It’s December 2004 and …


It’s December 2004 and …


It’s Monday 6th and it’s raining but the game loves it

Storm from the Nkwali DeckWell it has been a very wet and soggy week at Nkwali. We have had a lot of rain over the last few days which has changed the appearance of our surroundings dramatically.

Ross and I went up to Tena Tena and Nsefu late last week to check on the progress of the rethatching, which I must say, is looking great. The thatching on the new Honeymoon Suite at Tena Tena is finished and looking really smart. The interior work will be done at the beginning of next year but we really wanted to get all the exterior work and the thatching done before the end of this year – we are on track – only the bar to be done now and this should be finished in about 4 days time (provided the guys do not get washed away in the rains!).

Honeymoon SuiteHoneymoon Suite

We were only there about half an hour when we noticed a massive build up of clouds to the east of us. We dashed up to Nsefu and checked on the camp before high-tailing it out of the area. There were bets being flung between Ross and I as to whether we were going to make it out of the area before being flattened by the storm. I did not believe that we were going to make it but Ross was adamant that all would be fine!! Ross was always going to win the bet because, although I am fairly competitive, sense was beginning to prevail and I happily told him that I was not going to wait for this storm to allow me to win the bet and end up spending Christmas in the Nsefu sector!! We managed to make it back just in time and although this particular rain storm was not very big at Nkwali we heard from our team at Tena Tena that they got drenched!!. It was certainly one of the biggest storms I have seen in a long time and as a result the river has come up about 2 feet !! We have had some fantastic game viewing recently. The game is really enjoying all the new grass and all the water around right now. Adam, our workshop manager, Ross, myself and a cooler box of beer took the afternoon off yesterday went for a drive!! we saw an amazing amount of animals. (The pictures prove that we did actually see things and it was not just the beer !!) We came across 5 lions on a buffalo kill, loads of elephant, giraffe, kudu, a warthog enjoying the water and all plains game and a little leopardess on the way home just to top the afternoon off. Who says game viewing in the rainy season is poor!

a warthog enjoying the waterThere are a whole host of different types of lilies springing up with the start of the rains. A real botanists’ paradise. It is certainly a very picturesque time of the year with various different types if these beautiful flowers scattered throughout the little lagoons and puddles of water that are covering large areas of the park right now. Anyway, that’s all from me………

Cheers Simon

Ammocharis Lily 

It’s Monday 13th and a joy ride over the park

Jo here: Kim is still away and I have been at the office helm for the week (or two). It is good for the Boss to change saddles from time to time and how things are from different angles! But despite the pressure I did not turn down the chance for an hour long helicopter trip around the Valley. It was a rainy day with black horizons and we were amazed when the radio call came through – “you’re on”. Even more surprised as we knew the pilot had been in bed in the morning with malaria !! Robin, Simon, Ross and I jumped in my Rav 4 and we speeded to the chopper. Robin’s comment – “if it goes down, RPS will be rather short of management” had us laughing. In a great state of excitement – off we flew up the Luangwa aiming for the Mupamadzi River.

Wet wet valley floorAround Tena Tena we saw how wet the ground was from previous storms and it started to spit with rain. Soon this became rain and visibility up front was not 20/20 by a long chalk. I did repeatedly keep check with the pilot that all was well and I was repeatedly told it was. And on we flew. The ground was absolutely saturated on the Luangwa River belt where there is lots cotton clay (see right) and we could see each elephant footprint filled with brown water. The Mupamadzi River was flowing strongly (see below) but the ground was well drained the closer we got to the higher ground. Flying around the Lundu Plain at 50 feet as the clouds cleared was amazing. However, the pilot did have a habit developing at this point of clasping the back of his neck – slight concerning. Poor guy – clearly not feeling well. But we were all having an excellent time. The Valley from the air is so fascinating with the many waterways, habitats as well as the game spotting. Hmmmmm …. I LOVE helicopters !

The Mupamadzi River was flowing stronglyFlooded roads on the way to Mupamadzi

female scarlet chested sunbirdBack at the ranch….. the gameviewing continues to be excellent with lion viewing daily and leopard every two or three. The elephants are big stars at this time of year – congregating along the river in huge herds. And the birding viewing is exceptional – the breeding period is upon us. Ross drove up to Tena Tena to collect the thatching crew who had finished upgrading the roofs there and were clearly VERY keen to get home. He photographed a female scarlet chested sunbird hanging from a half built nest made of leaves, spider webs and general bush building materials (see pic). He also took a picture as he drove across the Mutanda plain – that now has green, green grass growing. This is the plain from the park gate to the Nsefu Sector and anyone who has stayed at Tena Tena or Nsefu will know it – take a look at the pic below. You will be amazed.

The Mutunda PlainAt Nkwali we have a surplus of guides – with the remoter camps closed. So we have given them the task of training up the trainee guides – Yona and Bertram (who were the airport drivers this year) and Mwila a new trainee from the workshop. Why we did not think of this before I do not know. The guides are taking the mission very seriously and are seen lecturing in the cage (staff dining room ! ), walking around camp with books and practicing on each other on mock drives in the park. It will be very good for the qualified guides to be with each other as well. So well done them!

A skimmer skimmingFinally … a magic mosi moment the other night as we all sat at the bar watching the final throes of a spectacular sunset, a skimmer flew by….. skimming in the pink light. What a wonderful place this is.

So…. Another week in the bush.

All the best Jo

Guides Training

It’s Monday 18th and the Dancing Daudi

We are now on our superb new system, sending you this weekly newsletter from Nkwali Camp in the bush. Astounding really. And thanks to the patience and hard work of our webmaster, David, taking the time to fly to Zambia to set it up and teach us computer illiterates a thing or two. He leaves us on Sunday, hence this comes on Saturday! We were not confident enough to do the first without him.

Some of you will have received this unexpectedly – we did go through various RPS databases to ensure a wide net was thrown. Hopefully, even if this is a surprise, you will enjoy our news. But you can always unsubscribe or modify your details.

Daudi dancingParty spread

We had the RPS guides family Christmas party on Wednesday. What a great time it was. The convoy of landcruisers went in the morning to collect the wife and children of each guide (and a number of extras it turned out) – around 45 in total. All the kids were dressed up in wonderful party frocks and smart Sunday best outfits. On arrival everyone was a little uncertain but boat rides, football and netball with Shanie and lots of fanta soon got the kids relaxed (if not a little hyper). After a braai lunch and a little dancing we started the games. It was a scream. Pass the parcel and musical chairs, not known locally, were such a hit. As anywhere in the world, the parents became just as competitive and were soon shouting encouragement, hooting with laughter and simply loving the scene. Shanie and I both agreed, a fun fun time. In the afternoon, everyone piled back into the vehicles for a game drive. They ended up at watching a pride of nine lions feeding on a zebra – apparently there were many wide eyes and total hush. 

NetballPass the parcel

We recently had the photo-journalist, Dave Rogers (of Africa Geographic and Getaway fame) with us for a few days. Here are his comments – the “emerald season” from a photographers point of view ……

“I have been to Luangwa during most times of the year and nothing prepared me for the beauty of the place after the first rains. This is a time of growth with the dusty trees turning green and colourful fireball lilies and orchids popping up from the earth. Birds were more abundant with large flocks of European storks around. This is the time when many of the animals drop their young and first tentative steps are taken. It’s also a time for unusual sightings with crocodiles commonly being seen making their long overland treks to new waters. And it is a photographers delight. When there is cloud cover it works like a massive diffuser creating even often very beautiful life. The rains do come and go. The storms are dramatic but when the sun does come out the colours of the bush are unbelievably saturated. Everything seems so clean. The skies are clear, the trees are free of dust and the animals look so healthy. Who knows perhaps we can put together a green season trip for photographers some time in the future.”

Green season delights

And so this is the last It’s Monday until Christmas. We will raise a glass to you all for a happy holiday time !!

Take care and have a great week

It’s Monday 27th and the Singing Matriarchs

It’s Boxing Day and I am making all the promises to myself that I do every year. I will stick to the diet and I will exercise – honest. Anyone with me on this?? We have had a wonderful week – full of drama (the weather), excellent game and lots of games and laughter in camp.

This week we have words from Robin and Chris but I would like to add one strong memory. I am the bossy organizer of “Carols on the Bridge”. Christmas Eve and the three of us drove off practicing our carols loudly. Suddenly a big male lion jumped into the road just in front of us. We were delayed some twenty minutes whilst we watched four lions – then off we drove again – back to O Come all ye Faithful. Lions and carols …. hmmm… not your normal Christmas fare.

Before I hand over I wish you all a wonderful 2005. Let it be a year full of picking daisies!

All the best Jo

The Christmas dispatches

from Chris Holt It’s been a tough week for diets – some of you with long memories may remember me – from 1989 until recently I worked for Robin and Jo at Tena Tena. Wonderful days full of great memories and lasting friendships. Now I am back for Christmas and a minor landmark birthday which I am told by a great optimist signals the end of the first half of my life. (ed. – 50 years OLD !! Jo).

I’ve never been here in December and what a contrast. Pools and lagoons I never knew existed and the lush green grass which must have shot up a foot in the last ten days. I have to confess to not having managed a single gamedrive – the distractions!! – but in true Luangwa style have still seen lions, leopard, elephant, buffalo, giraffe and a host of others, whether it be from boat or balcony, or just transferring from one cocktail party to the next. How could I have left all this behind?

Anyway Happy New Year to you all and thanks for your kind words and wishes. I shall need them in the second half. Cheers Chris (“Holty”) – pictured here with Possum, Jo and Kim.

From The Bwana – Robin What we call the early rains have certainly been impressive this year. From the beginning of November to Christmas Day we have had close to 500 mm (although someone yesterday nearly convinced me that this was only two inches, a bit of a mix up between inches, mm and litres of champagne). This is over half our annual average (850mm) in five short weeks. The usually sleepy Luangwa River, whose highlights are normally the hippo and huge sandbanks, has changed and the river now is the highlight – with strong currents, carrying snowfields of fresh water detergent, sticks and floating trees which look like amazing ships. We hear the occasional crash as the bank topples into the river and watch the emerald green Nile cabbage bobbing down stream looking for anchorages. The ducks and egrets fly east and upstream in the evenings, past the camp.

Christmas Carols, now a tradition on the Luangwa bridge, were a tremendous success. We started with lighted candles, glowing faces, enthusiastic singing, merry making and chatting. Jo and a number of the Valley Matriarchs led the singing. As we reached the end of The Holly and the Ivy, the wind began to pick up with the arrival of one of the most gigantic storms of the season. It had been lurking to the west of us seemingly unsure of where to go. Lightning was arching and flashing rather like some huge fire spitting monster. It’s violet and black clouds were traced with leading white edges. And then it decisively moved east towards us. The bridge was hastily abandoned except for the Valley Matriarchs who remained defiantly singing “Silent Night” in the gathering wind and storm.

The sun has been out enough to allow for boat trips, one being to Tena Tena on which we saw a leopard walking along the river bank, elephant sightings and a good number of young uns. We also admired the new thatching at the camp.

Everyone has seen some amazing sights, traditional Christmas lunch being one of them. A very good 2005 to you all, including our scattered RPS family. Robin.

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