It’s April 2002 and …


It’s Monday 1st and the swimming elephant

The season is now up and running – the camp is busy over Easter and we are in full swing. It is always quite a mission to get the wheels turning again after being closed for 3 months (it sometimes feels that we are reinventing some of them!). I have to say it again, we are all soooooo excited about the new rooms – like proud parents wanting to show off our offspring. They are simply wonderful. Upgrading and refurbishing is something that never stops in this business. And when you have changed the rooms you wonder how you “got away” with the old ones! The improvement is so vast.

The gameviewing has been excellent. A pride of ten lions, leopard, lots of elly and all the usual suspects in the park. But the Nkwali road has also been very productive as guests drive back in after the night drive. Daudi saw a lactating female (naturally) leopard walking down the road. No sign of the cub(s) but hopefully we will be seeing them later. A serval was seen – a rare sighting. And a first when Marcus saw a tree hyrax. I have to admit that Jacob saw one in December at the back but we have never seen these animals in the area over the ten years of living of Nkwali.

Yesterday, as we sat under the ebony trees next to the lagoon to have lunch, an old favourite cow elephant and her two youngsters came down to feed and drink. We know her well and she is easily identified by a groove at the end of her right tusk. They stayed throughout the lunch as we at first quietly and then after a couple of bottles of wine, less quietly, had our lunch. I was delighted to have them come down to the lagoon so early in the season.

The river shot up this week – rising nearly two meters. Quite a relief for us after saying that there was boating in April – it was getting quite low. It is so high that we can boat not only to but actually into the lagoon opposite camp to meet the vehicles for the drives. Boating is always such fun at this time of year. Robin and I had a little private sundowner boat ride on Good Friday. There were lots of cloud formations and a few storms around so the sunlight, every shade of pink and orange, were bouncing around the skies and reflecting off the river. Quite magical. And not a little romantic!!

Early yesterday morning, Easter Sunday, Robin and I were sitting on our step having a cup of tea. The river flows right past the house, and it is wide and full at the moment. Then we saw a dark shape bobbing in the water just near us. An elephant, large bull, was crossing the river. It is too high for him to “walk” on the bottom and he had to swim across. With the current so strong, he was swept downriver about 500 meters as he swam. It was like watching a whale – the dark wet head came up, then disappeared, with only a foot of the trunk showing. I have never seen an elephant cross when the river is so full so it was fascinating. Robin described the time of the ’78 floods, when he watched an mother carrying her calf across the river. She swam under the water, with the calf straddled across her neck. What a sight that must have been.

Sara and Matthew are back after a months leave. They had a fantastic holiday in South Africa and Wales. They talk about long walks on the west Welsh coastline, which I know is a stunning part of the world. Great to have the team slowly build up for the season.

As I write this, I am being continuously distracted by the ellys of yesterdays lunchtime feeding outside the office. Hard to concentrate! So I will end for this week.

Happy Easter and for those of you who gave up something for lent – well done well done (as Robin would say).

from us all
JO

It’s Monday 8th and eeeeee, dit dit dit

I am sitting here looking at brilliant sunshine, blue skies and small puffy white clouds floating by. But last night we had heavy rain. It started at 9.15 at night. Robin and I were at home, and dare I admit it, watching a video (yes I know, we bush folks are not supposed to admit to the odd movie!). And it simply poured down. Soon we were moving our chairs from place to place and trying to ignore the drip drip from the ceiling. I had to put the volume up full to win over the rain falling on the tin roof. (Actually we did not win on the noise front and half the film was a question of trying to work it out!). In the end we moved the bed, the table, the books as new leaks started. This only happens in heavy rain but we are due a new roof. The sausages from the tree above, that have fallen (loudly) onto the tin over the last 6 years have left dents and leaks everywhere. But the rain continued! It was 85 mls (nearly 4 inches) of rain in 4 hours.

So how did our new rooms survive – all well – apart from room 1 which apparently had a river running through it. We had Alfred the chef staying in there with a guest – strange I know but the guest was 6 years old. And Alfred spent part of the night mopping up. It turns out that the path to the door is high and the water ran in down the path and under the door. So easily sorted! We don’t have to tear up the bathroom floor. But what is this heavy rain doing here in April? Luckily it is coming down at night. We woke up to a lovely day again. And despite the rain the river is dropping fast.

I was talking to an English guest this morning at the camp fire. It was his first time in Southern Africa after a number of safaris in East Africa. He had not expected there to be much game at this time of year and said how surprised and delighted he was with everything they had seen in the week. The gameviewing has been excellent. Daudi took them on a “picnic-all-day” drive and stopped at the Mushalashi Bridge. There were 4 wild dog on the bridge, standing on their hind legs to look over the railings and check out the scene. Quite a sight. The drive moved on and later in the day saw the dogs 3 kms down the road. The dogs were running around performing pre hunting greetings with great excitement and saying e e e e e e, dit dit dit dit which apparently means, according to Simon, “let’s go find find ourselves an impala for dinner”! Then they shot off into the bush and disappeared.

The buffalo and kudu are two species that we do not often see at this time of year but they have appeared early. Herds of 40-50 buff are being seen and kudu bulls are appearing at Lupunga Spur. A great treat. The lions are around and there were tracks of two who had walked past the workshop, down the camp road and behind the compound one night. But leopard sightings have not been regular. The only sighting this week was a large male was spotted in the daytime, lying lazily along a big branch.

 

I will be giving you the staffing for this year later on but for those of you who have stayed at Nsefu over the last couple of years, I am sad to say that Noodles will not be returning this season. Noodles is the most amazing bundle of energy and laughter. We will miss her. However, “career path” has called and she has set up a catering company in London – called Sugar and Spice.

Kawaza Village has had their first guests to stay. A family (with the 6 year old) for 2 nights. And they loved it. Early in the season is probably the most interesting time to stay there (possibly unfair – it is always interesting!) as it is when the food for the year is being harvested. They have many ingenious ways of storing the food so that it lasts for the dry season, and well into the rains. Pumpkin leaves are dried, rolled into balls and tied up. The maize is stored in kokwes, like granaries made of woven bamboo, and on stilts so the rats, in theory I suspect, cannot raid. The villages are a hive of “food processing” activity at the moment.

I am off for a swim in our lovely swimming pool – yes we are still very “chuffed” to have it – and so until next week….. have fun,
JO

PS – Simon saw a pygmy kingfisher near the bar. A very rare and beautiful sight.

It’s Monday 15th and fishing with Marcus

At long last it is great to be firmly back in camp and wonderful to see so many faces about the place! Nkwali is bustling with staff and guests once again and the weather is delightful. We all think that the rains have more-or-less broken (having said that I could be completely wrong!) with the days clear and sunny, the air is drying up and temperatures slightly cooler than when I set off for Australia over two weeks ago. The river is falling quite a lot – Simon tells me that the river mark is noticeably lower in the afternoon than when he takes guests across the river by boat in the morning!

Jo has darted off to the airport this morning to get behind the controls of her aircraft. Now that she is a qualified pilot, Jo is keen to get in as many hours as she can in the air. So she’s off to do some practice runs – with another very experienced co-pilot by her side! Jo was very chuffed on Saturday to have captained her first flight, a practice run to Lusaka and back! She loved getting up before dawn, enjoying a cup of tea on her step as first light emerged to the east, then an hour or so later cruising smoothly up in the air with the glorious morning sun rising over fluffy white clouds – what a picture!! The question on our lips of course is, do we now refer to her as ‘Captain’??

As you know this is the perfect time of year for boating activities. I awake in the mornings to the sound and sight of a group of guests heading downriver to a waiting gameviewing vehicle on the other side. I also see them going off again in the afternoon – such a fantastic way to enter the Park! This past week has seen guests making good use of the river with such activities as a fishing day trip to Nsefu and Tena Tena by boat with Marcus.

There is always a lot to see from the boat – both Nsefu and Tena Tena looked very good after the rains and the annual camp building program is under way.

I am advised that not a great deal of fish were caught, in fact more gossiping than catching fish was achieved (though I’m yet to be told what the gossip was all about!!!!). Time spent fishing at a quiet spot with Marcus often lends itself to idle chatter – a relaxing (and informative!) way to spend the day.

Gameviewing has been wonderful this week with regular sightings of lion and elephant. The auditors made their annual appearance yesterday and will be with us in the office this week. Yesterday afternoon was the perfect opportunity for these two men from Lusaka to take a gamedrive with guests, before sitting down to compile their audit! It was the first night in the bush for them and they returned very excited! They noted that they saw a pride of lion with a recently devoured impala kill, two separate leopard sightings and a python! Not bad for an evening in the Park – and we hope that this important pre-audit ‘research’ was of much help to them!!

Each year we welcome back regular guests, some who have been visiting annually for over ten years! These occasions are always like welcoming home an old friend and everybody looks forward to them. Sometimes it becomes apparent, moreso to Robin and Jo, that certain guests have returned after a much longer break between visits. We were very pleased to welcome back Michael and Margaret Hayter who were visiting RPS after 11 years away. They said that everything is as beautiful as they remembered it – though I’m sure there have been a few changes over the years!!!

Jeffrey and all at RPS.

It’s Monday 22nd and beware the sleeping elephant!

We have had quite a week on the gameviewing front! Along with absolutely stunning cooler weather of late, I have decided that this is my favourite time of year! At the moment we are all putting that extra sheet or blanket on the bed as the mornings are suddently VERY chilly. Everything is just so CLEAR and sparkling fresh and you can actually sit in the sun for a little while without feeling it burn right through your skin! And at night….just how many stars and planets are out there?? At the moment we can see a few bright planets (don’t ask me to name names however!) in the night sky not long after the sun sets. It is totally relaxing to sit by the campfire at night and gaze at the bright lights in the sky!!!!

Yesterday morning, with Nkwali between guests departing and new guests arriving, Matthew, Simon, Shanie, Ross and I took Ben Parker (visiting from Tongabezi for a few days with his family) on a delightful morning gamedrive.

We departed at what I consider the very respectable Sunday morning hour of 8am and drove over the Luangwa Bridge into the Park. In the stunning sunlight we soon came across large numbers of elephant, many with the largest tusks I had seen in the Valley for a long time! Many were grazing happily on all the plentiful food around the place and having a good old mudbath and dirt rub! We noticed many small groups of zebra looking intently at our vehicle from afar (they always look so curious!!) and, surprisingly, quite a lot of lone male impala with enormous horns! This is the time of year when ‘rutting’ occurs….when all the males start jockeying for breeding rights over the herd for the year. There was a lot of males chasing each other away from the feeding group of females and other males looking rather forlorn, alone under the shade of a large bush!

It was lovely to see four kudu in the sun, two of which were quite young. Near the big baobab we suddenly came across two blacksmith plovers who were chirping at us rather loudly on the ground. Simon pointed out that they were protecting their nest..and as I looked down I noticed a single egg lying in the dirt! The nest consisted of a slight depression in the ground for the egg to lie and not much else, offering little protection from anything heavy walking past! It is amazing that these beautiful birds get beyond the hatching stage! Birding enthusiasts will be pleased to know that all the migratory birds are still here, making this time of year all the more exciting. We saw a number of cuckoo on our drive yesterday. Our morning activity ended on the opposite bank to Nkwali where Marcus was waiting for us in the boat. Within 3 minutes we were back in camp and savouring many delights prepared by the kitchen for lunch. A brilliant morning indeed!

This is usually a good time of year to spot wild dog, those rather elusive but beautiful canines. Marcus was the wild dog king last week, with almost daily spottings on gamedrives. During one sighting they witnessed these dogs on a hunt! Simon however, is able to report another very exciting wild dog sighting, on par with his encounter last June. As you might know, just mention wild dog to Simon and he gets all excited!! One morning last week Simon took Paul Joynson-Hicks, the photographer of our wonderful new brochure and in the Valley on a visit, out for one final gamedrive. At that point Paul had never seen a wild dog before and this was the last chance during his visit! Simon knew that they were in the area and about 15 minutes before they were due to return to camp a pack of 3 males and 1 female was found on the Mushalashi riverbed. They drove close and then Simon hopped out of the vehicle, crawling on his hands and knees towards them.


Paul was crouching not very far behind, with camera in hand! Two of the dogs surrounded Simon, looking on with amazing curiosity – ears pricked up – then sat down casually and continued to watch the humans. The other two dogs sat in pools of water not far away, rolling around and cooling off!! Paul snapped away with his camera and had to return to the vehicle at one point for more film! Finally, the pack ran off to go on a hunt and Simon and Paul returned to camp beaming!

Closer to home, the nocturnal activities of elephants have provided campstaff some amusement this week. In the middle of the night a few bulls will take a walk through camp and sometimes take a nap against a termite mound or small incline in the ground. Marcus lives next to a small decline and is sometimes woken to the sounds (and smells) of elephant flatulence and stomach digestion whilst these bulls sleep only metres from his bed! Matthew and Sara awoke suddenly at 4am the other morning to the sound of a big bull elephant having a dream! It was trumpeting every so often, leading Matthew to leap out of bed and shine the torch around. Not far away he noticed the bull asleep with its head against a termite mound and the rest of its big body flat on the ground, twitching and ‘yelping’ like a pet dog does in its sleep! And not the occasional flatulent outburst either!!! One wonders what elephants dream about!!!!

Robin and Jo were very excited to recently receive the following wonderful and encouraging email from an ex pupil of Kawaza School:

Dear Jo and Robin

I have just been reading your It’s Monday! Matter of fact it’s the first time I have visited your website. It’s just great! Keep up the good work!

Guess what? I was a pupil at Kawaza Primary till 1991. I benefited from the support that you gave to the school. From Kawaza, I passed to enter grade 8 at Chassa Secondary School. I actually got the highest score at Kawaza in that year. I completed my secondary school in 1996. I made it to University at the Copperbelt University here in Kitwe where I did my Bachelor of Science and majored in Forestry. I completed last December and will be graduating this year around July. Currently, am working at CopperNET Solutions part-time.

Well, thank you for contributing to my success! I never bought a uniform, books, pens nor pencils whilst at Kawaza Primary. You provided all this.
Thank you very much once again!

Simon Mwewa

It is thanks to everybody who has supported Kawaza School over the years who have helped Simon and others get to where he is today. And how brilliant that he is destined for a career in Forestry – a big plus for Zambia!

Please note that we have just released details for a special family safari package in June for Queen Elizabeth ll’s Golden Jubilee and also special family safari rates for the year – please check our website for details or contact us for details of your nearest Africa Specialist.

Have a great week and take care.

Jeffrey

It’s Monday 29th and the Bridge over the River Kauluzi

Tena Tena from the air - dry season obviously

I’m sitting at my desk on this chilly Monday morning, summarising what I consider to be newsworthy events over the past week. And yes, it is all about the wonderful weather and lots of gameviewing – funny about that!! For instance, word has come through this morning about a sighting of two male leopard and a lion in the bush opposite Nkwali camp! Then I remembered those other camps of ours, Nsefu and Tena Tena, and it occurred to me that not much had been said about them for a wee while! Well of course you will hear lots about them soon enough (only 4 weeks until they open for the 2002 season!) but thought you would be interested to know that camp building IS in progress and everything is running smoothly.

Mr President, otherwise known as Daudi Njobvu, who incidentally sports a fabulous new pair of bright gold-rimmed, dark-spec sunglasses (Hugh Heffner would be very proud!), has relocated to Tena Tena to oversee camp building.

We hear from him several times per day on the radio and all appears to be going well. He tells us that the roads in the Nsefu Sector are very dry and roadworthy already which is great news. However it is getting to the Nsefu sector, beyond Milyoti Gate, where we have encountered a few problems. The Kauluzi River is still flowing so Daudi and all camp building supplies have been crossing the river by boat until now. Kevin tells us that the river is dropping so fast that soon we will no longer be able to boat supplies over.

The river has still too much water to navigate by vehicle so Kevin and his ever-masterful bridge building gang have been hauled into action once again!

The end result will be an engineering triumph of culverts, drums and sandbags!! Once camp building picks up pace in the coming weeks those cruisers, trucks and tractors will be able to travel back and forth with relative ease, and so will our guests in the first part of the dry season. As I type, I am waiving off Kevin as he commences yet another bridge-building folly!

Back to Nkwali and the main Mfuwe area, our guides have been updating their birding knowledge with the help of renown birder Derek Solomon. Derek, who has written a book entitled “Confusing Birds and LBJs” (LBJ is a typical birding term, meaning ‘little brown jobs’!) is visiting the Valley to educate our guides further and impart new information. A three day seminar is currently underway, which Keyala, Marcus, Zebron, Paul, Jacob and Ross are thoroughly enjoying. The guys are obviously very appreciative of this great opportunity and have had some fun out in the Park with Derek…they even spotted a rare dwarf mongoose last night, on their way back to camp.

BoatingYesterday I joined Shanie and her parents Jill and Bruce (visiting from the UK to see their long-lost daughter!) on a lovely afternoon activity. We boated across the river from the Nkwali bar to a waiting vehicle and drove off into the Park – all very quick and civilized! I was astounded to see so many elephant on this one outing – they were dotted all over the plains. Large grey mounds looming above the tall grasses, with the occasional flapping of the ear to confirm their identities! Lots of little ones as well!

We had sundowners by the lagoon next to the Big Baobab and at least six adult elies came down to the edge to drink, completely unfussed by our presence – in the fading orange light it was all very beautiful! On the same outing we drove up to three redbilled hornbills having a dustbath in the middle of the road, lowering their bodies onto the ground and ‘kicking up a storm’ of dust. At sunset we also saw about six abdim’s storks flying overhead…soon they will head north for the European summer. And seen through the thick bush we saw a large buffalo herd…it sounded like there were hundreds of them with all the branch snapping and synchronized mooing going on!

Sighting of the week certainly went to Simon, Shanie, Jill and Bruce on Saturday during a morning walk. As they approached the Katete riverbed they could seen two male lion, both fast asleep, one was lying with its legs in the air! They stirred awake with the walkers watching from a safe distance.

The lion didn’t know what was happening… groggy eyed, they looked at the walkers and then skulked off into the grass. A very exciting morning! Along the way they enjoyed some excellent birding, including the rarely seen purple banded sunbird and a cut-throat finch. In the early evening they also saw a beautiful spotted eagle owl and a spotted dikkop, both uncommonly seen in the area. An excellent day for birding enthusiasts!

Keyela and Zebron

Marcus, along with Keyela, Zebron and Alfred the scout, have been continuing often-requested fishing activities. Last week saw Nkwali booked up by a large group from the UK, out for a Lusaka wedding and a quick introduction to the African bush. They found much enjoyment from sundowners and fishing….most of the time opting for a combination of the two over a late afternoon drive or walk. These guys RAVED about the fishing…what they caught, what they saw whilst fishing, how relaxing it was etc etc but, as you do when fishing, mostly about what they caught!

Such a lot to do and see in April at Nkwali!!

Have a great week.

Cheers
Jeffrey

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