It’s Monday 26th April 2010 and time for bush and beach adventures

Firstly, I have to share with you a memorable experience I had this week. We were told that there was a dead lion in the park apparently killed by a buffalo. Egil a biologist from Zambian Carnivore Programme was keen in finding this dead carnivore for a post mortem. It was also a perfect opportunity to collect valuable scientific data useful for their conservation efforts and Luangwa Valley Carnivore Monitoring Programme (LVCMP). So I joined him on his search. After a couple of hours in the park we sadly found an old lioness lying dead on an open plain. It was quickly identified by Egil by its markings. I found out that sightings like this provide invaluable data on carnivore population dynamics, trends, age, sex composition of populations, distribution and habitat use of these carnivore species.

Elephant, South Luangwa, ZambiaElephant, South Luangwa, Zambia

Mike and Linda a couple of regular guests from the UK spent 10 days with us, combining the beautiful Luangwa Valley with the peaceful and relaxing Pumulani on Lake Malawi. They kindly shared their adventure with us – over to Mike and Linda.

“We were given an honourable mention by Rita in recent It’s Mondays while we stayed (yet again) at Nkwali in the Emerald Season. We enjoyed the company of her parents – her mother’s delight when she thought she was looking at a “bebe leopard” on a night drive (having spent time earlier watching a full size one), was not diminished when she learnt it was a genet. To us old hands, the pleasure of sharing such sights with first timers reminds us (if we needed it) of why we keep coming back for more.

Eland, South Luangwa, Zambia

The benefit of staying for 10 days at a time is that we get the chance to explore lesser known parts of the area, including the GMA. Jacob had the short straw of guiding us for most of our stay – it is 10 years since he first took us out, when he was young and slim (and we were younger and slimmer too). There is an excellent mopane forest in the GMA near Nkwali, which leads to a small pan, so one morning, Jacob took us there. We found a group of zebra as well as specialist birds such as racket-tailed rollers and swallow-tailed bee-eaters. While having tea at the pan, we were distracted by watching a garden locust emerging from its nymph skin and releasing its wings for the first time – how it all folded into the nymph skin is a feat of engineering. This was the first time we had seen this so who needs the big five all the time?

Zebra, South Luangwa, ZambiaZebras, South Luangwa, Zambia

We repeated our adventure of 2 years ago by walking up the Katete and, for the first time, the Mushilashi rivers – literally in the water, which at this time of year is a few inches deep at most, and far cooler than the hot sand rivers they will soon become. While the water is only shallow, patches of soft sand lead to sudden drops to thigh depth, sometimes needing a helping hand to get out. Much amusement as all of us got stuck at some time.

Sebastian threatened us with walking from the confluence of the Mushilashi (with the Luangwa) to its source, but we mutinied and decided to stop after tea at the bridge (conveniently a vehicle was there to meet us). With lions a little further north, the game drive was extended to have a look at them and, despite being late morning, they were not all asleep, but were crossing the road to drink in the gully. And then, just to prove nothing is predictable on safari, while driving back to the crossing point on the all-weather road, we saw a cat strolling ahead. First thought was a young leopard and then realised as it turned that it was a serval in broad daylight. It swiftly moved into the long grass and was lost from view but still – quite a highlight.

Thanks to Mike’s winning photograph in the 2008 RPS competition, we had a free stay at Pumulani after our time in Luangwa. As hardened bush addicts, we rarely add beach time to any trip- preferring to spend limited time and budget on safari. Also, although Mike is a diver and keen snorkeler, Linda is not a water baby and so was preparing for a few days of relaxation and reading. Mike decided that the kayaks available were too easy and decided to try his hand at the bwote – the local dug-out, paddled effortlessly by all the local fishermen in good weather and bad. He was the first this season to volunteer, but the Pumulani bwote had been attacked by wood borers during the rains so the “future herb garden” was brought down and it took up to 14 men to patch it to make it float – or to watch and give advice! Then, sticking to the calm waters of the inner lagoon, Mike, under instruction from Glynn had a go. He said it was a better balance test than anything the Wii has to offer, and succeeded in staying on top for a while, but eventually over it went. After two more duckings, he gracefully retired, having earned some respect for “having a go” and “doing better than most”.

Cormorant, Lake Malawi

However, Pumulani is a place that offers far more than just active watersports, and Luke and Glynn offer true wildlife opportunities, with bird walks and boat cruises, which include dipping a hand in the water in shallow areas (no crocs – not to be tried in the Luangwa!), holding a piece of bread and allowing the fish to nibble at bread and fingers. Even on the beach, there were cormorants and kingfishers vying over the preferred perches, and a mob of weavers actively building nests to impress their girls, and we watched them strip strings from the palm fronds in one tree to weave the nest in a neighbouring tamarind. As usual, there were some birds that seemed more intent on destroying the nests of their rivals. Sundowners on the dhow, and one day, even breakfast on the dhow provided the much needed relaxation. The staff are from the local villages, and are always smiling and helpful, with Betti making sure everything runs smoothly, and James, the new chef, delivering excellent and varied meals.

Dhow, Pumulani, Lake Malawi

During a chat with Luke, we discovered that we had been guided by his father, Mark Evans, at Hippo Camp in Kafue on our first Zambian safari (a trip which also included our first mobile with Robin and stay at Nkwali and Tena Tena) back in ’94. Being looked after by the second generation made us feel old – but hopefully we have many more years of safari in us yet.

Be warned – we will be back!!” – Mike & Linda

Stay well and have a great week.

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