It’s May 2003 and …

It’s May 2003 and …

It’s Monday 5th and Jacana is on the menu

Well, I am now back at my desk and fully recovered. Jo and Shanie are down in Durban for Indaba, the travel show, and having a great time meeting lots of agents and fellow safari operators. They say that the hard work and long days are giving them both a head ache in the mornings but I suspect that the fine South African wines may have something to do with this. Meanwhile, Robin, Simon and I are hard at work here in the bush – well that’s our story…

I actually went to meet friends for dinner last night, which was fun but the highlight was the drive there. I had just joined the tarmac and as I came around a corner, there was a super female lion wandering up the road. I followed her for about 10 minutes before she decided to turn off into the bush. Lion on the tar is not a sight you see every day and I felt very luck. On the way back to Nkwali I came across a young male elephant who thought he would be very brave and stand in the road trumpeting but luckily for me he lost his nerve as I approached and headed off so I could pass by and just made it back to camp before lights out!

We now have a full compliment of staff for the camps and indeed 3 new caterers will be arriving in a couple of weeks. Well one is already here in fact as Claire is currently catering at Nkwali but will be heading for Nsefu once the Kate arrives.

Nkwali will be managed by the ever popular and efficient Keyala Phiri who you will all know as he has been here for ever! Joining Keyala as caterer is Kate Howden. Kate calls the north of Scotland home but spent a lot of time in Kenya as a child since that is from where her parents hail. She currently works in medical PR so Jo will, I am sure get her involved in the clinic, even if this is not in the job description! Kate has a wealth of catering experience including Cordon Bleu training and cooking up feasts in various Scottish Lodges and the staff are certainly looking forward to her arrival.

Joining Keyala and Kate as guides are of course Marcus Wyllie and Zebron Chirwa both of whom are well know to our regulars.

Tena Tena – where I was caterer last year, is again being managed by Daudi Njobvu. Daudi’s enthusiasm and terrible jokes will be enhanced this year after his recent trip to the UK. Hopefully he will have a new joke to replace his infamous “wood eye” party piece. We love him regardless and he still has me in fits of laughter whenever he pops into Nkwali. Daudi will be working with Aniek van de Laar as caterer. Aniek is Dutch but living in Scotland and has extensive experience in the hospitality industry. Aniek has worked as a Chef in the UK and also Chalet Manager and cook for several seasons in the French Alps. Her qualifications include various catering and hospitality management courses and so will be well places to take the reins at Tena Tena.

Joining Aniek and Daudi as guide will be Ross Cummings who is back for his second season at Tena Tena – with bag pipes I am told so those joining us at Tena Tena may be surprised by the gentle wake up call being replaced by a rendition of Flower of Scotland.

Nsefu Ed Sayer and Claire Lewis are joining us as the management couple at Nsefu. Ed as brought up in Lusaka but after being sent to school in England came back to work in the valley as a guide and we are please that he has decided to come and manage Nsefu for us. Claire hails from the UK but after obtaining a degree in Zoology came to Africa and has been here ever since.
Claire spent many years working with overland trucks but has been overseeing the catering, game drives and anything else that came her way at Flatdogs for the past couple of years. In addition to being an excellent cook and organiser, Claire is a qualified guide so will be able to turn her hand to anything.

Ed and Claire will be joined by the same guides that Nsefu had last year – namely Jacob Shawa and Paul Ngoma. Both of who have been helping out at Nkwali for the last couple of week and are itching to get back up north to “their” camp.

The mobile safaris are still a little way off and I will let you know all about the staffing there in the next couple of weeks.

So enough of the housekeeping – what has been happening in the park.

We have had a phenomenal week for cat sightings. Leopards have been everywhere and a few mornings ago Zebron took 2 guests out for a walk and came across a Lioness and her 2 cubs, a super view. Guests have also had good sightings of Porcupine and Honey Badger which is always a treat. We have not seen wild dog this week although they are reportedly still in the area.

Last night Zebron was out on the afternoon drive and pulled up at Kalawani Pans when the guests got to see their first kill – not what they might have expected thought. A young Baboon had managed to get hold of an African Jacana and so it was bird for dinner – quite an unusual meal for the baboon.

A couple of Wood Owls have taken to visiting us in camps and we have heard their calls and seen them on various occasions. As I look out of my office window I can see a number of tiny Blue Waxbills hoping around looking for food and even in my office I get the odd visitor. A few days ago a Skink must have been trying to escape from the jaws of a predator and took a kamikaze leap onto my key board, needless to say the shock visit had me leaping out of my chair. We have also had a very brazen Monitor Lizard visiting us at lunchtime in the staff dining room. He just ambles up and climbs through the wire to see what is about and then wanders out the other side taking no notice of us at all.

We are very excited to announce a special safari for June –
MOONLIT SAFARI AT THE STORK COLONY.

Stork Colony

Near Nsefu Camp, there is one of the largest yellow billed stork colonies in Africa with around 2000 pairs and their 1000 chicks. In mid June the fledgling chicks are large but still on the nest. The noise and activity is immense. By day the martial eagles fly through the dense birds hunting.

Chicks can fall from the trees and the crocodiles, now 3 kilometres from any water, lie in wait and at night the prowling leopards can wander through the trees in search of food. The scrap merchants, the maribu storks, squabble over morsels of fish that fall from the feeding sessions. The colony is a noisy hive of activity.

June is the last month for the colony to be active and we have special permission to fly-camp nearby on the full moon – 14th June.

We are therefore offering a 7 nights safari starting on 08 June. Arrival at either Lusaka or Lilongwe with BA or via Joburg. The accommodation will be 2 nights at Nkwali, 4 nights at Nsefu and the final night fly-camping near the stork colony.

Cost: USD 2100
Single supplement USD 315
Extension nights before or after: USD 270 pppn (no single supplement)

Includes;
Full board, accommodation, all gameviewing, fly-camp, bar, National Park fees, flights Lusaka/Mfuwe/Lusaka or Lusaka/Mfuwe/Lilongwe.

Not included:
Airport tax and international flights.

ROBIN’S HOUSE UPDATE
The house is now really beginning to take shape with the bathrooms just waiting for the arrival of somewhat important things like baths and loos.
The roof is really starting to look like it might repel the elements and the thatch is going on quite quickly with a quarter finished and looks very smart. The electrical cabling and sockets are the next bits to be put in place before the plasterer can come in and do his work. Meanwhile, Jo is busy giving her credit card a bit of shock treatment down in South Africa. We are looking forward to seeing the goodies she has managed to find to decorate the house. I did get a phone call a couple of days ago from her bank asking if the card had been stolen as rather a lot was being spent!!

Stay well and have a great week

Cheers
Kim

It’s Monday 12 and Kim turns a shade of green

Well, this week has been a red letter walking week. Many people think that early season walks are not as exciting or productive as those later in season but this week certainly crushed that claim. Firstly guests walking with Keyala came across a sleeping lioness who was accompanied by 2 cubs. At first the cubs appeared to be snoozing too but then eyes opened and the guests where treated to a display of peak-a-boo by the young cubs as they hide behind their still sleeping mother with constant peering over and around her to see if the watchers where still there.

Then one day last week, again with Keyala, a group crossed the river by boat after breakfast and started out on their walk. As they popped their heads over the top of the bank, they were amazed to see a pack of wild dog with a puku kill. After staying and watching for sometime they did not actually walk very far that morning but surprisingly no-one seemed to mind!

The Chichele pride of 12 lions have recently been seen and it is great to know that they are all is such good shape after the rains. The sight of this large group basking lazily in the sun does make a good a photo op.

Robin was out of camp for a couple of days this week when he went on a walk into the Chendeni Hills. Robin had not done this for quite some time and
reports that the area is looking very good with plenty of signs of wild life. Although they did not see a lot of animals on the short trip, there was plenty of evidence such as buffalo and lion tracks. Robin did see Elephant and Zebra however. After staying in the hills for 2 nights Robin is now back and getting ready for the first of his special trips to Bangweulu Swamps and Shiwa N’gandu which departs tomorrow. These trips were both filled very quickly and I look forward to reporting next week on their findings – fingers crossed that they will see the Shoebill Storks.

We are all please that Jo and Shanie have now returned from a successful trip to Indaba. They say that everyone was very positive about Zambia which is hugely encouraging. Ryan, Jo’s pilot, has also returned after a stint flying in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He had a good time and found the Congo to be interesting – if not a little hairy at times from some of his stories!

Yesterday Jo and Ryan took Robin, Possum and me up for a joy ride flight around the park. Some of you will remember Possum from her time at Tena Tena and it is great that she has returned to the valley. Possum is now working for Tribal Textiles. The flight initially took us over the Chendeni Hills where we did some tight turns and I have to admit that my stomach flew into my mouth on a few occasions, I must have looked a little pale as everyone kept asking me if I was feeling alright! We then flew along the river all the way to Nsefu which really gives you a different perspective. The river is such a landmark and from the ground it is hard to imagine how it twists and turns it way through the park. I can now appreciate just how all of the oxbow lagoons are formed. We saw lots of Elephant, especially in the Nsefu sector as well as pods of hippos in the river. A great experience and I have now returned to my normal colour!! Stay well and have a great week

Cheers
Kim

ROBIN’S HOUSE UPDATE
Jo here, from 10 days away in South Africa. Shanie and I had great fun choosing the colour of the towels, the fabric of the sheets etc for Robin’s House. We seemed to spend a fortune and I still am only half way through the list (and yes the credit card company questioned the sudden spend spend spend after 3 months of no transactions). However, the mocha towels look amazing!

On return the first thing I did was drive to the house. Did we realise what we were taking on? Ben Parker of Tongabezi has come to the Valley for a couple of days and as we are combining Robin’s House with his “Tangala” private house he wanted to take a look. “Ummmmm – how long have you got – 7 weeks???? Well I hope they go very slowly!” Yes – it is tight but we will no doubt pull it out of the bag! The thatching is nearly complete on the front now and the verandah, which required long deliberations, was really worth it. It adds great atmosphere and does not cut out too much light. The old fashioned bath and hand basins arrived on the delivery truck yesterday. They were found in Lusaka and re-enameled! I do love a large, squared old style hand basin.

Jo

It’s Monday 19th and Robin brings me flowers

With Kim in Lusaka for the weekend I [Jo] am here holding the fort.

Robin returned yesterday from his first Bangweulu Swamps, Shiwa N’gandu safari full of excitement and stories which we all heard around the bar at sunset. The group of four had stayed with us at Nkwali for 5 nights before flying off – a 50 minute scenic flight over the valley, up the escarpment and across the plateau to the swamps. This is a huge low-lying basin containing rivers, swamps and further north, a lake. It is remote, wild and very undeveloped. The locals hunt and fish as they have been for generations.

The “pull” is an extraordinary amount of birdlife including the extremely rare shoebill stork and tens of thousands of black lechwe, endemic to the area. So Robin and his group were in for a treat. The water level was only 400 meters from the edge of the grass airstrip – which is high. Last year, when I went in late June, it was a few kilometers. The main concentration of birds was along the edge where they were feeding – and there were thousands.

Robin ticked a “lifer” – the spur winged plover (twitcher speak). A morning of poleing through the thick reeds produced two of the elusive shoebill. Wading and stalking, they all managed to get close and take photos. No one returned with leeches! The game drive, that afternoon, was exceptional. Apart from the curtains of black lechwe, 200 tsessebe and many jackal were spotted. And amongst all this game were the majestic wattle cranes. Returning to camp, poleing after sunset, the full moon lit their way through the pools. The local fisherman were always around, poleing their dugouts, throwing nets, chatting and singing long into the night. “Magical” says Robin.

Shiwa HouseAfter 2 nights at Shoebill Camp, there was a short flight to Shiwa N’gandu, The Africa House, where Charlie and Joanna Harvey now reside. I have talked about this extraordinary place before, but for those of you who do not know, it is a huge English style estate house, complete with terraced lawns, a chapel, turrets, family silver and “drawing rooms”. Built in the early 1920’s by Sir Stuart Gore Brown and recently renovated by grandson Charlie this is quite the most unexpected experience in the middle of Central Africa.

Robin said they had an “amazing” and varied time. From the hill they walked up they could see the Luangwa watershed far off to the east – incredible view. Joanna said it was an easy walk, Robin didn’t think so and then it turns out she has never done it! Augar buzzards and many palmnut vultures were also seen from the top. A visit to the Kapisha Hot Springs – lying in the warm mineral water in the forest, birding walking and wonderful slanting light as they drove back through the miombo woodland. A yellow throated leaflove – a WHAT?? – was another lifer for Robin (we’re twitching again!).

Shiwa - view from the houseJoanna had previously found some notes on a furnace that had been used to make all the tiles for the massive roof – and we are talking many tiles here. Following the notes they have managed to find the old tile furnace built into the side of a river bank. The excavations were fascinating.

The final night and 50 locals gathered on the manicured terraced lawn. A lion, who had been terrorizing the people and killing cattle and goats over the last few months had been finally been shot by Charlie a few days before Robin arrived. The lion was thought to have been a stray from the Luangwa.

The group re-enacted the killing of the lion, with someone under a blanket and others “beating” it to death with sticks. This “wake” was necessary to release the lion’s spirit. The lion had been buried under a large spreading tree, along side a number of other lion graves from over the years. The lion had to be facing east “to placate the lion spirit”, the tail was in the mouth “so it could not kill again” and the grave was trampled so “it could not be reborn”. The lions were all thought to be previous chiefs returning! (Note to Charlie – this was Robin’s recollection and apologies if some details are not correct!).

So my husband returned, with a handful of beautiful proteas flowers for me (what a sweetie), and having had a fabulous time.

Back at the ranch……another week of great gameviewing, wonderful morning breakfasts around the camp fire and fun had by all. I have to quickly mention the morning when the Simon’s attention was drawn to across the river by baboons barking and through the scope he could see the pack of wild dog running in all directions. Never before have the “crew” scrambled so fast. Everyone quickly boated across the river to the vehicles and drove off the see the dogs. Not to be – the dogs were long gone!

ROBIN’S HOUSE UPDATE

The golden grass to thatch the roof is arriving by the truck loads – all the way from Chipata. The local grass is too thick for “porcupine” thatching. The bundles, around 15 cm in diameter, are counted by hand.

This week 10,690 arrived! Yona, from the office, spent 2 days sitting on a pile of sand, with a clip board on his lap marking down every 5 bundles as the workers piled them up. They have to be stored off the ground so the termites do not chew them!

The “House with Five Roofs”, as it has become known locally, is now half thatched and has started to look like it will be a house. With walls only – it is certainly just a building site. Willy-the-builder is now starting to plaster the walls and Francino-the-plumber (pronouncing the “b”) has put pipes into the bathrooms. The mechanics at the workshop had a laugh as I tested out the re-enamelled old fashioned metal baths that had arrived from Lusaka – stepping into them fully clothed of course. Then I had to ask Simon to join me to see which one should go into the honeymoon suite. All at 0645 in the morning!

Have a wonderful week,
Cheers
Jo

It’s Monday 26th and Nsefu is open for business

I hope that this week’s news finds you all well and enjoying the holiday.

We have had a super week here with some extraordinary sights.

Firstly, Zebron and Paul had to take a vehicle around from the park to Nkwali after the guests were boated across in time for early sundowners, on the way back they saw an Aardvark – yes really and no guests to witness the event but amazing nonetheless.

Another first was an Albino Fly Catcher which was spotted on more than one occasion in and around the camp at Nkwali. There has been some debate as to its type but we seem to have settled on a Bluegrey.

On the birding front an even more amazing sight was that of 2 Greater Flamingoes who have settled on the banks of the river opposite Nkwali Bar. Yes really….. I was quite excited to see them as I had not seen any before but did not realise the magnitude of the event. Apparently we do not have Flamingoes in this part of the world and they are therefore “lost”. The last time any were seen in the area was about 15 years ago. They have now been with us for about 5 days and we hope they will stay at little longer. They really are the most graceful birds and a pleasure to sit and watch.

Breakfast time has been a wonderful time for cats of late. At Nkwali guests were treated to 5 lions, lying around on the bank just down from camp and stayed for several hours. At Nsefu – happily opened on Saturday of this week, Ed heard baboons making a racket on the first morning with guests in camp and suggested that they pop to the termite mound by the bar for a look see. Low and behold a leopard walked out onto the “beach” just in front of them. A great start to their season. It is good to have Nsefu open and welcoming guests again. Tena Tena will also open in the next few days and Daudi, Ross and Aniek are now putting the final touches in place and the camp is looking great – or so I am told. I am hoping to go up next weekend to see my old place and will let you know how it looks. Shanie and Jo have been working hard with the refurbishment of the tents and bar and by all accounts it is going to be fabulous.

Another big event for the coming week is the return of Jeffrey. Yes Mr Reservations himself is paying us a visit. Jeffers is on a familiarisation trip to Botswana and Malawi and is calling in for a week to visit old friends and have a few farewell parties. Unfortunately as Jeffrey left us during the rains, most of this friends were not in the valley so this is going to be a fun few days – I will report all that is fit for print…

Simon took 2 guests up to the Bangweulu Swamps this week. A short trip for just one night but they had a super time. The sight of thousands of antelope is something that will always stay with them with lots of Black Lechwe and Tsessebe. The main event was of course the Shoebill and they had a very close sighting so they were very lucky and pleased on their return. Simon also reports 3 new birds for him, being the Greenheaded Sunbird, Blackbacked Barbet and the Longtoed Plover.

Aniek and Kate have both settled in and are now part of the team. It is amazing how quickly they have picked everything up and it now feels as it they have both been here for ever. Aniek has not been to Africa before and so Shanie sent them both off on a game drive the day after they arrived. Can you believe it – first ever game drive (for Aniek at least) and they see wild dog chasing after baboons and then a leopard within the space of a few hundred metres – excellent start for them both.

ROBIN’S HOUSE UPDATE
Work is progressing well and it now looks like we may actually have it ready in time! The plumber and electrician are working away and the plasterers have started work so it is now beginning to look more like a house than a ruin.. The window frames are being put into place and the door frames would be but they were left off of the truck which arrived from Lusaka. Hopefully they will arrive on the next consignment although Robin has decided to take action and popped down to Lusaka to make sure that all is in order and will arrive in time.

For those who are interested in all depths of the bush, time with Derek Solomon will give you an amazing insight into the sounds. Derek has been a specialist guide for many years. He is a birding expert who has published a number of birding books. He has recently introduced a new activity in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, i.e. “Sounds of Africa Safaris” using sophisticated sound equipment to enhance guests appreciation of the environment. Up to six guests are able to link headphones into the equipment and listen to the sounds whilst Derek relates this to the behaviour of the many birds, animals or other wildlife. His next major task in a study of underwater communication in hippos together with a USA based researcher, and once again guest are able to listen to the myriad of underwater sounds from not only hippos but fish and crustaceans via the hydrophone.

We spent an hour with Derek this week listening at the sounds of the bush you would not normally hear. It was stunning. Interestingly we could also hear what the builders were saying over 100 meters away! If you are interested in booking Derek during a stay with us please do contact us in advance as he is in demand!

Cost: USD 150 per person for a full day.
USD 75 per person for a half day.

Stay well and have a great week

Cheers
Kim

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