It’s December 2003 and …

It’s December 2003 and …

It’s Monday 1st and the Aardvark

Yes we have really seen an Aardvark. I use the term loosely as I did not see if unfortunately. Paul was driving back from an evening gamedrive and came to Robin’s Bridge. Being close to camp the guests had already packed up their camera equipment and were anticipating drinks at the bar. Just after crossing there was the Aardvark wandering down the road. The guests had a really good view of this rare sight but unfortunately there will be no photographic evidence.

Rule no. 1 – keep your camera at the ready until you get to the bar!

Another all day picnic this week and Paul took guests to the Nsefu sector. Fortunately they have not had too much rain and so it is great for the guests to be able to visit this part of the park. Highlights of an excellent days game viewing included lion on a buffalo kill and hyena on a dead hippo so quite a productive day for those who are not too squeamish.

At one point during the trip Paul stopped and discussed the laying of Jacana eggs – one guest commented that they laid in a very higgledy-piggledy fashion. As you can imagine not a comment that comes up everyday and great hilarity followed when Paul tried to master the phrase. Keyala and Daudi have now joined in and fits of giggles ensue every time one of them attempts to use the saying.

We have a pod of hippos in front of camp – not moving much as they have obviously found a good spot and are sticking to it. However, the close proximity has resulted in some spectacular fights with us egging on our favourites from the bar.

Whilst watching the hippo the other evening we happened to turn around in time to see two vervet monkeys racing across the grass. One of them obviously upset with the other. However, the one in the lead got the last laugh as the little tearaway chasing him ran headlong into a tree, bounced off stunned and looked rather embarrassed before heading off in the opposite direction.

Monitor Lizard at Nkwali

Again in camp we left the office one afternoon to take a look at a family of elephant coming down to drink on the opposite bank. A small crocodile was then spotted and also a monitor lizard. The little croc obviously had eyes bigger than his stomach and made a grab for the lizard only to find that, although he had caught him, he was unable to manoever him into a position where he could eat him. A larger crocodile who happened to be passing by soon retrieved the lizard in question and showed his friend how it was done.

This is my last It’s Monday for a while as I am off to France for a travel exhibition at the weekend and then I shall be taking a holiday. Jo and Shanie will be here to report on the goings on in the valley and I will be back mid January.

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas and look forward to corresponding in the new year.

Cheers
Kim

It’s Monday 8th and the merry go round

It is bit of a merry go round here at the moment as staff leave and return. Myself [Shanie], Simon, Jo and Robin all returned last week, whereupon Kim and Adam promptly left for their time off and Kate left to return home to England. I had a fun but very busy time away in both England and South Africa, when a lot of time was spent sorting out our wedding plans – not long to go now!! It is, however, lovely to be back in the bush after a few weeks away.

Surprisingly, it has not changed as much as I had expected at this time of year. It is certainly a lot greener than when we left, with lots of new leaf growth on the Mopane trees and new shoots of grass but as there has been little rain the river levels have not altered significantly and the ground is still dry. There are plenty of looming rain clouds and thunder rumbling around so I am sure it will not be long until the rains arrive properly. We witnessed an amazing double rainbow yesterday with really strong colours and two complete arches. As yet no pot of gold though!

Meanwhile the guests have been enjoying game drive opportunities to the full and last week Jacob even managed a day drive and picnic up to the Nsefu sector with lovely sightings including a large herd of eland and painted snipe. This will probably be the last visit this year, as the roads will soon become impassable.

Drives around the Nkwali area continue to produce some excellent sightings, particularly of prides of lion and large herds of elephants. Two magnificent large maned male lions conveniently killed a waterbuck right next the road, which provided exciting viewing. The wild dogs are “back in town” but as yet we have not seen them. However, 22 were reported to have been at Lupunga Spur this weekend and Simon is gnashing at the bit to go out and find them, so hopefully we might be able to report further details on the pack soon.

On the birding front the most exciting sighting recently has been the arrival of the ever-elusive Angola Pitta (now known as the African Pitta). It was spotted by Ruben, our famous “projects manager”, a couple of hundred metres outside camp but as yet I have not been lucky enough to see it.

sunsetSimon, Keyala and myself went out on Saturday night to do surprise sundowners for guests who were leaving the next day. We watched the most spectacular sunset – a beautiful range of colours from fuchsia pink through to burnt orange, sipped our chilled champagne and were serenaded by hippos – not a bad way to spend an evening!

Preparations for Christmas are underway. Starting with a hunt for suitable Christmas tree – not an easy task in the middle of the Zambian bush!

Have a good week
Shanie

 

It’s Monday 15th and the mother of storms

Simon here this week.

Well, we can now confirm that the rains have definitely arrived!!! Our quiet and peaceful Sunday afternoon turned into soggy chaos when the heavens opened and proceeded to dump 60 millimetres (just over 2 inches for those non-metricated) of rain on us in a period of 25 – 30 minutes. All in all we had 75 millimetres yesterday afternoon, evening and into the night.

Although the rain may have caused chaos in camp, it brought all creatures great and small to life. The nuptial flight of the winged termites, or ‘flying ants’ as they are known here, took place after the heavy downpour and the place was soon overrun with the termites. A large variety of frogs and toads came out of their hiding places to enjoy the rain and the pre-Christmas feast that was laid on by the termites!! I even saw a Vervet monkey sitting above one of the lights in camp, way past it’s bedtime, catching the flying ants that were congregating around the light. Our guests were quite amazed by this African thunderstorm even if it did cancel their afternoon drive. One of the guests who is with us right now is an old friend of Robin’s and was the person who actually sold Robin his first vehicle when he opened Tena Tena 18 years ago. Although the vehicle, named Dobbin, is still in service and doing well Fiona and her friend, Jodi, will not be going out on game drive in it. As you can well imagine, after 17 years charging around the Luangwa Valley it is past it’s game drive days!!

A few valley friends, including our resident ornithologist Derek Solomon, went for a birding trip into the park yesterday morning on a little mission to try and call up the elusive Angola Pitta (now the African Pitta) and managed to call up 3 by playing a recording of the pitta call!! Whilst following the calling pittas through the undergrowth they saw a ‘handful’ of African Broadbills and also managed to call up 2 Narina Trogon’s that flew in and sat just above the vehicle! Now that is three of the ‘most wanted’ on a birders checklist so you can imagine where I’ll be heading this week!! Just to cap the whole morning off the birding party came across the pack of 17 wild dogs – one of the 2 main packs in the area at the moment. Not a bad morning!!

At this time of the year our walking safaris are limited to drier reaches and one of the nicest places to walk is in the Chindeni Hills, which are down river from Nkwali, outside the National Park. Not only is it drier but it is home to all manner of different bird and mammal species and the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking. With the recent rains the air is clear and you can see right across the valley floor to the Muchinga escarpment, which forms the western boundary of the National Park.

I’m afraid our Christmas tree hunt failed. Shanie and I had planned to go out yesterday afternoon but our trip was ruined by the downpour – tomorrow is the day!!

As I sit here and write this we are being driven crazy by the constant calling of the Red-chested cuckoo. Last year it was the Emerald Cuckoo that was calling constantly above the office, looking for a mate. I hope the Red-chested Cuckoo finds a mate…….SOON!!

Have a good week.

Cheers,
Simon

P.S. Paul has just returned from game drive having just seen the wild dogs – very happy guests.

It’s Monday 22nd and we have a Christmas Tree

Jo here… we discussed the contents of your weekly email early this morning at 6.30! I was to write it and usually we try to send it by mid morning. Well – the radio have been going, the phones are ringing (which were down for nearly 2 weeks and seem to be making up for it ) and I completely forgot about It’s Monday. It is now lunchtime and ooops!

Shanie has been putting up the decorations in the bar, including the Christmas tree. This is no tree – a thin branch from a bush that Marcus spent an afternoon spaying gold and silver. And voila! We have a Christmas tree. With our new incredibly modern state of the art, high tech equipment here – as I type Simon has rushed off to take a few pics for you with the digital camera. This had been the plan for the last 18 months but we have only just managed to get our camera to talk to the computer – had to be a new all singing all dancing one.

The kitchen is in full swing making brandy butter, mince pies and other goodies. It is hot, hot, hot today and the sky is blue and the bush very green. So really quite hard to get the feel of Christmas despite all the activities. The carols on the bridge usually start it off for me.

Yesterday morning we said goodbye to an English family that had spent a week at Robin’s House. It had been a organised by the father and was a total surprise for the rest of the family. There had been a few rather anxious emails about whether there would be enough to do for a week.

Chendeni HillsThey loved it all, and when I asked how much they had used the swimming pool – the response was “when are we supposed to have the time!”

During the rains, with only Nkwali open, our guests do spend more time here and so we are able to get past the traditional drives and walks and do some more different activities. They spent a morning walking in the Chendeni Hills. It was to be followed by fishing at Tundwe Lagoon but a huge storm was approaching and so it was decided to dash back to camp. But not in time! They were soaked.

The morning at Kawaza was a huge success – as always. And Robin and I took them to the salt pans 40 mins behind Nkwali – through lovely cathedral mopany. Sundowners on BeachWe found a group of 6 Arnot’s Chats – unusual to see them together like that. And a forked tailed drongo dive bombing a flustered pearl spotted owlet. The all day drive with a picnic ended up being 14 hours! It included lots of time spent at a lagoon painting, chatting, playing games. The cats had been thin on the ground for a few days and we were getting concerned. Well on the drive they saw a pride of lions and 2 leopards – including a daytime view of a leopard stalking impala. Wonderful.

The final sundowners with us all on the sandbank island infront of camp was a great ending to the safari. Again – see the website for a pic taken by me!

On a more personal front – Mzuzu, my adorable nephew, has a baby brother – the adorable Titus. Nearly 8 weeks old. Of course I continue to be the besotted aunt. Robin and I spent a week with the family in November which was designed to give Frank and Martha a break. They call me Cinders as I shop, cook, clean, entertain, change nappies, burb the baby, etc. Quite ironic as I really do NOTHING domestic here! It makes quite a change. Mzuzu

 

Finally….the red chested cuckoo continues to call, night and day and we wonder if he will ever find a mate!
Have a wonderful Christmas, with your friends and family.
All the best
Jo

 

It’s Monday 29th December and the love struck beetle???

Carols on the bridgeWhat a week – I am exhausted. I am thankful Christmas only comes round once a year – a wonderful week but it certainly is all I could take. We did, however, have the Thompson family here and anyone who has met them will know what I am talking about. The camp filled up on Christmas Eve and off we went to the annual Christmas Carols on the Luangwa Bridge. This year the Luangwa Lodges Staff Choir led the evening with lots of carols, mostly at the wrong speed – try Silent Night at full pelt – but it was great. Over 150 people – the event keeps growing – all holding candles as the last of the light sets on the river.

On Christmas day, the shorter morning drives were followed by scrambled eggs and smoked salmon washed down with champers. Just to keep to wolf from the door until at late lunch. Shanie and her team of chefs excelled themselves yet again and the lunch was superb. And then the Thompsons insisted on a game of “scramble cricket” out on the sandbank. Apparently family tradition – energetic games straight after the huge lunch. Madness. Peals of laughter echoed across the river.

Daudi takes a diveChristmas lunch

Ali (a Thompson) had a Rudolph Reindeer nose (from white water rafting). Marcus approached the park gate at the end of a morning drive. Using a British Airways eye mask as a nose cover, and a dark kikoy over her head – only the eyes were showing. This apparition clearly caused some concern and Marcus explained that we had Michael Jackson in the Valley. The guard was clearly impressed!
” No, I’m only joking – it’s for the sun”
” Michael Jackson’s son as well! We are honored!”

Noodles is backNoodles is here. She catered at Nsefu for 2 years and is Shanie’s childhood bestest friend. As you can imagine – much squealing from Shanie (which Simon likens to a wild dog feeding frenzy). Great to have her and her man, Henry, with us.

The four of them went out to park to find the wild dogs that had been sighted the day before. Simon was armed with my digital camera. Their first and best sighting was a warthog – the biggest they have ever seen – with 2 oxpeckers picking in his ears. He started rolling in a puddle 10 feet away, apparently not caring about the vehicle. But as soon he saw the vehicle he dashed off flat out – maybe he was deaf!! And then the camera battery was flat – so only one pic was taken all day.

The warthog

Marcus reports seeing a crowned crane persistently beating a puku with it’s wings. A puku in a mating muddle or defending it’s patch?!!

The Thompson’s final day and again, we all go out to play scramble cricket. Jacob, Keyela and Daudi joined in and having not played such a ball game before, they soon learnt and were flying through the air trying to catch the ball. Holding the cricket bat took a bit of explaining!

Vintage dung beetle!Jamie ended up spending the evening with a HUGE dung beetle. He had some sort of experience with it in the loo, which I will not go into, and brought it back to the bar! It was let go but kept flying back first to the bar and then to the dining room when we moved over. Clearly some bonding had gone on!!

So with a couple of days to recover until New Year…..have a wonderful last few days of 2003 and we wish you a superb 2004!

All the best
Jo

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