It’s May 2004 and …

 

It’s May 2004 and …

It’s Monday 3rd and Jo becomes a domestic goddess

We are all a little slow this morning as Robin and Jo had their house warming yesterday – a valley all lunch party which finally ended at around 0830 in the evening – a fantastic day sitting out under the trees, drinking pims and bloody mary’s, an excellent braai orchestrated by Robin and Jason Alfonsi and then swimming, snoozing and chatting – a perfect lazy Sunday, except for poor Shanie who was busy covering for Emily at Nkwali and had guests arriving and departing for most of the afternoon.

Called “RoJo’s House” the new house is situated at the back of camp, overlooking the grass dambos and in the distance the Chendeni Hills. Finally Robin and Jo have built their dream house and Jo is showing spectacular domestic tendencies after 16 years of living in the bush without showing any house pride at all. She now discusses curtain fabric and has learnt how to use a magimix. We are all finding it quite a hoot !!

Training TimeWe now have a new salary programme which will save Simon many hours of frustration and Shanie from a prematurely bald husband from all of the hair tearing that used to go on due to a very complicate (well it seemed it) and rather unreliable excel system. Patrick arrived from Ndola to install the programme and do some training. As you will see from the picture – the first rule at RPS for all training is to find a small room and fit as many people around one screen as possible….

Ross and Daudi are finally up at Tena Tena and Nsefu and camp building is now flying along – vehicles are moving up and down with supplies of grass, cement, paint and all manner of equipment – unfortunately we sent our infamous carpenter Mr Edward Jere up yesterday and then got a radio call to say that he had forgotten his hammer – somewhat frustrating when it takes around 4 hrs to get there at this time of year.

Last night guests were lucky enough to see the lioness and her little cubs again. She seems to be quite a performer and does not mind guests photographing her as she moves her brood around.

Simon told us he had an critical job to do on Saturday – it turned out it was taking his wife, who was suffering from cabin fever, out on a birding trip in the park. They saw some lovely birds – Simon managed to get super shots of a three banded plover and an african jacana.

African JacanaThree Banded Plover 

Paul had a rather unusual sighting of a puku being attached by vultures – it seemed to still be alive and so must have been injured and the vultures were taking advantage of its lack of mobility.

Tuesday is the total lunar eclipse and as we speak Shanie is busy researching on the internet to see what time we should all be ready for the hopefully spectacular sight. Amazing to have this technology in the bush……

Stay well and have a great week
Cheers Kim

It’s Monday 10th and moonlit adventures

Lunar eclipseAs Kim and Jo are away at Indaba, a big travel trade show in South Africa, it has fallen to me [Shanie] to tell all about the exploits of the last week.

It began rather spectacularly with a total lunar eclipse last Tuesday evening – this phenomenon only occurs at full moon and when the earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the moon. To mark this special occasion we planned a surprise bush dinner for the guests. Simon and I went out early to set up and await the arrival of the guests – this took some time as it was the first time we had used the new roads at the back of Nkwali and it is a bit confusing to say the least, driving amongst the tall grasses. Although the guides would never admit it, I think some of them definitely got a little lost! Luckily it was clear night so we had a clear view of the moon slowly being covered with a shadow and eventually turning a coppery red – quite a sight to behold as we sat around a big camp fire sipping champagne.

Lunar eclipse

Love is definitely in the air at the moment, as we have had a lot of honeymoon couples staying with us, including Corinna (and her husband Jonnie) who was a caterer at Tena Tena during the 2001 season. Friends of Simon were also here last week on honeymoon, and he took them out on a couple of game drives. Pels Fishing OwlOn one drive they were fortunate enough to have a wonderful sighting of a Pels Fishing Owl.

Gameviewing in general has continued to be fruitful with good sightings of cats including lion, leopard and serval. Some of the RPS staff went for a Sunday afternoon drive and sundowners in the park and had this very relaxed big pussy cat!great sighting of a very relaxed big pussy cat!

During tea yesterday afternoon, a herd of elephants tried for the first time this season to cross the river in front of the bar. They got about half way across before deciding that it is still too deep and retreating to the far bank. A very large crocodile was lurking nearby and began taking an active interest in the elephants. It was very interesting to watch how the large female elephants made sure that the babies of the group were well protected in the centre so they did not come to any harm.

Camp building is well under way and all is on schedule – it is all running a bit too smoothly for our liking!! Staff for the camps are assembling and it is a hive of activity. Kate, who catered at Nkwali last season, arrives on Thursday and will be working up at Nsefu this season and Aniek, who returns for a second season at Tena, arrives next week. It will be great to have them back with us.

Stay well and have a great week Cheers

Shanie

It’s Monday 17th and the vision in pink returns

I [Kim] have just returned from a travel show in South Africa and am frantically trying to catch up with emails etc so have asked Kate to write this weekend’s edition. Many of you who visited Nkwali last season will remember our pretty-in-pink caterer – the khaki outfits were definitely only for daylight hours – over to Kate.

As the latest addition to this year’s team, I find myself [Kate] writing this week. Last season I catered at Nkwali and this year I am to be based at Nsefu – a very exciting thought! So far I have no regrets and it is a great feeling to be back in the bushes after five months in London. The valley is looking wonderful and the camps will be fantastic too.

The bar in AprilIt is such fun to see Nkwali again with everything looking so green. The river has become a different place since I left in December – although it is clearly beginning to drop already, it is a remarkable change from the dry, characterful sandbanks to the huge body of water it is now. Adam has done a brilliant job of giving the bar a facelift – complete with a stunning deck, lovely sitting area down by the bank and superb boating steps, it is difficult to believe that people can tear themselves away to go out on game drives!

On my first day back we headed north to the Nsefu sector to check out the camp building. Again, it was a treat to drive through the area and experience the lush greenness of it all. There are still quite a few wet patches and the odd reminder of where vehicles have faced serious challenges in breaking through the temporarily uncharted territory. We stopped in at Tena Tena where Ross and his team are busy turning an overgrown riverbank into the superb camp that Tena Tena is. It is an amazing job and such fun to see it all going on at this stage. The bar is pretty well finished and some excellent new store-rooms and an office have been built. The rooms are coming on and then tents should be up this week.

We headed on to Nsefu, passing the series of winding lagoons. The Nile Cabbage is quite striking at the moment – blanketing the water with its bright green mass. Nsefu, which is to be my new home, was buzzing with activity under Daudi’s keen eye. With fresh paintwork everywhere and new thatching throughout, it is going to be pretty smart and I am itching to get up there permanently and put the finishing ‘girly’ touches to it all. As I write a big truck has set off north with all Nsefu’s linen, mattresses etc.

PicnicRoss and I joined Shanie, Simon and Corinna and Jonnie for a blissful picnic in the sector. It was lovely to see all the Lilian’s lovebirds congregating already, to feed on the new seed. On the way home we had some fabulous viewings of elephant and hippo – a nice reminder of why I have come back!

So things are moving fast and before we know it, the camps in the Nsefu sector will be ready for all.

Stay well and I look forward to seeing some of you during the season.

Cheers
Kate

hippoLilian's lovebird

 

elephant 

It’s Monday 24th and walking with dogs

Well this has been a fantastic week for the wild dog lovers amoung us. One morning guests were having breakfast at Nkwali bar and a lone dog was spotted across the river. The wild dog chased a bushbuck and almost brought it down but the luckily for the antelope managed to dive into the river for safety – luckily avoiding the crocs.

Antonia one of our lovely regular American guests had an amazing experience. This guest is an avid photographer and does not do much walking. However, on the morning concerned the scout was not going out and so Keyala suggested they take the scout with them just in case she wanted to go for a short walk.

The drive proceeded and then Peter the guide spotted a pack of wild dog – out they jumped and walked across to a good viewing spot.

Kate at NsefuThe small group then had the most amazing sighting of the dogs on a puku kill and watched for sometime as the pack socialised, ate, rested and generally did what dogs do – needless to say Antonia came back buzzing with excitement.

Nsefu is ready to rock and roll and both Daudi and Kate (see picture) have done a wonderful job of getting the camp ready. I went up to both Nsefu and Tena Tena yesterday to drop off firstly Debs and Kerri at Nsefu and then Aniek at Tena Tena. Aniek arrived back on Thursday after a fun ski season and is now busy helping Ross get Tena Tena ready for the first guests who arrive on Saturday.

The Nsefu sector is looking beautiful – I always forget how different it looks at this time of year – Baka Baka has plenty of water and is briming with birdlife. Lots of elephants were in the area and I saw two new birds – well new to me. A chestnut bellied kingfisher and a mouse bird – both beautiful but especially the kingfisher – stunning blue. I also saw a pair of crowned cranes.

chestnut bellied kingfisherpair of crowned cranes

There are also lots of flowers still around which are attracting “clouds” of butterflies.

Butterflies

This morning Simon and Shanie were stranded in their house. A family of elephants decide to camp out in the garden and looked like they were in no hurry to move on. The intrepid couple ended up having to vault over the bathroom walk and tiptoe away from the house – luckily they still have an open air bathroom otherwise they would have been holed up for several hours – the perfect excuse for being late on a monday morning!

Stay well and have a great week Cheers Kim

It’s Monday 31st and wedding bells at Nkwali

This week has been a very busy week in the Robin Pope Safaris calender with both Nsefu and then Tena Tena opening and a wedding down at Nkwali. I am pleased to say that all events went off with resounding success!!

Nsefu and Tena Tena gameviewing has started off in fine fashion with good sightings of lion and leopard at Nsefu and the hyena den at Tena Tena is still providing guests with a lot of entertainment.

The last week at Nkwali has been a hive of activity with the final preparations for the wedding of Giles and Illona (some of you will know her from Steppes Africa where she works). Illona had always wanted to get married under a tree in the middle of the African bush, so a lovely big winterthorn tree was selected next to a little lagoon, not far from the Luangwa River, and the site was prepared.

Touch RugbyThey arrived on Thursday with a group of 20 friends and family from all around the world to help celebrate this special event. The first couple of days were spent gameviewing, playing touch rugby on the sand bank in front of Nkwali, having an impromptu stag night at Flatdogs (the local bar) and champagne sundowners in the bush for the ladies and A LOT of drinking and dancing at and on top of the new Nkwali bar. (I think it could be said that it has been christened in style!)

The wedding day itself was wonderful – behind the scenes everyone swung into action, doing everything from making bouquets (I never knew I had flower arranging talents), making confetti from bougainvillea flowers, chilling large amounts of drinks, making delicious canapés and setting up the site itself in the bush. The ceremony was overseen by the Reverend Mwanza, who gave a wonderful sermon in fine Zambian style about the obedience of women in marriage, and accompanied by the Nkwali camp choir. Needless to say the bride and groom looked wonderful and there were smiles and tears of joy all round.

Teh wedding site

Following the service we had sundowner drinks on the river bank with lots of wonderful photo opportunities, including the official group photos when a herd of giraffe turned up to see what all the excitement was about. The day progressed back at Nkwali with champagne cocktails and a three course dinner – an epic affair that started at 8:30pm with guests only getting down from the tables at 11:30pm. The party then really kicked off with many drinks and hours of dancing. The hard core crew saw the sunrise and still wanted to go on a gamedrive – that’s dedication for you.

Gamedrive

The group all left this morning to continue their holiday down in Livingstone – we are all really sad to see them go but are looking forward to a few early alcohol free nights!!

Cheers
Simon & Shanie

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