It’s January 2001 and …


It’s January 2001 and …

It’s Monday (well Tuesday 2nd) and Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from us all at Robin Pope Safaris! We are slowly recovering from all the festivities over Christmas and New Year period which have left us all exhausted.

Park BridgeTraditionally, all the camps in the valley meet on Christmas Eve for Carols on the bridge and this year was no exception. Each camp sets up a table with drinkies and nibbles and guests arrive at sunset after an afternon game drive in the park. The choir from the New apostolic church started the evening with some traditional singing and dancing, after which Jo and her choir lead the rest of us in singing carols. It was a lovely scene with us all singing under the stars by candlelight.

Christmas Day at Nkwali was a lot of fun, guests and staff combined we were about 20 in number. We feasted like kings, thanks to Sara and her catering team, on the banks of the Luangwa River. By late afternoon the sky had grown very dark and we sat watching the most spectacular lightning followed by a heavy down pour of rain. We were all in bed by 8.30pm!

Simon’s family have been staying with us at Nkwali for the last 10 days – they are very keen birders and have been out in search of the African Crake amongst other species. They found a pair not far from camp on the way to the park. We have heard the Angolan Pitta calling behind the Nkwali lagoon. Simon and his folks went out looking for it armed with the “Roberts Birds of Southern Africa CD” but they “couldn’t find the little bugger” (Simons words!) Very nice to know it is still around though!

Nkwali Camp has now closed for the rains as we said good bye to our last guests of the season this morning. Simon and his team are now busy packing up before everyone heads off on leave for a couple of months.

Wishing you all the very best for 2001
Jane

It’s Monday 8th and Anti Poaching …

Suddenly Nkwali feels very quiet! From having so many people here over Christmas and New Year and now so few. Almost everyone has headed off for leave – Simon to Durban, Rob the Pilot has gone home to South Africa, Celeste to the UK, Daudi and Keyala are back with their families (but not far away) and Robin and Jo set off this morning for some time in East Africa followed by a fortnight in Egypt. So for the time being myself, Sara, Matthew, Jeffers, Basil and Matt from Nsefu are here holding the fort!

It has hardly stopped raining since the last guests left last week although strangely enough the river level has dropped considerably. All this rain is perfect for the local maize farmers and crops along the road to the airport are looking very healthy for this time of year.

A few of us went out flying with Jo and Robin last week, we flew low level over the park as far north as the Mupamadzi River where the mobile walking safaris take place. The game was incredible – we saw huge herds of buffalo lying down on Mutanda Plain and as the plane flew over them a cloud of White cattle egrets rose and swarmed above them. We saw an incredible amount of elephant – herds of up to 200 at a time! Some wonderful sights…

some of the RangersMatt from Nsefu has been based at Nkwali for the past few weeks and has dedicated his time to the Honorary Rangers. This is a voluntary project set up to organise anti-poaching patrols in The South Luangwa area. A special core of scouts have been set up called the RATS (rapid action teams ) who are a highly motivated team of men determined to have some impact on the poaching that continues here. Although it is largely subsistence-poaching going on, there is most definitely a commercial element involved with the occasional elephant being killed for its ivory and large game animals for the sale of the meat. Although operating with very limited funds and almost entirely reliant on donations from Camp Operators here in the Valley, they have had fantastic success in the last few weeks as a result of a clever program of road-blocks and patrols into target areas in and around the Park.

There have been a number of high profile arrests, among them the son of one of our Chiefs who recently passed away and a key character in the illegal game-meat trade in and around the Mfuwe area. On another occasion three men were arrested at one of the road-blocks when upon searching the vehicle the Honorary Rangers found the carcasses of a buffalo, an impala and three baby warthogs. Just a couple of examples of a series of very encouraging results. Needless to say, there is a very great need for an increase in manpower and resources within the anti-poaching operation here if we are to preserve this incredible, pristine wilderness area so do let us know if you’d be interested in getting more involved!

There was a farewell for Doctor Paul and a welcome for Dr John Parry-Jones on Friday night. We will be very sad to say good bye to Paul who has made many improvements to the local clinic over the past 3 months.

In order to entice you to come and visit us in the Green season – we have put together a ” 7 Day GREEN SEASON Package”. This is the best time of year for birds in the South Luangwa (and the chance of finding our Angolan Pitta!) and to see the park in it’s true splendour. By April the rains have usually stopped, the river is high and perfect for boating, we often boat into the lagoons which are full or water and breeding storks. Fresh and clear days are ideal for photography and all day picnics – a truly wonderful time of year! Please contact your African Specialist for more information on this.

We look forward to seeing some of you in April/May…..
Wishing you all a happy week!
Take Care
Jane

It’s Monday 15th and the Emerald Cuckoo sings!

Many, many thanks to all of you who responded in such a positive way to the Honorary Rangers and RATS anti-poaching project. There is a huge amount of energy being poured into the programme over here and the funding enables the good work to continue. I relayed a few of the responses to Deluxe, head of the RATS, and he replied “praise the almighty Lord, Hallelujah!”. Thank you.

The skeleton staff remaining at Nkwali are slowly being driven insane by one beautiful Emerald Cuckoo. It follows us around from the office to the dining room and sits in the trees singing “pretty Georgie” relentlessly. It may be trying to find a mate, we are not sure, but are all hoping it has some success sooner rather than later. Incredibly, no one has actually seen the bird to date!

River at NkwaliThe river has risen over a metre in the past week and is now approximately 1 metre from the top of the bank. As it rises we see a lot of debris floating past, mostly trees and branches. It is quite a comical sight to see the kingfishers and pied wagtails as they perch on top these and float past us in the bar…

Sara and Matthew went for a little drive in the park yesterday afternoon. After the heavy rain a large number of the roads are inaccessible so they were fairly limited in where they could drive. As they chugged along the track back towards the park gate, they came across two huge male lions lying in the road. They were extremely relaxed with the vehicle and didn’t even raise their heads – just rolled over a couple of times and continued snoozing. A little further along and four lions strolled out of the bush and on to the road – two lioness and a couple of juvenile males. The young males were restless, demonstrating their power with play fighting and biting each other gently.

Wishing you all a happy week!
Take Care
Jane

It’s Monday 22rd and the Storks Nest!

Luangwa River at Nkwali Xmas 2000The river continues to rise at an astonishing rate. We check it every few hours and each time it has risen at least an inch. You wouldn’t recognise the view from Nkwali bar – as you look out there is no grass island in the middle of the river, nor is there any soil showing on the opposite bank and you can’t even imagine where the Carmine bee eater colony was! As a precaution we have moved all but one of our vehicles out to higher ground – just in case! We are hoping the river level will soon reach it’s maximum height for the year or we could be in trouble!

Lagoons and storksThe lagoons behind Nkwali are now completely full of water and it appears the half submerged trees there are the perfect site for an Open-Billed Stork colony. From the road, you can see at least fifty birds building their nests in one of the trees – it is a wonderful sight and will be fascinating to watch develop.

When most of the Valley locals disappear during the rains for their annual holiday those of us that are left never say no to a good social gathering! These gatherings take place more often than not largely to keep us from talking about nothing but the river level of the hour! On Saturday Kapani Lodge hosted a fabulous Chinese night – the chopsticks and fortune cookies were out! You will be pleased to know that the RPS team managed to pull together a few oriental outfits and outshone the other punters with their creativitiy! Lots of beers were sunk before a sensational dinner of freshly made spring rolls, ‘chicken balls’, lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork with rice – it might sound like your average mid-week tv dinner from the local take-out but for us Valley locals this was a special treat!! Whether or not the wise words of Confucius will have any bearing on our future remains to be seen!

Christmas indulgenceToday we waved good bye to Matt from Nsefu. He has gone to Kenya to spend two months leading walking trails in the Masai Mara for Governors Camps. He will also be training up driving guides whilst he is there. And then there was five…….Basil, Jeffers, myself, Sara and Matthew continue to hold fort. As Sara and Matthew head off for a weeks leave, Jeffrey, myself and Basil are embarking on a weight watchers diet this week! We just have not managed to trim down again since Christmas so will give this a whirl. If any of you have any simple yet effective diets – do let us know – any help and advice is gratefully received……

Our delightful Emerald Cuckoo has not yet found a mate and continues to sing beautifully outside our windows!

Wishing you all a happy week!
Take Care
Jane

It’s Monday 29th and Sunshine at Last!

The Luangwa RiverWe have had a wonderful week of blue skies, sunshine and only one small shower of rain, the river has dropped over a metre and everyone has relaxed again – for the time being at least. The experts predict that the next full moon will bring another change in weather and possibly more rain still, so we will just wait and see.

I would love to report that after a week on “the diet” we were all down to a dress size 10 but alas, Basil has only lost 1kg and Jeffrey and I remain exactly the same weight as a week ago! We do however feel a lot better, much healthier (not one beer has been drunk in the last seven days – a Robin Pope Safaris all time record) and full of the joys of spring!

OK, it's a Martial Eagle, not a fish eagle: but the sky is blueThe road from Nkwali to the Tar road is teaming with game at the moment. Giraffe, herds of about 30 elephant, warthog, impala, puku, bush buck, banded mongoose and large numbers of baboons and monkeys. The bush is very thick along the road and anything smaller than an elephant disappears as soon as it enters the grass. For security these animals tend to stick to the roads where at least they have a chance to see the predators and also take advantage of the ‘safety in numbers’ strategy. At Daudi’s bridge, where the water is flowing across the road, we have a pair of resident Fish Eagles. They perch in the large Mopani tree above the pools of water on either side of the road and enjoy the fish.

We have had many reports of poaching this week. Two freshly poached elephants were found very close to the Salt Pan in the Nsefu Sector and 3 other separate parties have been arrested carrying a buffalo, zebra and impala. The RATS are now on patrol in the Nsefu Sector and may be able to trace the elephant poachers. A few of the operators, including ourselves, are working together to ensure that the RATS patrol the Nsefu area every few weeks from now until the beginning of the season. This is not the only area to be hit by poaching, reports are now coming in from all areas of the park of snaring and poaching. National Parks are in the process of being privatised and can do nothing for at least another month. The RATS really are doing a great job out there but to cover 9500 km square of land would require an army.

On a more happy note, there is an immature Barred Owl who has taken to perching on Jeffrey’s window! It is the most beautiful little thing and perfectly calm with humans. It seems it is learning to fly and the window provides the ideal half way stopping point.

With best wishes for the week.
Take Care
Jane

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