It’s May 2001 and …

It’s Monday 7th and Luwi Lions

Yesterday was a fine tribute to Johnny Ambrose. Over 60 people from around the Valley converged on the Croc Farm touch rugby pitch on a very HOT and sunny afternoon for the first Johnny Ambrose Cup. Johnny’s life almost revolved around touch rugby! There are many touch-rugby enthusiasts here so putting four teams together was no problem at all!!

Teams included the Mwafwa Wonderers, Nsefu Seven, Luwi Lions and Manzi Maulers.

After the field was graded to be rid of the many ankle-snapping pot-holes and fresh paint was used to mark the boundaries, four able captains chose their teams and the tournament began. I have never seen such competitiveness since the beer ran out at one of last year’s more memorable Valley parties!

I don’t know the first thing about this game but I could tell from the way that the participants were hurling themselves around the field in earnest… was very serious business! Remarkably there was only one injury – a ligament fracture! Simon had done similar damage to his foot recently so was relegated to the score-keeper position. He was not keen to part with his state-of-the-art ankle-cast for the newly injured!

Many cokes were drunk through the afternoon and after six matches and MUCH sweat two teams emerged to fight it out for the shining trophy. The Manzi Maulers had won the last three games but didn’t have it in them to beat the Luwi Lions at the last! At five minutes to final time the score was two-all.

Suddenly what looked like a sprinting giraffe tore around the outside of the pack and scored the winning try. At the finish a bright orange sunset burst over the field amidst a cloud of dust, much sweat, dirt and sore egos!

The Luwi Lions held aloft the shining trophy, which was filled, of course, with Mosi Beer. A very fitting Valley moment!! About 35 hungry people remained for a pig on the spit and a few quiet ones. It is strange that hardly anybody can walk today!

Jo had an exciting experience at the clinic this weekend. Sitting on a concrete slab for three hours during the monthly clinic meeting is hardly a delight. However Jo’s attention was being diverted by Martha, the medical officer in charge, who kept walking into and out of the meeting. Finally she asked Jo to walk into the labour room and there on the bed was a 15 minute-old baby! This weeny little creature was born during the clinic meeting and Jo was rather chuffed!

So this week included many happy experiences. One of the happiest, according to Nkwali staff, sounded like it was coming from our honeymoon suite the other night – isn’t that lovely!

Have a fantastic week everybody!

It’s Monday 14th and Aqua Aerobics!

Our guests in camp this week are witnessing game that is ‘beyond their expectations’. One couple arrived at Nkwali four days ago and every day they have seen the big four! Apart from what they have seen inside the Park there have been large elephant groups behind Nkwali and a pride of seven lion have been spotted by Daudi’s Bridge on two separate occasions! The glorious, mild weather at this time of year has been perfect for all-day drives and our guests have been taking this opportunity frequently! I hear the boat cross the river at about 6.30am so that the guests meet our vehicle inside the Park and they don’t return until 8.00pm at night – a great day out with packed lunch and many stories to tell.

The birding continues to be brilliant – Simon tells me that the list of birds spotted each day by guests is very long indeed! An uncommon sighting last week landed in the river in front of Nkwali. Our guide was taking a group across on the river by boat when a dabchick landed in front of them. Dabchicks are rarely seen around this area and usually reside along lakes.

If you drive into Nkwali right now you will notice a new development taking place just near Jo and Robin’s house. Jo has been advised that the best way to help her arthritic condition is swimming. So in came the troops to dig a rather large hole in the ground and quickly taking shape is a rather fantastic 14 x 4 metre lap pool! Very exciting!! Jo is very much looking forward to starting her fitness regime and invites all guests to swim too! Ideas being floated at the moment included aqua aerobics classes at dawn (before morning game drive!) and synchronised swimming lessons at sunset (with g & t in hand!). Any other ideas will be warmly received!! Apart from the prospect of aquatic adventures at Nkwali Jo is busy organising the pool area – herbs will be planted, chairs to recline in and sunbathe will be purchased and wildlife-restricting fencing will be erected. The last thing Jo needs to find early one morning is a hippo stuck in the deep end!

Needless to say we are so pleased that our guests want to be out in the Park as much as possible this week….cement blasting the new pool is a very noisy exercise! Happily the construction team have been able to complete this task with a minimum of fuss and totally out of ear-shot from our guests! Everything is going to schedule and it is envisaged that Jo will be able to take her first swim by this weekend!

In two weeks Nsefu and Tena Tena will open again and everything is coming along very well at both camps. I cannot wait to get up there to see them again! In June we have space available around the Eclipse at our camps and there are three different itineraries available. There is space for six people over 7 nights, two people for 10 nights and two people for 8 nights. Each of these itineraries have seats reserved on aircraft to fly from Mfuwe to the Lower Zambezi return on 21 June to view the total eclipse. So there are still opportunities to witness this amazing event – those interested should let us know!

Have a great week.
Best regards

It’s Monday 21st and Busy!

With less than one week to go until Tena Tena and Nsefu open for the season it’s busy busy busy!! Almost all of our staff are back on deck. Nsefu welcomes first guests on Thursday with Tena Tena mixing first gin and tonics on Friday! Robin is very pleased with the way preparations have been going. Typically, though, it is a mad rush to remember where everything was stored at the end of last season but in the end it all comes together! The weather is perfect right now and it is not before time that our guests can get up to the Nsefu sector to enjoy it all with us.

Nkwali has been a hive of activity as well. The river is very wide at present which could have put the Nkwali pontoon re-opening a little behind schedule! However in true RPS style the pontoon is almost in and should be operational very soon. In the meantime guests are still able to enjoy river crossings from camp to a waiting vehicle on the other side – within minutes they are inside the Park and enjoying the gameviewing.

The newest addition to Nkwali is the lap pool. Its construction was completed on schedule, the water is in and we are almost ready to take a dip.

There is one little problem to get to the bottom of (so to speak) and that is getting the water colour right!! Since Saturday the water has gone from red to brown to pale green and back to red!! In the space of four hours it went from pale green (which was OK and at least you could see the bottom) to a deep deep red. At the moment it looks like an exceptionally good cabernet vintage! It all has to do with the water that has been drawn up by the bore hole. It has too much iron content which reacts with the chlorine. The pool experts are busy figuring how to balance it all out so there is sparkling clear blue water. I do hope to report next week that we have solved the mystery and that Jo has been able to make that first splash!

The elephants are beginning to return to Nkwali now that the rains are over. A few lone elephant have approached the perimeter of camp and have been very relaxed…quietly eating leaves and coming down to the lagoon to drink. As always it is very beautiful to watch and great to see them back. Out in the Park our guests have enjoyed further close encounters. During one drive there were lion roaring right at the very SIDE of the gameviewing vehicle…enough to raise the hairs on your neck! Also witnessed were 3 female lion during a zebra kill. Guests visiting for one week have taken the opportunity in the past week to rise early for an all-day excursion into rarely-visited areas of the Park…with picnic lunch.

Returned from their recent annual leave in South Africa, Matthew and Sara looked refreshed and relaxed. They should do this more often…Matthew is one of those frustrating individuals who can eat a horse and still look the same but to my delight on return to Mfuwe he had put on a few pounds! It was a glorious three weeks commencing in the Midlands area, followed by Durban and then Cape Town and the surrounding Winelands. Matthew became a fly fishing addict in the Midlands region. He caught trout and bass but being a good conservationist he released all of them! Sara could not deny her beloved the opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures in life BUT she is not remotely interested in fishing…so she went to the beautician instead! Following these activities they stopped in Durban for Indaba. This included swimming in the ocean with Jo at 6am! They raved about the Cape region and have avowed to return.

The Celebration of South Luangwa is underway and by all accounts it is brilliant. A full report will follow next week and after that we will introduce the 2001 team at RPS.

All the best

It’s Monday 28th and the Team

It has simply been a fantastic week! And I could spend hours writing about it!! Today, however, I would like to introduce the complete RPS 2001 team….now that Nkwali, Nsefu and Tena Tena are fully operational this feels like the best time to do so.

Jo will provide a complete summary next week on the HUGELY successful Celebration of South Luangwa. Everybody, including guests, staff and Valley locals are convinced that it was a marvellous achievement. In one week over USD10,000 was raised for the Honorary Rangers (better known as RATS, the Rapid Action Team) to continue their fight against poaching in the South Luangwa Valley.

We are all very proud of our team this year. As you know a few much loved faces are taking on new challenges this year, leaving a few big gaps to fill.

Jo and Robin have sourced some excellent new talent and we are now able to start the official season with all departments ‘catered’ for! Filling the gaps with new faces was not the only staffing issue faced by management. Last year saw a lot of driving backwards and forwards between camps so that some of our happily-coupled camp staff could enjoy the benefits of each other’s company! It was decided to bring them together in the same camp this year, to the benefit of their relationships and our fuel bills! There will be regular relationship-updates to keep everybody in the picture!

Nkwali is headed once again by Simon Cousins, a young man whose love for this camp is quite easy to see. We are delighted to report that Shanie Norris joins him as Caterer to facilitate the aforementioned company relationship-sustaining policy. Whilst Tena Tena will always have a special place in Shanie’s heart she has taken to Nkwali with glee and is thoroughly enjoying herself! Simon is ably assisted in the guiding department by Keyela Phiri, Zebron Chirwa and Marcus Wylie. These three men have between them many years of guiding experience based out of Nkwali. Previous guests will be pleased to know that Keyela’s laugh is more infectious than ever, Zebron’s vocal range is as striking as ever and McCarcus’ stories never fail to have one’s lower jaw hit the bar in awe!

Sandra Cousins, the bubbly and shamefully enthusiastic younger sister to Simon has joined the camp for the past three months on work experience and has proved herself to be invaluable. Soon Sandra will depart for Switzerland to commence four years at a hospitality and management school and we all feel that she could start her career in this field without it!! A new face in camp who has been very helpful from the start is Andrew Ewing, our new in-resident pilot who has taken on the task of flying Jo’s plane this year. Andrew has moved up from South Africa and apart from his flying expertise his previous life in the army and as a safari guide has proved most useful around the camp!

After welcoming the first guests three days ago Tena Tena is looking absolutely stunning according to all reports. At the helm is Mr Robin Pope, who is in his element once again. Robin oversaw Tena’s brilliant rebuilding programme over the past month and has welcomed back a very strong team. Sandford Phiri returns as his senior guide while Jacob Shawa joins the camp from his previous position at Nsefu. After a one year sabbatical Chris Holt wants to come back! Having spent ten years with the company his wealth of knowledge and experience is warmly welcomed home! Chris will spend half of the coming season at Tena Tena and the other half guiding our Mobile Walking Safaris. Nathan Pilcher joins the team as a guide for three months. Many people might recall Nathan from his many years guiding for different safari operations in Zambia. Tena is also joined by newcomer Henry James. Henry hails from Kenya and is undergoing some serious guiding training whilst assisting in every way possible with the smooth running of camp.

Tena Tena’s other new recruit this year is Corina Sanday – Camp Caterer. In a stroke of excellent fortune we were able to snaffle Corina to the job when there was a last minute availability. With only 9 days to pack Corina flew from London and was then sent straight up to Tena Tena…as a result none of us have met her yet! She’s been busy ever since learning the ropes, with Shanie’s assistance, and I was lucky enough to teach her the finer points of radio communication yesterday! From the sounds of her voice I can confirm that Tena now has a very excited new Caterer! Her credentials in the field are proven as she is known to both Noodles and Shanie in previous catering lives in the Swiss Alps!

Nsefu saw the departure of Matt Gurney at the end of last season as Camp Manager. His guiding boots have been filled superbly by Wendy Leach, who is well known in the industry from many years working in Zimbabwe. Wendy’s first class experience is warmly welcomed and a perfect match for the talents of Noodles in the Catering department! A formidable duo!! Noodles was so excited about her return to Nsefu after a northern hemisphere winter season spent catering for a French ski chalet! Noodles could not bear the sight of snowflakes any longer!!

We are also delighted to report that Mr Jason Gifford is now a resident guide at Nsefu (so that he does not have to drive regularly from Tena Tena to visit Noodles!). Having joined Noodles in France working for the same ski outfit, Jason was also just ITCHING to get back here! His superb knowledge of the Nsefu area and wealth of experience as a senior guide is complimented by the return of Mr Daudi Njobvu to the front. Daudi still retains his presidential style and manner…his expertise in the guiding field has amassed many loyal followers far and wide! New to the guiding team at Nsefu is Gailos Mcheaga who also holds a vast knowledge of his local area.

Our Mobile Walking Safaris will see Chris Holt coordinating as guide this year. Sally Gordon joins us from the UK as Camp Co-Ordinator. Sally is known for being SUPER-efficient and her credentials are proven – apparently she knows ‘everybody’ and went to school with Possum! A perfect match for RPS!

Of course the most important part of the entire operation is Head Office (well, I like to think so anyway!). Jane Dennyson left us a few weeks ago to start a new life in East Africa and further her Africa marketing career and we wish her every success! We welcome Kevin Wright to fill the space Basil left behind! Kevin is not too dissimilar to Basil in many ways. He comes from Lusaka and knows everybody, has a keen interest in cars (and anything else that makes lots of noise and moves very fast!), food and sorting out all things mechanical and electrical! He does not drink much alcohol however which is ANOTHER great saving to the company! Sara Taverner and I [Jeffrey Shewell] continue to co-ordinate reservations and the glue that holds the whole shee-bang together remains the department of Matthew Taverner (General Manager) and Jo Pope (the Boss). Where would we all be without them??!

One cannot praise highly enough the efforts of everybody else not mentioned above who ensure the smooth operation of Robin Pope Safaris. This includes loyal staff who have been on the decks for over 10 years! How it all comes together ‘up front’ is almost entirely dependent on our fantastic camp staff, room attendants, chefs, waiters, groundsmen, drivers, mechanics and gardeners. An incredibly proud and loyal team!

We look forward to hosting many of you this year and hope to see many more of you again very soon.

Have a wonderful week.

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