It’s April 2001 and …

It’s Monday 2nd and it’s not snowing

Another week and camp opening is just around the corner.

Basil and Trish are getting married on 4 April in Perth – many of you will have shared a sundowner with Baz at the Nkwali bar over the years.

On Saturday sundowner around the bar we had a hilarious time thinking of an April’s Fool Day It’s Monday – including “after a unexpected cold spell we are all practising our ice skating, Robin has just come off the ski slopes of Chindeni Hills” etc. We all laughed outrageously – strange how unfunny it seems on Monday morning! Oh well.

Sandra – Simon’s sister is with us for a month before she goes to catering college – I asked her to write It’s Monday (I have to say my head is a little fuzzy after a long lunch with friends yesterday – racing scrabble and then animal charades – and yes we all looked very silly). So over to Sandra.

” We have 50 new arrivals in camp, they were somewhat shy at first but are slowly finding there feet. Yes the new chickens have arrived amid much excitement!

After a week of rejuvenating Nkwali we decided to go on a staff picnic yesterday, which was quite superb. We had a beautiful sighting of a leopardess whilst we were having tea and good sightings of elephant, giraffe and the smaller game. We gorged ourselves at lunch, Marcus excelled himself in the fishing department while the less energetic members of the group opted for a little siesta. The Katete river is crystal clear and ankle deep at the moment so we spent at least two hours wallowing in it. We ended the expedition at Mfuwe Lodge for drinks on the pretext of avoiding a looming storm which bypassed us completely. It seems that Shanie and I are useless when it comes to suncream application and distribution and returned, to put it in a catering context, “well done” .

There is still a lot of rain around so getting camp ready can be quite challenging at times and we have all become highly skilled in the art of rain dodging. Despite the elements’ best efforts the camp is coming together nicely. Jo staunchly defends the rain as she claims it is good for her garden, however the rest of us don’t view her garden in quite the same light as she does!

The new mechanic, Kevin, arrived yesterday and he is already hard at work. He is boating up to Tena Tena and Nsefu today and I believe that the tractor is next on the list. I am always in awe of mechanics as my knowledge of vehicles is minimal!” – That’s it from Sandra.

Have a good week and remember to pick some daisies.

P.S. Brighton the senior mechanic wanted me to tell you that he caught a HUGE catfish – the largest anyone had ever seen – 25kg!
Caught in front of the bar.

It’s Monday 9th and the season has changed

The rains have left and the skies are blue. The dawns and sunsets are pink and golden. Our favourite time of year. The river has dropped a couple of meters and we now feel that the flood threat is over. These are classic camp building days!

Lions in the Nkwali area

On Wednesday a lion came into camp. It was skulking in the long grass near the staff houses and a posse went out to chase it off. Rather brave (or mad) I thought. Jeffery saw it through the office window as it ran past to the river. He thought that was “dead cool”.

Nkwali has opened and the first guests, a French family, boated across the river for their game drives. They saw 8 lion on their first drive which we all thought was a great start! The camp is looking spectacular with new materials, sanded and repolished wood and the green grass after the rains.

The garden last October

I have continued to work in the garden – in fact I spent 2 hours this morning scrubbing the bark of the citrus trees with a toothbrush and washing up liquid trying to take off the scale that has covered the trees. I had no idea how thorny lemon trees were. Ouch. Not a pleasant job! It is a hard objective the run an organic garden, especially in a place where every bug ever invented seems to live. If anyone has any tips for organic gardening – I would love to hear them. Termites are a massive unresolved problem – any solutions? The new chucks are still not laying but I check every day.

Ben of Tongabezi is visiting for a few days. Robin and Ben got up early today and have boated up to Tena Tena and Nsefu – mossie nets and tinned corned beef in hand. And so the camp building up north begins!

That’s it for this week
Take care

It’s Monday 16th and the Easter egg hunt

Wild Dog

April seems to be the best month for wild dog sitings. Again, they have appeared this month. Yesterday morning the guests boated across the river to meet the vehicle as usual and set off for their drive. At Lupunga Spur 5 wild dogs were spotted running around having apparently finished a kill. The guests, parked under a shady tree, had their mid morning tea and cake watching the antics of the dogs, for 45 mins. The dogs then lopped off and two huge male lions came over to where they had been feeding and sniffed around the area as vultures started to drop out of the sky. Wonderful viewing.

Friday nights, as many of you know, is the one night the safari residents of the Valley get together at Flatdogs bar – the Dog and Gat. As you can imagine there some Friday nights that become very wild! We usually have a bar quiz which is fun. And Derek of Kaingo, Janelle of Kapani and Chris of Bushcamps have formed a band. So we have fun. And on this last Friday many of the staff had recently returned after their rainy season break – there were over 60 people there. Robin and I got home at 3.30 am – which is good going for us oldies!

The Headmaster (and his son) in his office, Oct 2000

However, we had arranged to drive to Kawaza on Saturday – early! You can imagine – ouch. Robin went to see the new chief and I had the start of season meeting with the Headmaster of Kawaza School. I was delighted – the school is painted, flowers have been planted everywhere and moral was very very high. The teachers were playing scrabble on the porch (Easter Saturday so the school was closed – they were not skiving!). A new teachers house is nearly complete and the community are making bricks and donating them for the next teachers house.

Last year we put some of the guest’s donated money into starting an art department at the school. One of the classrooms is now housing lots of paintings from all over the province and the children have been drawing on the 100 kg of paper I bought them. We are painting an outside wall with blackboard paint so that each week a class can do a mural that can be seen by all the community. There are 5 new staff – all have been sponsored through secondary school by the Kawaza School fund and 2 of them have been sponsored through teachers training. They are now all teaching/helping at the school. This time a year ago we had only 3 teachers there for the nearly 400 kids. So a vast improvement.

Jo visiting Kawaza

I then went down to the Kawaza Village to have a meeting with the team who host our guests there. As I arrived all the ladies sang a welcome song. Very moving. We had a meeting in the “summer house” and I laid out all the articles that have been published in UK and USA newspapers over the last 6 months on the project – there were 8 in total. [see our press page for most of them] The community group were delighted to see themselves in print! As you know, last November the Kawaza Village Project won the Silver Otter Award – for the best tourism related community project world wide – given by the British Guild of Travel writers.

I presented the rather large cut lead crystal bowl and the certificate. It was very rewarding for them. Lots of clapping and delighted smiles. What a great way to start the season for them. All very positive and up beat.

As Robin and I drove away 2 hours later, I was really thrilled with how both projects are going. The community have really taken on most of the responsibility and are totally committed. So thank you, thank you to all those who have supported the projects, both by donations and by visiting the school and village.

I am writing this on Easter Sunday and we are about to have our traditional Easter egg hunt. We hide the eggs all over the camp – in bushes, up trees, under pots. Both the guests and the staff then have a race to find them. It is hilarious – the staff just run about frantically looking. I think the guest have more fun watching them do this than finding the eggs themselves! And then everyone is boating back to the park – the dogs are still around – seen this morning.

So have a wonderful week and a great Easter break.
Take care

It’s Monday 23rd and camp building

With each week the activity around Nkwali and indeed the Valley picks up in pace! Nkwali staff are enjoying the fresh new season with our guests and Robin has a team of very busy helpers paving the way for the opening of Nsefu and Tena Tena in late May! Not long ago during the rains Jane and I were wondering if anybody was ever coming back and now my office is just a hive of activity!!!

It isn’t all happening in camp – the Park continues to provide brilliant gameviewing opportunities for guests and our guides! Across the river guests were again treated to 45 minutes of watching 5 male wild dog by Wakumba. They were all relaxing under the shade of a tree. We hope that with the coming drier weather they will meet up with some females for breeding. Females have been spotted much further away so the poor males only have each other for company at present!! On the same day our lucky guests saw some lion and a beautiful leopard with its kill in a tree. The birding continues to be outstanding at this time of year.

The sandbanks return

The river has dropped significantly and from the front of Nkwali the sandbank is beginning to stretch further along the middle – it won’t be long before sundowners on the sand in the middle of the river will be back on the agenda! There are a lot of hippos in the river and with water levels dropping fast there will not be much time left for safe boat trips up river towards Nsefu and Tena Tena. Fortunately it is still OK to boat across from Nkwali to meet up with our gameviewing vehicles – it has proved such a popular game drive option this month!

Luangwa sunset

Simon and Shanie took one of our guests on a wonderful day drive last week. This repeat guest is staying with us for over a week so perfect opportunity to explore wider territory! The original plan was to rise early and take a picnic lunch all the way to the Muchinja Escarpment on the western perimeter of the Park. Along they way they decided to turn right and headed for the Kapamba River. The drive to the river was an event in itself. No vehicles had taken this route since the rains and the grass was extremely high up the middle of the road and towered over from either side. It was as though the road had disappeared altogether! The scout had to walk in front of the vehicle to guide them through and those on board were covered from head to foot in grass seeds by the time they reached the river! It did not deter a fantastic afternoon sitting by the river with a fine packed lunch. Not too much game but excellent birding enjoyed in this remote location. They arrived back in camp by boat against the backdrop of a sensational red sunset…a good day out!

Bat in the bar roof last year

Robin has spent the past week boating up and down the river to check progress on Tena Tena’s camp building programme. He is very happy with the way things are going. The rains did not leave the foundations in too much of a mess and the bank has only moved back by about one meter. Robin’s main project at Tena Tena is to redesign the bar. He tells me that it will look splendid and is looking forward to camp opening in the last week of May.

Jo is currently away in Durban this week promoting ourselves and Zambia as a destination at Indaba, an African travel trade show. Matthew and Sara are taking a holiday break in South Africa and were able to join her over the weekend – I am told they were kept busy from start to finish each day with appointments and meetings with industry types from all over the world. Jo returns this week and I’m sure with plenty to tell!

The week unfortunately ended on a sore note with poor Simon’s right leg disappearing down a hole near the river edge in the staff area at Nkwali. We thought he might have a sprain but the Valley Doctor thinks it is possibly a bone fracture in his ankle!! Simon is heading down to South Africa for x-rays and subsequent treatment and we hope to see him returning very soon! At the very least if he cannot be bouncing around the park every day we do have a special role for him at the bar entertaining the guests! An ale or two each day will help with his recovery, I’ve no doubt about it!

Have a great week!

It’s Monday 30th and the lilies are out.

Durban Beach during Indaba 2000

I have been away for 10 days in South Africa for the annual trade show there. It was excellent and I enjoyed swimming in the Durban waves every morning. Living in a land locked country it is great to be in the sea.

Jane and Matt boated up to Nsefu for a couple of nights and say it is heavenly both at Nsefu and Tena Tena. The Tena bar has been changed (yet again!) and Jane says it is wonderful. Wider at the front and with a veranda. The dining room is in the same position, but smaller, and without walls. So you can look at both the river and the lagoon behind camp. The lagoon really filled up this year and full of lilies. The jacanas are buzzing around and lots of other water birds are in residence. It looks wonderful – ” a hive of activity” reported by Jane.

The wild dog continue to give our guests at Nkwali excellent gameviewing. Last night the drive watched the pack of 5 we have been seeing but in a different area – the Waffwa. The dogs chased and caught an impala and started their frenzied feeding. A hyena heard them and came in and stole the kill. This was just as the light was fading so mostly viewed without a spotlight. The drive continued, only to find a leopard up a tree feeding! Who said that the gameviewing in the green season was not good! It has been consistently amazing in April and May over the last few years.

Zebra grazing

On Saturday Robin and I took the day off. What fun we had. Along with 4 friends plus two totos (aged 4 and 2) we bundled into our new convertible and set off. The convertible is the envy of the “town” at the moment. It was the “Jag” – our Toyota GX – that had a huge branch land on it in December. The engine and most of the body was fine but the roof was completely flattened! So Robin cut the roof off, put strips of wood around and we now have a wonderful and unusual vehicle. Anyway off we went – and found a tree to picnic under, overlooking a huge dried lagoon with puku, impala, baboon and a family of ellys feeding. Over a fire, we cooked a slap up breakfast – the full works. While we were there, 3 zebras came over the rise, watched us for 5 mins and then decided that we were safe. They walked down and started to graze within 30 meters of us. Soon we were chatting again and they completely ignored us. I love these days of picnics and trips – soon the season will start and we will be flat out! (of course also great but you know….).

We still have some space for the Eclipse period – if you are interested please contact your agent! there is a 12 day safari for 2, and 6 spaces on two 7 days safaris (ex London). On the day of the Eclipse we will be chartering down to the Lower Zambezi with a champagne picnic to view the event in the line of totality. Think about it!

Take care and have a wonderful week

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