It’s June 2003 and …

It’s June 2003 and …

It’s Monday 2nd and Nsefu excels.

Well this week I am going to start with some good news and some bad. We were happily surprised a couple of days ago to find a third flamingo had joined our couple. We are hoping that maybe we will find one addition a week and have a huge flock in front of Nkwali by the end of the season! However, yesterday morning one of them got into a bit of a fight. A fish eagle was spotted attacking the larger bird in the air. The flamingo then fell to the water and after an initial look, the Fish Eagle decided to leave it alone – probably because he know it would be too heavy for him to get out of the water even if he managed to kill it. However, it now appears that the flamingo has sustained a broken leg. We are hoping that maybe it is not as serious as it looked and will recover with some protection from it’s friends, it will be sad if it does not manage to pull through. I will keep you posted.

Again from Nkwali Camp, Keyala had the amazing sight of 2 palmnut vultures sitting on a winterthorn tree, on the other side of the river. This caused much excitement as it is very rare to see these birds in this area and they are certainly the prettiest of the vultures.

The guides at Nkwali have reported increased sightings of buffalo in the park and only yesterday guests watched a herd of some 150 progressing along the river bank opposite camp.

Now to Nsefu. Newly opened and reporting superb game with 14 leopard sightings in the first 7 days. Ed and Claire have settled in and are doing a great job up at the camp.

Continuing the birding sightings they have even had the rare view of a secretary bird. Infact these birds have been seen by the guys on three separate occasions! They have also had a giant eagle owl perching behind room 6 and saw a juvenile whitebacked pelican at the stork colony, which by the way is now in full swing with crocs and raptors taking any opportunity for an easy meal. Other interesting birds seen in the area include a pygmy goose at Lunga Lagoon, hottentot teal and painted snipe at the salt pan, a peregrine falcon at the Kawaluzi river crossing, a pair of dickenson’s kestrels in the mubisa drift area and finally a whitebreasted cuckoo shrike.

Ed was out for an all day drive with guests and come across 2 male Cookson’s wildebeest – they were looking for eland but unfortunately did not find them, however, as luck would have it the guys went on a firewood run later in the day and came across a small herd of 6. Not to be out done, Jacob had an amazing drive seeing not only a secretary bird and a pride of 8 lions but also 26 wildebeest. Very happy troops returned to camp that evening. Jacob also came across a lovely python at Tena Tena’s 2nd ebony grove. In addition lions have been seen on the bank opposite camp as well as many leopard sightings around the area.

Stephen and Penny Bulbaczynskj passed their 11th wedding anniversary with us at Nsefu. Whilst celebrating with a glass or two of champagne at Baka Baka two porcupines appeared further down the lagoon out for an early evening stroll. Previously they had seen a lone male buffalo swimming bravely swimming the gauntlet. In the morning tens of crocodiles had been seen at the same spot on a hippo carcass and so when the buffalo decided to have a dip in the Luangwa there were still quite a few on the banks digesting the mornings feast. As the buffalo reach the opposite bank a few of the crocs with a bit of space left in their bulging stomachs decided to have a go and were seen snapping at its tail, admittedly it looked more like they though they ought to have a go, than a serious need to food!

Unfortunately pukus have been in for a tough time with both hyena and leopard being seen with puku kills.

On the social front we have also been busy. Yes, Jeffers arrived on Friday and it has basically been one party after another since then as everyone wishes to throw him a bash. It is great to have him back for a few days and we now feel as if he has never left us and will have to go through the grieving process all over again when he finally flies out on Wednesday.


Although not complete, there is now at least a layer of grass on all “five roofs”. The thatchers will be finish in the next 10 days. Or so they say. Willy the builder, is following them around the house, “filling in” and plastering the walls. Bertram the painter is following Willy with the first coat of paint. Francin (the local rastafarian!) is still plumbing and the baths will go in this week. The HUGE doors to the bathrooms (don’t ask!) have arrived and Edward Jere, our carpenter, who is VERY short, is doing battle today. Ian, a regular from Australia, is trying to start a betting syndicate with the staff and other guests. He says “no way”. I say – “no choice”. It will be done. The Medows arrive to baptise the house on 1st July. And with Robin and Simon both away this week – I am in charge. Oh dear. That’s it – Jo

Stay well and have a great week


It’s Monday 9th and the phantoms of Nsefu

Well another fine week in the valley and the full complement of staff are now back at Nkwali. Robin has been away on his second trip to Shoebill and Shiwa and all agreed that it was very successful and interesting. Simon and Shanie left to attend a travel show in Lilongwe which apparently was “heaving” with people and they talked their socks off. They then headed for a couple of day R & R at the lake and have arrived back full of beans.

With Simon and Robin away, Marcus had been seconded to overseeing the workshop and of course Robin’s House – more of the house later. Marcus has done a sterling job but will be happy to return to his guiding and forget about such things as mixing the right quantities of cement to red earth so that the colour of the walls all match…

We had an interesting week with the truck being impounded by the police. Jo had a radio call to say that the driver had been imprisoned. On further questioning it appeared that the radio operator only knew this because he had seen the driver at his home. Confused yet? – we were. It transpired that the driver was in fact at home but the lorry had been impounded as we had not paid the right taxes to the Council for collection of bamboo – very different from popping down to your local DIY store to pick up building material. And this is 1.5 hours drive away – so not too pleasing. Truck driver and bamboo now safely in camp!

On the wildlife front we have had a “normal” week with several sightings of lion and the usual suspects at Nkwali.

The one outstanding drive was an all day picnic. Guests were treated to a pair of giraffe have a “necking season” which turned into a bit of a tussle. It was later described as looking like a pillow fight but with the giraffes using their heads to take great swings at each other instead of pillows.

Later in the day the lucky troops found a small leopard who had just killed a puku. They stopped to watch and a larger leopard suddenly appeared and stole the puku. All pretty exciting stuff but then a hyena came on the scene and tried to steal the puku from the second leopard. Being older and wiser than the youngster he was having none of it and promptly took his prize up the nearest tree. This was all caught on video by one of the guests and a replay at the bar that evening enthralled the rest of us back in camp.

Good news on the flamingo front. The 3rd flamingo which arrived and then had a bit of a hard time from a fish eagle has recovered and all three are still here and well. Fabulous to have them in front of camp and we hope they will stay a little longer.

Tena Tena opened last week and Daudi, Aniek and Ross are all happy to have the season underway. The camp is looking superb and I for one am dying to get up there for a weekend soon.

Nsefu – correction from last weeks’ report – in fact Ed saw 2 lone wildebeest and then a group of 36, so even more exciting than we thought!
Claire reports that they are finding spores in and around camp and hearing calls most nights but have not seen the illusive lions now know as the Phantoms of Nsefu.

The Mobile Safaris kick off on 15th and Simon is busy polishing his walking boots. Shanie is, as we speak, sorting out tents and equipment for the trek north and Eve Patterson our mobile caterer arrived last night. Eve has come to us after several years working on Nyika Plateau and is a real bush girl with lots of experience and is full of enthusiasm and is going to make a great addition to the team.


As Kim has said – with Robin and Simon away, Marcus was in charge. I have been very involved in all decisions up to date and so Marcus had me site inspecting regularly through the week.

The veranda foundations were laid, the final interior plastering finished and the window frames all nailed in place. Only a couple of hiccups – the honeymoon bedroom has HUGE double doors going through to the bathroom. The tall frame was put in place and plaster beautifully finished. But I noticed the frame is bowing in the centre. After measuring – 2 cm narrower in the centre. Oops! I did not want to knock it out due to time and thought that we could “shave” the doors to fit the bow shape. Robin, on return, disagrees and think we have to knock it out. Luckily not my decision now!

And still on the bathroom, the newly and very expensively re-enamelled cast iron bath had arrived but with one of the feet knocked off! What to do. Welding the bath could well blister the enamel (according to the company in town who had done it). But I was told, it “might” work if I put wet cloths on the enamel when welding to keep the metal cool. Emergency action put in place – Friday our friendly taxi driver rushed to town to buy 4 cast iron welding rods and they are put on the next plane. We FILLED the bath with iced water and ice blocks. And my Sunday morning was spent setting up the “BIG WELD”. Deciding Jake of Flatdogs was the best welder, he came down and there we were in the workshop, with the smart bath over the pit, freezing water poured in and it all worked! Yippee – the master bathroom will have a bath in time!

Until next week, have a great time

It’s Monday 16th and the flying circus

Great excitment – the first mobile kicks off tomorrow and we have just watched the big truck carrying all the kit rolled out of Nkwali. We all heaved a huge sigh of relief. I can now reveal that we had our doubts up until last night as to whether it would go ahead or not. ZAWA (the Zambian Wildlife Authority) do all of the road grading and on Friday, due to various breakdowns and hiccups, there was still no road for the 4 hour drive north .

However, all is well and Eve and her team headed off shortly after to get everything ready for the guests who will be arriving with Simon tomorrow afternoon.

Nsefu have reported that their phantom lions have now appeared in the flesh. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately for any guests who prefer not to have close encounters – they were only seen in camp by staff. The first incident being when Claire was in camp waiting for guests to come back from the evening game drive and two lionesses walked between the bar and room 1. On the second occasion guests had just been shown back to their rooms after dinner when Ed and Claire came across two males strolling between room 6 and the fuel store. The lions are obviously very considerate and wait for the guests to be safely in their rooms before taking their promenade through the camp.

ElandHighlight of the week however was eland in the Nsefu sector. Firstly two males were seen in the Game Management Area (GMA) near the Kauluzi and then a lone male at Lunga Lagoon. Later in the week Ed saw a group of 30 eland consisting of 19 adults and 11 young, again in the GMA. This is early for them and a real treat. Wildebeest have also been much in evidence with sightings of two different herds, the first, a group of 32 seen at Kahchangja drift and then a different herd of 11 on the Kauluzi plain.

Birding at Nsefu has also been good with sightings of, amongst others, a peregrine falcon, 4 male painted snipe, a temminck’s courser, black sunbird and mosque swallow.

Meanwhile Tena Tena not to be out done report flying baboons. Ross saw around 20 baboons at play, running up a tall tree and leaping off a top branch onto another tree some 4 meters away. They then scrambled down, across to the same tree and repeated the antic. With 20 baboons doing this, there was a continuous trail of “flying” baboons. The larger ones found it quite easy, but the smaller ones were determined but only just made it. And this went on for 30 minutes!

Eastern Green SnakeFrogDuring lunch at Nkwali, a squeaking noise revealed a snake eating a frog! The guests were out on the platform overlooking the lagoon and the snake, on a branch in the lagoon, thought he had lunch secured. Suddenly a western banded snake eagle swooped down and grabbed the snake – lunch inside lunch inside lunch!!

Stay well and have a great week,

ROBIN’S HOUSE UPDATE with 15 days to go……..from JO

Well well well – I almost feel confident to say “told you so”. The house has shot forward – the builder laid the last floor on the weekend and has migrated to the outside for final tidying today! The painter has the first coat on most walls and the electrican has put on the plugs and switches. Admitedly they are nearly ALL “cock eye”, despite chipping them nearly ALL out once already. So we are living with MOST “cock eye” and Robin is chipping out the very obvious ones today and will stand there when they are replastered. Ho hum. The veranda floor is laid, and the outside is painted using a red soil mix. Looking amazing.

And most excitingly, the brand new furniture has been arriving from all corners of Zambia. Wooden chairs, side boards, dressing tables from the Catholic Mission near Chipata and Jason drove the cane furniture from Lusaka. The hand made rugs from central Zambia and hand woven strips for the bedspreads were flown in from Lusaka. Shanie has been counting potatoe mashers, glasses and all sorts into boxes so that we know we have all in place and ready.

The project is no longer “worrying” but now very thrilling – we are going to make. So I think I must be in line for payments for lots of bets. Robin talks to me about not counting before hatching but I do!

Until next week…..
have a great time

It’s Monday 23rd and various visitors

Well, winter is arriving in force and we are all to be found huddled around the camp fire in the mornings with fleeces zipped up to the top. I am even considering bringing out my rather attractive bobble hat!

Major disaster at Tena Tena this week – they broke a coffee pot. This may not seem a huge drama but it was our last one and we are unable to buy Bodum glass pots in Zambia and so we have to get them sent up from South Africa. Kent, who lots of you will remember, has been head waiter at Tena Tena for many years and was the culprit. However, we could not be cross with him we were laughing too much when we found out what happened. Kent was setting up breakfast at 5am and carrying the coffee pots from the kitchen to the camp fire when he almost walked into a hippo – turning to make a fast exit back to the kitchen he walked smack into a pole, breaking the pot and hurting his pride somewhat.

This hippo has taken a liking to the camp and tried to join guests at the bar for a drink after a game drive. The uninvited guest had to be shushed off by Ross. The naught boy – hippo not Ross – then decided to hangout with the boys in the kitchen.

Nkwali has also had its fair share of uninvited guests. Shanie has been doing battle with a vegetarian hyena who manages to get into the compost heap – outside the electric fence of the garden – for a rummage around. Many tricks have been tried but finally Shanie has had to resort to a rather non pc method and covered the heap in barbed wire. However, Shanie is now concerned that it might hurt its paws – oh the dilemmas we face…

Two nights ago we were all kept awake for most of the night by roaring lions. Everyone turned up for breakfast bleary eyed only to find two huge black maned males sitting on the far side of the river watching us – no doubt pleased themselves. There were lion tracks past my house and around the office. The two sets of lions must have been calling to each other across the river and we were stuck in the middle. It is a fabulous sound – but not for hours on end!

The two of the three flamingoes are still in residence. The one that had been attacked by a fish eagle is doing well but flying with one leg hanging down below him. This does not seem to bother him thankfully. On the sand bank in front of camp we have 2 egyptian geese and their goslings. Yesterday a fish eagle decided to dive bomb the group, trying to take the chicks. However, the parents managed to fend him off by flapping their wings over the chicks. The persistent fish eagle continued his assault throughout lunch.

Lunch awaitsTalking of lunch, hungry guests had to wait for more than half an hour the other day as they were kept at Nkwali bar. A group of elephants decide to invade the deck and the guys could not set up lunch or indeed get from the kitchen to the bar for a change of venue. However, the beer flowed and no one seemed to mind waiting to eat.

Kate, our new caterer at Nkwali, and I had a close encounter the other night. We were sitting around the camp fire having a sundowner or two with Ryan – the pilot – when I heard a rustle behind us. We got up and moved to the bar and within a couple of minutes an elephant wandered up from chalet 1 towards the bar. He took no notice of us at all and just hung around. We thought he was going to join us for a drink. No being able to leave we were forced to have another glass of wine each. Being a small male we did not feel too threatened but were quite happy when Robin arrived and manage to drive the elephant back towards the senior staff compound. He then proceeded to stay close to Marcus’s house before eventually toddling off to join his friends who were on the other side of the camp.

Jacob and Ed had a great sighting with guest at Kasakasi. Jacob on foot with one group and Ed driving another, they were positioned on opposite sides of the lagoon. Two male lions were spotted and then three old male buffalos. Out of the undergrowth appeared more lions until a pride of ten were in sight. Everyone got quite excited thinking that they were about to see a kill. However, one of the old boys thought differently and charged directly at the lions who quickly scattered and headed off in all directions.

Well enough excitement for one week. I am off to dig out my hot water bottle and long johns – I live such a romantic life in the bush!

Stay well and have a great week,

ROBIN’S HOUSE UPDATE – Eight days to go and still lots to do.

We had planned for two tailors to be working flat out this week but one has gone walkabout! That leaves Mr Banda sewing at double the rate! We have just started the tailoring and it is amazing what he can do. That will be 22 curtains, 3 mozzie nets and all the cushions to be done in 10 days. And he will do it.

The house is looking SUPERB – yes a little quirky in places but that is our style. We have always done our own designs and never brought in architects etc – so yes things do get the personal design touch! Parallel lines ? – who needs them anyway. When Shanie and I spent a couple of hours trying to size the mozzie net metal frames we realised just how unparallel it all is.

James-the-electrican, a VERY old man, has been pulling wires through conduit pipes for weeks. This week he has attached them all, put the sockets and bulbs in place and so we tested the lights on Sunday. Without high expections Robin flipped the switch and much to our DELIGHT – all lights, switches, fans – EVERYTHING worked. A miracle to me! Well done James!

Willy-the-brickie is now out of the building and onto the outside kitchen – a way to go there.

Whiteson the painter is doing a beautiful job of the painting. I did ask him if he had enough paint to finish and yes, he did. Yesterday, after our weekly supplies were delivered from Lusaka, he announces that we do NOT have enough paint. Ho hum. Simon remembered that Tena Tena may have excess of the same colour – and they did. Sigh of relief.

We are all getting every excited about the final stages. Each day the house is looking more and more amazing. Next week I will be writing on the last day. Cannot believe it!

Until then…..
have a great time

It’s Monday 30th and a weekend away

Well I am just back from a weekend up at Tena Tena. I was excited to be staying at my old camp and have to say that it is looking absolutely fabulous. The tents have had a complete over haul with new floor mats covering the entire tent and cushions on the verandas. A beautiful calico lining is now the inside roof of the tent. It is amazing how a simple “face lift” can improve a camp.

My journey up to Tena Tena caused a few tense moments at Nkwali. The road has changed slightly and I remembered that Shanie had said that I had to take a right turn at one point. However, I had forgotten that this was on the way back and not going up. I therefore radioed Nkwali and no-one was quite sure where I was and I am sure that visions of search parties were beginning to form.

After a rather laboured 3 way radio conversation, Robin and Jo sorted me out and I soon came to the Musandile river. Changing into low ration four wheel drive – banging it into second gear and foot down I crossed to the other side. I then radioed to let everyone know that I was safe on the other side – one up for women drivers!

Daudi, Ross and Aniek are all in full swing and seem to be loving every minute of being at this special camp. On my first morning I was surprised by Jacob, one of the waiters with breakfast on my veranda which was a real treat. As I breakfasted on scrambled eggs and coffee I sat watching a yellow billed stork trying to manage his first meal of the day. The stork had caught a large fish in the lagoon behind the camp which measured longer than his bill. Mission accomplished you would think – but no – the the business of actually killing the fish proved somewhat difficult. The stork proceded to flap around trying to kill the fish and kept dropping it into the lagoon and then quickly managing to grab it again – this happened about 5 times until finally the stork swallowed the fish whole after a 20 minutes fight.

Later in the day I took a drive around the area and came across lots of game including giraffe, buffalo, elephants and various different antelope. Cats were elusive but probably sleeping in the shade as anyone other than a mad Englishwoman should have been doing. However, the next day Ross had to drop a guest at another camp and as he passed by the salt pan came across a pride of 15 on a fresh buffalo kill – of course I had decided to be lazy and stay in bed and therefore missed the spectacle. I went out for sundowners that evening and on the way back to camp saw a pair of hyenas munching on a bone and a white tailed mongoose. There is always something to see.

Now back at Nkwali and catching up on what has been happening. We have a new face with us – Adam Willemse has joined us as Workshop Manager. Adam has been in the Valley a while running workshops and also has had lots of experience in Malawi and his home country of South Africa. His background is structural engineering and mechanics and he is already feeling part of the team. We are all glad to have him on board and he will free up Robin and Simon who will no longer have an excuse to come to lunch with grease under their finger nails!!

Stay well and have a great week,

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