It’s Monday 11th October and a season at the Mobiles

It’s Monday 11th October and a season at the Mobiles

Remote, raw and authentic Africa – this is what I came out here to experience and there is no better place than up on the Walking Mobile Safaris . The team of 12 heads off at the beginning of every year into the great unknown ready to make this stretch of riverine their home. Alfred the chef moves away from the gas stoves of Nkwali and gets digging to prepare his new oven in the ground. The bedroom attendants flex their muscles as they start their 5 months physical training exercise by the end of which they are more than capable of throwing one of the extremely large tents into the back of the truck. And the waiters excavate 4 small little holes in the ground to accommodate the tree branches that conveniently become their dinning room table legs.

As for the caterer she usually has the steep learning curve of how the camps are set up, getting to know the team and their quirks and learning about the differences between the small pop up tents we used to go camping in as kids and the rather more substantial tents up on mobiles. As for Webby, well he supervises the goings on in the camp and makes sure that the younger members of the team do not shirk their duties and misbehave as well taking great care of his pride and joy – the Samil 50 – his truck!!

South Luangwa

Enough chat about the camp lets get into the nitty gritty. The opening of the Mobiles is always an event in itself. First challenge – the road!!! The grader usually battles to get up the road too early on in the year because of the sticky patches so it is always an enormous challenge to get the dates right for opening mobiles up. This year was no exception… The Samil 50 leaves first with the entire camp packed onto the back, closely followed by a Land Cruiser with all the staff in then finally myself and Rob in a Land Rover with all the additional bits and bobs – this year we were going great guns and thought that we would easily reach camp by 4.00 in the afternoon – how wrong we were.

Next corner we turned and there was the Samil 50 and the Grader all stuck! When we originally bought the truck we were told that it would not easily get stuck and if it does then you have a problem – they were not lying. A lot of digging and 2 hours later we managed to tow the truck out with the help of both cars – next we managed to “unstick” the grader and by this time we were looking at the setting of the sun. What could be nicer than setting up camp in the great African void. I think that at this point Claire our Mobiles caterer was really asking herself what on earth it was that she had let herself in for! 

As night fell we managed an elaborate meal of baked beans on toast and an early night. First light we were all up and about and pushed on through a slightly diverted route and made it to camp by 9.00 the following morning with a comfortable 24 hours until the first guests arrived. Rob and I showed Claire around what was to become her new home for the next 5 months, got the teams going and then sadly had to head back to Nkwali as by this stage we were well aware of the road that lay ahead.

It has to be said – if you don’t mind a slight lapse in concentration – driving up to Mobiles and being in that area of the park always hits me with thoughts of Out of Africa. The complete isolation and silence really does give the impression of being able to get out of the car and walk and explore areas that are relatively untouched by humans. Forgive my romantic notions I do have a real soft spot for the Mobile Safaris.

Before I digress too much I thought it would be great to get a little insight into the season from Claire who has been our caterer up on Mobiles for the whole season and also from Simon (our Tena Tena Manager) who managed to join the last trip of the season.

Claire – over to you….

“From the beginning to the very end of the mobile season mother nature has truly outdone herself and put on a spectacular show for the guests, staff and myself.

A wise man told me once “don’t go looking for the animals, let them come to you” and I have to say that theory is proved quite regularly up at mobiles. A cheeky honey badger raiding the kitchen bin while sitting around the camp stove, a herd of buffalo joining us for afternoon tea, and my all time favorite, lions running past the table whilst chatting away at lunch. Certainly a conversation stopper I can tell you.

Lets not forget the smaller animals that often get over looked, whilst having dinner underneath a blanket of stars Drew the elephant shrew from Camp two can often be seen tucking away at his dinner of insects and though you can’t always see them, when everyone is tucked into bed the crickets and owls serenade us to sleep with their tunes.

With the crystal clear waters of the Mupamadzi lazily meandering past all 4 of our camps we see a constant pilgrimage of creatures great and small coming to drink. With the temperatures rising we also find the guests seem to enjoy having a wallow in the cool water while the white-fronted bee eaters and waterbuck watch in amusement or disgust.

Webby giving me lessons on how to drive a manual vehicle and negotiating the deep gulleys, Chef Alfred teaching me how to cook in the ground oven and Shaddy giving me demonstrations on how to prepare my bush shower, it truly has been a massive learning curve and a great one at that. Thank you so much to the Mobiles team for making me feel like part of the team. It has been an honour.

Mupamadzi means the gift of water in the local Kunda language but having been my home for the last 5 months I feel that not only is it a gift of water but also a gift of raw and pure beauty from mother nature and anyone that visits it comes away a changed person.”

And from Simon….

“Well after 5 years with Robin Pope Safaris and many years of begging and pleading I finally got to go on the dream trip in the Luangwa Valley for anyone who enjoys long walks. Having been to the Mupamadzi area on days off and on occasions for work to fix vehicles etc I knew the area had fantastic game and was very remote. However the Mobiles are usually busy that there is rarely a spot to be able to join one. Finally this year a spot opened up and Jason the lead guide said he was happy for me to tag along. It was one of the best experiences I have had since I have been back in Africa. The camp sites on the river are great and being able to swim at lunch time to take the bite out of the October heat is a real bonus.

The camp is simple with great food and the game is unbelievable with hartebeest, wildebeest, eland, reed buck, roan all regular sightings in October along with some great lion sightings and fantastic game viewing of zebra, waterbuck, buffalo and many of the other regular Luangwa plains game. This combined with Jason’s guiding and Piela the lead scout getting us into great positions we had wonderful fun. I also added some wonderful birds to my bird list with great sightings of black chested eagle, racket-tail roller, miombo starling and a variety of other species.

The landscape changes regularly over the whole area and with woodlands, flood plains and sand rivers the area is spectacular. I am looking forward to returning next year and it was a shame to be leaving after the 4 days I was up there… Plus the staff and Claire make the camp feel like home.”

Thanks ever so much Simon and Claire – I don’t think that there is any more that I can add as this pretty much sums it up.  Claire will be back and Simon will also be leading some of the trips up on Mobiles next year so I look forward to more of their stories.

Have a great week


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