter clicked, but it was as though I was invisible.
How many water monitors can you see in this image of grass covering a small pond just outside the park?