It’s August 2003 and …

It’s August 2003 and …

It’s Monday 4th and good advice?

Shanie here.

The honour of writing It’s Monday has fallen to me this week (my first in three years – does this tell you something?) as Kim is currently on her way back from Lusaka. She and Adam, our workshop manager, are doing battle with the Zambian roads as I write and are driving up two new (well secondhand actually) vehicles from Lusaka.

So what news from the bushes this week – Simon and I went up to Tena and Nsefu to check on how the camps are doing and have our usual end of month meetings. I so love getting up into the bush and always enjoy my visits to Tena where I did my first season. The camps are both looking lovely and it was interesting to see how much drier the bush is in the Nsefu sector compared with around Nkwali.

During our stay at Nsefu we met up with a very regular guest, Paul Deniger, (it is his 16th? visit to RPS this year), who is staying here with his daughter and grandson. Simon and Ed took them out for their evening drive whilst Claire and I held the fort in camp and put the world to rights over a glass of white wine or two! They had the most amazing drive with good sightings of a whitebacked night heron fishing at croc bridge and porcupine scuttling through the grasses.

The climax of the evening however was watching a pride of lions stalk and kill an impala at the stork colony. A lioness singled out an impala and chased it into a gully, where it fell and was quickly killed by her. Just as she dragged the body out of the gully a big dark maned male lion came over and stole the kill. She offered little resistance and displayed a range of submissive behaviour. Shortly afterwards the cubs came bounding over expecting dinner only to discover impala was no longer on the menu! They tried several times to eat some of the carcass but the male lion simply batted them away. It was an amazing display of pride relationships and behaviour (including male pride!).

Simon was not surprised to see a kill on a drive with Paul Deniger – the reason why? His nickname is not “Doctor Death” for nothing. For some strange reason Paul has this amazing abililty to see kills on his visits to us …… luck that he seems to have passed on to his grandson who when we saw him had seen two kills in his first two nights in the Luangwa Valley.

Tena had a rare night with no guests in camp on Saturday and the staff took the opportunity to take a break before the beginning of our busiest August ever! Ryan, our pilot and a friend went up to stay at the camp and they all spent the afternoon fishing on the banks of the river. I am pleased to report that the girls came out on top in the fishing competition. I think the male members of the party may have been concentrating too hard on making sure that the beers didn’t get warm to give the fishing their full concentration!

I will leave you this week with a gem of advice from Keyala, Nkwali’s camp manager. During a discussion in the cage (staff dining room) over lunch the subject of health and travel insurance came up, as living in this part of the world it is important to be well insured. Keyala was horrified to hear how much Ed is paying for his insurance. His solution was that ” I think it is best to pray, not pay”….. I leave it up you to make up your own minds.

Stay well and have a good week

It’s Monday 11th and minibus mania

Yes I am back after a couple of weeks break from writing to you all.
Adam and I arrived home from our road trip last Monday afternoon in more or less one piece. We started off by flying down to Lusaka on the Thursday and jumping into a taxi and heading straight to the centre of the universe which in Lusaka is Manda Hills Shopping Centre. Lunch called and after being overwhelmed by the choices on a menu at the local “Irish” Bar I feasted on huge Tiger Prawns -such a treat. We then spent the next 2 days racing around the city trying to get everything on the rather long shopping list which had been given to us by Robin and Jo – everything from electrical cable to deodorant. I, of course, had to fit in a much needed hair cut, althought the dreamed of facial, massage and manicure will have to wait for next time!

So to the vehicles – yes we are leading the way in the valley by being the first camp to purchase minibuses to transport our guests to and from the airport. Well everyone calls them minibus’s but they are infact rather luxourious Mitsubishi people carriers. Therefore now all can have heating on those chilly July mornings and aircon for the mid day rush in the heat of October. Contrary to current rumour we are not spraying them with Zebra stripes and the motivation to buy them was in no way influenced by the staff wishing to travel to the local watering hole in warm comfort during the winter!

The drive back went smoothly some what to the surprise of Adam. I am used to driving in cities having spent four years driving around Paris. However, my somewhat nippy driving in Lusaka did not impress Adam who sat me down and gave me a stern talking to about the dangers of driving in Africa. So we set off and I was very good (as always on the open road – we all know that women are in fact the better drivers). We took the drive at a leisurely pace. The only incident being a bus who wanted to play “chicken” with me as leader of the convoy and on a long stretch just drove straight towards me. Luckily he came to his senses – no one messes with RPS women….before doing any damage.

We arrived at Nkwali and were instantly surrounded by what seemed like the whole of the male staff in the camp who were all diving into the engines and seeing how the aircon worked etc. whist the ladies commented on the colour of the curtains (promtly removed) and of course my fabulous new haircut!! “Delila” is now based at Nsefu and Tena Tena and “Lara” at Nkwali.

Game viewing has been good this week at all of the camps with Tena Tena reporting their first sightings of the season of both yellow billed kites and a warlbergs eagle. John also saw the male and female leopard together which had been around the area last season and who now must be about 2 years old.

Shanie is now busy in the garden and excited by the stawberries and lettuce which are doing very well. However, the chickens are causing some concern as they seem to have developed “lumpy” feet – any chicken experts out there please send your diagnosis to us!!

Stay well and have a great week

It’s Monday 18th and raining mongooses.

Things hotting up here in the bush. Temperatures are rising and we are tempted to pack our fleeces away although the odd cool evening is still popping up now and then.

The leaves are falling off the trees at a phenomenal rate and the camp staff are busy clearing paths for us at the back. It looks rather like clearing paths in the snow. It does seem strange having autumn colours as in fact we are going into spring. As the August winds blow the sound of the leaves falling can easily be mistaken for the vervet monkeys playing catch in the trees.

Saturday was Ross’ birthday and he happened to be at Nkwali on a few days off, so we had a little gathering on the river bank in front of Simon and Shanie’s house. The obligatory Braai naturally saw the men doing the cooking for once but Kate made a lovely chocolate pud – with candles of course and a few glasses of vino made for a merry evening and slow start to Sunday morning..

Luangwa Piper - photo by Mike CollettAs a special treat for us Ross agreed to play his bag pipes in camp whilst we had sundowners. The haunting sound really was amazing and we did not get any complaints from other camps so hopefully the sound did not carry into the park which would no doubt have caused some confusion. The waiters were busy setting up the table for dinner and could not quite make out what this strange instrument was. The only “person” who did not appreciate the playing was the camp cat who ran off to a reasonable distance and started yowling.

As you all know we do our best to satisfy our guest’s requests but this week the guys at Nsefu out did themselves. A lovely honeymoon couple had said at tea time that they would like to see 2 male lions. Happy to oblige, Ed found them a beautiful pair before sundowners. Feeling quite pleased with himself he asked if they had any other requests, where upon Matt and Nicky said that they would like to see 3 pink female lions tap dancing! OK -challenge on…

Not long after they spotted a leopard stalking a puku. Turning the lights off so as not to interfere, they waited a few minutes to see what would happen. The leopard suddenly disappeared into the long grass and 2 lionesses came running towards them – passing at speed one on each side of the vehicle. Once the spot light was turned back on they saw that this pair had herded a puku into the jaws of their waiting friend – hence 3 lionesses – after attacking dinner they were also pretty pink but unfortunately too full for any tap dancing!! Not a bad effort.

On another occasion at Nsefu, guests were out on a walk and passed under a large tree. All of a sudden a rush of banded mongoose hurled themselves out of a hole high up in the tree and came raining down all around the walkers. Looking somewhat stunned they shook themselves and scampered off into the bush leaving the guests a little bewildered.

Simon has just come back from a mobile trip and had a lovely time with the guests up there. They were lucky enough to come across a pride of lions on a buffalo kill close to Camp 2 at Croc Stream which is on the edge of the Chifungwe plain. Simon was back for one night and then off to Nsefu to cover for Ed who is having a break. Hence Shanie is now a safari widow!

Stay well and have a great week

It’s Monday 25th and Honeys in Heaven

Love is in the air at the Nkwali – no I have not been swept away on a wave of romance, induced by a handsome hunk of a safari guide whispering sweet nothings in my ear – oops getting carried away now….. Let’s talk animals – they seem to spend their time mating, fighting or eating and our guests have had some splendid sightings of all of these in the past week – well not much fighting actually but the three sound better together!

Leopard photo by Mike CollettNkwali have had two amazing views of different leopards mating – quite an unusual sight in itself but these were separate sightings on the same evening – something to do with the Red Planet hurtling toward us maybe – more of that later! It is not uncommon for lions to be spotted mating, but, although Leopards tend to mate more frequently in a set time period, they are less demonstrative as they move around rather than staying in pretty much the same place so are harder to spot.

However, the most spectacular mating award goes to Jacob at Nsefu who found a pair of honey badgers so engrossed that the lucky clients managed to watch them for some time – a rare opportunity in itself but since none of the other guides have seen this spectacle, Jacob is quite rightly pretty chuffed with himself.

Photo by Mike Collett In the same vein, Ross at Tena Tena and regulars Mike and Fiona Collett and Peter and Helga Stoer had the extraordinary good luck to come across a baby elephant at Lunga Lagoon which had just been born – it was still wet and was unable to stand so must have been less than an hour or so old. They watched this wonderful sight for some time before moving away. Guests returned in the afternoon but there was no sign. It is incredible how quickly animals get up and moving after birth and this particular elephant sighting will no doubt remain a special moment these lucky guests will not forget for awhile.

Mars is going to be at its closest to Earth for at least the last 5000 years (scientists say it could be 60,000 years) on 27th August. As luck would have it Nkwali is going to be empty that night (the only night in the season) and so Shanie and I feel duty bound to mark the occasion with a Valley All sundowner party. Jo is away at the moment but we are sure she would feel that we were being remiss if we did not mark this special night with a bit of a bash – Mars Bars have been ordered of course and we are working on Red snacks (most involving Beetroot!!), a red cocktail and beer with cochineal for the unadventurous bush types!! As the planet does not reach it’s closest until around 1230 a.m., I fear a long night and a few fuzzy heads the next day. Apologies in advance to anyone arriving at Nkwali on 28th if you are welcomed by a caterer in dark glasses with an ice pack pressed to her temple! (Only joking JO….)

Stay well and have a great week

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