RPS expands into Liwonde National Park!

We are thrilled to announce the opening of Kuthengo Camp in Liwonde National Park, Malawi. Meaning “the wild” or “the bush” Kuthengo is located among fever trees on a large open plain along the spectacular Shire River.

The camp boasts four spacious en-suite safari tents, each featuring an outdoor shower, bathtub, basin (double) and state-of-the-art ‘Evening Breeze’ air-conditioned beds, as well as a private deck for enjoying sunset views. The main area and dining area are located under a magnificent fever tree, overlooking the Shire River where herds of elephants and other game are frequently seen coming down for a drink or to cool off.

The camp hosts a maximum of ten guests, so the small team of guides at Kuthengo can personalize activities to give each guest the safari experience of their dreams.

In addition to the camp’s quiet charm, a stay at Kuthengo promises adventure around every corner. Since Liwonde is a virtually untouched national park, you can expect game drives filled with animal sightings, adventurous walking safaris and peaceful boating safaris. Lions were re-introduced to the park earlier in 2018 by African Parks, which returned a key species to the natural system years after the last lion was seen in Liwonde.

Between our three lodges located in Majete Wildlife Reserve, Lake Malawi National Park, and now Liwonde National Park, we are giving our guests every reason to get off the traditional safari highway and venture from bush to beach in Southern Malawi.

We look forward to welcoming you at Kuthengo Camp!

All the best

The RPS Team.

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Celebrating Zambia’s 50 years of Independence!

 

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Let’s explore Zambia in 2014 as the country celebrates its 50th year of independence! Robin Pope Safaris has put together a 10 night trip that features Zambia’s key safari destinations in celebration:

Livingstone

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Livingstone is home to one of 7 natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls, and offers many opportunities, both adrenaline filled and more sedate, to view this amazing site. There are game viewing opportunities too, with a chance to see the white rhino in Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park and river trips on the Zambezi River. Stanley Safari Lodge, the first stop on this itinerary is situated just 3km from the mighty Victoria Falls

South Luangwa National Park

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From Livingstone, a stay at either Nkwali or Nsefu (depending on the season) is next. Both camps are situated in the Luangwa Valley, which marks the end of the Great Rift Valley. Its is one of the last unspoiled wilderness areas and possibly the finest wildlife sanctuary in Africa. This is home of the walking safaris.

Lower Zambezi

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Luangwa River flows into the Zambezi River – just below the Lower Zambezi National Park and is the next stop on this itinerary. This park, scenically bordered by an impressive escarpment, has excellent game, which can be viewed from either the river or by land when staying at Baines River Camp.

Lusaka

The safari ends with a night in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka. With many cultural and historical aspects in the city, it’s the perfect way to end this celebratory trip.

Contact us for the full itinerary or for more information: info@robinpopesafaris.net

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It’s Monday and Mkulumadzi turns 10!

I do hope that you are all fantastically well and have had a lovely weekend and are now sitting comfortably ready and raring for the week ahead. Here in the Luangwa, well it’s been non-stop with wild dogs literally scooting around all over the place and camp surrounded by elephants but this week instead of tales from here I am handing you over to Ton and Margaux as we celebrate 10 years of Mkulumadzi. Ton and Margaux over to you:

“This July we celebrate Mkulumadzi’s 10th year in operation and what a wonderfully eventful 10 years it has been!

After negotiating with African Parks for a 7000 hectares private concession within Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi, preparations for our dream lodge started to become a reality in late 2009.

With projects like this, location is everything – where should the lodge go? There’s so much to take into consideration: the site, accessibility, the views, noise pollution, the layout, the vegetation and so much more. After choosing the site, more planning and decision-making followed; materials, budgets, timelines were put together, contractors found, electrics, generators, game vehicles, hot water geysers, décor and furnishings etc etc. We often think back and wonder, how on earth did we manage!

Looking back, we can certainly vouch for the location as it is one of the most picturesque setting for a lodge; after all, what better place than on the confluence of the 2 rivers: the Shire River and the Mkulumadzi River.

Mkulumadzi means ‘big water’ in the local Chichewa language and we thought it was a very fitting name to give the lodge considering it is surrounded by these two spectacular rivers. The lodge is shaded by giant Leadwoods and surrounded by lush forest with view on pods of hippo’s and crocs in the river in front.
We wanted our guests adventure to start long before they arrived at the lodge and what could be grander than crossing our magnificent suspended footbridge, which sprawls out over the Mkulumadzi River. Once at the lodge you come face to face with the iconic Shire River which flows all year round right in front of the lodge.
The lodge has a wonderfully cozy atmosphere, the open chalets are perfectly placed with stunning river views as well as some fantastic wildlife viewing all from the comfort of the private deck. The main building is of a good size and beautifully designed by Ton himself.

Another element of Mkulumadzi that we love is the infinity pool which aside from giving some much-needed relief in the hotter months is also a fantastic place to relax with a book as you watch the Shire River amble by. The fire pit is another popular place to congregate for a night cap and share stories, laughs and more.

About 1 – 1.5 km away from the main lodge, is the Star Bed – a small platform (1.5 – 2 meters) above the ground. There is a bed with mosquito net and a bathroom. It’s a beautiful and amazing experience to be out in the bush and sleep under the glorious and star-filled stars!

When we first opened our ‘doors’, game viewing was not as prolific as other parks, but boy has that changed! In our 10 years of operating in Majete Wildlife Reserve we have had front row seats to a conservation success story unfold (Watch: Operation Majete) and were also so privileged to be directly involved when the historic return of lion to the park (Read: Lions return to Majete)! We have seen the arrival of leopard, cheetah, buffalo, giraffe to name a few and are looking forward to another iconic species being introduced later in the year. Prior to African Parks take over in 2003, Majete Wildlife Reserve was nothing but a wasteland due to poaching and mismanagement but today it is one of Malawi’s most influential game areas, a big 5 park and is even supplying other protected areas within the country with wildlife. We commend African Parks for the amazing work they are doing!

There have been plenty challenges in operating Mkulumadzi lodge, mainly to do with water; from washed away bridges, to vehicles stuck at river crossings, no running water in the lodge and even flooding in the chalets! But hey, this is Africa: it’s wild, adventurous, ravishing and no day is the same!

We are extremely proud of 10 years of operating this special lodge, we are proud of the transformation Majete Wildlife Reserve has gone through , we are so proud of our great team and most of all, we are proud to have been able to share this special piece of Africa with you for the past 10 years and look forward to seeing you when travel opens up again.

Thank you!
Ton & Margaux”
Wonderful thank you both so much and for any of you who are now desperate to visit Mkulumadzi and haven’t already click on this link for a virtual tour of camp: Escape to Mkulumadzi Lodge!

While on the subject of Majete, just 2 days ago the reserve welcomed 3 male cheetahs to add to the existing coalition that were brought into Majete Wildlife Reserve in 2019. They will be held in a predator boma to acclimatize before being released into the Majete wilderness! We will keep you posted on their progress.

This leaves me with very little to add except have a wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one-another.
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Mkulumadzi turns 10!

Celebration time!

10 years ago, Mkulumadzi Lodge in Majete Wildlife Reserve opened its ‘doors’ and what a phenomenal decade it’s been!

Join us for a virtual celebration over the next month as we take a walk back in time, re-visiting the special moments and milestones of Mkulumadzi Lodge.

But wait! There’s more…

We’d love you to be a part of the festivities – so we want to see your photos and hear your stories, from your time spent at Mkulumadzi Lodge. We’ll even throw in a free night at Mkulumadzi for one lucky entry! Email stephanie@robinpopesafaris.net or tag Robin Pope Safaris in your social media posts and use the hashtag #Mkulumadzi10 to be part of our virtual party! We’ll be celebrating for the next month so make sure your entries are in before the 15th of August!

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Its Monday and return to the wild

Well, hello there! I hope that you are well and having a lovely start to the week.  Here in the Luangwa, we are full of enthusiasm as we see a few international guests starting to come through and hope that more and more will follow.  Those that have been staying with us have been treated with some incredible sightings, so it appears the animals are also very excited to have more people back as well.  However, this week we are not hearing stories from the Luangwa, we are back in Malawi with news from Conrad.  So, Conrad for today its over to you:

“With vaccines in our veins and elephants on our lawn, we opened Kuthengo Camp up for another weekend.  

With the tail-end (we hope it is the tail-end) of this crocodile called Corona still wagging we have been sticking to what has worked well over the past year-and-a-half. (I am sitting in Kuthengo’s lounge on the banks of the Shire River writing this, so please excuse me if I continue with crocodile metaphors…) Like a crocodile on a sandbank that opens its mouth on a hot day and keeps it closed on cooler days, we have opened our camps and lodges when it made sense to do so and kept them closed whenever bookings cooled down once again. It is a strange way of doing business… But then again, crocodiles are strange creatures, yet they are exceptionally good at what they do.

One of Liwonde Nationals Park’s unique selling points is the ease with which guides can switch between doing game-drives on the floodplains, taking guests out for walks through the Mopane forests or cruising down river by boat. And that is precisely what our guides Angel and Stanford did over the weekend.  

Highlights on the game drives included a brave porcupine investigating the vehicle and a handful of elephant shrew sightings. The lions had left their tracks all over the road not far from camp, but alas, they were nowhere to be found.  However, a brief sighting of a black rhino’s bum made up for missing the lions.  

Out on foot, this time with our trusted ranger Felix and his firearm helping out, we not only explored the subtle signs animals leave behind but also paid attention to those critters that are often left out when we tell stories around the campfire. We watched as an ant struggled (successfully so in the end) against a lion-ant and how a spotted bush snake devoured a frog.  

As often is the case in Liwonde, drifting down the river by boat surrounded by stunning and ever changing landscapes proved to be the highlight. As they often do, large herds of elephant congregate next to the river, allowing us to get close-up views of them frolicking about. The hippo density in this stretch of the Shire River is unrivaled anywhere else on the continent – it is easy to count 200 of them in one afternoon on the river. And then of course the ever-present crocodiles patrolling the waterways. 

As always, we prefer time spent in the camp to play second fiddle to time spent out in the bush. But as our guests would attest, between Chef Dickson in the kitchen and the ever-present Amon in the restaurant, there was always something to look forward to when returning from the bush. Housekeepers Joshua & Marvelous made sure the tents are in tip-tip-shape. Sanderson got a little grumpy when the elephants trotted all over his well-watered lawn but that is all in the past now.  

On the afternoon of July 6th, with all guests having checked out, we celebrated Malawi’s Independence Day before all getting on the boat and drifting downriver toward our separate homes.  

All in all, it was another fantastic weekend at Kuthengo and we are already looking forward to the next one. But before then, a quick trip down to Majete Wildlife Reserve to open Mkulumadzi.”

Thanks so much Conrad and watch out for those crocodiles and hope that you had a lovely trip down to Mkulumadzi and look forward to more tales of your trips soon.  Between now and then though we hope that you have a fabulous week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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It’s Monday and back to the Majete wilderness

Hello there everyone, here we are again another Monday and another packed Its Monday for you all so I hope that you have had a wonderful weekend and are sitting comfortably ready for this week’s update which is coming to you from Steph from our marketing team who has been down at Mkulumadzi covering for Conrad who took a very well earned break. So Steph – over to you:

“When Conrad called me up to ask if I could hold down the fort while he and Retha finally went on leave I don’t think I could have said ‘Yes’ any faster! One week later I was on my way back to one of my favourite spots in Malawi – Mkulumadzi Lodge in Majete Wildlife Reserve!

After an hour and a half of driving I arrive in Majete Wildlife Reserve and made my way towards our concession, stopping several times along the way to watch the wildlife including a small herd of sable. I love sables, they’re my favourite antelope and they also happen to be the ‘symbol’ of Majete Wildlife Reserve (chosen by African Parks) so I thought it was rather apt that they were the first thing I saw as I entered the park.

Once in the RPS concession, I made my way to the Mkulumadzi footbridge that stretches over the Mkulumadzi River.

During the 10 years that Mkulumadzi has been in operation, I have crossed this bridge more times than I can remember yet the novelty of it never wears off nor do I ever tire of the views from it.

Once I reached the lodge, it was a frenzy of fist bumps and elbow taps as the Mkulumadzi team had all gathered in the main area to say hello! It was so good to see all the familiar faces (who I recognized despite everyone being masked up). I sat down with Mali the head guide to catch up.

Although it has not been as busy as usual with guests, the lodge was a hive of activity when it came to wildlife and the guys had seen everything from lion and elephants and even a cheetah who took a liking to the staff block, much to the delight of the team, many of whom had never seen a cheetah before! As Mali continued to talk, I looked up across the Shire River just in time to see a herd of buffalo come down for a drink. “The welcoming committee has arrived, right on cue!” Mali exclaimed.

Adjusting to bush was a breeze… Despite not being an early bird back home, I genuinely enjoyed the 5am starts at Mkulumadzi. I also got to witness some spectacular sunrises and sunsets while I was out here and made it a point to watch the sunrise and sunsets from different spots around the lodge. The footbridge and the star deck were some of my favourite places to watch the sun go down but when it came to sunrises, nothing beats the ones over the Shire River.

Although I was away from the fast paced city life, there was certainly no idle time at Mkulumadzi as it was all systems go, getting the lodge ready for guests. I went from an average of 6000 steps per day back home to clocking a whopping 27000 steps each day while I was there! It’s just as well i was getting the extra exercise in because it was practically impossible for me to resist all the delicious food that Chef Thomas and Chef William were whipping up in the kitchen. As hard as I tried to avoid them at certain times of the day, they would find me, and always bearing muffins, biscuits or cakes for me to ‘try’! I would have left several kilos heavier had I not been kept on my toes running the lodge.

But the most significant adjustment of all had to be the lack of internet or cell phone reception which despite sounding terribly daunting, was actually a welcomed release for my mind, body and soul! However as much as I was loving this digital detox, being ‘off the grid’ posed some challenges from an operational perspective. So every afternoon while the guests were having their siesta, Mali and I would set off into the park, armed with our cellphones, laptops and binoculars (just in case), and drive to one of the loop roads along the Shire River that had decent cell phone reception. After some time driving through the bush, my phone would start buzzing profusely as the notifications began pouring in. That’s when we knew we had reached the ‘right spot’ and would stop and set up our mobile office from the comfort of the game viewer. This was taking the term ‘working remotely’ to another level.

While out on these jaunts, we were lucky to get some fantastic game viewing in, seeing everything from lions, zebras and giraffes to curious kudus, warthogs, very skittish eland, waterbucks, a glimpse of a leopard and loads of ellies who were completely unperturbed by our vehicle or us typing away on our devices and went about their ‘business’ just metres away from us.

Before I knew it, my time at Mkulumadzi had come to an end. I popped in at the African Parks office on my way out and John the park manager filled me in on some exciting new developments in Majete! We cannot wait to share the news with you when the time is right so watch this space…

Wow what a wonderful account of your time at Mkulumadzi Steph and talk about leaving us with a cliff hanger we certainly can’t wait for the updates when they become available.  Here in the Luangwa as the baboons bark profusely at something prowling that they have seen in the bush I am going to bid you all a very fond farewell and look forward to updating you with Luangwa news next week.  In the meantime have a fab week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and wildlife sightings galore

Well, hello there! I hope that you are fabulously well after another wonderful weekend and are ready and raring for the week ahead. Here in the Luangwa, before we launch ourselves into the updates from the animals, let me share some wonderful community work news with you. As you are, I am sure, far too aware the Covid 19 outbreak has had a staggering impact on economies worldwide and the tourism industry has been quite badly hit. We have all of course done our best to support our staff and their families as much as possible. However, as you can imagine, a town like Mfuwe has grown exponentially over the years mainly supported by the tourism industry and that income has suddenly fallen away. Project Luangwa works in the community and has seen an increasing need for support mostly with staple food sources and have been working towards setting up a project for food hampers for families most in need. Not knowing that this had been set up and with immaculate timing we have some regular guests who contacted us wanting to put some of their “2021 holiday funds” towards something to help. Asking us what it could be used for food immediately came to mind so speaking with the Project Luangwa team we put them in touch, and they have subsequently made a substantial donation which will enable the first care packages to be purchased, put together, and distributed. The Project Luangwa team has since been working tirelessly in getting everything put together and will be starting the distribution in the next few days. We are so excited about this and cannot thank the donors enough for this generous offering, it is going to make such a huge impact on the community.

Out in the National Park the animals have been giving us quite a display as well and the sightings have been staggering. Up at Nsefu over the course of a two day stay recent guests saw wild dogs, hyena, leopard on a kill and just to pop some icing on the cake, a leopard with 2 cubs. Absolutely incredible and I think that as the wildlife had last year ‘off duty’ they have decided that they just needed to show off.

Down at Nkwali we have been surrounded by giraffes, one of the females in is oestrous, so all the boys have been hanging around just following her like lost sheep desperate for a chance to mate. But sadly, as with all things with giraffes, it always seems to take an extraordinarily long time for them to do anything. No mating has been witnessed yet, but it was great watching all the interactions and behaviours.

Kiki has been guiding down at Nkwali and has also had some incredible sightings including a leopard feasting on a large male puku which was a couple of meters up in a tree. The story behind the kill was that the female had actually killed the puku but the male had been hiding and just swooped in and stole the female’s kill. She was lucky not to have had an interaction with hyenas as this year we seem to have a very dominant clan and are getting a lot of regular sightings. The leopards are having to be incredibly quick with their kills and getting them up in the trees as soon as possible before the hyenas come in.

The plains game has been phenomenal with so many elephants, buffalo, impala and even a sighting of a Cookson’s Wildebeest. The bush seems to simply be teaming with animals.

Lastly here at Nkwali we have been hearing lions most evenings and on Sunday morning I ventured down to the kitchen to get the chefs sorted ready for the day and unusually found the door closed but all the guys inside. So, I wandered in and was told that a young male lion had just killed a bushbuck outside the kitchen and dragged it into the bush. I thanked them of course for the heads up and when it was time to leave left by the other door!! The baboons by this time had cottoned on to the fact and spent the entire day barking letting us all know that the lion was there, then as soon as the sun had set he moved off roaring his little stubbly mane off as he wandered through camp full and contented with his day.

So, there you have it for this week’s updates. There is certainly plenty going on and never a dull moment. I look forward to updating you with more stories next week. Between now and then, have a wonderful week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and some monkeying about in the Luangwa

Well, hello there! I hope you are smashingly well after a lovely relaxing weekend and are ready and raring for the week ahead. Here in the Luangwa winter has gripped us hard this year and we are all wrapped up nice and warm in the mornings. It has to be said those first couple of hours of the morning game drive certainly warrant a nice warm cup of tea and slice of cake when it’s time for the morning break.

The animals are all feeling the cold as well and most mornings you can find them following the sun around as they bask in its rays trying to warm up. In fact, just a few mornings ago we saw the lonely Nkwali eland and needed to take a second look at him, as he was so dark his fur was all puffed up that he looked like a giant puku!! The baboons sit up in the ebony trees holding their feet and just doing all that they can to warm up, but it seems that as soon as they do, they are turbo charged and just zoom around causing even more chaos than normal. The Nkwali bar is a regular source of amusement, not to mention the bridge into camp as they hang off the chain and play balancing games along it. Then the biggest challenge of all – who is going to sneak into the kitchen and manage to steal some of the chefs delicious cooking…? More than one cake or loaf of bread have disappeared of late!

It’s not just the baboons that are causing trouble around camp, up at Nsefu the lions kept everyone awake all night a couple of weeks ago chasing a hippo around camp. As if that wasn’t enough, some of them then decided to play a game of tug of war with the ropes around the rooms fortunately pulling the hook out of the wall rather than doing anything more damaging along the lines of creating a huge hole in the wall!!! Whilst we are up at Nsefu, the hide in camp is already proving to be very productive with regular visits from elephants, impala, puku and even a couple of sightings of giraffe. No predators yet but the guides did see a few leopard footprints there one morning, so we wait and see if they become comfortable enough to become regular visitors.

The wildlife out on game drives continues to be wonderful with guests witnessing a scuffle between wild dogs and a hyena. The hyena was extremely fortunate to get away and then the lions redirected their aggression towards a bush buck which they promptly killed and eaten. I mean talk about a tense sighting if ever there was one! The wild dogs on this side of the river can be seen scurrying around between the main gate area and Nkwali it is amazing the distance that they cover daily but it’s always such a joy to see them even if it is just a glimpse.

We have had plenty of elephants and buffalo around and even the lions have been showing themselves with the guests having a lovely sighting of the big males again. The lions here on the Nkwali property have however remained somewhat elusive – they have been heard plenty but just not seen despite many an effort to find them. Don’t worry, we shall not give up and shall keep on looking and keep you all posted.

For this week though, this is all that there is to report but I shall look forward to giving you more updates next Monday. Between now and then though do have a lovely week with plenty of smiles and laughter, stay safe and look after one another.

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Its Monday and a safari from across the borders

Well, hello there! I hope that you are well and have had a wonderful weekend. Here in the Luangwa, we have been seeing the wild dogs behind Nkwali Camp really quite regularly, which is a fabulous treat and the number of elephants and giraffes has been incredible.  Also, our lone eland is still rather shy but is becoming a regular sighting around Robin’s Bridge, so we just really hope it sticks around.

Diverting slightly but on a rather important note, we have an critical request to assist in saving Kasanka National Park which is under threat from development. You may be aware that at least 10 million fruit bats congregate the Kasanka wetlands (an incredible mammal phenomenon!) each year for a couple of months – we run a trip specifically for this each November as well.
Please read here the full Press Release on this from Kasanka Trust. To help us save Kasanka, please register your objection to the proposed development, by emailing Zambia Environmental Management Agency and quoting reference ‘ZEMA/INS/101/4/1’ here.

This week however, we are not going to be chatting to you about Zambia, Malawi or Zimbabwe but we are skipping across a few borders to Botswana… We are hearing from Perry, one of our safari guides, who was fortunate to be sponsored by Liane Merbeck and Abendsonne Afrika to join her and a group of her guests on a Secrets of the Kalahari safari over there.

In Perry’s words, “it was a dream come true” and he cannot thank everyone involved enough for making it possible.  The opportunity to see a different country, different national parks and different ecosystems was absolutely incredible.  Whilst this was not a Robin Pope Safaris trip, we were 100% supporting this incredible opportunity for Perry. We packed him up with plenty of masks, sanitizer, and contact phone numbers in case he needed some help and with nervous excitement, he headed cross country.  Plus, we armed him also with a German phrase book to learn a few phrases to be able to speak to the guests!

He arrived in Botswana with a warm welcome from Liane Merbeck at Meno-A-Kwena Camp in the Makgadikgadi National Park.  An incredible desert landscape was in front of him and was something totally unlike anything he had ever seen before.  Wandering how on earth the animals could possibly survive in such harsh landscapes, he was amazed to see and learn how they had adapted to drinking far less frequently to the animals here in the South Luangwa.  The predators would predominantly hydrate on the blood from their kills and the herbivores would feast predominantly in the morning enjoying the early morning dew that they would find on the leaves and plants. 

Trees are few and far between and the wide-open plains meant that there were also different species of animals and so for the first time in his life he saw cheetah with cubs, oryx, springbok, to mention just a few that we don’t get here in the Luangwa. Other species he saw include honey badger, ground squirrels and bat eared foxes to be seen regularly in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

There were also differences in the animals that we do get here and, in his words, “the lions were massive, and the males had these huge manes (which are mostly black) so much bigger than what we are used to in the Luangwa.  The elephants are so much bigger than ours as they extract great nutrients and minerals from the ground and grow to such bigger sizes.”

Perry also had the opportunity to join in on a Bushman walk learning how they live and survive in the wild with limited water supplies. This was absolutely fascinating for Perry and made him realise just how much we have available to us here in Mfuwe and the South Luangwa.  The use of plants for medication and again limited water supplies was just incredible. Even more amazing was how the bushman make fire in the bush by using commiphora bark, dry grass, zebra poo and starting their fire by rubbing sticks together – they didn’t have matches!

It wasn’t just the bushmen that taught Perry a lesson, Liane and her group also taught him a few German phrases and he has since returning to Zambia continued to study the language. He is excited to start receiving guests from Germany so that he can practice some of his German on them.

What an incredible experience for Perry and our great thanks goes out to Liane Merbeck and Abendsonne Afrika for affording him such a wonderful experience; one that shall be remembered for an incredibly long time to come.  

All other news I think can wait until next week as I am going to struggle to compete with this lovely story.  So instead I shall bid you all a fond farewell and hope that you have a wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and a trip down memory lane

I hope you are fabulously well and are sitting comfortably ready for this weeks’ installment from the bush. Today we are going to do things slightly different and take you back in time with an It’s Monday from June 2004 as we are feeling rather nostalgic for the ‘good old days’…

“Game viewing this week has been superb. One of our ex-guides who worked here in South Luangwa for many years, returned with a group of guests from the UK. They had a fantastic drive seeing several groups of elephant with numbers exceeding 10 to 15 and also a herd of buffalo, around 50 at Wafwa Lagoon.

The same group then set off on a birding morning the next day. Alex Paul who has stayed with us on several occasions had seen 133 birds in a day on one of his trips and so this was held up as the target. Birding highlights were spectacular lillian’s lovebirds, black collared barbets and various raptors. Over the 2 mornings total count ended up at 158 – so all were happy with the final tally! 2 grey headed gulls were spotted when the Nkwali team were dropping off guests at the Tena Tena boat crossing and a crowned eagle was seen in the GMA behind Nkwali Camp.

The following morning we had 3 large visitors in camp – big bull elephants. They ambled past my house and up to the chalets, lopping off branches as they went – fantastic to see them at such close quarters. Around 700 buffalo were also seen at Baka Baka Lagoon.

Simon Cousins has just returned from leading the first Mobile Walking Safari of the year and had a wonderful group of guests and by all accounts they had a lovely time. We have new tents this year as well as many other new bits and pieces which Shanie has been busy organizing and they really do look fab. Plenty of game was seen including – can you believe it – wild dog! Robin said that they were seen in that area quite a few years ago but you can imagine Simon had the guests virtually jogging through the bush to try and catch up with them. It was a brief glimpse but non-the-less very exciting.”

Well there you have it! A look back at what was going on 17 years ago in the Luangwa! Some of you will recognize Simon Cousins who is now a regular guest and contributor to our It’s Monday! 17 years ago he was a guide with us and worked here along with his wife Shanie. Nice to see that they have come full circle and now bring their children at least once a year to their old stomping grounds.

Our Its Mondays may have undergone a few changes over the years, from who writes them to inclusion of our weekly Safari Diaries (our version of virtual escapes into the wilderness). All in all though, as you can ‘see’ from the above piece, the essence of the newsletter has remained pretty much the same over the years, that is to keep you entertained and updated of what is transpiring in our part of the world.

We hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane as much as we did and please feel free to share your own RPS memories.

Well, that is it from me this week. Have yourself a safe, healthy week ahead and don’t forget to look after each other.

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Its Monday and what an eventful weekend

Well, hello there. I hope you are fabulously well and have had a lovely weekend with all sorts of frivolities. Here in the Luangwa winter is truly here, thick jumpers are being worn and everyone is huddling (in a respectfully socially distanced manner of course!) around the campfire.

In some big news, we have had such a busy weekend, which has been absolutely wonderful. Both houses (Robin’s & Luangwa) and Nkwali have been full and suddenly, the place has been brought back to life. Staff bustling around camp with mops, brooms and piles of laundry and the gentle smell of freshly baked bread coming from the kitchen. Speaking of the kitchen, the chefs made the most of the excuse to cook up some delicious dishes with everything from vegan blueberry cake to turmeric spiced cauliflower.

In competition to the food, the guides have thrown everything into the mix with some incredible sightings of everything from eland on the Nkwali property (none of us can ever remember seeing this magnificent antelope here behind Nkwali the closest was been at Kalawani pans) to wild dogs on kills. Not to mention absolutely everything else in between including big herds of buffalo.

Kiki popped out for a drive and immediately after crossing the river bumped into one such large herd of buffalo with plenty of small ones. However, it wasn’t long before they heard a bush buck alarm call, so the buffalo were somewhat cast aside and off they went. After just a few moments they found a lovely female leopard coming up the bank from the river and strolling across the plain in front of them. Heading back to camp after a casual sundowner, they found a giant eagle owl which in turn put poor John under a lot of pressure as he had keen birders on his vehicle who were specifically keen in seeing owls.

The following morning heading in a different direction they spent half an hour watching another big herd of buffalo coming down to the water’s edge to drink. Loads and loads of elephants and an exceptionally large group of giraffe of 16 which as wonderful. Having had a morning full of large groups of animals it was time to find a smaller group. That they did, as they found the two new male lions that I mentioned a few weeks ago. This time the boys were not alone though, they seem to have teamed up with a couple of females and apparently, they have been seen mating, so we shall wait to see what happens there. Finally, to end the game drive was a sighting of a young male leopard followed by a pack of wild dogs chasing an impala. They missed the kill but caught up with the pack and they had succeeded in the hunt and they watched as the dogs devoured their meal.

The birdlife has also been wonderful with plenty of spoonbills, yellow-billed and saddle-billed storks fishing in the lagoons as well as an African Fish Eagle swooping down from its perch and stealing a fish from an unsuspecting stork.

Heading back to camp to a delicious dinner the guests were serenaded by the nighttime sounds of lion, leopard, hyena, and wood owl who were all busy calling throughout dinner – what a way to end the day.

So, as you can see there is no stopping us and we just hope that we can share more of this with you as the year goes on and travel and restrictions ease further. In the meantime, have a wonderful week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and safari dreaming

Well, hello there! I hope that you are well and have had a lovely weekend and that you are all set for an exciting week ahead.  Here in the Luangwa, we are fully in winter mode (not that it gets as cold as where most of you are) so have on our warm clothing and bedding in full use now. The team is busy setting up across our seasonal camps as well. Let me not bore you too much with that, instead this week I am handing over to Jill Rogers who has kindly offered to take a trip down memory lane and share with us their last trip to the Luangwa. Jill over to you:

“We had the most amazing guide called Kiki – who was so informative – knew all the botanical names of plants, birds and real insight into the wildlife.

As an animal behaviourist (dogs and cats) we were so lucky to see same amazing behaviour over two days. In the pictures above we can see a male lion who had taken away a kill from two females and a few youngsters who were grouped about 10 yards away from him. The youngsters made successive attempts towards the male each time repelled with a growl, chase, and cuff. The females looked on allowing the youngsters to practice their skills. One of the youngsters was noticeably more forward than the others. We watched this for a few hours and dusk came meaning lights were focused on the ‘drama’ so we could continue to watch.

Our son said ‘I would like to see a snake sometime’ – well as we continued to watch one of the youngsters bravely going towards the carcass suddenly leapt up and hurried backwards followed by the others – it was a spitting cobra hurling towards the jeep – our son was able to see it pass below and beside the jeep. – Be careful what you wish for!!!

Sadly, as night crept in, we had to leave the scene and return to camp but, noticed a hyena lurking in the bush nearby.

The next morning, we couldn’t wait to return, rushed our breakfast and Kiki took us back.

Well, the hyenas had obviously chased away the male lion (maybe not before he had had his fill??) and were gorging themselves the carcass – cracking away on the bones (nothing wasted), watched on by the vultures who were not shy at having their share. The hyena lying down was so full he/she could not move!!!
It was so amazing to see a whole drama play out and have more understanding of the cycle.

Another wonderful thing Robin Pope Safaris set up for us was a surprise sundown celebration for our son and daughter in law who had just become engaged. Just going for an evening drive and I said, ‘oh look there is person there’. When we rounded the corner, a table and chairs had been set up with champagne and nibbles – magical – thank you.

We have grandchildren now and I can’t wait to bring them on safari – I have promised…”

Wonderful, thanks so much Jill! Trust we will be seeing you with the family again soon.

I am sure Jill has you safari dreaming now, so will leave you on that dreamy note. A very fond farewell from me and I hope that you have the most wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and consciously competent learning

Well, hello there! I hope that you are well and have had a lovely weekend with varying degrees of extended freedom that is now being experienced by most and that you are all set for a thrilling week ahead. Here in the Luangwa, we are about to welcome our first international guests since August last year, and to say that we are excited is an understatement. There will be no excuse, I will need to give you all a blow-by-blow account on sightings. However, we are not in the Luangwa this week, instead we are scooting over the border to catch up with Conrad. Over to you Conrad:

“Experts use the term “consciously competent” to describe the third stage of learning. It is that stage when you know how to do something but executing the skill takes concentration. Learners in this stage will often find ways of bringing their newly acquired knowledge into general conversation so that other people are aware of their skills. Somebody that had just become consciously competent about driving, for example, would mention potholes, traffic and parking while actually telling you about the restaurant they went to last night.

A few years ago, I wrote my guiding exams and unfortunately, I’ve been stuck at the consciously competent stage ever since. So, when asked to write about news from Malawi, I am first going to talk about aloe-eating elephants, bird-eating spiders and adventurous vultures:

Aloe-eating elephants.
We recently took a few potted aloe plants from Pumulani to the management house at Mkulumadzi. Having not given it much thought (other than their need for sunlight) they were plopped down on the edge of our verandah.
Not long after, an elephant bull drawn to the area by the smell of ripe marulas, started making his daily rounds through the lodge. Car park marula tree, kitchen marula tree, firebreak marula tree, management house marula tree, down to the river to drink and then do it all again; hoping for a fresh round of fruits. One mid-afternoon, on his way to the river, he took time out to explore the prickly, exotic plants his friendly neighbors had imported “from a place far, far away.” After a few minutes of examining the pots with his long, curious nose he scraped together the courage to take a bite. What he did not expect was the pot to come with the meal and when it landed at his feet (without breaking – well done to the Pumulani clay pot makers!) the elephant lost his nerve and quickly disappeared in the thickets toward the river.

Bird-eating spiders.
“If you could weave the silk of an Orb Web spider into the thickness of a pencil, the string would be so strong it could stop a Boeing 747 at maximum speed” … Or so it is claimed by many blogs and some books in any case. I’ve no idea if that is even remotely possible but one thing I learned last week was that Orb Web spider silk can stop a bird (a Blue Waxbill 747 to be precise). We found this poor guy caught up in a web; the more he struggled to get out the more he spun himself into delicious cordon bleu for a very hungry spider.

Adventurous Vultures.
Wildlife Act reported in April that a White-backed Vulture tagged in Majete Wildlife Reserve on November 15th, 2020, showed up in Kwazulu-Natal (South Africa) – 1327km away!
This handsome guy, by the name of MW06, most probably did not do the journey in one go, but rather visited a number of different carcasses (and perhaps a Covid 19 test station?) along his way.
Vultures are vital to our eco-systems and with an average decline of 62% in their populations over the past 30 years, researchers need all the help they can get to understand them better. You can help too: if you ever spot a vulture with either a leg tag or a wing tag, please report the sighting to projectvulture.org.za.

And now, for news from Malawi: All is well – winter has arrived and with temperatures only reaching the mid-20’s by day, we’ve all dusted off our trousers and fleece jackets. The vaccine roll-out is going along very nicely indeed and there seems to a smattering of international travel on the horizon.”

Brilliant – thanks so much Conrad! Although I am stuck with the image of a Boeing Waxbill! After this wonderful account I am left with very little to do except to bid you all a very fond farewell and hope that you all have the most wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and the leaping leopard

Hello there! I hope that you are fabulously well after another glorious weekend. Here in the Luangwa the last few nights we have been surrounded by the gentle calls of lions throughout the night which has been lovely. However, this week you are not going to be hearing from me, you are hearing from Will and Lianne Steenkamp our award-winning filming duo who are going to give you a little insight into the behaviour of leopards.

But before I hand over to them, we would like to extend a huge congratulations to Will & Lianne, Into Nature Productions, as their #LeopardLegacy documentary, filmed from our Nsefu Camp, has won “Best Animal Behaviour” program in the 44th International Wildlife Film Festival! We could not be happier for the dynamic duo, who did such a fantastic job of telling/filming Olimba’s story. Huge congratulations!
If you are in Germany, please tune into German Prime TV at 2015hrs tonight to watch this film.

Will and Lianne – over to you:

“Leopards are known for their adaptive behaviour, and in all their different habitats they each have their own strategies to survive. Luangwa’s leopards also exhibit very unique traits, and now and then, an event in their environment allows for some remarkable behaviour.

One such event is the Yellow Billed Stork Colony in the Nsefu sector. When the chicks hatch at the end of the wet season, many different animal species are found around the colony, all waiting for a hunting or scavenging opportunity. Raptors, crocodiles, baboons, marabou storks, and hyenas are often the first to be seen. And now and then you’ll also find a leopard amongst the opportunists…

In 2019 a young male leopard, known to us as Makumbi, discovered the Stork Colony. Like the yellow billed stork chicks, he was at an age where independence beckoned, and learning to hunt was one of the key elements to his success. When the stork chicks learnt to fly and managed to safely land on the ground just below their nests, Makumbi eagerly started spending his days and nights at the Colony. But hunting prey with wings turned out to be quite a challenge for the inexperienced, young hunter. It was remarkable to watch his determination, chasing them up and down with an endless amount of energy. And over time, he had some success. But his bird hunting seemed short-lived, because the fledglings soon moved off to the river. Yet, Makumbi followed them there, and continued his bird hunting endeavours along the riverbank – watch this 1min clip here.

It was astonishing to see a leopard, known to be an elusive cat that usually stalks through the undergrowth to get close to its prey, out in the open and running along the riverbank in long stretches, intent on catching the birds. Fortunately for him, after each hunting attempt the young storks simply returned to the riverbank, allowing him to try time and time again. This chasing out in the open in its own was a remarkable sight – behaviour not often seen, and most likely never recorded before. But Makumbi surprised us even more when he came up with a different strategy. He hid in the small ditch of the riverbank and when a stork flew over, he leapt in the air and stretched out his paws to reach for the birds in flight. He combined chasing with leaping, and, in the end, he managed to catch a few unsuspecting storks.

At the time we thought his bird hunting was mostly a lot of energy expenditure for very little reward. But what we didn’t know then, was that his bird hunting skills were to become invaluable later in his life, when he really needed it for his survival…”

Wow, amazing thank you so much Will and Lianne! If you haven’t watched their film Leopard Legacy, I highly recommend it as a great watch. There is truly little else for me to say, except to bid you all a very fond farewell. Have a wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and a strange weekend

Well, hello there. I hope that you are brilliantly well and have had a lovely weekend – here in the Luangwa we had a few days of rain! It slightly threw us as we were not expecting it but have thoroughly enjoyed it all the same. The skies have been crystal clear once more and the afternoons have done the classic build-up of clouds and moodiness and it’s all been rather fun. Well mostly fun, except for the fact that we have managed to finally cross the Lupande River (just) to get the road to Luangwa River Camp in. It is a banned route for a couple of days before it dries out and then it will be all system go on the rebuilding of the main area that we spoke about earlier in the year – we are excited!

Other news, before we crack on with sightings, is a huge thank you to the Ministry of Health Zambia who have rolled out a Covid vaccination programme across Zambia and we are slowly getting our staff vaccinated. So far, all the guides have had their vaccines and a good number of the junior staff have also joined the list. We are extremely excited about this as hopefully it will add some peace of mind to travellers once we start seeing some of our international guests back through our doors.

News on the gameviewing front from Kiki, who has been busy with some guests at Robin’s House who arrived ready for a relaxing weekend but were persuaded to head out for a few drives. Starting gently with the first afternoon drive on the newly put in roads behind Nkwali Camp. It sounds silly but we always get so excited putting these in as it just adds a whole new dimension and the area is teaming with plains game with heaps and heaps of giraffe, puku, impala, elephant and even a daytime sighting of a bushy tailed mongoose.

The following morning was an opportunity to stretch their legs and have a walking safari seeing zebra, waterbuck, loads of other plains game as well as managing to get close to a group of some 15 or so giraffe. Then out of the corner of his eye Kiki spotted something a little more unusual which was an African Hawk Eagle trying to hunt a guinea fowl, it didn’t quite manage but was still a wonderful sighting. After the walk they hopped back in the car to head back to camp and came across the 2 lovely dark maned lions lying flat out in the thick grass showing only a slight flick of the tail or ear to shoo off a fly. Kiki was slightly relieved as the last time he saw them they were rather nervous and even gave him a growl but this time they were the picture of relaxation. Taking the lions advise, it was time to head back to camp and do the same.

The afternoon was filled with buffalo, elephants, hippos, and crocodiles finished by a lovely gin and tonic watching the sunset over the river from the Robin’s House deck.

Other than that, well there is little else to report except that we are now looking forward to putting the roads in to get us to Tena Tena and Nsefu. We will be heading up there soon to see how everything is looking. So, for this week I shall bid you a very fond farewell and hope that you have a wonderful week wherever you are. Stay safe, have fun and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and an action packed safari

Hello there. I hope you are well and have had a lovely weekend.  Here in the Luangwa, we are getting used to the slightly nippy mornings, and guests are getting good use of the blankets on the game-viewers.  But before I digress into chatting about the weather, I am going to stop myself as we have an action-packed safari to tell you about. So, get comfortable it’s time to get jealous….

Last weekend Santiago Quinones (who has been kind enough to share some of his photos with us) came to visit with some friends; and let me tell you, they had three incredible days in the park with Yona.  The first drive was a gentle introduction to what the Luangwa had to offer with heaps of giraffes, elephants, impala, hippo and a few zebra.  Yona at this point was obviously just playing it cool and didn’t want to show his hand on game drive number one.  The following morning though, he decided that it was time to show off a little and not long into the drive he found 5 lions who had just been outnumbered by the crocs in the lagoon they had decided to have their meal by. The crocs had dragged the buffalo carcass away from the lions and down to the water’s edge where they were incredibly happy with their meal and the lions were looking a little upset by the turn of events.  Leaving the lions to deal with their hunger they headed on, and just past the Mushilashi they heard loads of vervet monkeys going absolutely nuts alarm calling.  Obviously, this meant something was going on, so getting closer to the kerfuffle they finally found what it was all about.  There was a young female leopard up in the tree hunting the vervets – no wonder they were in a total panic.  The young leopard really had chosen a tough target and leaping from one branch to another she gave it her very best but eventually decided that there was no way she was going to win this one.

After all of this, it was time to head back to Luangwa Safari House for some lunch.

Right… time for the afternoon drive, what would this one yield?  Yona headed towards Chichele Hill and it wasn’t long before he found 7 lions feeding on a fresh zebra kill.  The guests got to enjoy this sighting until thirst took a hold. So, they headed off for sundowners and then before heading back to the house, took one more glance at the feeding frenzy that was occurring with the lions.

The following morning, they decided to get off to a similarly magnificent start. Just after crossing into the Park, they burst out of the thickets into Wakumba where they found 15 wild dogs on an impala kill. The dogs were very excitedly yapping, eating, and then digesting – for 2 hours the guests watched everything unfold.  After that everyone decided that they needed their own little refreshment and popped off to find a nice spot for a cup of tea and slice of cake before heading back to the house once more via the wild dogs.

The afternoon was a far more relaxed affair with champagne sundowners up on Chichele Hill to celebrate a wedding anniversary, followed by a birthday dinner back at the house.   The following morning, knowing that it was time to head home, there was a debate on “should we have one last foray into the park or should we take it easy and just get ourselves ready for the days travel”. Most of the guests decided to have one last excursion and they were duly rewarded with the sight of 2 huge dark maned lions on Wakumba. These lions have apparently just come into the area, which is extremely exciting. The guests were so please and said to Yona that really everything had been so amazing, why not just finish on this high. 

Yona stuck to his guns, as they had the previous night mentioned that they would like to see another leopard, so off they went a few more loops. Later there were the wild dogs – just relaxing in the middle of the road – suddenly the dogs stood up, all 15 of them and just started chasing something.  No one had seen any prey nearby so were totally confused at what they were chasing. So as the dogs went through the bush, the car went around and found the dogs sitting under a small bush/tree growling.  Yona thought it may have been a snake so was slightly hesitant to get closer, but the guests managed to persuade him to stick around and wait to see what was happening and after about 30 minutes Yona finally spotted what it was that they were growling at – pushed up into the most difficult position was a leopard.  The dogs were standing up on their hind legs trying to get to this poor cat. Eventually she bit the bullet and decided to make a run for it as there was simply no alternative way of surviving this.  She leapt out of the bush and ran for it, with the dogs chasing her, hearts in throats everyone thought that this was going to be the end of her, but she made it to another slightly better tree that she was able to get up into and the dogs sat down around the tree growling and waiting. 

What an incredible way to finish off a safari – thank you so much Yona for sharing the events with us and Santiago for the wonderful photos.  There is little else for me to really follow up with after all of this, so I shall bid you a very fond farewell and hope that you have a wonderful week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and a rising star within the safari guiding ranks

Well, hello there! I hope that you are fabulously well and cracking on with the week ahead. Here in the Luangwa the seasons are definitely changing as jumpers have been dusted off and are now being worn in the mornings; and the best thing of all (in my opinion) is the decline in the humidity levels. The lush green grass is losing a little of its lushness and the impalas have most definitely started the rutt, the bush babies are bouncing around with extraordinary vigour. The Hueglins Robin (or if you prefer its new name which is White-browed Robin Chat) who lives in the bush outside our bedroom window is whistling in the beginning of winter with some slightly unwanted 5am enthusiasm. Lastly, the banded mongooses have come out of hiding and are now rushing around through camp chirping away and showing their youngsters just how much exploring is actually possible.

In other news from inside the camp, the wildlife is getting rather used to the change in pace from previous years. In the last week we have had lions chilling out on the doorstep of one of the staff houses, elephants snoring propped up against the termite mound by the office and a Pels fishing owl stopping by the Nkwali lagoon to see if there were any treats for the taking! We have been seeing a trickle of guests since Easter, which has been wonderful, and they have had some lovely sightings. It’s been everything from sacred Ibis fishing and freaking out if they caught something too big, to being held up leaving the park as there was a leopard walking across the main bridge. The elephants have started trickling back to the area and are doing a fabulous job of showing us where the ground is still a little too wet by leaving enormous squelchy footprints in the ground. The footprints are going less and less deep into the ground showing us that it is quickly drying out and as a result we are getting ready to start putting in the roads behind Nkwali, so that we can at long last get out into the bush behind camp to explore and see who is hanging out in the area.

On the rather official HR front, we have some extremely exciting news to share with you all about one of our guide John Mphasi. He started his life off at RPS as the gardener at Robin and Jo’s house, but it wasn’t long before he was out spotting on night drives at every single opportunity. We eventually gave up trying to keep him in camp and started training him to become a guide. Over the last few years, he has gone from strength to strength passing his driving licence a few years back and just last week passing his walking licence with flying colours. He has been doing his training under Bedrock Africa with assignments and training spread over the last year as well as plenty of walks in the game management area under the watchful eye of Kanga, to get used to being out in the bush and guiding on foot. We are so pleased and proud and now all we need is for the guests to start flooding back to give him a chance to take out some walks. Although I hate to say it, I think that there will be a bit of a fight between the guides as they will all want to be out walking in the park!

Other than that, Yona has just had the most wonderful safari with some guests at Luangwa Safari House but I am going to leave you all hanging on that one and give you the full low down next week. So, between now and then I hope you have the most fabulous week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and a highlight cheetah sighting

Hello there! I hope that you are well and sitting comfortably ready for this weeks’ update from our neck of the woods. Before we hear what news there is, I am delighted to share that the Leopard Legacy documentary is going to be showing in the US on the 14th of April on PBS Nature. Please do look out for it if you are in the US! The creators of this incredible story are acclaimed wildlife filmmakers, Will and Lianne Steenkamp (who are also behind our weekly Safari Diaries), who have been filming Olimba’s journey for 3 years while staying at none other than Nsefu Camp!  View the trailer here.

Right… now onto news for this week, an update from Conrad at Kuthengo Camp in Malawi.

“After having packed the camp up for the rainy season, it was time to dust, sweep, polish, wash, iron and generally unpack. The team arrived into camp the last week of March and there was no stopping them as we busied ourselves getting camp ready for Easter weekend. The bush tends to rapidly reclaim any unused areas so after a few weeks of regular rain in Liwonde National Park, slashing and road works was the name of the game (with the odd plank here and there being replaced after a naughty hippo had wondered over them) and in no time at all the roads were cleared and the camp was ready. Now it was time to welcome our guests!

A guest once told me, “I’ll come back to Kuthengo, even if it was just to experience the arrival once again”. I must admit it is quite the arrival and we were soon able to share it with our first guests.  Arriving at the gate, then enjoying the slow boat ride up the Shire River toward the camp. At this time of the year the only way to access camp is by boat, so we transfer guests (and fuel, toilet paper, courgettes, and screws to fix planks!) upriver, as much out of necessity as it is for the experience of counting bobbing hippo heads on your way to camp.

Under the watchful eyes of Amon and Sebastian, all is running smoothly and Kuthengo is proving once again to be the perfect base from which to explore the park’s Mopane woodlands, magnificent baobabs, Lake Malombe and the floodplains.   

Sebastian, having come across from the Luangwa Valley to help out at Kuthengo, made sure to assign himself to spotting duties one evening – there is always a good excuse to go on a game-drive. Little did he know that, after twenty years of guiding, he would be so lucky to have his first sighting of a Cheetah! “I was so happy – and it was on the same day as my son’s birthday, so I got two presents on one day” he told with a beaming smile when I saw him the next day. The pioneer Cheetah populations in both Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve are doing well (even if they keep park management on their toes keeping track of all of them!).

And speaking of things with long canines, the Liwonde Wildlife Trust reports that lion cubs were born to the Chinguni pride in Liwonde, further cementing the lion’s presence in the park after being reintroduced in 2018. Many thanks to El Comley from the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust for the lion cub photos we are sharing today. We will be sure to keep an eye out for them and keep you posted on progress and hopefully as the year progresses, we will be able to share more of these wonderful moments with more and more guests.  But for now, I had better get back to some of the nitty gritty of camp life.”

Fab, thanks so much Conrad! This all sounds wonderful, if rather busy.  Here in the Luangwa, the rains are certainly coming to an end and the seasons are starting to change with the mornings getting a little chillier and the skies taking on that crystal clear blue hue.  The river continues to plummet, but the lagoons are still retaining loads of water and the hippos are loving the cover of Nile cabbage to hide in.  Bertie and Obi have both been remarkably busy with guests over the last week, so I will be sure to sit down with them for a full debrief on sightings and look forward to sharing it all with you next week.  In the meantime, have the most fabulous week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and a happy Easter with lions

Well, hello there. I hope you are well and have had a lovely Easter weekend and that the Easter bunny hopped on over with all the various chocolaty goodies possible. Here in the Luangwa, well despite the warmer climate not being particularly friendly towards chocolate, we still managed to ensure that there was plenty around. What with insanely gooey chocolate brownies, egg decorated almond cake plus a surplus of hot cross buns… Food asides, we have also been feasting our eyes on some beautiful splashes of colour in the bush as we have little red flowers, yellow ones, white ones and purple ones all bringing us that traditional spring feeling.

The wildlife has also been playing its part, and whilst we were not privy to the bouncing around of lambs, we instead had the bouncing around of lion cubs. I am not sure if anyone remembers how last year, I spoke about the Nkwali Pride of lions and having spotted a big male mating with one of the females – well we now have some cubs. We don’t have any photos, yet I am afraid, but I promise we are working hard on it and will share them with you when we do. However, Kiki was on his way into camp from the airport with his guests and right there at Daudi’s bridge, were the pride with some little bundles. Sadly, the bush is very very thick, so they easily get swallowed up by the long grass, but it was a pretty fab introduction to camp. Then a few days later the boys showed up on the side of the road and spent the night keeping us all awake and the following day sleeping it off under a lovely thick bush.

Scooting over into the park the animals have also been showing us their best side with heaps and heaps of impalas all a little distracted as the rut is just starting. Giraffes and pukus just enjoying the wide range of greenery available to them and elephants in every corner.

Kiki was out one morning and hearing a herd of elephants making quite the noise went over to investigate but was distracted by the impalas’ alarm calling so went with the latter option and there up in a tree was a huge male leopard. He was incredibly relaxed, so Kiki and the guests parked to enjoy the sighting. After quite some time the leopard had a stretch then climbed down from the tree and walked off.

The following day over in Lupunga Spur they found a pack of wild dogs and spent half an hour watching them running around after impala and also behind the wild dogs was a hyena just running around in the hopes that the dogs might do the hard work and it could reap the rewards! Sadly, the chase ended up crashing into the thickets, so the outcome was never discovered however the sighting was enough to please everyone so off they went to enjoy some of the incredible birding that this time of the year offers us.

Other than that, the river is busy emptying out and the bush was drying out until an enormous storm last night, which it must be said was greatly enjoyed by everyone. As we canter towards May we start to think about getting various roads and access points in and look forward to soon being able to get up to the Nsefu Sector to see the changes up there since the rains. Don’t worry, we will keep you posted every step of the way. However, for this week I am going to bid you all a very fond farewell and hope that you have the most wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and safari adventures with Robin and Jo

Well, hello there! I hope that you are well and sitting comfortably for this week’s update from Robin and Jo Pope. No need for me to keep you any longer, let me get straight to it and pass you over:

“Just before Christmas, Robin and I, with our negative Covid certificates in hand, packed up our Landcruiser and drove to the Nyika Plateau in Northern Malawi. We crossed the border just hours before all land borders into Malawi were unexpectedly closed to non-citizens. We were lucky to get in! Nyika really is one of our soul places and we are always thrilled to visit.

Early January we returned to Zambia, and at Chipata, swung down the road to Mfuwe, South Luangwa. Our tenants were away for a couple of months and so we took the opportunity to renovate our house. We had planned to spend a week setting up the contractor before returning to Lusaka. The week became two months. Since leaving the South Luangwa in early 2010 we have visited a few times every year. I am still involved in Project Luangwa, we have our house to up keep and of course we love returning to the bush. But these visits are usually no longer than a week. So, it was glorious to spend a couple of months and really “feel” the place again.

Don’t get me wrong, this was a “working holiday”. Once we got started on the house, we dived into the detail and sanded, painted and fixed. It had been a decade since the house had really received the TLC at this level. We became so involved in the renovation, we spent less time in the park than I had hoped. But it did not matter. Our house is situated behind Nkwali and the richness of the bush in this area is amazing. The light, clouds, storms, flowers, butterflies, trees and of course the birds and wildlife were deeply rich and ever present.

The regular elephants were daily visitors, with the breeding herds being followed by excited males. Although elephants can breed throughout the year, it was the peak mating season. We had a herd of impalas always within view. The resident banded mongoose family passed by every morning and evening, chattering away. The African goshawk who patrolled the area kept a beady on the young and one day swooped down and grabbed one. What a commotion as the mongoose family ran around looking for their lost babe. It was hard to watch. A pair of Heuglin’s Robins (although one of the many bird name changes – now white browed robin chat) would wake us up just before dawn and serenaded us as we enjoyed yet another spectacular sunset from the deck. It was wonderful to be living in such abundant nature again.

Some days were hot and humid making it hard to keep the physical work going. This was especially true just before a storm rolled in. Late afternoon storms created spectacular sunsets but the occasional night storms would prevent sleep, with lightening flashing bright and thunder crashing overhead, sometimes for hours. With the heat of the valley the weather is certainly more dramatic than on the central plateau where Lusaka is situated. We really love these dramatic storms and skies.

During our weekly mornings in the park we put our focus on birding and our species count averaged 80. In the third week of February we spotted a male jacana with two tiny chicks. The jacana is polyandrous, meaning that one female mates with multiple males and the male alone cares for the chicks. They are famous for tucking the chicks under their wings but neither of us had ever seen this. You can imagine our delight when we witnessed this unusual behavior. On our second visit to the small lagoon to check on the chicks, we noticed another male that was looking after four beautiful eggs. This was only ten minutes from the Park gate, so we would check whenever we went to Mfuwe “town”, hoping to see the hatched chicks. We noticed that the bird was rarely on the eggs and research tells me when the ambient temperature is high, the male adult spends little time on the eggs. As the temperature drops, he spends more time and it is actually a precise process. Clever guy! Jacanas incubate for 25 days and we had to sadly leave before they hatched. I only hope there are now four new chicks exploring the lagoon, because on the last two visits we failed to spot the two original chicks we had been watching. We were hoping the lurking monitor lizard had not caught up with them.

The rain increased early March and the river rose. We heard news that it was raining very heavily in the north and the river rose yet again. With the water so high, and our tenant returning we packed and left. It was a wrench as we had so enjoyed our two nature-rich months. However, we are now back in our wonderful home outside Lusaka, planning new adventures for road trips around Zambia this year.”

Brilliant, thanks so much Jo! It’s always lovely to hear from you. One thing is for sure, you and Robin are certainly being missed, but I am sure it won’t be too long before you are back. I don’t think that I really need to say much more except for a quick update on water levels which have sunk back down to acceptable levels, so no life jackets required. Other than that, well I hope that you have the most wonderful week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and a beautiful morning in Luangwa

Well, hello there! I hope that you are well and have had a lovely weekend. Here in the Luangwa, we have just had a rather frantic week of watching the water levels… ‘is it up or down?’, ‘how quickly is it going up’? Oh no, is it going to rain? Phew! the storm is in the south… Despite all of that, it has been magnificent; and it turns out that island life isn’t so different to life over the last year, except that it’s a little soggier!

Up until two weeks ago, we were staring down the barrel of a potential drought with rainfall massively down on what we would expect annually. But don’t worry, things have changed dramatically and with a few days of enormous downpours; each with some 50mm of rain in just a few hours, combined with monumental rain up in the North Luangwa and in Chipata (both our catchment areas) the river finally started to come up, and then up and up and up. First port of call was getting the cars across Robin’s Bridge as otherwise we really are stranded. Second port of call pack up Luangwa Safari House, most especially the underground kitchen. Third port of call was Robin’s House and Nkwali to be packed up. After everything was pretty much under control, we then had the small matter of a car on the other side of the river needing to be brought back around. We decided that we would take on the challenge. Given that school (having finally re-opened) had to close again because it was pretty much flooded all around so not necessarily a safe environment for small children. We packed Jack up along with lots of coffee for us, and water and snacks for him, and off we went. First off crossing the river into Wakumba – straight over the bank wherever that may be, over the game drive loops which are very well hidden and straight across to the main road. We leapt out the boat, checked the car and waved off Samuel before we started on our morning’s adventure.

I realise that we live out here so we should be taking advantage of the situation, but this was our first time out into the park this year, so we decided to take our time and enjoy the views and sightings. There is only so much birding that a 3-and-a-half-year-old will enjoy; but top of the list were definitely the crowned cranes dancing around each other, the Jacarna’s because “wow, they can walk on water” and then the yellow billed storks because “euw mama, is it eating a frog”. Sadly, there was a misunderstanding at the introduction of a Great White Egret when I was asked if it was really called a “great white idiot”, children do come up with the best interpretations of things!

Along with the countless bird species we saw, we also enjoyed all the usual plains game with some wonderful sightings of zebra who very reluctantly got off the road to let us pass, as they didn’t want to wander into the wet grass. The elephants feasting on the complete abundance of food, and of course impala gracefully leaping across puddles and into clearings.

After leaving the Park, it was time to see if we could cross Robin’s Bridge to get back to camp. It turns out that we were lucky to be able to get across, however by the end of the day we were completely cut off. Since then, it’s been all about getting around by boat and getting boats in the right places, with some real treats, as we managed to boat all the way to Luangwa Safari House to check up on Edward who is looking after the house. Then up to Robin’s Bridge where we have parked a boat so that we can easily get in and out of camp. Boating through the flooded ebony forests is a truly magical experience, as well as popping in and out of the swollen lagoons. Let us face it, not a bad way to spend half term.

With the water levels having stabilised and the rain becoming a little more patchy, we are all touching wood that we are in the clear. We do continue to keep a very beady eye on the situation, but at the same time are now truly able to enjoy the magnificence of it all.

Maybe on that note, I should leave you to your week and go and sit at Nkwali bar to watch yet another tree float down the river and another storm build up on the horizon. I hope that you all have the most wonderful week ahead, with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and what may be a typical day at Pumulani

Well, hello there! I trust you have had a lovely and restful weekend and now gearing up for the week ahead. Here in the Luangwa, we are enjoying incredibly high water levels in the Luangwa and some delightful sightings – ranging from stunning vegetation, diverse bird species to the bigger game. Let me not keep you from our news this week, coming from Conrad in Malawi. Conrad, over to you:

“Without the clockwork routine of 5:am wakeup calls and regular game-drives our guests are used to in the safari camps, planning a day at Pumulani can be more challenging than you would think. Hence, we often get asked “what do you suggest we do tomorrow?” A few days ago, Retha and I decided to document what we think the perfect day would be at Pumulani. With our phone cameras in hand – no filters, no photoshop – we set out and it turned out to be much easier than we had anticipated.

Lake Malawi in March must be one of Africa’s most beautiful sights. The combination of lush green on land and everchanging arrangements of blue on the lake, the white clouds that turn into grey thunderstorms within minutes before transforming into orange and red sunsets conjures up hashtag favorites like #idyllic, #picturesque and #mesmerizing.

Without any further lyrical waxing about landscapes, here are the results:

Sleep with the curtains open and let the Lake wake you up in the morning. No alarms or wakeup calls apply. Enjoy a slow cup of coffee on the verandah, watching the world go by – fishermen and fish eagles alike are already out and about and provide great entertainment as they reveal the tricks of their trade.

Next, a hearty breakfast in the restaurant – a different angle on the same amazing view. Leave your watch in the room – the waiters will let you know when lunch is ready (which is the only reason you need to know what time it is).

In between breakfast and lunch, spend time on the beach. If you are feeling adventurous, Precious is standing by to help you get a kayak in water, give a helping hand on the stand-up-paddle boards, or take you out to the best snorkeling spots on the Lake. If you’re feeling lazy, read a book, plunge into the pool, or just stare out over the lake.

If the weather plays along, lunch is normally served down on the beach under the giant fig trees. Order a cold beer from Light or Mirriam; and as they bring your fresh Kampango and salad, ask them about the fish, the salad and where it all comes from.

A nap after lunch is always a good idea. The hikes deeper into Lake Malawi National Park are stunning, especially at this time of year, so why not take a quick dip in the infinity pool before setting off on a hike with Black to explore the rocky outcrops and amazing views. Make sure you are back at the lodge in time for the sunset.

A long bath after a tough day awaits. A drink around the campfire and a candle-lit dinner is the perfect way to end off your day.”

On that rather relaxing note, I will leave you to get back to your world now. I must say though, Conrad has me contemplating going across to Lake Malawi and Pumulani soon…

Enjoy the rest of your week with plenty of smile and laughter and don’t forget to look after each other!

Emily
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Its Monday and the shared meal…

Well, hello there. I hope that you are marvellously well and are sitting ready and raring for the new week ahead. Here in the Luangwa, let me tell you, we are a little bit on the soggy side. Still with 200mm of rainfall to catch up on, the heavens have opened and are playing a rather impressive game of catch up. The river is running incredibly high and the area around Robin’s Bridge is a magnificent lagoon stretching as far as the eye can see. The road in and out of camp whilst rather muddy, is quite a lot drier than the surrounding bush.

As a result of all the rain the animals seem to be congregating on and close to the road to avoid too much mud. The giraffes are even taller as they squelch through the thick black cotton soil wearing their muddy boots. And the impalas… there is a definite reluctance to get off the road when a car comes along. The elephants are having a wonderful time with an abundance of grass to eat and some fantastic mud bath opportunities at every turn and we have had some heavenly sightings of some very very tiny ones all wobbly doing their very best not to get stuck in the mud.

A few days ago the road in and out of camp was particularly busy for sightings with not only the usual animals also we had an abundance of African Cuckoos. As if that was not enough, we got to Ruben’s Bridge where there were a couple of Hammerkops busy fishing and a juvenile Fish Eagle perched high up in a tree also waiting for a potential meal, when suddenly out of the bush crashed some impalas. Well, lets face it, they are not going to be running like that for no reason at all are they?! So, what followed next – a pack of wild dogs – it’s the pack of 6 that hangs out in this area and they are thriving. Hunt was successful and one impala served up for the dogs for their breakfast. As if that was not enough, all the noise attracted the hyenas – a female and her youngster and they came out of the bush making their presence known to all and chased the dogs off their meal whilst they were eating. A few hours later, all the activity had attracted a few other predators.

As Jack and I were on our way out, we stopped at Robin’s Bridge (don’t worry quite a way up the road) and looked at some lovely lion tracks in the mud then just a few moments later found the said predators sleeping in the shade, after having chased off the hyenas and finishing off the remainder of the meal. It seems that everyone benefited from the wild dogs’ attack on the impala.

In the park we have had some avid birders in camp who have seen an abundance of species including some 50 Lesser Spotted Eagles, countless Abdim Storks, a myriad of different types of Herons and water birds and even a Flufftail. So, all in all its been quite a productive week.

We have guests coming into Luangwa Safari House today so Yona will be dusting off his safari boots and heading out into the park to see what he can find.

Kanga will also be guiding at Nkwali Camp, so I am sure that we will have lots of interesting sightings and stories from them both for you next week.

For now, I am going to bid you all a very fond, if not slightly soggy, farewell and hope that you have a wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter. Stay safe and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and safari insights from Mkulumadzi

I do hope that you are sitting soundly and healthily at home and ready for another wonderful week ahead. To start you off on the right track, we are going to whisk you away on safari to Mkulumadzi. Conrad its over to you:

“Last Thursday I dusted off my guiding boots (they never stay clean for long) and glanced through my tree notes to ensure that I do not confuse my Dalbergia melanoxylon’s with my Siplorhynchus condylocarpon’s. I was going to be guiding for the first time in a while and was extremely excited about the prospect.

That Friday, our Mkulumadzi guests arrived from Lilongwe in time for chef Thomas’s famous Chikwawa Chicken lunch and soon after we set off in search of Majete’s secrets.
The first game-drives were relatively calm with sightings of the usual species that we see but we also caught a glimpse of a sable antelope, discovered the web of a stunning Golden Orb Web Spider, and got close to a tortoise – not hard as he wasn’t moving at any great speed! We spent time with a troop of baboons as they prepared for a night in the treetops and could not help but wonder what they thought of us? Only 16 years old Tamu has a great thirst for knowledge and peppered me with questions about Honeyguides and Chestnut trees.

The plan for Saturday afternoon was to go a little further afield in search of elephants. However, early on in the drive it soon became clear that this was not going to happen as we were stopped in our tracks by alarm calls coming from the riverbank. This set-in motion a game of hide-and-seek with a pride of lions which we finally found after a lot of listening and tracking but they were quite far off the road in some thick vegetation. At this point, we knew that patience was the name of the game and this came served with some ice and a slice of lemon and a sunset. Our efforts were rewarded when shortly after sunset, the pride slipped out from their hiding place and walked right past us – a fitting end to a great day in the bush.

Sunday morning, we once again set out nice and early. We could tell the lions had not moved far from where we saw them the previous night, but with Majete’s lush vegetation they proved just too tricky to find so instead we decided to moved up the Nsefu road, away from the river where we found a young bull elephant under a Marula tree, carefully picking up each fruit the baboons had dropped earlier.

That afternoon we did not move far away from the lodge but instead spent time birding at Nankamba hide before having sundowners next to the Shire River, where a breeding herd of elephant awaited us.

We had decided on a short drive the Monday morning – little did we know that the bush was saving her best for last. With the sun beating down on us and the Land Cruiser’s nose pointing back toward the lodge, we passed a seasonal mud pit in Mvunguti loop where we found a gorgeous large elephant bull. He was mid-mud-bath when we arrived but immediately walked up to the car, keen to pose for a few photos (and playfully intimidate all of us in the process). As he stood in the road, only a trunk’s length away, two sub-adult lions came stalking out of the bush, keen to take advantage of the herd of impala that had gathered at the mud-pit. After careful negotiations with Mr. Elephant about a parking spot, we managed to manoeuvre the vehicle so that we could see both the stalking lions and the boastful elephant all in on panoramic view. And there we sat; me, Tamu, Alpha and Terry, in the blazing hot Malawian sun, loving every moment of spending quality time with these celebrities.”

Wow sounds amazing! Thanks, so much Conrad for sharing this wonderful safari with us. We can’t wait to hear more tales of the bush from Malawi soon.
After all that excitement there is little to report from Nkwali except that we are finally getting some much-needed rain and some lovely cool days with incredible vistas being lapped up from the boat. Next week however, I am sure that we will have some more fab sightings to share with you, so until then, stay safe and happy and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and a weekend safari with Kiki

Well, hello there! I hope that you are fabulously well and are relaxing into the new week. Here in the Luangwa, I could tell you about the glorious sight of the river running high, the clear skies with magnificent cumulonimbus clouds with the blue/black undersides and the golden light shining on the distant Chindeni Hills. But before I digress too much, lets head out on a quick safari with Kiki who recently had some wonderful sightings with some guests at Robin’s House.

This time of the year our safaris are rather fluid in terms of timing as we want to go out as much as possible but don’t necessarily want to get too wet. When the pitter patter of rain starts at 4am Kiki has the perfect excuse for a slightly slow morning but he more than made up for it once the rain had stopped and he got out into the park. A slightly slippery start to the first morning didn’t deter him and off he went to see what the bush had to offer. He was not disappointed as some 15 minutes into his game drive he came across 4 hyenas just taking a slow morning, but one of them suddenly stood up for apparently no reason whatsoever which scared the other 3 who then pelted off into the middle distance. Not entirely sure what happened or why, they all looked very confused.

Moving on from the baffled hyenas and onto a very Rudyard Kipling’s story – sitting in the shade of a mopani tree watching a herd of 17 elephants drinking from one of the lovely full lagoons that we have at this time of the year. Suddenly a croc leapt up and grabbed one of the teenager’s trunks. Well, you can imagine the ruckus as the youngster squealed and the entire group acted in unison. First off, the babies and sub-adults moved back, and all the adults ploughed in and heads down and ears flapping went hell for leather towards this crocodile. Well, the croc obviously was not expecting this reaction at all so very quickly let go and swam off while the elephants retreated victorious but a little sore. Just to let you all know the next day they saw the same herd again and the young female who had had her trunk bitten seemed absolutely fine.

After that it was definitely time for some calmer sightings of giraffes, impalas, zebras and loads of mongooses which are always wonderful to watch.

The next few days of safari carried on in a very similar manner with some incredible sightings of up to 50 vultures on a buffalo carcass. Lots of fresh lion tracks after the rain which made finding them pretty easy – although they only saw one of the females as the rest of the pride were hidden deep in the thick green bush. The evenings were also littered with the calls of lions and the barking of the baboons. The birdlife has been incredible with sightings of knob-billed ducks, bishops blazing red across the tall green grass, woolly-necked storks, European Stork, and an incredible number of African Cuckoos which are usually quite difficult to spot.

So, as you can see there is really no stopping us, and the wildlife is certainly proving to be very impressive indeed. On that note, I think that I don’t need to waffle on about the weather anymore so I shall just bid you a very fond farewell with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily

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Its Monday and lets get cooking with Chef Simon

Well, hello there how are you doing? I hope it has been a lovely weekend and you are sitting comfortably, ready, and raring for the week ahead. Here in the Valley the skies are blue the bush is vibrant green; it doesn’t really get much better! But we are not going to be outside today, instead this week we are going to scoot into the kitchen and catch up with Simon who is our Luangwa Safari House chef, who has been keeping himself busy with lots of little experiments and jobs in the kitchen.

Before we get cooking with Simon, lets first off find out about Simon shall we… His dad was a chef and sadly passed away when Simon was quite young, but Simon kept a part of him with him and found all his old cookery books and just started reading them. He would pour over the pictures and recipes and instantly knew that this was something he wanted to learn more about. Not having access to chefs’ college, the best way out here in the Luangwa is simply to learn on the job. First off is to get a job. Everyone generally starts off as a casual general worker helping camp building or maintenance work which is exactly what Simon did over at Luangwa River Camp. It was not long before his interest and talent was spotted and he was soon put into a kitchen porter position to learn the foundations of working in a lodge kitchen. Very quickly the chef in camp started to train him and he was fast tracked onto the path of becoming a chef. He passed his written exam on kitchen hygiene and food preparation with flying colours and now all that was needed was plenty of hands-on experience. We were truly fortunate to recruit Simon to Robin Pope Safaris and after a season at Tena Tena, then a season at Robin’s House there was no denying his talent. In 2007 he became our head chef at Luangwa Safari House which is where he has flourished.

Whipping up a storm in the kitchen, Simon has never failed to impress guests with his delicious cooking and as a result has been offered some incredible experiences. He headed to Lusaka a few years ago cooking for some guests in their home for a month, learning about new ingredients and especially Asian flavours. Then in 2019 he stepped well out of his comfort zone and into the sub-zero temperatures of Norway where he stayed with Mattis Skold and his family for a month experiencing life over there. He sampled different types of food and had the opportunity to step into some top professional restaurants to see how they work and see the level at which they produced their food.

Simon loves all styles and courses but is particularly fond of his desserts so today he decided to share his amazingly easy and delicious Panna Cotta recipe with you, so that you can get cooking too.

Ingredients

½ cup milk 2 cups of cream
½ cup water 1tbsp gelatine
½ cup sugar 1tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Lightly grease 6 small pudding moulds and set to the side.

Heat the water gently then sprinkle over the gelatine and stir until dissolved. Gently heat the cream, milk and sugar in a separate pan being careful not to boil it. Remove from the heat and add the gelatine mixture along with the vanilla. Combine then pass through a fine sieve.

Allow to cool then pour into your moulds and allow to set.

To serve gently tip each mould onto a plate then decorate with fruits and herbs of your choice.

Ooh, delicious! Thanks, so much Simon. I can attest to the incredible taste, as for the greater good, I had to give this a try and it was delicious. Right, on that yummy note, I am going to bid you a very fond farewell and hope that you have a fabulous week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and the guides on conservation patrol

Hello there! I hope you are well and have had a wonderful weekend. Here in the Luangwa, we carry on much the same as usual with a few guests coming and going but nothing compared to what we are used to. As is well talked about worldwide, one of the great concerns of the pandemic and reduction of the tourism industry in Africa has been the effect of poaching on wildlife. Given that this is our lifeline we have taken this very seriously and with the constant and wonderful support of Conservation South Luangwa (CSL) and The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Services (DPNW) our guides have been doing patrols twice a week on the Nkwali and Luangwa River Camp properties. This started middle of last year and shall continue until middle of this year. We are grateful for the support you have given us through our Safari Dreaming – eBook and calendar, the funds which we have used in part to support this antipoaching campaign.

Each patrol has a senior guide, three members of our junior team and a DPNW wildlife scout. They leave CSL first thing in the morning and aim to do a good 4-5 hour foot patrol in which ever area they are checking. Bertie, Kanga, Perry, Obi, Kiki and Willie are the guides that do most of the patrols – maybe they have been trying to get out of home schooling! They have had some fabulous sightings whilst doing their patrols including wild dogs, leopard on a kill and even mating lions. The main challenge though is dodging the incredible number of elephants that we seem to have on the Nkwali property. The giraffes however seem to look down on the guides slightly perplexed as to what exactly it is that they are doing.

As a result of these patrols, we have found a snared giraffe and buffalo and each time the CSL and DNPW team were called and the snares were successfully removed. On top of that we have also removed some 15-20 snares on the property. This is obviously something that causes us all great concern as we care deeply for the wildlife but the fact that we know that we are doing all that we can to help protect it gives us great peace of mind. It also gives the guides a great opportunity to be out in the bush and to be learning and keeping their knowledge and skills up to date. For Perry, who is not yet a walking guide, this has been a fantastic opportunity for him to get some extensive walking experience in the bush with some very experienced colleagues. So, he can hopefully once things normalise again, he can get a walking licence under his belt.

We continue to patrol regularly even through the rainy season and the guides can be seen coming back slightly taller than how they started the patrol as they collect a good few inch of mud onto the bottom of their shoes but each time with smiles on their faces from having spent time in the bush and doing their part to protect the wildlife.

In addition to the guides, we have also had the added help of the Nkwali pride who continue to patrol the property regularly and make their presence known throughout the night. Whilst we can’t get out on the back roads to go and look for them (the roads are far too muddy!) we certainly didn’t need to a few nights ago as they were sticking to the main road trying not to get their paws too muddy after a particularly big rainstorm.

Driving in and out of camp it is amazing, what we do get to see whether it be the countless different birds or even several herds of elephants that had merged to create a super group of some 70 animals we are so very fortunate to have all of this on our doorstep and we continue to do what we can to protect it all.

So, on that note with a slightly different Its Monday this week, I am going to bid you all a very fond farewell and hope that you have a wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter. Stay safe and look after one another and I will be back next Monday with more tales to share.

Emily
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Its Monday and the new Leopard Legacy film

Well, hello there! I do hope you have had a fabulous weekend and are sitting comfortably ready for this week’s news, courtesy of Will and Lianne Steenkamp.  Will and Lianne have been working in partnership with Robin Pope Safaris up in the Nsefu sector for a few years now, producing the Safari Diaries that you will have seen/watched weekly. During the rainy season, they took off to the desert in Namibia and filmed the desert lions for their award-winning film Vanishing Kings.  Their main focus over the last few years has been the leopard project, studying and patiently filming one specific female leopard, getting to know her and really getting into her life.  A film like this takes time but we have always known that it was going to be incredible.  Let me pass you over to Will and Lianne to hear from them firsthand.

“Most Robin Pope Safaris’ guests have had the privilege to spend some time up in the Nsefu Sector, either at Tena Tena or at Nsefu Camp. It’s a very special part of South Luangwa, and made even more special by a female leopard who you may have heard of, or even come to know.

Back in 2015 she made an impressive first appearance in the main area of the Nsefu sector, by pushing out an older female ‘Hazel Eyes’, who later became known as ‘Kamuti’ in the TV show Africa’s Hunters, for which we were busy filming at the time.

This young female had come from Chimbwe lagoon, and she was not only astonishingly beautiful, she, also boasted confidence and courage, and took over a prime territory in the Stork Colony area where she was to thrive as a hunter. As we got to know her a bit better, we felt the name ‘Olimba’ would suit her, meaning ‘strength’ in the local language. As much as we tried to follow her closely over two seasons for Africa’s Hunters, she lived up to the reputation of her species – elusive and cloaked in mystery. Little did we know what she had in store for us when we returned the following year…

Throughout the years, Robin Pope Safaris had always been a great supporter of our work, and when we partnered up in 2017. It allowed us to make Nsefu Camp our permanent home, from where we could continue with our long term, character-driven wildlife films. Our ultimate goal was to develop an intimate and detailed portrayal of the one leopard we really wanted to follow… Olimba. We knew all too well she was a difficult leopard to keep track of, especially as she covered such a huge area between Chimbwe, the Salt Pan and the Wafwa; so, we were not sure what story she was going to bring us, and if she would give us enough for a strong story at all. But we gave it time. And time was kind to us…

Over three years Olimba showed us what she was made of, and her story became ever more intriguing. In that first year she had a cub who she mostly kept well hidden in the thickets between Chimbwe lagoon and Mamma Mia lagoon; while she excelled at her hunting in the gully of the Stork Colony, which had become her favourite hunting ground. This is also where most of RPS’s guests may have seen her – either sleeping in the gully whilst waiting for prey to come and graze on its edges or walking through the gully as she moved on after a failed hunt. Some may have even been really fortunate to have seen her in action here…

When the rains arrived, we were not able to follow Olimba for nearly five months, as the Nsefu Sector floods during the Emerald Season. But when we returned at the end of the rains, she had a surprise in store for us. Olimba revealed two tiny new-born cubs and allowed us to document both her fragile and courageous side of motherhood, in a most intimate and extraordinary way, and with it, the challenges she faced in having to provide for, and protect her young.

Over time we had come to know her favourite trees and resting spots, her preferred hunting grounds, and generally, the routes she took when on patrol. It allowed us to find her often enough that we were able to capture some of her most fearful, challenging, brave, triumphant and tragic moments, bringing all her trials and tribulations together in a powerful and captivating film. The result is Leopard Legacy, a true story about the survival of one remarkable female leopard in the Luangwa Valley.

Whether you have had the privilege to meet Olimba and some of her cubs, or perhaps any of the other astonishing leopards here – as an RPS guest and supporter having visited the Luangwa Valley, you will, like no other, be able to connect with this heart-warming and compelling story. One that will undoubtedly convince you to come back to the Valley once again, and perhaps give you the chance to meet this leopardess, or any of the other extraordinary spotted cats, that each have a fascinating story to tell…

Leopard Legacy has been selected for National Geographic’s 2021 Big Cat Month and will be shown worldwide. It’s kicking off in a few days’ time – in the UK it will broadcast Leopard Legacy this coming Wednesday, 3 February, at 9pm on Nat Geo Wild. Robin Pope Safaris will also keep you posted on broadcast dates through their social media and you can also follow us on Instagram (@leopardlegacy).

We really hope that you enjoy the film and look forward to sharing more of our films with you in the future.  Will & Lianne Steenkamp, Into Nature Productions.”

Wow, thanks so much Will and Lianne! I can vouch that the film is absolutely amazing, so happy watching to you.  Also, in all honesty this gives me nothing else to tell you except to wish you the most wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter, be safe and look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and a sneak peek behind the scenes

Hello there, I hope that you are well and ready and raring for the week ahead. Here in the Luangwa, we seem to spend our days and nights surrounded by the wonderful rumble of thunder at varying distances which is quite lovely, I must be honest with you. Anyhow, it is not me you will be hearing from today as we are scooting over the border to have a catch up from Conrad and Retha. They are going to give us a peek of behind the scenes at Mkulumadzi now that the camp is closed for the rainy season. So, Conrad and Retha over to you:

“When a camp is closed, it changes dramatically and the usual everyday hustle and bustle from the staff and guests disappears overnight and Africa takes ownership once more. A walkabout after morning-coffee reveals who visited the camp while Retha and I were asleep. Civet tracks and porcupine quills give away the usual suspects and some mornings we are reminded to remain on the lookout for giants when coming across elephant dung and hippo spoor.

The lodge, connected to the outside world only by the footbridge, relies on its own water and electricity supply. These are vital and the best place to start the daily routine… a quick walk to the solar panels for a look-see (fortunately the rain washes them clean nearly every afternoon now, so one less chore that needs doing), followed by a visit to the inverter room to check on the batteries state of charge and water levels. With very few occupants in camp, the generator sits idle. We do however, run it for 10 minutes each day to make sure she stays in tip-top shape and ready for when the season starts again.

Next stop are the water tanks, situated on the hill behind the staff quarters. It is a steep climb but there are a few forest weavers frantically building nests next the path, making the walk worthwhile. The tanks, with a capacity for 30 000l between them, are filled through a borehole pump and only needs a daily top-up.
Between the water tanks and the incinerator is the one spot in camp where (semi) reliable 4G signal can be found so emails are checked, and WhatsApp’s replied to. How did we ever operate safari camps without internet?

From there, the walk down the other side of the hill toward the footbridge takes about 5 minutes. The Mkulumadzi River, brown and noisy after good rains upstream is a sight to behold. Across the bridge to the game-drive vehicles – good to also start them every other day to make sure they run.
Today is also market day, so Retha and I take a 30-minute game drive to the park gate to stock up on fruits and veggies. Mangoes are in season, so we pay $1 for 7 juicy mangoes!

Back in camp and over the footbridge, up and down the hill again, past the busy weavers, to the restaurant and kitchen. It is strange to see everything packed up (and even stranger to find Buzz, the resident bushbaby in the kitchen looking for her peanut butter – still not sure how she gets in?).

We find that it’s best to wait until the afternoon, when the temperatures rise into the high 30’s, to check-up on the pool… Just to make sure that it still cools you down! And then the all-important end to the day with a trusty gin and tonic watching the sunset.

It’s certainly strange being in camp with no guests and we admit we love it – for a few days and then we start looking forward to opening the doors again and welcoming people in and sharing with them this beautiful little patch of the world.”

Lovely thanks Conrad and Retha – so lovely to hear from you both and enjoy the daily checks and keep us posted. Here in the Luangwa, we have been serenaded by lions over the last few nights and our camp leopard has been causing absolute mayhem with our baboon troop that sleeps in the trees above our house, but that is why we are here and why we love it so much. As I write this week’s newsletter, Rob and Jack are off checking all the boats and I am sure it will not be long before I hear the boat heading off downstream as they decided that for the greater good, they need to give the engine a bit of a run! The trials and tribulations of bush life…So let me take this opportunity to leave you and bid you all a fond farewell for another week and hope that you have a fab time with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and emerald season highlights

Well, hello there. I hope you are well and sitting comfortably after a lovely weekend and are ready and raring for the week ahead. Here in the Luangwa, let me tell you, the rains have now properly arrived, and we are getting some good regular storms and with that some incredibly dramatic skies. There really is something awe inspiring when you have a huge storm bearing down on you and the sky turns that incredible purple/grey colour and the sun is still shining and casting a mystical golden light in the distance. Then the rumbles start – distant at first, then wham they are right on top of you and you feel the entire house shake. The winds blow and anything that is not secured gets shifted from one place to another and then everything slightly calms down and the rain starts to pour. At home with a tin roof, the noise is deafening! The garden turns into one enormous puddle which the cat hates, but Jack absolutely adores and as soon as the rains abate, its gum boots on and out he goes. Invariably falling over and coming back inside covered head to toe in mud – but surely that’s all part and parcel of growing up in the bush.

Further to the drama of the incoming storms, all this rain has meant that the river has started galloping up and we are now fully able to enjoy floating down the river in the boat watching the world go by. Hippos launching themselves from the banks into the water creating quite the tidal wave! Puku and impala peeking over the edge at us wandering what on earth we are doing out on the water with the crocodiles. And the elephants looking even more impressive in size as they feast on the abundance of food that the bush has to offer.

The verges of the roads are lined with puddles which are a little habitat by themselves with terapins, tadpoles, frogs and even baby crocodiles; so when driving along its always important to factor this into the chosen route. Past the puddles the verges are littered with delicate flowers from wild ginger to vlei lillies. The insects are all busying around their daily lives with the dung beetles rolling their dung balls getting themselves ready to pop their eggs in there and caterpillars feasting on the fresh green leaves. Chongololos are literally everywhere in all their various sizes and colours and we must admit that we do also sometimes come across the creepy crawlies that we rather hadn’t!

SONY DSC

The lions have been serenading us at night, but truth be told the back roads behind camp are just too soggy for us to venture out to find them; so, we have to rest assured that they are around and keeping an eye and patrolling the camp and surrounding area for us. The baboons and vervets look particularly unimpressed by the rain though, as they can be seen perching uncomfortably after each storm trying to dry off but not shaking off that rather bedraggled look.

In terms of news from the camps, well, we have some rather exciting news as we are starting this week to do some major renovations on the Luangwa River Camp main area. We will keep you posted on progress for this and hope that we get to share it with some of you very soon.

Other news, well, from my side for this week I am afraid that is all that I have to share with you. I shall bid you a very fond farewell for this week and I will be back next Monday with more tales of life in the bush. I hope you have a lovely week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter staying safe and looking after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and festive sightings from the Luangwa

Well, hello there, I hope that you are all well and that the new year has started on a good foot for you. Here in the Valley, the rains have finally arrived in full force and we have had some spectacular storms drenching the roads and raising the river levels. The guides have been slipping and sliding in the mud, whilst walking to and from the bar at Nkwali and whilst out on their game drives so there has been much joviality all round. Today we have been thoroughly spoilt by Simon, Shanie and their girls, who have been kind enough to share news of their Christmas stay with us all. As always, some incredible sightings and the photographs to back them all up! Simon over to you:

“We have recently spent 7 days in the Valley, which meant there was no pressure to rush around the place looking for things (not that it is our way, anyway – anything goes with us and we will look at anything !).

When we arrived it was clear that the park had not had any rain for some time so, while there was standing water all over the place, from earlier rain fall, there was not a lot of mud and most of the roads we accessible making access to most parts of the game viewing area easy. A lovely combination of beautiful colours with the green grass carpets, lilies and a huge range of wild flowers blooming – all against a backdrop of wonderful clear skies in the morning and the build-up of dark thunder heads in the afternoon.

On the night of the 25th the heaven’s opened and we had a huge downpour. Just under 30 millilitres of rain fell and this totally transformed the park – there was mud everywhere!!

As mentioned before, anything goes with the Cousins family and we are all keen birders. Whenever we go anywhere on safari, we keep a bird list of what was seen on the trip. Over this recent trip we managed to rack up 173 different bird species – a great effort helped by all the migrant birds that had arrived and water birds in all the little ponds.

Some of our memorable bird sightings, to name a few, were of a lovely gymnogene (African Harrier Hawk) hunting for lizards, baby birds etc in the dead trees of Lupunga Spur, much to the disgust of a Meve’s Starling. We also had a fantastic sighting of a Levaillants Cuckoo eating harvester ants, a Yellow billed Stork fishing for tiny little fish in one of the ponds, Kingfishers fishing and beautiful little Twinspots bathing in puddles.

One of the most special and numerous sightings was of course, the wild dogs. The pack of 15 dogs was in the areas and we managed to seem them often. During this time we saw them hunting and killing often. These creatures are amazing with their social interactions and it was great for all of us, but especially the kids, to learn so much about their habits and social behaviour over the week in the Valley. We got to know the habits of a number of the dogs, their quirky habits like sneezing just before going off to hunt! A strange phenomenon but we all used to get ready to go, once the dogs got up from their slumber and started sneezing!! What was also amazing was the adults regurgitating food for the pups who did not get anything from the previous kill. Such selfless creatures.

One thing we noticed, when a kill had been made ( more often than not a baby impala, so there was not a lot of feed to go around 15 dogs !) it was always the same pup that ended up with the remaining prize – either a head or a spinal column at the end of the kill. I can only assume that this youngster will probably end up being one of the dominant dogs when they all grow up.

On one of the mornings, the dogs managed to kill 2 puku in one go, which was quite a spectacle with the interaction afterwards. The rest of the puku herd were not overly pleased by this, but it provided some fantastic viewing. Even a crocodile came out the river, presumably following the sound of the kill and the smell of blood, to see if it could get any of this puku. The dogs were having none of this and quickly sent the croc back to where it came from.

It is not often that any small creatures survive an encounter with a pack of wild dogs, but we did witness this once…a freshwater crab!! The young dogs discovered a fairly large freshwater crab, and started harassing it. The crab bravely stood its ground, pincers raised in defence. One of the dogs got its nose a little too close and received a nip from a pincer of the crab which caused the dogs to all leap back as the one dog yelped! The crab took the opportunity to scuttle back into the puddle and escape the dogs.”

Wow, amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this with us Simon. As always, incredible sightings and we can’t wait to see you all back in the Valley again soon. From my side, there really nothing left for me to say, except have a fab week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and a Luangwa Christmas Round Up

Firstly, despite the title of this week, lets start with Happy New Year! Trust it will be a great year for you. We are looking forward to it and that we may enjoy hosting international travellers, as we have had such a fab few weeks of sightings, it’s just an enormous shame not to be able to share them with more people.

Christmas saw a series of regular guests from Malawi coming with their families to celebrate with us, which was incredibly special. What better way to start things off by welcoming them to beautifully decorated safari houses and Nkwali and the teams with huge mask covered smiling faces waving them into camp. The Nkwali staff are now taking it in turns to guard the decorations at the bar because of those very cheeky baboons who can’t think of anything better to do than pull off the decorations and play with them. In fact, before they were even put up, Rob had a close shave as they had seen them in his office and had tried getting in there ahead planning!

Whilst we still wait for serious rain at Nkwali, we have had plenty of isolated storms in and around the area and so the river has started creeping up and the boats are now getting a few outings as we start to make the most of the wonderful Luangwa River. The birds dotted along the banks and the elephants peering down at you from above really adds a special touch but let’s face it, those stormy sunsets from the river are spectacular. There have also been some pretty big crocodiles spotted so all hands and feet kept safely tucked into the boat that is for sure.

Heading out on our game drives, the guides have been seeing some brilliant animals with Zebras and giraffes everywhere and heaps and heaps of elephants including the highlight of a little baby that can’t have been more than a couple of weeks old. This baby elephant was wobbling around not entirely sure about what was going on with this long nose that it had and trying to figure out just what to do with it!

The predators have been out in full force with leopards seemingly at every corner. Possibly this has something to do with the fact that they are just feasting on the baby impalas and so it’s somewhat easy pickings. The baboons are doing their best to keep a beady eye out for them and warn everyone that there is a leopard in the area, but they are so good at hiding that it took Kiki a good few circle to eventually spot the one that the baboons were shouting about.

The lions have also been out and about and were found lying on their backs with their bellies full to bursting having just finished up a meal of zebra. All 9 of them just doing the very best that they could do digest their Christmas lunch. Let us also not forget about the Wild Dogs which we have been seeing plenty of, especially a specific pack of 15 who are proving incredibly proficient with their hunting whether it be baby impala (which sadly really don’t feed the entire pack) or more recently a fully grown male puku which is quite an impressive achievement. We have also been seeing our 2 girls behind Nkwali who have hooked up with a couple of boys and they seem to be thriving which is fantastic news.

As you can see it’s been non-stop, and we look forward to having the rest of the year follow suit.

On this note, I will bid you a very fond farewell and hope that you have a wonderful start to the year, staying safe and having as much fun as possible. Please don’t stop smiling and always look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and alone time at Luangwa Safari House

Well, hello there! I hope you are fabulously well after the weekend and ready and raring for the week ahead. Its December and we are fully into the Christmas spirit here, with decorations being dusted off and Jack’s “Elf on the Shelf” being carted around everywhere to ensure good behaviour! However, besides from all that, shall we hear from Bettina Schmidt who has been very kind to share some of her fabulous pictures with us. Ute Kamps has also shared her story of her stay with the Abendsonne Afrika group last month. So, for this week Ute and Bettina we are in your hands:

Luangwa Safari House is just too beautiful and it’s a shame not to spend more time at the house due to going out on game drives. So, one afternoon I decided to stay in instead and have the house all to myself.

After our small group had happily set off on a new adventure, I started by sitting on my balcony enjoying the view of the waterhole in front of the house. An elephant walked past, below me, totally unaware of my presence and almost close enough to touch. The elephant hesitated, should he drink water from the pool or take a refreshing mud bath straight away… The mud bath won, maybe because he enjoyed the company of 2 warthogs who were already wallowing in the mud… A wonderful spectacle! I would have loved to take part too…

I remember a song Jacob, one of the former guides from Robin Pope once taught us:

Mud, mud, glorious mud,
nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.
So follow us follow
down to the hollow
and there let us wallow
in the glorious mud.

At some point the elephant was satisfied and moved on, after having rubbed his bottom on a tree. Hmmm… I prefer the fresh water in the pool and in doing so, I disturbed some baboons who believed they were by themselves and used the space to play and quarrel. Then as if out of nowhere Edward, the good spirit of the house, was bringing me my usual “White Wine Schorle”.

Wonderfully refreshed, I settled down at the edge of the pool, let my feet dangle in the water. With a book in hand and my drink next to me I was completely relaxed. “Only” a few geese, a hamerkop, a few baboons, the warthog couple and a single puku as company. All this comes very close to my idea of a paradise.

Suddenly I heard a faint noise und I looked up… I was face to face with the next elephant, this time drinking from the pool where my feet were dangling. I could hardly believe my luck! I’ve never came so close to one of these gentle giants. Holding my breath, not to scare him and wishing I could stop the time, but this was not to be and off he strolled.

Before I dived deeper back into my book, I saw a giraffe with her baby appearing in the distance, then more and more of these beautiful animals came closer and after some time there were 17 giraffe at the waterhole. One after the other, spreading their legs (in their typical, funny way) for a short drink, while the others kept an eye out with their necks high.

Until sunset I experienced many of these unique images of beauty and peace. I felt happy and richly given. The other members of my group came back very excited about the game drive, and I could listen to their reports of great sightings without envy.”

Wow! Thanks so much to Ute and Bettina for sharing your images and experiences with us. It also leaves me with very little to say as I think they have pretty much covered all. What I can only say is I hope that you have the most fabulous week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and a long-awaited return to the Luangwa

Well hello there! I hope you are well and are sitting comfortably ready for this week’s wonderful bush tale from Simon Cousins. As soon as the Malawi/Zambia border was declared open, their bags were packed, and they came to visit. And in true Cousins’ fashion, had some incredible sightings that they have very kindly shared with us. So, Simon for this week its over to you:

“I worked out that, in just over 40 years of either visiting the Luangwa Valley since I was a kid or working in this amazing place, this period was the longest that I had been away from what we, as a family, call our second home. The border between Zambia and Malawi finally opened and we needed no second invitation to head to the Luangwa. The family was itching to get back into the bush and visit old haunts.

On our first morning we were up way before first light, such was the excitement in the family. True to Luangwa Valley form, the bush did not disappoint us…. A large pack of 15 wild dogs was one of the first things we saw! Covered in blood from a recent kill, they were full of energy and actually appeared to be looking for something else to eat. The previous kill was obviously a little on the small side, and with a litter of growing pups to feed as well, they had their work cut out. After a few half-hearted attempts at hunting impala, the oppressive heat that is ever present in November, kicked in and they took to the shade for the day. What an amazing way to start trip!

As a family we are very fortunate that we all enjoy looking at just about everything and this does make for much more interesting outings in the bush. Whilst Luangwa showed us all its wonderful big game in abundance, some of the smaller creatures also put on a great show for us.


We had amazing bird viewing, from wonderful bateleurs to guineafowl in great light, Jacanas fighting, to Lilian’s Lovebirds everywhere.

One of our more interesting sightings was a black mamba hunting mice in a broken limb of a mahogany tree!! I caught sight of the sun glinting off the belly of the snake moving in and out of the loose bark hunting for food. A few moments after this, the kids spotted 2 mice high-tailing it out of the area. I tried to get some photos of the mamba but only succeeded in a rushed shot of its head poking out before it retreated to continue hunting. Coupled with some stern words from the rest of the family about being too close to a mamba, we left the snake to its hunting!

This time of year is great for baby animals as the seasonal breeders have had their young and the park is littered with young impala, warthogs, vervet monkeys and young wild dog as well.

An abundance of young animals also means easy pickings for predators and we saw a fairly grim sight of a baboon with a baby impala. At this time of year, when food can be scarce prior to the rains arriving, baboons are known to take young antelope to supplement their diet.

As always, the trip was over in a flash, but it was amazing to be home again… And we will be back soon!”

Thank you so much Simon, and as always, it was wonderful to see you and the family. We cannot wait to see you back in the valley again soon. In the meantime, this really rather leaves me with very little to say, except that I hope that you all have a wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and full bellies in the Luangwa

Well hello there! I hope you are fabulously well and sitting tight, ready for this weeks’ update. Markus Wagner from the Abendsonne Afrika group has sent us another fabulous update of their time here, so once more Markus over to you:

“Over our time in the South Luangwa our sightings were plentiful but one afternoon we met a group of 8 lions. They were completely relaxed, only the young lioness (approx. 9 months) was obviously bored. Again, and again she marched up to the rest of the pride and tried to get them to play but this was unsuccessful, and they just ignored her.

We noticed that the lions’ bellies looked empty and thought that they would soon need something to eat, but it was still too hot, so it looked like a lazy afternoon was in store for them. Our guide suggested that given the heat, we have our usual afternoon sundowner. We drove off, but not too far away from them, so that if they did decide to get up and move, we would know. So, several hundred meters away from the lions we settled into a gin and tonic with a lovely herd of elephants.

When we returned to the lions a little later, they were certainly a little livelier and we didn’t have to wait that long for them to get up and start moving about. They leisurely strolled through the grass perfectly lined in a single row, occasionally one of them lying down for a short while, but never for a long time. And the little lioness stayed at the end, she was not allowed to hunt yet. Then at quite a distance behind them, we followed.

It wasn’t long before it started getting dark and in the lights of the car, we saw eyes of some sort – not belonging to the lions! Not wanting to influence anything we stopped the car and turned off all the lights. For quite some time we were completely blind to what was happening on the ground and couldn’t see anything except the vast and impressive Milky Way above us. Sight restricted, we embarked on an audio safari listening out to the noises of the bush which were even more distinct. And somewhere out there the lions were hunting …

After a few minutes we heard hoofs and loud trampling as well as an awful sound. Perry switched on the lights… 10 m in front of the car was a large cloud of dust. Gradually, the contours of lions emerged. And of a waterbuck. While most lions were already starting to eat at the back, a lioness hangs by it´s throat until the waterbuck finally went limp.

This scene I was always keen to see. And at the same time has always terrified me. I have been in Africa so many times but never seen a kill. In retrospect, my camera saved me. I was so busy with the technical details of how to capture the whole thing, that I didn’t really take time to think about what was going on. It seemed to me more like a TV crime thriller. Plus, we couldn´t see the really bloody scenes from our position.

After a good half an hour, there wasn’t much left of the waterbuck. We could only see the ribs. It felt like the busiest eater was the little lioness, with a blood-red snout.

Hyenas were also approaching. One hyena called for support, but 8 lions were just too many. A younger male lion was standing up as one of the hyenas came too close and with a loud growl chased it away. Enough of a warning for the hyenas to stand in the background and wait until the lions were gone.

The following morning, we returned to the scene of the crime to investigate and by then only the intestinal contents of the waterbuck could be seen at this spot. Nothing else left. We got off the car and reconstructed what had happened. Based on the tracks in the sand, we could see that both, hyenas and the crocodile, were there. The spoor of the huge crocodile was amazing. And after the crocodile there was also a civet. So many tracks for a feast of the lions…

When we later drove over the Katete Bridge, we saw the full stomachs of the lions lying in the shade in the dry riverbed. They all looked like they had swallowed a football. Only the little lioness kept getting up. This time not because she was bored, but because she didn’t know how to lie down with this big belly.”

Absolutely brilliant, thanks so much Markus! What a wonderful sighting that you were able to share with us. It also leaves me with nothing else to say, except I hope that you have the most wonderful week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and an almost perfect sundowner

Well hello there! I hope you are well and have had a lovely weekend and now sitting comfortably looking forward to the week ahead, wherever you are in the world. We have been busy here in the Luangwa recently, which is brilliant and means that I am inundated with stories to share with you.

Before I get to this week’s news, I do have to share some exciting news. Continuing with our #SafariDreaming theme, and bringing positivity, we would like to celebrate the year ahead with the launch of our 2021 Safari Dreaming Calendar. It’s 11.7 x 16.5 inches in size (easy to hang) and highlights the various delights offered by safari experiences with us across Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. Look out for insights from some of our seasoned team members – mostly our safari guides! Order your copy for US$20. All proceeds will go towards our community and conservation initiatives within our areas of operation.
The calendar makes for great festive season gifting – see for yourself!


So, here goes with the first… from a big group that we have recently had out from Germany through Abendsonne Afrika and we have lots of stories to come from them but the first story comes from Markus Wagner who has been kind enough to share with us some wonderful images and a snippet from a particularly wonderful sundowner. So, for this week Markus over to you…

“It’s impossible to choose but this was one drive that particularly shone and stuck in my memory. I really wanted to share this afternoon game drive where we saw a large herd of elephants in the distance. Our guide Yona was explaining that they were heading towards a nearby village, because of the mangoes. They usually try to sneak in during the course of the night for their feast before heading back into the park just before sunrise. And everyone knows how silently elephants can walk, so I am sure you would agree that they can easily turn into master thieves.

Yona had a good guess as to where the elephants might cross the Luangwa river and he parked the car in what he thought was the perfect position. The position was such that the elephants would pass between us and the sunset – this is what he told us. But I was a little skeptical as there was still a large meadow between us and the elephants, and they were still very far away. There was a beaten path right in front of our car, but elephants can go anywhere.

At least the view of the sunset was very nice.

We stood there, watching the sun going down slowly and all the time the elephants were slowly coming closer. And it actually looked like it might work. The video was already finished in my mind and I congratulated myself for the perfect shot.

Sadly another car appeared nearby and people got out of their car and gave the elephants a scare which hurried the entire process up and the herd came rushing past us – it was not exactly what I was having in my mind but despite the disappointment it was still a special sighting.”

Thanks, so much Markus for sharing this wonderful sighting with us. Even if it wasn’t absolute perfection, it was still pretty impressive to see such a large herd of elephants crossing the river at sunset. I hope that they had a mango feast to remember. On other news, you may remember my mentioning the incredibly rare sighting of an Aardvark… so, for all those skeptics out there Manuela and Dirk Baldisweiler have been kind enough to share this great photo of the sighting to show you all – thank you both so very much.

On that note there is very little that can better that so I am going to bid you all a very fond farewell and hope that you have a fabulous week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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It’s Monday and the doors are open again

Hello there! I hope you are well and have had a lovely weekend and are sitting tight, ready to hear the news – the doors are open…After 6 months of ghostly silence, all of a sudden we have gone from stop to running at one hundred miles an hour. Robin’s House, Luangwa Safari House and Nkwali are now all open and receiving an influx of international guests. Yes, you heard me correctly! The pressure has been on to get everything out of storage, washed up, dusted off and painted.

The first guests to the newly painted pool were some lovely elephants, who have grown quite used to having camp to themselves and now having to share it with all the staff and now having to change their routine somewhat. Tribal Textiles have been busy sewing up plenty of fabulously bright coloured masks for our staff and our guests. We have disinfected and sanitised every inch of everything and with big smiles hiding under the masks and the sounds of the first red-chested cuckoo and rumbling thunder, we have welcomed our first international guests for quite some time.

Now the pressure was on, as having written up about all the wildlife we have been seeing, the animals had no choice but to pull out all the stops. Out in the bush guiding was Kiki, Perry and Yona, so the guests were in very safe hands. To back them up in camp, the teams were full of excitement and energy and Chico was in the kitchen whipping up a storm with the chefs.

So, then the question is, ‘where do we start?’ I think in all honesty we are going to go with the first word in the dictionary – Aardvark! Shut the front door!! I kid you not, on Perry’s very first game drive, this is what he saw. Lets just shove all the elephants, giraffes, hippos, antelope, and birds right into the bottom drawer for this one shall we and say goodbye for the week! Or maybe let me continue with more tales of what the team has been seeing…

Aardvark aside, there is absolutely nothing stopping us, and we have had some other incredible sightings.

Yona was out and about with a group of guests staying at Luangwa Safari House and on one of his morning drives, found a male leopard trying to steal a warthog from a lone lioness. Soon after, a hyena also decided to join in making life very difficult for the leopard. As if this was not enough of a scene, there was a troop of baboons stuck in the tree under which the lion was sitting with her warthog and they were not best pleased with their predicament.

With all the noise and added attention, the leopard decided that the warthog was not going to be an option and so shifted his attention to the baboons who were by now understandably freaking out. Unfortunately, he failed again on his mission, due to the hyena who pretty much scuppered it for everyone.

I realise it’s very hard to follow on after these two sightings but let us not forget about the rest of the game that sometimes gets pushed aside. There is very little, in my opinion, that can better that than a beautiful herd of elephants crossing the shallow waters of the river and having a quick cool off.

Lastly a quick update for you all from Conservation South Luangwa (CSL) … Just over a month ago I wrote about the work they were doing, and the Wildlife Ranger Challenge aimed at supporting rangers across Africa and in South Luangwa. Response to this was overwhelming and we are thrilled to let you know that CSL have exceeded their fundraising target and raised over £130,000 for their important conservation work in South Luangwa for 2021.

CSL would like to thank everyone who supported the initiative, your donations helped us achieve our target. The combined CSL & DNPW 4-man team ran 21km carrying a 22kg backpack in an incredible 2hrs 49 minutes. We are so proud of them.

For now, though, with a new feeling in the air as the thunder clouds start to build and the cicadas keep a constant chorus going during the day; we await the emergence of the baby impalas and warthogs. We rub our eyes in amazement that October is far gone, and we are getting ready for the rains once more. I shall bid you all a very fond farewell, and hope that you have a fabulous week with plenty of smiles and laughter and do not forget to look after one another!

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Its Monday and what’s hot in Liwonde…

Hello there! I hope that you are well and sitting comfortably wherever it is in the world that you are reading this from and are ready to be wowed by news from Kuthengo Camp, in Malawi. Marius and Licia, over to you…

“It’s Monday and it’s not just the heat that’s hot, but the animals were on fire too (thankfully not literary!) in Liwonde National Park. Fitting with the theme, we went out on a safari ourselves early Monday morning, not to look for anything specific but to enjoy the breath of fresh air and maybe spend some time with an elephant or two.


We left camp before sunrise with the hopes of getting a head start, and sure enough it wasn’t long before we had two bush pigs on our right and an African civet to our left. Both species being not so common sightings elsewhere, we were stuck with swinging our heads between the two.
As the morning progressed, we were treated with one special sighting after the other. First, we saw a herd of 40+ eland, then a similar size herd of sable, then just a few seconds later a herd of 60+ buffalo.

The buffalo, although still early morning, were already feeling the heat and were all gathered under a cluster of Mopani trees using the limited shade the leafless trees provide this time of the year.

Little did we know that was just the beginning. As we carried on our way there were clear signs of elephant in the area. Around the next bend, we came across a breeding herd of 45 strong and we silently sat and watched them move over a dry stretch of land on their way to the Shire River.

Already satisfied with what we had seen and the temperature busy soaring, Licia and I weren’t expecting much else; but soon we once again found ourselves overwhelmed. We bumped into 3 lionesses and a single male, also on their way to find some nearby shade. One of the lionesses was clearly showing her affection towards the male and we soon had a mating pair of lions before us; and we were happy to take a few photos of the couple.

After we left the lions, we were going to drive one more loop before stopping to dig into Licia’s picnic basket, but had to be postpone as we found a female cheetah with her three cubs enjoying a freshly killed impala. We sat with them for a while enjoying the elegant creatures. Soon it became very entertaining as the female started playing tag with two of the cubs while the other cub was having it’s fill of the impala. For fear of missing out, all the cubs were playing with their mom and trying to trip one another.

Whilst the cheetahs were playing, two crows as well as a palmnut vulture, tried their luck to steal a piece of the impala; but once the cubs would notice it, they would run to the kill to chase them away… We gathered they didn’t like to share.

With all this excitement in the park, we cannot wait to see what wonders Liwonde will give us next.”

Wow! what an incredible drive. Thanks so much to you both for sharing this with us, and as a result, making us all rather envious. Hope that you are all managing to keep as cool as possible in what I have to say feels like an incredibly hot October. Here in the Luangwa we are already seeing temperatures sneaking to 40C plus. There have been signs of the fact that the rains could just be around the corner with some cloud build up and even a few distant sightings of lightning. It is hard to imagine that it’s getting to that time of the year already! Let me now bid you a very fond farewell and look forward to catching up with you again next week with more tales from the bush. Until then, stay safe, happy, and of course don’t forget to look after one another.

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It’s Monday and Luangwa Safari House is the place to be

Hello there! I hope you are splendidly well. Here in the Luangwa we are galloping through October and the heat is already rising and the river is emptying out quickly! But this is not stopping the animals. We have had some incredible sightings between Luangwa Safari House and Nkwali, so I hope that you are sitting tightly ready for the update.

If you do for some reason doubt the following information… I promise you it is all true and reconfirms the reasoning behind Robin and Jo Pope building Luangwa Safari House and their house (RoJo) on a lagoon system and not the river. Whilst there is no doubting that the river view is incredibly special, the wildlife that we have been seeing around Luangwa Safari House has been incredible. To start with, we have a herd of buffalo which has become more and more resident on the property throughout the year. Each time we have seen them there, there has always been a passing comment “guess the Nkwali Pride of lions won’t be far behind”.

This time though, we were stumped, as there were lions but not the Nkwali Pride. These seem to be a pride of new lions with 3 males and a female who we do not recognise, we first saw them about 4 weeks ago and then they disappeared but were not going to miss out on an opportunity. One of the perils of this time of the year is that the lagoon systems start to dry out and as a result the thick squelchy mud gets rather sticky. The buffalos, however, don’t necessarily take much notice and go for it.

Last Tuesday one poor buffalo got his footing wrong and got stuck. Sadly, we do not intervene with nature, so we had to leave the situation to unfold and our mystery pride swooped in on Thursday night and took advantage of the situation. Once they had had their fill, the hyenas and vultures then took over and absolutely nothing was wasted.

Whilst all of this was happening the two wild dogs that we spoke about a few weeks ago, have been back and blazed past RoJo house, killing and demolishing a small puku before anyone really knew what was happening. Then went to rest up rather full and sleepy in the shade just off the Luangwa Safari House road.

Meanwhile, the elephants were taking absolutely zero notice of all the predators and just carried on coming in their droves to the waterhole at Luangwa Safari House and were having a field day rolling in the cool muddy water then dusting off by the side. On occasion, a youngster would go a little deeper than expected and need to be nudged out by its mum or aunt, showing off the real family unity in their herds.

Then as if all of that wasn’t enough, a female leopard with cub sauntered past just checking out what was going on and giving the baboons a bit of a fright before they slunk off into the bushes.

So, how’s that for the most incredible 24hours of sightings… I have to say, writing it all down in such a short little note, I fear doesn’t really do it justice. It was the most incredible period where all the animals just seemed to decide to turn up at the same time and so I felt compelled to share it with you all.

Right, on that note, I am going to scoot off and bid you all a very fond farewell and hope that you have a fabulous week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and a tale of masks and safari in Malawi

Hello there, hope you are well and have had an awesome weekend. Here in the Luangwa, it is warming up and the game has continued to offer us some amazing treats. Will save the details though for another week as I do not want to distract you from this week’s news. Conrad, who heads up our Operations in Malawi is sharing with us from his part of the world this week. Over to you Conrad…

“Back in March, with borders shutting and guests cutting safaris short to rush home, our conversations centered around closing camps, stockpiling basic supplies and erecting barriers outside the lodges – anything to minimize contact with the hustle and bustle of what to become our new normal. Now, in September, our conversations are about what colour of mask best matches our uniform and which hand sanitizer smells best.
So, what happened between March and today.

In March we decided to mothball Mkulumadzi completely. With vehicle batteries disconnected, furniture stored away and the pool going green; we waited patiently to see what the next step would be. How rapidly the virus would spread in Malawi and its neighboring countries? Which counter measures the government would introduce? How quickly the country would run out of fuel, face masks and, dare I say it, mayonnaise?

Staff had all been sent home and would take turns to assist in camp sitting. Other than the day we prepared for a national lockdown (that never materialized) and the day the lions blocked off the path to the footbridge, daily life was as normal as it could be. It was all about patience and routine.
By mid-May some of the answers to our questions started to surface. It became apparent that the virus spread would slower across Africa than what the rest of the world had experienced. We realized that fuel was still available, and face masks could be home-made. It also became clear that the novelty of kids not going to school and parents working from home had turned into a nuisance. We once again started receiving booking requests from people within Malawi.

In early July Mkulumadzi opened its doors to guests, and since then has been operating on weekends. It is far from ideal, but much better than some of the worst case scenarios we discussed in March; for that we are thankful!

The team have become experts at unpacking Mkulumadzi on a Thursday afternoon, welcoming guests on the Friday and packing it all up again on the Sunday. Wash, rinse, repeat (and by wash we mean disinfect) each weekend. The support we’ve received from the local travel community has been heartwarming and a massive thank you of each of them!

Even without the continuity of operating every day, Mkulumadzi has not lost its touch and with feedback like “An exceptional experience from beginning to end” and “We were pampered and treated like royalty” – we’re delighted to still be able to give our guests a place to break away from it all.”

Thank you so much Conrad! It seems you and the team in Malawi have your hands full and managing to enjoy the season with your guests.

We look forward to welcoming you and the rest of the world to Malawi as we note the increased flights in and out of the country.

On that lovely note, have yourself a fantastic week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and great wildlife sightings in the Luangwa

Hello there, I hope that you are fabulously well and have had a lovely weekend. Here in the Luangwa, well it has been anything but quiet around camp as we have literally been surrounded by lions and let me tell you the noise that they have been making has been quite impressive. In fact we have had some rather strange happenings arise which I thought we should absolutely tell you about.

We have a pride of lions that have been hanging around Nkwali who were originally part of the main area pride called Big Pride, but they split up and a few of them started spending more time in the GMA (Game Management Area) around 2018. As they started hanging out here more and more, they earned the name. There were originally 6 adult females with a bunch of cubs but have since split further, and the pride as we currently know it, consists of 5 adult females and 6 sub-adults but they are breaking up and coming back together depending on circumstance and basically who is in town! Over the last few weeks we have had 2 of the females and 4 sub-adult males pretty much camped out just behind Nkwali, making a lot of noise as they were communicating to another pride just across the river. As a result, a lovely large male originally from the Lion Camp pride who has moved south and now mostly dominates the main game area with 2 brothers, hopped across the river to say hello. What has been really interesting is that he has completely tolerated the 4 young males as he is keen to mate with one of the females in the pride. They have been very busy ‘wining and dining’ but as of yet no action has been witnessed, we can only hope that we will see some new fluffy bundles bounding around in a few months time.

Also in camp, on a much much smaller scale, we have been inundated with thousands of caterpillars falling from the trees on their silken threads; making walking around a little tricky as everywhere we went we got covered in the silk. The baboons had a complete field day feasting on the caterpillars, but try as they might it, was simply impossible to eat them all. As a result, 2 weeks later we are witnessing the far more pleasant side of things with hundreds of butterflies fluttering around.

Other news from the Luangwa, the carmines are starting to come in as well as the yellow-billed kites – a sign of weather warming up. The carmines can be heard chirping away well before you catch a glimpse of their incredibly vibrant breeding plumage.

There was also a swap over of watchmen up at Nsefu (always a straw pulling contest to see who is going to spend the day bumping over the black cotton soil to do this) but it is always worth it when you see a pack of wild dogs.

Luangwa Safari House has been very busy over the last few weeks with a steady stream of buffalo, giraffes and elephants visiting the lagoon, not to mention a leopard killing an impala and stashing it in a tree right in front of the house. We can only assume that this is going to get better and better as the river is really starting to dry up quickly now. We have to pinch ourselves to realise that we are almost already through September and will soon need to start thinking about the arrival of the rains. What strange times these are.

I have one final note before I leave you to the rest of your week. As you all know as part of our effort to help protect wildlife, we support the incredible work of Conservation South Luangwa (CSL) through donations from you when you come to visit as part of the Luangwa Conservation & Community Fund. CSL work tirelessly with the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) to protect the wildlife of South Luangwa, at the same time implementing critical community programs. This year, although the park is empty of tourists, CSL and DNPW’s work is more important than ever before and they are working round the clock to make sure that when you visit again, you will find the wildlife flourishing.
We also know that there are so many people and organizations around the world in need right now. However, there is a great opportunity to help South Luangwa. Considering the challenges faced due to the pandemic, rangers across Africa have launched a Wildlife Ranger Challenge (run by TUSK Trust) with the aim of getting 5000 rangers back in the field across the continent. Conservation South Luangwa have a team competing in the Challenge of 21km carrying a load of 22kg each on October 3rd. For every dollar you donate, Scheinberg Relief Fund will match it 100%.
We ask you to please consider donating to this very worthwhile cause here, to help keep the wildlife of South Luangwa safe. Thank you.

On that note, have yourself a fantastic week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and shared experiences at Kuthengo Camp

Well, hello again. Here we are, another beautiful Monday and another wonderful snippet from the African bush. This week we hear from Licia from Kuthengo Camp, Liwonde National Park in Malawi. So, after what I hope was a wonderful weekend, I trust you are now sitting comfortably and ready to enjoy this weeks edition of news from the wild. Licia over to you:

“Having been in this industry for 8 years, I have met many wonderful and interesting people. Some have become good friends, and some have become like family. However, before any of that happened, I was always asked the same question, ‘Why did I go into this industry?

Well besides the obvious fact that you get to spend almost every second in the bush, you also get to meet new people and you get to show and share a little piece of your happiness with them. You know, being in the bush is like an opening a lucky packet, you never know what you are going to find – perhaps a cute baby hippo (photo by Kathryn Leaper), or the king of the Liwonde Jungle (photo by Kathryn Leaper).

That being said, one of the best parts of the job for me is when guests arrive back from their activities, be it a game drive, a boat safari or a bush walk, and we get to hear the stories of what they saw and what happened. Most guests think that it gets tiring to hear that they saw a lion or that I get bored when they show me their photos, but it is actually quite the opposite. As some of you may know, I don’t get to leave the boundaries of the camp very often, so when guests share their experiences it’s as if I am watching a documentary through the guest’s eyes, and as such I am starting to slowly get to know the animals. In fact, it sometimes almost feels if I’ve come across those animals personally. For instance, I have never seen Lundu the Black Rhino (photos by Kate Atkinson) but what I have gathered is that although he can be a bit cheeky, he also likes to pose for the cameras.

I also have a soft spot for cheetahs having done my time as an assistant curator at an animal rehabilitation center for endangered animals. So any photo of one of those cats can make my day (photo by Kate Atkinson).

And to be honest, even those animals that do not get counted as being sought after or “glamorous” are just as fascinating. For example, did you know that the bush pigs (photo by Kathryn Leaper) do not live in burrows like their cousins the warthogs, but rather make nests using grass, and as they are mostly nocturnal and they never stand still long enough for a photo. So it is always a treat when guests can “catch one or 2 on camera”. Even the Southern Ground Hornbill is special to me (photo by Kathryn Leaper) as I mostly only get to hear their calls echoing through camp in the mornings.

So on that note I would like to thank all the guests who have shared their photos and bush stories with Marius and I and the Kuthengo staff, and no matter how big or small you may think that picture or story may be, please keep sharing (Zebra and Pied Kingfisher photo by Kathryn Leaper).”

Wonderful! Thanks so very much Licia. A huge thank you to Kathryn Leaper and Kate Atkinson for sharing with us your amazing photos. I am sure Licia and her Kuthengo Camp team are looking forward to seeing you again soon.

On that note, I am left with very little to say, except have a wonderful week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and a safari down memory lane

Hello there, I hope you are well and have had a lovely weekend. Here in the Luangwa, besides feeling like we are surrounded by lions; we are plodding along gently getting a few bits and pieces done and waiting for life to grab onto a small amount of normalcy. In the meantime, we have received a nostalgic write-up from Steve Stevens and Inge Frye of their trip with us back in 2018. Steve and Inge over to you:

Day 1: Arrival in Zambia 30th of August 2018.

We arrived off the evening flight into Mfuwe and met by the RPS team, taking us straight to Luangwa River Camp and arriving sometime after 6. We were warmly welcomed and shown to our room to freshen up before a welcome drink and dinner. It was here we met Marcos Saberes and his family, who we were later to meet at Nsefu where he was the host for the season and were instantly charmed by him.

Day 2: a somewhat early wakeup call at 05.15. Wiping sleep from our eyes we headed down to breakfast set out on the banks of the Luangwa. I proceeded to pick up an egg from a bowl, under the misconception that it was hardboiled but was somewhat surprised when after cracking it on the table it was raw. Thus, earning me the title of “the raw egg lady” for the rest of our safari! Everything cleaned up and sorted, it was not long until we were on our way on our first safari but also our transfer up to Tena Tena. After a leisurely drive with a constant lookout for wildlife, we spotted elephants, zebra, buffalo, and plenty of antelope. We reached the river where we crossed by small boat and were met by another Robin Pope Safaris car which safely took us to Tena. After arriving, we were shown to our chalet and quickly freshened up for lunch. After a siesta we met for tea and then around 16:00 we were off in the jeep with our guide Chilumba. We had a lovely afternoon drive with plenty of the usual animals, then after sundowners we spotted a leopard at night for the first time. That was exciting but difficult to photograph. Returning to camp we had a lovely candlelit dinner on the riverbank.

Day 3: Saturday 1st of September – Tena Tena.
An early start again, which now was becoming the usual start to the day; then off we went once again with Chilumba. It wasn’t long before we were able to make our first spotting of a leopard. We saw a pride of lazy lions with their cubs, several females and 2 funky male lions. The cubs were very cute and showing off. We spotted herds of buffalo, zebra, many elephants and for the first time so many of the carmine bee-eater birds. Many birds! Lilac breasted rollers, white fronted bee-eater, ibis, crowned hornbills, a white browed coucal bird and a bateleur eagle. The evening drive again was spent with an exciting leopard sighting, lions, an African spotted genet, some mongoose and an owl.

Day 4: Sunday 2nd of September – onto Nsefu.
Today we would walk the 4 hours to the Nsefu Camp with Chilumba and an armed guard, Moses lead us on our way. The walk was interesting and hot, and we saw a few mammals, but we mostly learnt about the tracks and signs and the small animals. Some good bird sightings too, such as a pair of lovely white fronted bee-eaters and a lovely spot of tea at a big termite mound. We arrive at Nsefu and were met by Marcos and also met the well-known wildlife photographer Edward Selfe who was there with a client. Long-time Zambia traveler and Robin Pope Safaris guest, Helga from Luxembourg was also at Nsefu and would be our game drive partner. Lunch was on the riverbank and during that time a herd of ellies came for a drink. They are always fun to watch especially the little ones. Lots of hippos in the river too.

During siesta we were surprised by a group of 4 elephants that came into the camp and cleaned up the leaves around our chalets. How nonchalant these animals are! The little one was trying to imitate the elders use of their trunks. Quite a show. We had to wait a bit to get to teatime as we did not want to frighten them.

As we climbed aboard our car with our new guide Braston, and our new co-traveler Helga, we were told that a pack of wild dogs had settled just outside of the camp! So off we went to watch them laze around and play a bit. Not much going on in the heat! But it was our first sighting of wild dogs and we were very pleased.

Getting close to wild dog

We saw a lovely group of giraffes, lots of elephants, and after a beautiful sunset we crossed paths with a pride of lions crossing the road. Braston heard monkeys alarm calling and we went on a wild leopard chase and spotted him in the middle of a thicket. It was very shy, but we had a lovely sighting all the same. Not long after, blocking the road in the dark was a sleepy hyena! It just lay there blinking in the light. It finally got up and slunk away when Braston turned on the engine. A lovely dinner at the camp closed the day for us and the grunting of the hippos serenaded us to sleep.

Day 5: Monday 3rd of September – Nsefu.
Every morning at Nsefu you have the lovely sight of elephants crossing the river. Great show for breakfast and dinner. Today would be my special day for leopards. The morning drive was quiet and sleepy with sleeping adult lions and their not so sleepy cubs that were very entertaining; a hyena sleeping on the road. A rather surprising meet with a young lion with a punk hairdo lying in the grass and a welcome back to camp with a big herd of elephants crossing the river.

The afternoon drive had just started when Will and Lianne Steenkamp called Braston on the Radio (they are a young couple making a leopard film) to let him know that their leopard that they were filming “Olimaba” was at the Stork Colony. And there she was walking right in front of a herd of impala! We thought she was going to attack but she just went right on her way and went over to a fallen tree and lay down.
Olimaba then moved to a lovely viewpoint where she could watch the sun go down and then she wandered back over to where we were parked and just lay down right next to our car! I mean right next to it! I could not believe how casual she was about it all.

Driving back to the camp we came upon 2 big bonfires and seats set out in the bush; Marcos had organized a surprise bush dinner for everyone. What a treat after the treat that the queen leopard had given us! We had a good night dreaming of lovely leopards.

Day 6: Tuesday 4th of September – Nsefu.
Off we went again today finding a pack of 5 lazy wild dogs followed by a pride of lions a couple of different leopard sightings. So, just the usual morning game drive up at Nsefu then! The afternoon drive we pottered off to look at one of the leopards who we had seen in the morning sleeping in a tree, only to find a lion sitting at the base of the tree having a snack. We can only assume that that lion had managed to steal the leopard’s kill from it and the poor animal was off in the bush looking a little put out by the situation.

Day 7: Wednesday 5th of September – onto Luangwa River Camp.
Early morning excitement at breakfast. While eating breakfast, a bull elephant came to the camp and started to tear off a big branch from a tree that is right beside the bar and reception area. This is only about 20 meters from where we were having breakfast. Mr. Bull munched his branch while we looked on, astonished. We even had to sneak around the bar to get to the gameviewing vehicles. The good-byes were indeed very sad, and I even shed a few tears. I had had such a good time at Nsefu. Everyone was so nice, interesting and the whole atmosphere of the camp was special, and we found the food outstanding. After lots of hugs we headed with Braston on a game drive to the river crossing point. The drive started with a bit of excitement with a herd of grumpy elephants in the middle of the road which meant Braston had to put his foot to the gas a little as one of them was particularly grumpy but we safely moved off. Then the next fleeting roadblock was a leopard being chased across the road by a troop of baboons – it managed to get away. What a sight! We then heard on the radio that a snared lion had been spotted and Braston drove to where it lay. The Zambian Carnivore Project team and Vet was on the way to put the lion to sleep and take the snare off. We heard later that this went well, and the lion was released after his ordeal. How terrible that this still happens!

After crossing the river, it wasn’t long before we were back at River Camp.

Day 8: Thursday 6th of September – Luangwa River Camp.
Early morning breakfast and off for our morning game drive with Daudi as our guide. We had many good sightings, Ginger and Garlic the lions sleeping off whatever kept them awake the night before; zebras, elephants, lots of antelope. We saw 2 lovely lions that were just begging to have their photos taken, many carmine bee-eaters and a lovely lilac breasted roller. Just as we thought we were heading back to camp we came around a corner to find a surprise breakfast set out for us in the bush – what a treat! That afternoon we took a different approach and instead we went to visit Tribal Textiles and Project Luangwa where we stocked up on souvenirs for the grandkids.

Day 9: last day.
Our last morning game drive, and once more, plenty to see including elephants and whole host of different bird species and Ginger and Garlic the big male lions who were just sleeping happily in the shade. After lunch we packed our bags said a sad goodbye and off, we set for the airport soaking in our last sunset over the Luangwa from the plane as we flew off.
I have been to Africa before, but Zambia has really impressed me, especially the South Luangwa Park and Robin Pope Safaris. The camps are really beautiful, the food is unbelievably good, the hosts and staff so kind and caring. The guides really knowledgeable and outstanding. Zambia has left very pleasant memories in my mind. I do hope to go back and if I can’t, I do hope that my grandchildren will have the opportunity to go there someday and see what I saw. I hope that they can keep up the protection of these fabulous animals so that people can still see them in their natural habitat in the future. Steve and I took over 4000 photos but when I close my eyes, I can still see the wonderful animals and smell the African plains. I had the time of my life!”

Wow, what an incredible trip! Thank you so very much for sharing this with us Steve and Inge; along with the beautiful photos to also illustrate. I think that I can safely say that in their 9-day safari, Steve and Inge may well have seen more leopard than I have seen in my entire time in the bush – phenomenal! Again, a huge thank you for sharing and we look forward to welcoming you and your family back to our special home soon.

In the meantime, I am left with very little to say, except have a wonderful week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

Emily
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Its Monday and carnivores and a sleepout

I hope you are well, sitting comfortably after having a wonderful weekend.  Well, here in the Luangwa as I am sure you are aware, it is a little quiet on the guest front. However, let me tell you, the animals are not in the least bit affected and as winter draws to a close and the river slowly dries, we seem to be a magnet for the wildlife. 

The lions have been really showing off and we have had several sightings in and around camp both day and night.  We have had some unknown lion visitors to Nkwali, they parked off just some 200m from our house. They were discovered by one of the staff members as he was off to collect some branches to make a broom; and came running back to camp eyes wide open, somewhat surprised!   Later that day as the sun was setting, the lions decided it was time to explore and so did just that, straight through camp. Let me tell you one thing for free – when a large male lion stands in the middle of Nkwali roaring, the camp acts like a megaphone and I promise you I felt like my bed was shaking.  The baboons freaking out in the ebony trees above our house may have also added to the mayhem but it was quite the cacophony. 

Luangwa Safari House has had its own set of feline visitors who took the day to settle themselves at the staff compound. The poor watchman was somewhat hampered by their presence and stayed very firmly put in the house with the doors locked.    We had no idea that they were there and were enjoying a lovely sundowner on the beach with a very relaxed and curious elephant, when we got a message from ZCP (Zambia Carnivore Project) team letting us know they were at the house. So, off we scooted and enjoyed a fabulous sighting of 3 young males and a female in excellent health languishing in the shade. 

A few days later it was my turn to repay the favour to ZCP as I was driving back into camp and found 2 wild dogs fast asleep on the road at Robin’s Bridge.  Completely taken a-back by the sighting and with Jack (our son) chattering away next to me, we managed to get hold of the team but sadly by the time they arrived the dogs had perked up and disappeared.  From a quick photo that I got with my phone; Johnathan managed to identify them as 2 dogs from the Nsefu Hot Springs pack, which is amazing that they have come all the way down here.  They have been seen a few times since, hunting in front of Robin and Jo’s house, so we will keep our eyes open and keep you all posted.

Scooting up to Nsefu and Tena Tena (yes I know, they are still there even though you haven’t heard from them for a while!) – we decided to take a road trip up to check the camps. Given that we haven’t put any roads into the Nsefu Sector of the park this season, we figured it was going to be a lengthy process so packed the car up and spent the night up there. Looking at the car though, it slightly looked like we were going for a month!   A few hours of back breaking black cotton soil later, we arrived at the Kawaluzi Crossing with a lovely herd of elephants waiting to welcome us into the Nsefu Sector.  From there it didn’t disappoint with a small fishing party starting in Lunga Lagoon, magnificent kudu, zebra and giraffe all dotted around reminding us not to forget about them. 

Given that, for obvious reasons, the camps are closed we decided to pitch our tent on the far side of Tena Tena. With an incredibly over excited 3-year-old, we got to work on our first official sleep out.  It all went very well, until at midnight there was an almighty blast from a passing hyena which woke us all with quite a start. Things soon settled down after that and besides a very early start to the day, it was brilliant fun. 

The sites are looking lovely and the guys up there are enjoying some wonderful sightings of everything from elephant shrews scooting through the Nsefu bar to leopards prowling the riverbank.  The Hyenas up in the Nsefu Sector are going from strength to strength and it’s amazing to see the change in wildlife balance over the years. Lets hope that as we creep into September, we manage to get up and spend more time up there before the rains arrive.

On that note, let me creep away for another week and leave you to it. Hope that you have a fantastic week ahead, with plenty of smiles and laughter; and don’t forget to look after one another!

Emily
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Its Monday and Walk Luangwa with Robin

Hello there! I hope you are well and have had a lovely weekend. Here in the Luangwa its been a few weeks full of excitement. The Walk Luangwa team have completed their 17 day walk through the North and South Luangwa National Parks. Robin joined for a portion of the walk and has been kind enough to share with us his experience. So, for today Robin, over to you:

“Just back at our house “RoJo”, near Nkwali, after participating in an invigorating and reasonably testing two-day fundraising walk. This was part of the Walk Luangwa, an ambitious 350+km walk, from North Park down through most of the South Park. It is a “Valley all” (residents of the Luangwa 😊) affair, with everyone participating in some way and I was there to represent Robin Pope Safaris. Day one, I walked from Kaingo Camp to Kakuli Camp 16.5 km and on day two we walked further south to Mfuwe Lodge, 24.5 km. Note, this was the GPS distance and we walked further as we avoided elephants, thickets and rough ground.

Robin Pope

The object of this walking safari is to raise much needed funds for wildlife conservation and communities bordering the National Park, particularly at this difficult time. Tourism is a very significant contributor to the projects in the area and this year, such funding has dropped to almost zero.

The walk has been well organized and is led by Remote Africa guides and experienced Department of National Park escort scouts. They expertly saw us through a few potentially tight moments with elephants. Different individuals and organizations have volunteered for sections of this reasonably testing walk and a few intrepid souls have embarked on the whole safari.

It has been a pleasure to participate in this walk, immersed in the bush I have known so well over the years. I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this worthy cause, particularly at this time when everyone is feeling stretched financially. For further contributions, there is an online option available.

The Luangwa National Park is beautiful at the moment with carmine bee-eaters beginning to congregate, Cassia trees flowering, trees beginning to shed their leaves in anticipation of the hot dry months ahead. It is also very quiet and peaceful with little vehicle traffic.

Stay healthy and safe, Robin.”

Wow, well done Robin! Delighted to have seen you and Jo here over the last week and so excited that you were able to join the walk. The walk ended with the final stretch from Kalawani pans to Croc Valley where plenty of Valley residents were to cheer on the walkers and welcome them to the bar with a lovely and very well earned cold drink as well as a huge pat on the back for the money raised for such a good cause. I am sure that a few people may well look at their walking boots with a certain amount of dislike for a few days after but the memories and experience will be long in their memories.

Other than the epic walk, we have had some great wildlife in and around camp with mating lions just opposite camp making quite a ruckus. A few days later, we had a yelp down the radio from our Luangwa Safari House watchman as he discovered a pride of 4 lions enjoying the shade just behind the staff compound! The giraffes behind camp have been absolutely amazing as they lazily stroll through the bush looking down on all that pass them by and lastly the elusive leopard does nothing except torment the baboons around our house every night whilst we try to block out their rather loud barking.

Meanwhile, the water levels in the river are dropping quickly and the bush is thinning out and drying up as winter looks like it is coming to an end rather sooner than imagined and we prepare ourselves for the heat that will soon come our way. But for another week it looks like we are saying a fond farewell to you all and we will be back next week with more news. Between now and then have a wonderful week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to take care of one another.

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Its Monday and 30 years of RPS Mobile Walking Safaris

Hello there, I hope you are well and cracking on with the lockdown routine that I think most of us are practicing. Here in the Luangwa, well its eerily quiet around camp and we cannot wait to be back up and running; with the great news that Zambia borders are now open for international travel with no self-isolation required (but you will need a negative Covid-19 result certificate from your country of residence).

Today however, we continue with the second and last part of our series on 30 years of Mobile Walking Safaris with us. Jason over to you:

Jason Alfonsi
Jason Alfonsi

“So last week I left you hanging without any update on the wildlife up at Mobile Walking so here we are for a roundup. It’s not as simple as that though, as I am sure you can appreciate how things change year on year, let alone over 30 years. One of the more dramatic changes over the years in terms of animals is in the number of elephants. We have in the last 5 years or so had an incredible increase in elephant numbers, so much that the woodland along the river is getting quite a trim and these days we can hardly do a walk without seeing elephants; which is a very welcome change compared to 10 years ago when we would hardly ever see them. It has been fascinating watching the elephant numbers increase and the impact that they have on the woodland. The mopani along the river was very much a recovering woodland with heavily coppiced trees growing straight and true. No sooner had the trees recovered from the pressure of the huge elephant population we had in Luangwa in the 1960’s then the cycle comes around again, a wonderful display of a natural system restoring its balance.

Luangwa Elephants

Other animals have all had their ups and downs, some more than others. We seem to have more hippo sticking around longer than usual. We actually heard a hippo honking last season, the first time I have ever heard one up there and also saw tracks quite often near camp 2. We also seem to have a group of 4-5 hippos who stay on in the lagoons in the thickets near camp 4.

Hippo

Lions, leopards and hyena are all more or less in competition and their numbers tend to move in opposite directions. Some 10 years ago we had a high leopard concentration and very low lion sightings, now however the tables have turned, and we seem to have a pride of lions in the surrounding area of each of our camps. Camp 1 has a very small pride that is particularly skilled at hiding and are rarely seen but often heard. Camps 2 and 3 share a pride and we first met the founding female 5 years ago and over the last few years have watched her raise her cubs and start her own pride. Her 3 female cubs have now also had cubs and some of her granddaughters may well start breeding this year. Our male lions have for many years been rather mobile, but they also seem to be settling down a little bit as the prides become more and more stable.

Walking Safari
Luangwa Lions

With the lions having asserted themselves along the river the leopard are significantly less evident.

Leopard

The Hyena are little changed and whilst we don’t see them that often we certainly hear them and last year a young hyena would sneak into Camp 2 most nights that we were there and try to steal the rope that ties all the kit onto the big truck. It may have also stolen a radio, a thermos flask and our bird book! We have also been over the last few years been seeing an increase in the Wild Dog sightings most especially around Camp 4 but last year the big pack were denning quite a lot further than our walking range so we did not see them as often, instead we saw a small pack who were far more timid.

Hyena

We have a fantastic range of antelope that we see up on the Mupamadzi with roan, reedbuck, waterbuck, hartebeest, eland, kudu, grysbok and very very occasionally some oribi. We have a consistent flow of buffalo which seem to be pretty constant over the years and are always fun to see on foot. And our giraffes seem to be making a comeback, as for many years we didn’t see any up there but over the last 2-3 years we have been starting to have occasional sightings although they remain very skeptical over our presence!

Antelope
Antelope
Antelope

When we take to the skies nothing much changes, but no safari is complete without pointing the binoculars to the trees and skies to marvel in the wonderful variety of birds that we see. The usual suspects get ticked off the list with everything from moustached warblers, red faced cisticolas and waxbills having a blast in the reeds along the river but we also have our slightly different sightings including palm nut vulture who we find nesting regularly over the last few years. A pair of long crested eagles that seem to reside in a thicket near Camp 4 and last year one very unusual sighting of a hildebrandts francolin. The list could go on and on, but I should probably end it there and maybe suggest that you come and see it for yourselves. In essence nothing changes and yet everything changes!”

Wow thanks so much Jason, this is amazing! Now all that remains after this wonderful summary is for this Pandemic to be over, the airlines to fully open up and for it to be safe for everyone to travel so that we can properly celebrate our Mobile Walking Safaris.

Walking Safari
Luangwa Walking

For now though, it is up to me to bid you all a very fond farewell and hope that you have a wonderful week ahead please stay safe and look after one another.

Emily
Antelope
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Its Monday and RPS Mobile Walking Safaris turns 30

Hello there! I hope you are well and that cabin fever hasn’t completely set in. Today we are hearing from Jason, as we celebrate 30 years of our Mobile Walking Safaris this year. When I asked Jason to write something about the last 30 years, there was a definite silence – I mean how do you sum up in one newsletter 30 years of safaris…? So, we decided to make this a two-part series because there is just too much to cover. Over to Jason now:

Jason Alfonsi
Jason Alfonsi

“This year is the 30th anniversary of our Mobile Walking Safaris. I can’t believe it has been this long already! It feels like we are still discovering new little parts up on mobile trails even after 30 years. I first went up the 05 route in 1987, long before I came to work at RPS. We used one of the roads put in by the company that was doing a geological survey for oil in the park! They were called Geosource and we still have a few of their roads still in use. We did not get far down the 05, only as far as the Chikya River but did have a good look at Frank’s Lakes on our way home. Franks Lakes is where we often stop for a break on the journey up and down the 05, it is a perfect spot to stop the car and have a cup of tea whilst enjoying some of the more unusual bird species that we find here in the Luangwa, particularly the ducks and other water birds.

Luangwa Birds
Luangwa Birds

The poor rains we had 3 years ago has had a huge effect on the bird life as the water dried out completely. It seems that all the resident birds either left or ran out of food when the water dried out, so for the last 2-3 years birds have been rather thin on the ground. We do still get the hartebeest, roan, zebra and reedbuck gathering to drink once the back country dries out. So far, the water birds have not re-appeared. Perhaps with our very good rain this last season we might see some of the water birds returning. I really look forward to heading back up there and seeing what has happened.

The 05 track was made in the 1960s to provide access to the Northern part of the park, the story is that it was made with a bulldozer, the driver given a compass and told to go straight up following compass bearing 005º, giving us the interesting if somewhat unimaginative name for the road! On my 1987 trip there were small trees growing in the road, averaging 8cm in diameter, the road had not been graded for 20 odd years. The sturdy bumper on my vehicle took a beating but it was wonderful to get out into the back county and see all that woodland! After a bumpy start, it took a couple of years of determined pushing from Robin to get DPNW to re-open the road and get our Mobile Safaris started. We have since added a couple of extra roads, but we mostly use the Lundu Plain road, which was put in by Moses Mkumbi, it is also known as Moses’s road!

Since my very first day trip up the 05 I had always wanted to spend more time up that way, compounded by all the stories we would hear over a cold beer with Robin after each of his trips; until I eventually managed to get him to put me on the roster. As those of you who have done more than one mobile walking safari will know, it is just one of those amazing places that seems to stay the same despite the continuous changes that nature affords us. Over the years we have been running our mobile safaris, we have seen plenty of erosion, some incredible sink holes appear which put a bit of a damper on the route but nothing that can’t be handled but the river has pretty much stayed on the same track. There are some areas where there has been some pretty fast erosion and some large holes churned out by the moving water but this year it will certainly be interesting to see what has happened as we have had an incredible rainy season.

We have watched trees grow and fall down we have watched lagoons fill and dry up, depending on the rains that we receive each year; we have watched sink holes appear and roads change. The animals come and go but the one thing that remains the same, and I hope it does for many years to come, is the absolute magic of this slice of the National Park.

For now, though I am going to get going and next week I shall be talking to you about the wildlife that we see while on Mobile Walking Safaris and how that has changed over the years.”

Great, thanks so much Jason this is amazing history behind the Mobile Walking Safaris. I can’t believe it has already been 30 years, it’s incredible. We can’t wait to hear from you next week Jason. Between now and then, I hope that you all have a wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and a Golden Anniversary with RPS

Hello there! I hope you are well and getting used to the slight snippet of freedom that seems to be creeping into our lives. Here the Valley remains the same slice of paradise as ever; however, we are in the firm grips of winter so jumpers, trousers and occasional hats are being dusted off. We have put in our access roads to all of our camps and look forward to getting up to the Nsefu Sector for a day out soon, and I am sure that once we have we shall give you all a little update. This week we are hearing from long time regular guests Soren and Hanna Aunsholm, about a trip that they took with us to celebrate their very special golden wedding anniversary.

Soren and Hanna over to you:

“My husband and I have since 1997 been regular guests to RPS, we have during the years been there in cold months, where we were supplied with hot water bottles in the bed and warming Mbaola’s for our feet during dinner time and in the heat months of October / November.
Last year we celebrated 50 years of marriage. The natural choice for us was to celebrate in Zambia, the only slight hesitation was that our wedding date is March 16th and this is in the middle of the green season. Being under the assumption that this time of year we would have rain every day and the grass would be so high so we only can see Elephant and Giraffe, we did hesitate but then decided that there was no other place we would want to celebrate so we made the decision and booked our safari.

Leopard South Luangwa
South Luangwa Leopard

Over the years our tradition upon landing in Mfuwe was to pop into Daudi’s bar “Cool Runnings” for a quick Mosi to start our holiday off. So where better place to have a bit of a party. We contacted Daudi who immediately agreed and we were all set.
Once landing in a very green Mfuwe, Daudi picked us up and took us to River Camp – already on the way into camp we passed 4 lionesses and a leopard, this was certainly not the welcome we had imagined and the sightings continued. During the 3 days that we were at River Camp we were blessed with more sightings of lions and cubs, wild dogs a multitude of birds some species that we had never seen before and even a python. We had the fun of some occasional showers which cut a few game drives short but we were amazed at what we saw.

Wild Dog
Wild Dog

After three wonderful days at River Camp it was the bit day and the plan was to boat up to Nsefu where we would celebrate our special day in our favourite camp. Braston at the helm, we started the next phase of our adventure. The river was an amazing and mighty force of nature we never imagined it to be like this. We motored up for an hour then a slight hiccup and the engine failed, after a futile attempt to get it started again the scout took over with a bamboo stick and punted us to the bank. It was not long before another boat was motoring its way upstream this time a supply boat for one of the other camps and after a quick swap of paint and cement into our boat and us into that boat it was not long before we were on our way again. Needless to say Sebastian was slightly surprised when we approached in an unexpected boat; and I must add using cement bags as seats. Saying farewell to the skipper and making our way to our room Sebastian had decorated it with flowers and a bottle of sparkling wine. The perfect way to start the day.

Boating the Luangwa
Boating the Luangwa
Nsefu room
Nsefu room

Braston was soon back with our fixed boat and it wasn’t long before we were all geared up and ready to take our first walking safari. After all these years visiting RPS we have never done a walking safari and beginners luck we found 4 lionesses playing in the grass.

After two days up at Nsefu it was time to head back to Nkwali and also Cool Runnings for our party. We had invited guides that we had met over the years as well as their wives and children. We had no idea how many people would be there and when we arrived it was full of all of our Zambian friends and their families. There was a beautiful BBQ, drinks and lots of loud music – what a way for us to celebrate and we can not thank Daudi for making this so special.

Cool Runnings

The next 3 days was safari days with so many fantastic sights, we saw all that we could have wanted to and leave a big thank to all the people a RPS.
Hanna + Søren Aunsholm.”

Hanna + Søren Aunsholm
Hanna + Søren Aunsholm

Wow! Thanks so much Hanna and Søren Aunsholm. Delighted we could be part of your special anniversary celebrations. Sounds like you are now converts for our Emerald Season too!
On that beautiful note, have yourself a wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Its Monday and a Tena Tena trip back in time

I hope you are fabulously well and are sitting comfortably ready for this weeks’ installment from the bush. Before I begin, I really need to say a huge thank you to everyone who is sending in material for our weekly newsletters, giving us loads more to share – so a big thank you to everyone for your contributions. This week we have a wonderful account from Robert Keller, of a trip he took to Tena Tena back in 1985. A great flashback to what our Tena Tena used to be like. Robert, over to you:

“The first time that I visited Tena Tena was in September 1985, and it is still fresh in my memory. We were a group of 6 and had the entire camp to ourselves and as a scientific guide this was perfect along with the fact that we were able to do a lot of walking. We were so lucky to have Robin as our guide and his brother Adam was also in camp helping around camp but also out on the actual safaris.

The South Luangwa National Park is a wonderful place and its beauty remains with me ‘til today with so many wonderful sightings of hippos, elephants, crocodiles and much more; not to mention the exceptional birding that we had.

Tena Tena was simple but comfortable with a fantastic bucket shower which was always much needed and enjoyed after a long hot day in the bush. Siesta was taken under the lovely shade of the trees in camp and there was a small hide by a watering hole not far from camp which was frequented by bushbuck, mongoose and warthogs and a perfect place to enjoy during the heat of the day.

Robin’s brother Adam prepared some scrumptious food, especially given the difficulty in transport and access to goods back in 1985/1991; the variety was limited but quality was certainly not. In 1985 the kitchen was on the whole an open fire but that didn’t stop the camp cook and under Robins careful supervision the food was always absolutely delicious.

I returned to Tena in 1991 for another trip and in just those few years the camp had already been lifted to a higher level yet always maintaining its charming character. The tents were bigger and the beds more comfortable and the safaris in the open game drive vehicles were wonderful with a tremendous amount of different animals. Elephants in those days still had big tusks and there were even sightings of rhino (albeit rather rare). Tea breaks on the game drives were always enormously enjoyed with some form of snack and a nice hot cup of tea or coffee not forgetting the Amarula.

On the full day excursion Robin and Adam would always find a lovely spot to stop for some lunch parking in the shade and preparing our food on the tailgate of the car, nothing was too much trouble and they even made a small camp fire to make sure that we had hot drinks and hot food.

The highlight from both trips were the walking safaris, they are simply the best way to get closer to nature enjoying every element from sound and smell to the sightings of the animals. We found tracks of different animals, observed the insects and on one occasion found ourselves hiding behind a bush before Robin gave the ok; retreating to the car we drove around the bush we had been hiding behind and on the other side was a pride of sleeping lions.

On both of our trips we sadly noticed a dramatic change in the wildlife due to human encroachment. There were fewer elephants and a greater number were tusk-less and the rhinos had all but disappeared – it was during these years that poaching was on the rise.

We are planning a trip back to Tena next year and cannot wait to see how much it has changed and I am sure whilst it will be very different we will have the most wonderful time.”

Wow, thanks so much Robert! This is an amazing account thanks so very much for sharing with us and we cannot wait to welcome you back next year. In the meantime life in the Valley continues at a somewhat gentle pace. As a little comment with regards to the poaching we are incredibly fortunate to have Conservation South Luangwa (C.S.L) protecting our wildlife in conjunction with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (D.N.P.W) the funding and support has been fantastic and under Rachel McRobbs wonderful leadership the team do a incredible job at protecting the animals. Over the years the operation has expanded from foot patrols to include aerial surveillance as well as foot patrols with highly trained dogs who are able to sniff out illegal firearms, ivory, bush meat, pangolins, leopard and lion skins that would so often be missed by the human eye.

Whilst I highly doubt that poaching will ever be completely eliminated in rural Africa the C.S.L and D.N.P.W teams contribute enormously to reducing the risk to the animals. In fact just a few weeks ago Rob, myself and Jack were just on our way back from a little drive behind camp when we came across a giraffe with a snare on its foot. The following morning Rachel and the team were here with the vet and with Jack and I as awestruck onlookers, they darted and de-snared the animal in just a few minutes and with a good dose of antibiotics the giraffe was back up on her feet already looking happier and more comfortable.

CSL is one of the conservation projects that will benefit from our #SafariDreaming ebook we have recently launched. The ebook is a collection of memories shared by our past guests across our camps in Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. For US$10 you enjoy great insights to what safari in our world can be like, through the eyes of guests. Enjoy the teaser and get yourself plus friends and family a copy.

That is it from me this week. Have yourself a safe, healthy week ahead and don’t forget to look after each other.

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Its Monday and Kuthengo Camp staff on safari

I hope you are fabulously well after the weekend and adapting to the new style of life. Here in the Luangwa life pretty much plods along at a rather gentle pace but we are keeping ourselves busy all the same; trying out new recipes for when we do open our doors or scooting up to Nsefu and Tena Tena to check that all is well.

This week we are not hearing about Luangwa life, instead we are beetling down to Kuthengo Camp to hear from Licia and Marius who have given us an update from Liwonde, Malawi. Licia and Marius over to you:

“Although I get to go out and explore much of Liwonde National Park on a somewhat regular basis, Licia is not so lucky and is mostly confined to the boundary of the camp itself. We decided that it was time for her to step out and enjoy the wonders of the park for an afternoon.

We travelled down south of the park where the landscape opens up in the form of floodplains, where hundreds of waterbuck can be seen grazing on the short green grass. The afternoon couldn’t get any better as we saw lion, a great variety of birds, a number of elephants and of course many hippopotamus but that all was soon forgotten.

We slowly went through a dry riverbed crossing and as we came up the other side there were eight buffalo grazing with the sun nearly touching the horizon in the background, we slowly drove past and a few seconds passed when Licia with great excitement shouted “rhino, rhino, rhino!”. To my disbelief I looked around and truly there it was standing with its head held high starring at us snorting so that we are made aware of its presence.

Since the Black rhino are not often seen in the park due to their behaviour and habitat preference, it made it all the more worthwhile for Licia to step out the office for once!

The rest of the team also had a treat a few days ago as a male cheetah decided to have a snack just outside of camp with a freshly caught impala. One of our guides, Patrick, who was guiding some guests (local residents), called us over the radio to let us know about the excitement. We decided to spoil the rest of the team by taking them to see the cheetah. Some of them had never seen a cheetah before, despite them living in and around Liwonde National Park.

When we arrived at the sighting, you could just see the excitement in their eyes! I gave them a little bit of knowledge on how different the cheetahs are to other cat species and they were all intently listening and nodding away. When we arrived back at camp, I asked if they had enjoyed it and I got many nods, thank-yous and smiles from ear to ear, even under their facemasks I could tell they were beaming.”

Fantastic thanks so much Licia and Marius, it sounds like you are having a fab time at Kuthengo and great to hear about all the sightings and goings on.

After such wonderful sightings, it leaves me with very little to say. I shall graciously bow out and wish you all a wonderful week ahead, with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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Safari Dreaming Ebook

In April we set out to create some positive vibes through our campaign #SafariDreaming, where we invited our past guests to share their fondest RPS memories with us in an effort to keep the African dream alive. The response was incredible, and this got us thinking further…

The lack of international travel has adversely impacted our support of local communities, our staff on the ground as well as conservation efforts. In light of this we decided that our #SafariDreaming campaign could do so much more than just lift our readers spirits, and so we bundled up all the stories, beautiful pictures and anecdotes into a beautiful e-book available for purchase. All the proceeds will go towards the mentioned causes.

So why not treat yourself to our Safari Dreaming e-book and help support a good cause, while enjoying an RPS journey through Zambia, Malawi & Zimbabwe!

If you would like to buy a copy at GBP10 follow this link: https://travelafricamag.com/product/safari-dreaming-ebook-2020-by-robin-pope-safaris/

If you would like a donation, please get in touch with us: stephanie@robinpopesafaris.net

Here’s a teaser of what’s in store should you decide to purchase the book:
View Safari Dreaming E-book Teaser Here!

Keep Safari Dreaming…with a purpose!

Best Wishes
The RPS team

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Its Monday and adventure in Malawi & Zambia

I hope you are well and sitting comfortably ready and waiting for this weeks’ instalment. We have had another wonderful entry via our Safari Dreaming Campaign, an account of a trip from Eyal Schiff & Smadar Shiff-Carmi who visited some of our Malawi & Zambia properties in 2014. We are really enjoying the trip down memory lane with all these stories. If you would like to share your RPS memory with us, it’s not too late to get in touch. You can find out more about our Safari Dreaming campaign here.
For now, it’s over to Eyal & Smadar:

“It was September 2014 when we started off for Zambia & Malawi for a long-awaited 13-day safari with RPS.
Beginning in Livingstone, we had a relaxing stay at Stanley Safari Lodge, visiting the awe-inspiring Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls), and continuing the next day with white-water rafting on the mighty Zambezi. We have done white-water rafting before in Chile, Sri-Lanka and Bali, but this was definitely much more of the real thing.

After a couple of days we took a flight then boarded a jeep in Mfuwe for our journey to Tena-Tena on the Luangwa. We arrived at Tena-Tena in the late evening, it was pitch dark, which only added to the magical serenity of the place, regardless of the fact that we had yet to see any animals. We were escorted to our tents which were simply wonderful: pampering and secure, while at the same time open enough to make you feel a part of the surroundings. Even before going to sleep, we heard some reeds being crushed and some unabashed munching from just outside our tent and, using a flashlight, realized a herd of elephants were having a late-night raid on the trees in our own backyard – an amazing sight, augmented by the otherwise reigning darkness and silence.

We were really very sad to part with Bertram after only a couple of days and continued to Nkwali. Crossing the river among hordes of suspicious staring hippo, we were helped ashore on the other side by the talented Emmanuel, our guide for the next amazing couple of days, during which the vivid scenery and life of the Luangwa kept us mesmerized.

Posted in 2020, It's Monday | Comments closed

It’s Monday and safari dreaming from down under…

Well hello there, I hope that you are all well and hopefully enjoying a slightly freer pace of life. Anyway, news from the Luangwa? Well we have been inundated with people sending stories recent and old as part of our Safari Dreaming campaign which was an initiative to share safari stories on our social media platform. We have been receiving some wonderful stories and thanks to everyone who has participated so far – we really are enjoying sharing these with the rest of you! This week we hear from Gordon Ramsay (not the chef!) from ‘down under’. Over to you Gordon:

“I had 18 nights in three camps: the first 6 were at Kapani, when I was looked after wonderfully well by Willie, who has now become the manager of Nsefu Camp. The next 6 nights were at the Luangwa River Camp, which I thought was very special, and whilst there I was thoroughly spoilt by Sebastian, Yona and Polly, being the only guest during what was the last week of operation that season.

I think we saw three leopards on two separate evenings, all found by the sharp shooter Amos, who seems to have an eye for them. On one evening at Luangwa River Camp we had a terrific wind accompanied by a dust storm – then rain – and I told the team about hot conditions in my home town of Sydney, when, after very hot weather, storm clouds gather to the south of the city as we watch and feel the cold change blow in over the harbour. You can see it happening as the wind unleashes over the harbour and the temperature plummets 10 to 20 degrees. We call it the Southerly Buster. So, I suggested to the River Camp team that they call theirs the Luangwan Buster.

On Friday 29th November I said a sad farewell to Luangwa River Camp and with Yona at the helm headed off for Nkwali. I must admit that after a few hours of game drive I was starting to wonder where this camp was but I should have known that the guides love a surprise, and a surprise it was when I was driven up to a lovely site on the river under a big shade tree. And there I was greeted by the new team headed by Kiki, and before long I was munching into a delicious breakfast/brunch prepared by Robert the chef. I met most of the Nkwali team right there in the bush: Christobel, Justin and Leonard. The bubbling, ever-smiling Christabel, had to tell me what a buzz it was to have someone called Gordon Ramsay on the guest list. And we had a laugh while I explained that I was a quite a bit older than the famous chef.

The approach to Nkwali took me by surprise too, as, when I was at Kapani, we used to pass a sign on the same corner which said Kapani and Nkwali, so I expected to approach Nkwali by road but no, we drove onto the river bed, Kiki parked the vehicle and there was a boat to take us over the river to the camp. After a stern briefing from Christabel about the habits of the baboons, that they loved toothpaste etc, and that everything I valued should be zipped away and proceeded with a well-earned siesta.

I fell in love with Nkwali right away – goodness it’s hard not to. The camp blends into the bush and belongs to it. Everything fits.

There were a lot of incredible sightings that we had while we were there but just to give you a few of our highlights among many we had an epic hunt for an Angola pitta. Kiki suggested that we have a serious go at finding it in the grounds around camp so off we went with his computer and its speakers on full blast calling the bird in but no luck! The following day we did the same again but this time in the park in an area where Kiki had heard one just a few days prior.

Whilst the mission was not accomplished the challenge was almost as rewarding. In a similar Ornithological quest Kiki also suggested we headed off into the Mopani woodlands to search for a Racket-Tailed Roller this quest was also to no avail however we did find an Arnots Chat as well as witness the devastation to a forest that elephants can cause. As well as Kiki I was also guided by Thomas who at first appeared rather serious but quickly showed me to joys of the bush and the animals that I seriously thought I would never have an interest in such as termites.

On one morning we had a good look at termites, three types: dry wood; damp wood; and fungus termites. How am I doing? Before long I understood where they lived and how they fed and colonised. Thomas, like all good teachers, turned the learning into a game, and I, who have taught at university level, lapped it up. We got back to camp where I announced that Nkwali had a new professor – and his name was Thomas. He managed to get the balance of seriousness, fun and niceness just right, as do all the staff of course, the best example of all being Kiki.

I have to thank the entire team for such a wonderful and memorable holiday and I look forward to returning sometime once life returns to normal.”

Wow what a wonderful account thanks so much Gordon for sharing with us, it’s always such a joy to hear a firsthand account of someone’s stay with us.

After that there is very little left for me to say except stay safe, stay sane and don’t forget to look after one another.

Posted in 2020, It's Monday | Comments closed

It’s Monday and a dazzling safari

I do hope that you are all well and cracking on with the routine of self-isolation. Here in the Luangwa well the baboons and Humphrey the hippo have pretty much taken over camp and we are a mere imposition. Anyways this week we are going to hear from Mike and Nancy who head up an organisation called Dazzle Africa and were guests here with us at the beginning of the year. Mike and Nancy over to you:

“Some might be unnerved to get news a week or so before traveling to Zambia from the US that your groups can’t stay at one of the 3 camps originally planned, but that’s what happened to us when RPS had to keep Luangwa River Camp closed due to high water. As Rob said rather descriptively in his email, the footpaths in camp were now “crocodile highways”!

The RPS team, though, went into problem solving mode and suggested Luangwa Safari House, and we were game, as it looked amazing on the website. It turned out to be fantastic and our 8 guests loved it, a very different experience than an equally great Nkwali and Nsefu! Sarel, Yonna, Emmanuel and the rest of the team made our time full of great experiences.

Dazzle Africa, as a non-profit organisation, exclusively runs philanthropic safaris, so all of the profit from our safaris go to wildlife conservation, education and community projects in the park and in Mfuwe. The RPS team was fantastic at being flexible and accommodating with our tight schedule, as we always bring our guests to visit our partners Conservation South Luangwa (CSL), Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP), Mfuwe Secondary School, and Mulberry Mongoose, Tribal Textiles, as well as Project Luangwa, in between game drives.

We partially fund the aviation program run jointly by CSL/ZCP, so Yonna and Obi worked hard to fit in a visit to the airstrip so our guests could see the anti-poaching plane. We wound up seeing wild dogs on our way to the strip and couldn’t pass up the sighting so we were a bit late! We eventually got there to listen to our friend Dr Matt Becker of ZCP and pilot Deven give a presentation about how vital the aviation program is to anti-poaching achievements and large carnivore research. These kinds of hands-on visits really inspire guests to stay involved and do their part to keep the wildlife of the valley thriving!

The same goes for our visits to the Secondary School, where Dazzle Africa has provided skills-based training to their teachers to help create an entrepreneurial arts program called Hands Over Zambia. The program resulted in a brick-and-mortar shop at the campus where high-quality crafts are offered on sale. Our guests were so impressed that they virtually cleaned out the place of great craft items. The program also trains students on how to create and run their own business. Dazzle Africa is proud to have sponsored 29 students and counting, who are training to be everything from teachers to vets and who now fund their own brothers and sisters or children to attend school.

Our visits to CSL are, as always, fascinating as one of our groups got to see a demonstration of the anti-poaching detection dogs. Both of our groups got to visit with Dr Mwamba Sichande, the only full-time wildlife vet in South Luangwa, and who Dazzle Africa is proud to fully fund.

One of our two visits to the fantastic Mulberry Mongoose was filmed for a promo for them, which was fun. The MM team always does a smashing job and people are thrilled with their high-end jewellery, both for themselves and to give as gifts, especially if it helps remove snare wire from the bush and provide high-quality employment to villagers
Despite being the rainy season the weather was superb, given there was a lot of water in the river and the ground was quite muddy but we managed to keep dry most of the time. A slight blip occurred on the boat trip up to Nsefu but Catherine had hot coffee with amaretto and tea ready and waiting to help warm us up.

The only other time we had rain was while on a game drive at Nkwali when we were supposed to have a surprise Bush Breakfast, Nancy and I were getting nervous it wasn’t going to be possible. Well, no reason to fret, RPS came through with flying colors. The rain stopped and as we turned down the track to the giant termite mound, there was the whole team cooking a huge beautiful breakfast! The chairs were ready and dry and a herd of ellies happily munched the tall gorgeously green grass just beyond the mound. Perfect.

Up at Nsefu, the bird sightings were nonpareil, thanks to Willie and Bertram. The yellow-billed storks plucking catfish from the flooded ebony forest at sundown was unforgettable. Besides the famous yellow-billed colony, the team up there also discovered an open-billed stork colony as well! This one was reached by a walk with a lot of “bushwhacking” after Willie, Berty, and scouts Justin and Gilbert tirelessly found us a landing spot, with water fast receding. It was beautiful to see the big storks flying all around as they built their nests.

Besides all of this, our wildlife sightings were amazing, with multiple wild dog experiences, lions (one pride right near the Primary School!), plenty of ellies, and a few quick leopard sightings. Speaking of leopard sightings, during one night viewing along the road back to Nkwali from the main gate, a courser was flushed out by the leopard’s movements and hit Nancy right in the head as she sat in the vehicle! She was just fine, and the poor bird seemed to have recovered.

We had many experiences we’ll all remember forever, and so much laughter. The quality of the guides-including the young ones coming up in the ranks like Canny (Banjo) and Geoffrey- and the warmth of your staff is always top notch and we are dedicated to staying regular guests when the pandemic subsides.

In fact, we have already booked a group for next Emerald season, so we hope you’re all staying positive, taking care of each other and being safe. We can’t wait to see you all again!

Thanks so much Mike and Nancy for this wonderful account of your stay and we can’t wait to have you to visit again next year. Between now and then let’s hope that all of this subsides (sooner rather than later please) and we can start sharing our wonderful slice of paradise with guests once more. Between now and then though I shall bid you all a very fond farewell and hope that you all have a fabulous week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter. Stay safe and healthy and don’t forget to look after one another.

Posted in 2020, It's Monday | Comments closed