It’s August 2001 and …

It’s Monday 6th and North Luangwa wilderness

Chris and Linda Cotton from the UK are great regular RPS guests and obviously avid readers of It’s Monday! They were our first guests to book a walking safari at Kutandala in North Luangwa so we asked them to write about their experience. Considering that this year we have many guests who are booking Kutandala in combination with a stay at RPS camps and that we are offering set departures next year which includes Kutandala there was much anticipation surrounding the arrival of Chris and Linda’s report! We are very excited to include below their full feedback.

“It’s Monday works! We wanted to come back to Zambia this year and we wanted to come back to RPS but the dates just weren’t matching up. Then It’s Monday arrived and with it an exciting opportunity…a walking safari with an RPS ‘stamp of approval’ on dates we could make. We booked within the week. Now looking back on our visit I would like to offer a guest’s perspective on this new venture.

Landing strip

We were the only guests for the 4 days we spent at Kutandala, and that invariably has an impact on the dynamics, but with only capacity for six guests the experience will always be very personal and afford a sense of exclusiveness. ‘Exclusive’ is a common thread which runs through the whole experience – you arrive via a bush airstrip into a park the size of many countries and yet it only contains three camps! Imagine only 24 guests in the whole national park – that’s pretty exclusive! You can drive or walk for days and not meet another human being and at times this sense of isolation was almost palpable. The camp itself supports this feeling. The accommodation huts are spread out along a river bank giving lots of space and privacy whilst the dining areas (one by the river and another a few paces back) are deliberately and delightfully low key affairs…typical of a bushcamp.

Fish eagle by lagoon on the drive to the confluence of the Luangwa & Mwaleshi Rivers

Rod and Gus, who own and operate Kutandala Camp, clearly care passionately about what they do and about the restoration work which has brought North Luangwa back from the brink. This ‘passion’ manifests itself both in and out of camp. In camp Gus has managed (against increadible logistical odds) to produce meals of the highest quality and variety. The accommodation is a step above your average bush camp – fine river sand rather than swept clay is used to form the floor in the bathroom and there are no long drop loos!

Out of camp, Rod’s depth of local knowledge and enthusiasm for all things ecological meant that the guiding experience was always informative and fresh.

Rod leading walks last year

The Kutandala safari is based almost exclusively on walking. During an average day we would walk for around 5 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the late afternoon, generally starting and finishing from camp, but occasionally driving to a starting point which enabled us to reach a particular beauty spot.

So where is the drawback? In so far as one would definately go back again, there isn’t one, but any visitor to the North Luangwa has to accept that the variety and quantity of game is going to be less than that which one might expect to see in South Luangwa. Also this is not a stopover venue but a destination where one needs time to adjust to the wilderness experience which is Kutandala.”
Linda & Chris Cotton

Next week….a DOUBLE dose of gameviewing. There is much to tell!!

All the best

It’s Monday 13th and return of the carmine bee-eaters

Finally I think we could safely say that winter is over! Well, as far as one does experience winter in the Luangwa Valley anyway! It is now quite warm through the day and it is very dry indeed. As the wind picks up it sounds like heavy rain outside but in fact it is just a large dumping of sausage tree leaves! Quite strong winds this week and the sky appears creamy-blue even though there are no clouds overhead – it is also very very hazy! The river continues to drop but it is still higher than it was one year ago. Boating from Nkwali to the other side of the river now involves a walk over to Robin and Jo’s house where the water is deeper rather than directly in front of the bar.

Carmin bee-eaters

Another delightful sign that things are warming up is the return of the carmine bee-eaters….in force! Simon has noticed these beautiful birds undertaking low fly-bys along the river, in search of a suitable nesting site. We have no doubt that soon the colony will be nesting again right in front of camp. When the nests are created this one section of the river-bank wall resembles an ancient civilisation carved into rock – hundreds of nesting holes bored into the wall of the river-bank! The carmine bee-eaters spend the entire day flying to and from these nesting holes – very exciting to watch.

Elephant are moving through Nkwali in increasing numbers! They are a daily occurance down at the lagoon to drink and bathe – brilliant game viewing from camp! The little ones are particularly cute! Then they wander through camp eating all the ebony fruits within reach of an outstretched trunk. I looked into Jo’s office the other day and noticed a photo-shoot taking place with Jo at the computer and two elephant within feet of her on the other side of the window – proving that is was just another day at the office! Results will appear on our website soon. And in BREAKING news this morning I am sitting here typing away (honestly I am!!) with mother elephant and two of her offspring just outside the window. I have NEVER been this close to elephant before – I could touch them with my outstretched hand if I really wanted to!


I can closely examine their skin and notice what long eyelashes they have!! They appear oblivious to my close proximity as they concentrate on the ebony fruits about the office!

It has been a fortnight of daily lion and leopard sightings! Simon’s last walking mobile safari group encountered lion hunting buffalo during one of their walks. They didn’t want to disturb the hunt so they got out of the way quickly – something was about to happen and they didn’t want to be in the middle! Back at camp everybody were kept awake that night when nine lion killed a buffalo not far away. The roaring that ensued was so loud nobody wanted to sleep for fear of missing something!

Robin’s latest mobile saw some most unusual wildlife. Along with lion his group saw wild dog at the Mupamadzi (a first?), the first giraffe in ten years in that area, a huge male eland, hartebeest and roan. Amazing!!

Jason Alfonsi has reported that guests on his five night Mupamadzi Walking Safari have enjoyed lion daily, except for one walk, and four sightings of wild dog in two days at Luwi!! Speaking of wild dog, I have just seen some blown-up photos of the group of wild dog that were opposite Nkwali back in June – such beautiful animals. They looked as though they were completely intrigued by the humans watching them.

Lunching at Tena Tena this week included watching 11 lion stalking zebra on the opposite bank! Shortly after lunch the lion took two zebra. Everybody went to investigate later in the afternoon and stayed for many hours watching.


Simon missed out on hosting some of our regular guests at Nkwali whilst he was on a walking safari so decided to visit them at Nsefu and take them on an afternoon gamedrive. They came across a mother leopard with her nine month-old cub. Mother went and sat on top of an old termite mound whilst the cub darted across the road in front of the vehicle and proceeded to terrorise the monkeys that had been scolding them! Without any hesitation the cub chased them up a tree. It was hilarious to watch one particular monkey sitting on a branch looking down at the cub who had no chance of taking matters any further. Mother obviously thought this was good practice for her little one but soon grew bored of watching the proceedings. She called the cub to return to her side not once but several times. The first few calls were ignored but then mother had had enough and, with a more forceful call, down came the cub! The leopard disappeared and the gamedrive continued. Only about 2 hours later they came across the same mother and cub who had by that time covered a few kilometres of territory – amazing how far they can move!

Looking forward to further gameviewing reports next week. Until then best wishes to all.


It’s Monday 20th and the leopards keep on coming

Nsefu has had the most incredible run of leopards. This beautiful animal has the reputation of being one of the more elusive creatures in Africa. South Luangwa has a well earned reputation for good leopard sightings but Nsefu most be breaking all records at the moment. Nsefu has always been a hot spot for leopard but this has been the longest run of good sightings. Paul, a regular guest who stays with us for 3-4 weeks every year (and this was his 14th safari with us) saw 23 leopards sightings in 25 days – mostly at Nsefu. Nearly half of them were in the daylight. Noodles reports that in the last 6 days she has seen 4 leopards from camp during the day. This is not an explosion of the spotted cat population but a few individuals who are showing themselves. Wonderful.


Jacob of Nsefu is also on a personal run – with 3 kills in 3 nights: serval killing a franklin in front of the vehicle, 7 lion on an impala and a leopard up a tree with an impala. Although we do not chase for kills, it is interesting gameviewing when you come across them.

The first steps of a new born zebra were witnessed by Zebron and a group of guests staying at Nkwali. Quoted from the gameviewing book at camp ….”on the ground, struggling to get out of the sac. It kicked it’s front legs free as the mother encouraged it by gently licking it’s face and neck. Little by little the foal forced it’s way free and made it’s first tentative attempts to stand. The front legs went forwards, the rear ones tried to balance but failed and the foal fell back to the sandy soil”. They watched the foal slowly strengthen and finally stand and totter off close to the mother.


It was Noodles birthday this week and someone sent her a musical card – when opened it sang “Happy Birthday”. As she opened the card in the kitchen, the faces of the staff showed pure amazement. Then shrieks of laughter as they inspected the “paper that holds magic” and “sings”. Think about it – so much of what we take for granted could be seen as magic.

The swimming pool at Nkwali is finally coming into it’s own as the temperatures start to rise considerably. The guests are loving it. I have been swimming daily throughout the winter but mostly alone as everyone says “too cold!”. Wimps, I say. But now they are joining me. The only problem has been the mother elly and her two babes that are in camp all day often block the path to the pool during my siesta time (swimming time).

The RATS helping a lioness

Tena Tena has had two sets of mating lion near camp and the nights have been very noisy. Sadly one of the female lions has a snare around her neck and we are arranging to get the RATS (Honorary Rangers – Rapid Action Team) up to help tranquillise her and remove the snare. One of the ways we are raising money for the RATS is selling a CD that has wonderful recordings of the sounds on the Luangwa. Produced by a guide working in the Valley it has recordings of birds, lions roaring, hippos grunting, baboons barking etc etc.

A few points:

    The bush camps at Nsefu Walking Trails now have ensuite flush loos. This safari is a week long, Nkwali 2 nights, 3 nights walking at Chibembe bushcamps and then 2 nights Nsefu. The bushcamps are situated in an area of the park where the Luangwa River is changing course dramatically and the resulting lagoons and channels create a wonderful walking area. And all with flush loos! Just imagine!!
    You have to pay USD 5 for each domestic flight departure in Zambia. Worth having the change.

So that is it for this week. Jeffrey is in Lilongwe for the weekend for a party (fancy dress party “Almost Queen”) – I cannot wait to hear what he got up to and I suspect that it will be censored off It’s Monday next week. We shall see.

Take care and have a wonderful week

It’s Monday 27th and the snared lion is saved!

My visit to Lilongwe last weekend, as Jo mentioned, was to attend a concert. It was not fancy dress…rather it was a Queen cover band from Zimbabwe and it was all rather hilarious. The lead singer certainly looked the part with the Freddy Mercury moustache and 70’s outfits although we all agreed that his pants were just not tight enough! There is a large expat community in Lilongwe and everybody appeared to be really enjoying the show, along with the various cuisines represented by local African & Indian restauranteurs. The whole experience was far removed from the usual quiet beer around the campfire! One of the highlights for me was dining at a Chinese restaurant where the interior decoration was a very ‘subtle’ combination of oriental paintings and wood carved giraffes!

Back in the Valley our guides and guests have come across some amazing sights. Gameviewers out with Zebron were driving along a track when in front of their path appeared a buffalo being eaten alive by hyena – an increadible sight! The beast had been maimed by lion but the hyena had been able to take over and what was on view was quite gruesome. In a seperate buffalo attack, Marcus and guests witnessed another buffalo which had about seven lion on top of it! This buffalo was not giving up without a huge fight and one unfortunate young male lion was impaled by the buffalo’s horn and flung off into the dirt! Marcus said it was quite amazing to see this lion fly through the air! It was a sad ending however…the next day Marcus came back to the same spot and found that the young lion had died from its injuries. Lion might be king but they do live in a tough world!

Elephants at Nkwali

You will be pleased to know that the three elephant (mum and her two offspring) have been visiting us almost three times per day since I last wrote! I often look up from my computer to find their heads bobbing up and down below the window!! They are so calm and obviously like being around the camp but when the ebony fruits finish I fear that they will move on to ‘greener pastures’! They have been spotted by the kitchen, in the lagoon, walking past the bar, blocking the path to the pool and blocking the path to arriving guests who resorted to taking the staff entrance into camp!! Yesterday I had to shout various messages about guests expecting to arrive at any minute to Shanie, who was standing a long way off behind a staff house – she couldn’t get any closer to the office! Guests at Nkwali have been witness lately to 10 elephant in the lagoon by the dining room and a heavily pregnant warthog who thinks nothing of wandering past everybody at lunchtime!

Carmine Bee-Eaters

Tena Tena has also seen the arrival of the beautiful carmine bee-eaters. In fact it is thought that there are about 200 of them checking out potential nesting spots in the river-bank wall at present! Also, included in the continuing high number of leopard sightings this week…a mother and her TINY cub! The cub was behaving just like a kitten in full play mode as they walked down the road in front of the gameviewing vehicle. We can now report that there has been 2 sightings of wild dog at the Mupamadzi – we had not seen any in over eight years until recently and now we have had 2 in about one month!

RATS Rangers treat a lioness

There is a happy ending for the female lion with a snare around her neck. The Honorary Rangers were able to locate the lion near Tena Tena, dart her and remove the snare. It was a big job however! Daudi stayed with the lion until the Honorary Rangers arrived. After darting her they ran after her, lost her for a while then found her collapsed in the full hot sun. They were pleased to find that the snare had already come off so they just had to clean up the 2 large wounds and injected her with antibiotics. It would be two hours before she would wake up so they covered her with a wet blanket to reduce dehydration and cut up some branches to provide shading. Daudi stayed with her until she woke up and within minutes all was well – mission successful! We are so very pleased that the Honorary Rangers are able to provide this service and to do so quickly!

Have a brilliant week!

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