It’s April 2003 and …

It’s April 2003 and …

It’s Monday 7th and Nkwali springs to life

Hope we find you well wherever you are. Here at Nkwali the sun is shining, the blue sky is dotted with high cloud and all is well. I have just returned from a weekend in the park and lots of great sightings.

We left by boat on Saturday morning and headed up the river. Although the water level is dropping there is still plenty of depth for boating. On the way we saw some of the biggest Crocodile I have ever seen, one of them spotted 2 Egyptian Goslings swimming from one side of the river to the other, however, in mid stream the croc was gaining on them and we almost saw a kill. Happily the little fellows made a mad dash for a pod of hippos and in the general mayhem they managed to escape the jaws which where hot on their heels.

We slept the night at Kaingo Camp and then headed out early the next day for a walk. Crowned CraneThis turned into a pretty muddy affairs but none the less a great morning. We soon saw vultures circling overhead and set off in the direction to see what was afoot. However, the vegetation was thick and it was decided prudent to call it a day and leave what we are going to say was a lion kill to peace and quiet. However, we soon spotted a herd of about 50 buffalo with quite a few young calves quietly grazing and sat and watched them so for time. Then it was onward on what turned out to be a bit of a birding experience. I saw several new birds for me including, Woolynecked Storks, Green Pigeon and Knobbilled Ducks. We also saw a flock of Southern Crowned Cranes – what a lovely sound they make as they call to each other.

In the afternoon we set off to visit John and Carol Coppinger at Tafika, on the way we passed a sand bar, which was literally awash with Cattle Egrets. At the end of the bar we spotted a pair of African Skimmers, who of course took off before I could get my camera sorted out.

After tea at Tafika we set off back to camp and then home this morning. It was a good trip and served to remind me of how much I love being in the Park. I am now full of energy and revitalised for the week ahead in front of my computer, although Simon has kindly cut back a tree in front of the office so I now have a wonderful view of the river without having to get a stiff neck.

Back at Nkwali the season is well underway. Guests are arriving thick and fast and it is great to see the camp full and vibrant again. The game viewing has been superb with Wild Dog being seen on about 3 out of 5 game drives although this can not last it is great for the guests who have had the chance to see them. The cats have also been strongly in evidence with Marcus and guests seeing 2 leopard together in day light – they spent about an hour sitting with them, quite a treat. Lion have also put in appearances. One group of guests actually holding their collective breath as 2 lion walked each side of their vehicle.

Another interesting sight for those who like snakes was a python on the road at the back of camp – only a small one about 5ft long. We have also been seeing Hyenas at the back of camp and hearing them at night I sound that I like almost as much as lion calling.

Camp building at Tena Tena is about to begin – Simon went up the river this week with bags of cement – usually the first sign of imminent activity and I am sure the supplies will be flowing up the river regularly from now until we can get in with vehicles sometime in May.

With many familiar faces starting to trickle back to the valley it has also been a social time and great to welcome everyone back. Plenty of catching up was done last week and will I am sure continue with welcome back parties in full force.

Stay well and have a great week.

Cheers
Kim

It’s Monday 14th and Marcus the Fisherman is back

Well this has been a red letter week for me. Simon took me out into the park as there was a rumour that Wild Dog were about and low and behold after about 30 mins I had my first sighting. In fact we saw 4 criss-crossing the road. They were hunting and the rest of the pack were in the long grass at the side of the road and so we were unable to see them, but what beautiful animals. These dogs were apparently darker in colour than the average, but they really were a sight and I can now appreciate what all the fuss is about. After our sighting Simon and I headed for home – well via a watering hole for a little celebratory mosi!

Meanwhile, Jacob and his guests continued on the trail of the dogs and came across what must be one of the rarer photo opportunities of the season so far. They actually saw Wild Dog, Leopard and Lion – all in the same photo frame.

It appears that the dogs had stolen the leopards kill and a young male lion had just strolled up to see what was going on – extraordinary.

Woodland Kingfisher

On the birding side of things we have seen plenty of activity centred around the river with lovely views of White Faced Whistling Ducks and African Skimmers. Now that the river is dropping, lagoons are forming providing a haven form waders such as crakes and gallinules. We have also seen some fluffy Crowned Crane babes and we have a Giant Kingfisher nesting just along the bank from the camp.

Jo has had friends to stay this week and has managed to get out and about with them quite a bit. Here follows a report on one of their little jaunts.

Staying with us for this week is the Little family. I was at school with Kate and we have managed to stay friends despite such very different lives that we lead. It is their first time to Africa – so I am loving watching their reaction to everything. Yesterday Robin and I took them off to Tundwe Lagoon – some 2 hours south of us – for a picnic and a spot of fishing. The fishing rights belong to the Chief so we had to drop in at His Royal Highness, The Honourable Chief Kakumbi, to get a letter (after paying a fee of kwacha 50,000 – USD 10) saying we could fish there.

Next stop was at the Chipembele Educational Centre – where the 5 “pet” warthogs and the orphaned baby vervet monkey jumping from person to person enthralled the kids. We were warned about the road deteriorating for the next 5 miles before the lagoon. And it did – inching along in 4 wheel drive and 1st or 2nd gear – I did explain that this was the main road south. The boys were amazed! Sure – terrible road, but like so much here – it is seasonal.

We arrive at last (20 km – 2 hours driving), found a spot and set up the picnic. Shanie and the chefs, as always, had excelled. The lagoon is massive and lined by ebony, acacia and palm trees. Quite lovely. The kids fished and Marcus ran from line to line helping them. He certainly won the “patience” award. Kate and I sat chatting as only women can do and Robin and Brian watched on. Lazy hazy day. And only a small catfish caught. Brian said he would give it a go and much to the annoyance of the others with his first cast – he caught a HUGE catfish. “Dad – typical”. Then within another 5 minutes he had caught another!

All afternoon we were watching two huge bull elephants slowly meandering down the opposite side of the lagoon, feeding and tussling. They decided to cross the lagoon and this was going to cut us off. A mad rush ensued to get packed up and out! And so back home we bumped, some were burnt, some were bitten but a lovely African picnic was had.

Stay well and have a great week.

Cheers
Kim

It’s Monday 21st and Shanie has a close encounter

Another glorious week in the valley. Blue skys and hot days, however, the evenings have been chilly and Shanie and I have had to dig out our jumpers.
Preparing dinnerGuests find this quite odd as they sit around the bar in shirt sleeves whilst we are hugging our fleeces. I think that our blood must have thinned! However, the clear night skies have given us some spectacular views of the stars and the milky way is just amazing – especially when viewed through binos as one guest suggested – more stars than sky!

Full moon come last week and we had a lovely meal by the river with so much light that we hardly needed the hurricane lamps. The bush really seems magical at this time of the month.

Game viewing has had a few highlight this week especially one memorable trip with Marcus. Firstly, he spotted a Frecked Nightjar – an uncommon bird to see in the park and then on the way back to camp a Serval was seen. The serval is a resident but is rarely seen, however, 2 different drives had sightings this last week with Paul being the first to show the lovely little cat to his guests. On the second occasion we were luck enough to sit and watch the animal for about 10 minutes as he ambled along, totally un phased by the spot light and camera flashes.

Mother and Baby (at Nkwali)Elephants have been around in numbers and JO and her friends, who had come to stay with us for a week, had a heart stopping moment. They were parked by a lagoon watching a very young elly wallowing around in the water. Suddenly a crocodile lunged at it’s face and the startled baby screamed. The rest of the herd instantly surrounded the baby, trumpeting and screaming loudly. One young bull rushed up the bank to keep an eye on us – and we backed off. No further sign of the croc! And within 3 minutes the scene was peaceful again. Amazing how these moments are so sudden.

Simon and Shanie went off to visit friends last night. Whilst driving back a huge (Shanies description) male Lion walked right past the vehicle almost ticking Shanie with its tail. Shanie is normally chained to the kitchen so not used to such close encounters! However, she says that the adrenaline rush was well worth it as the lion was beautiful with a lovely thick dark mane.

They also followed a Porcupine along the road displaying his impressive quills as he wiggled his way into the bush.

Shanie has been doing a sterling job of organising children’s events this week. Being Easter weekend we have had a camp full of families. The children have been doing all sorts of fun activities. They had a visit to Kawaza village where they proceeded to teach the local children how to do cats cradle and double double ( a modern form of pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake) which went down very well. They then went to visit the Chipembele Wildlife Centre where they were introduced to the resident Warthogs and rescued Vervet Monkey before visiting the education centre to learn about spores and seedpods amongst other things. The children’s safari culminated in a special Easter Egg Hunt organised by Ed and Shanie. The children were given safari related questions which led them to the next clue and great fun was had zooming around the camp looking for the eggs.

Wild Dog on Christmas Day John and Jill Whillock visited Nkwali last Christmas. Initially they were skeptical about coming out in the rains but after talking to JO around the camp fire were persuaded that it was a different but excellent time of year to go on safari in the Luangwa. They have sent a fascinating report on their experience of a Green Season safari – including seeing Wild Dog on Christmas morning.

Well I am handing over to JO now who is going to give you a weekly update on progress with the renovations at Robin’s House.

Stay well and have a great week.
Cheers
Kim

ROBIN’S HOUSE
Everyone thought that converting our house for guests would be a simple job. Think again. It is a considerable building project that Robin is overseeing. Each day Robin and I go down for a site inspection and decision making. Where are we going to put the shower? How wide should the verandah be? No plans have been drawn and neither of us are experts – it is an evolving project. So I am going to give you the weekly update. By next week we hope to have a photo with the report – once I have worked out how to load the digital camera photos onto the computer (I’ve had it for a year admittedly!).

We had a couple of architects and an engineer here last week. All three have said “interesting roof design”. – We think it’s great.

I am planning all the furniture and interior bits and pieces. I am NOT a homemaker and never have been. It is a valley joke that the house was originally built without a kitchen. I never cook so why build a kitchen!

But I work hard on getting all the details right for the guest rooms. After drawing the furniture designs – admittedly cribbing from a catalogue – Robin and I drove the 70 km down the bush roads to Chickowa Mission – where some Italian Fathers run a carpentry shop. It was a lovely day and the bush was full of seeding grasses and carpets of flowers. On the way back we stopped repeatedly to collect them – for wedding decorations later in the year (yes – we organise weddings here!). It has been a long time since Robin and I have had a quiet, daisy picking day together!

So until next week….
All the best
Jo

It’s Monday 28th and a headless chicken

Nkwali chickens Simon here – Kim is off and Jo is doing her impersonation of a chicken with a vital part missing! So I am going to tell all about the week.

Well, it’s been another really busy week in the bush. The game viewing has been fantastic, as always. I know that we have been mentioning the wilddogs recently but one cannot help it as it is really wonderful to have them around.

We have been seeing 2 packs – one of 10 dogs and another of 12 dogs. Over the last few days we have had some really good sightings of the pack of 12. They have been seen most recently across from Nkwali, on the Katete sand river. Two days ago both Ed and Keyala had wonderful morning drives with sightings of the dogs. Ed, doing his bit for research, managed to scoop up some very fresh wilddog droppings! The plan was to freeze them and then get them to the researcher as soon as the opportunity arose. Ed had not banked on the stern resistance from Shanie, when asking for space in her freezer for the fresh dung samples! As expected Shanie won and the droppings had to be kept elsewhere overnight and shipped off first thing the next morning!!

Also seen were a pair of young, powerful, nomadic male lions as well as a lovely sighting of a young leopard. The 2 lions have not been seen before and should provide interesting viewing over the coming few weeks as there are 2 lionesses and their 2 young cubs regularly seen found in the area. Hopefully the 2 females will take kindly to the 2 boys and visa versa!! The young leopard is cub that was born mid season last year.

Jacob was out on an all day picnic drive yesterday with 2 guests and had a fantastic day. There is always something going on out there and they spent quite a bit of time watching the impala, who are in mid rutting season. Testosterone levels are high amongst the male impala they spend their days charging around after each other vying for the females, who seem to take little notice of the fiasco going on around them!

The highlights of their day included watching the pack of 12 wilddog hunting whilst they had their sundowners and 3 leopard, 2 of which were seen in the daylight hours! The first was during the start of the day – on a walk – and they come across the leopard drinking at a lagoon. Sitting quietly they went undetected and the leopard finished the drink. What a sight.

The ebony trees are coming into fruit right now and we are constantly subjected to an array of bird calls around camp as the first of the fruits start to ripen. It won’t be long before we have the elephants in camp competing for the fruits as well!

So all the best
from Simon

ROBIN’S HOUSE
UPDATE BY JO
Robin and I flew into town on Friday late afternoon in order to go to the monthly craft fair in Lusaka. I had been trying to organise by telephone various people to make furniture, bedcovers, rugs etc for Robin’s House but without success. The only way was to make a dash to Lusaka for the day.

Saturday found us at the market all morning discussing designs, choosing colours, bargaining on prices! I came away on a great high as we had achieved all we had set out to do. I flew MTC (my plane) back to Mfuwe at 0700 the next morning. Nothing like a shopping trip!

Progress on the house seems to go forward and then it plateaus! Not much happened whilst I was away but I forget that I was away for only 1 day and it
was a weekend anyway! Seemed like a long time. We are now starting on the
thatching – a mammoth task that will take 4-6 weeks (we have 8!) by Arnold and his team. More negotiation by Simon today – and once he had broken down Arnold’s price to a man – month rate, Arnold said “that’s quite a lot” and promptly dropped the price by 25%. Ho hum.

That’s it for this week. Have a wonderful week.

Cheers
JO

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