It’s Monday 21st June 2010 and Tena Tena high moments

After 3 weeks in Europe I’m finally back to the Valley… the landscape has dried up, varying shades of brown and dry green are now predominant. On Saturday, on our way from the airport, the guests commented “this is a great start!” We had to stop the vehicle and wait for a big herd of elephants (around 15) of every age to cross the road. I couldn’t stop smiling and thinking “it’s good to be back”.

This morning I woke up to a loud sound like there was works on my roof. I opened the curtain and I saw a huge elephant half a meter from my face eating the tree by my window!!

It has been a month since Tena Tena opened for the season; I invited Simon Pitt to tell us about the adventures up north. Over to Simon:

Tena Tena Camp, Robin Pope Safaris, Zambia

The guiding team has remained the same: Nyambe, Bertie and I – itching to get in the bush. This year we welcomed new staff: Julius, who after passing the guiding exam in November last year is looking forward to be in the driver’s seat. Lucy is our new hostess, coming out from the UK, with many years of event management, hosting and catering under her belt. Lucy has high energy, radiant smile and fast growing passion for the bush she is helping us keep up the service and warm atmosphere.

Buffalos, Robin Pope Safaris, South Luangwa, Zambia

Tena Tena game viewing area is looking great. The cooler temperatures combined with the open nature of the bush this time of year has made walking a highlight of this season. With 3 walking guides in camp and Grited, our Scout, back for his second season at Tena Tena, we are having a ball re-exploring the area. June has seen some sightings of lion, close encounters with buffalo, seeing eland up close and not to forget the exploring of the smaller things such as butterflies, tracks and diverse vegetation of The Nsefu sector. Sometimes even sitting under a fruiting Fig Tree and letting the wildlife come to you can be a lovely way to explore the area (hmm new idea… sitting safaris!). I could go on for ages about the great sightings from the game drives. One of the biggest moments for the guiding team was hearing Bertie come back from game drive having seen a Clawless Otter at Buca Buca Lagoon. Nyambe, Julius and I turned green with envy!!

One of my high moments was a morning drive that turned into a wonderful day out. We recently had a few quiet days in camp with only two guests in camp. Having not been in the bush much this season I took the chance to hop aboard Julius’s vehicle and go on a drive as his spotter. Jo and Sandra were grinning from ear to ear having two guides on board.

Impalas, Robin Pope Safaris, South Luangwa, ZambiaThornicroft's Giraffe, South Luangwa, Zambia

On our first outing at night we came across a leopard on a kill, but it was a long way from the road. After watching a blur through binoculars for a while we decided to leave the leopard to its feast and come back in the morning and walk in to see what was left. The next morning Julius, Grited, Jo, Sandra and I got to Lunga Lagoon in time to see a lovely red sun rise. We then ran into a large buffalo herd coming down to drink. Having Grited with us I couldn’t resist a short walk to get Sandra and Jo in a better position for photos. After spending 30 minutes photographing the buffalo we snuck back to the vehicle without the buffalo knowing we were there and continued on to the kill site. From the hair stuck in the fork of the tree we worked out it was probably a puku kill (the carcass had disappeared over the night). The drag marks showing us that it had been dragged a short distance from where it was probably killed. We searched the surrounding area and could find no evidence of the kill. The concrete like black cotton soil meant it was hard to find tracks and we eventually gave up. By this time we realised it was 8:30 and Julius suggested that we get back on board the vehicle and keep heading to the stork colony where we planned to have a bush breakfast. It ended up being one of those mornings where all the wildlife came to us and it took us another 4 hours to cover the remaining 8 km to the stork colony. We spent about a hour and a half watching some fascinating giraffe interactions including a very young giraffe meeting a prime bull. You could only imagine the little guy going “I hope I get that big one day”.

After eventually making it to the stork colony we made breakfast lunch and called camp saying we’ll be back eventually… Little did we know how the afternoon would spoil us. Just as we finished lunch we heard a chorus of baboon alarm calls. Abandoning the half packed cooler boxes Julius speed us to the sound and we found a wonderful lioness walking across a open plain. After posing nicely for us she headed into some grass and was lost from sight.

Lioness, South Luangwa, Zambia

At this stage we began to realise our morning drive was probably going to become an all day affair. We abandon the idea of a afternoon walk and decided to slowly cruise back to camp down the river watching baby elephants and bee eaters flicking between trees. About an hour after our lazy crawl home began we came across lion tracks from the night before. Using a bit of local knowledge, some tracking and a bit of luck we found the lionesses on a patch of sand lying around struggling to move in their lazy state and waiting for the sun to go down. Once again we radioed camp and said we were not going to make it for sundowners, could they bring us a spot light instead. Lucinda and Bertram bought the spotlight and sundowners to us and arrived just in time for us to be able to drink gin tonics with a setting sun much the same colour as the sunrise that morning and lions waking up in front of us.

The light began to fade, the shadows disappeared and the lions became ghosts in the grass rousing themselves from their cat nap and setting off down river again. We followed them for a good 20 minutes as they ducked back and forward over the road and in and out of cover. Unfortunately they managed to go where we couldn’t, at one stage and we circled back and forth hoping to find them eventually stopping to listen and hope for a alarm call to let us know where they were. We got more than we hoped for with a short squeal from a warthog and a chorus of baboon barks we were back on the trail. Unfortunately we couldn’t get into the bush the lions had made their kill in as it was in thick bush along way off road, today we were lucky though.

As we moved back and forth along the road trying to get a look in we had a male leopard basically walk into the vehicle. To my amazement and the happy clicking of cameras in the back he walked about 2m away from the vehicle and then went behind us. To add to our joy a skittish female followed him out of the bush and they then walked side by side down the road. Also hunting and not seeming to care about the baboons barking or the crushing sounds of bones coming from the bushes not 200m away. They proceeded through the bush in front of the vehicle happily letting Jo and Sandra take pictures as they moved back and forward in the bush and along side the vehicle. After about 15 minutes they decided they were bored of our company and as leopards often do they walked into a bush and disappeared in shadow.

At this stage we decided it was time to head for home as it was getting late so we headed for home. As we sat eating dinner it occurred to us we had spent just over 14 hours in the bush that day and it had all flashed by.

Well… time to get back in the bush! From Tena Tena ciao for now,
Simon

Have a wonderful week,

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