It’s Monday 31st May 2010 and Kiki is ready to guide us

What a week…. Tena Tena and Nsefu opened for the season. There was a huge push to get everything looking sparkly, fresh and lovely in time and now the whole team is in great spirits!

Tena Tena Camp, Robin Pope Safaris, ZambiaTena Tena Camp, South Luangwa, Zambia

At Tena Tena the guests seemed to be having a great time. Bertram was guiding through Lunga Lagoon when he spotted something rarely seen here, a Cape Clawless Otter!! It seems that the game has been great and this week they’ve found a couple of leopards mating behind camp… how wonderful..!

Nsefu is looking outstanding, well done Daudi ! The game has been very exciting, lions were seen stalking buffalo and killing one on Wafwa Island…. also the stork colony is heaving this year.

Daudi at Nsefu Camp, South Luangwa, ZambiaLion on buffalo kill, South Luangwa, Zambia

To celebrate the award for the Best Guiding Team in Africa, this week we will hear from one of our most remarkable guides with the most infectious laugh Kiki ( Keyala ). How did he get started has a guide, his view about the Valley and some inside info about his job as Nkwali Camp Manager. Over to him…

Keyala Phiri, Robin Pope Safaris, South Luangwa, ZambiaKeyala 'Kiki' Phiri

“My father was working for Zambia Wildlife Authority , called National Parks and Wildlife Service that time; he was the first to encourage me towards the bush life. But he was more into hunting, I did not have a problem with it but I couldn’t be his buddy here, hunting was never my thing. When I temporary moved to Kafue National Park to live with my elder brother, he (my brother) was the one that made me like the bush so much. Funny enough he wanted me to do accounts but I told him “forget it I don’t do numbers!”

Jason Alfonsi

On 17 December 1996, I joined RPS where I was first put in the office to help with the communications. Everyone discovered very quickly that it was not my right chair as I kept on disappearing for spotting and being a tea bearer. I then started my studies and work as a trainee guide. More than my safari guide training, the privilege of working close to people like Robin Pope, Jason Alfonsi, Manny Mvula, Simon Cousins, Daudi Njobvu and not to forget the late Sandford Mushota, gave me the best knowledge and experience ever. They all played a major role in giving me what I regard as ‘the bush knowledge’. Wildlife books are also my passion and source of knowledge”.

Kiki tell me one of the funniest episodes you experienced in the bush, I asked….

“I was once doing a walking safari. As we were walking, we spotted tracks which we all agreed looked fresh. They were lion tracks. Little did we know it was a lioness with very tiny cubs. We heard a few noises but in the end all was under control. I could hear a low voice from our tea bearer saying “don’t run…. don’t run”. And when the lioness backed off he then said, “It was too close… was too close…”

What makes this place (South Luangwa) so special Kiki?

“South Luangwa is very distinct from other parks. The Luangwa River is what makes it so special. Meandering of the river causes a lot of ox-bow lagoons and it’s these lagoons that attract a lot of wildlife. The changing of the river according to the time of the year is incredible. It’s also the same river which makes it difficult to tell someone the best time of year to visit as it really depends on the interest you have. This park is lovely all year round.

Also Zambian Safaris are very different from other countries in Africa because of the people. I think Zambians are very warming, welcoming and love to have fun. As a country we offer all that a safari fan can expect, plus the kindest people.”

You have a great team of guides working with you and most of them have been working with you for more than 10 years. How was this team built?


“Having the best team of guides in Africa has come a long way. Robin Pope should take a lot of credit for this. Jo Pope, Rob and Emily have also been greatly involved in organizing workshops for the guides. This involves inviting experts to spend time with guides to discuss any grey areas. Sending guides to see other places has made a huge difference for our guides’ knowledge. We have a local saying which goes on like “the person who does not travel thinks his/her mother is the best cook.”

I couldn’t agree more…

I can’t believe that 4 and half months have passed since I arrived in the valley…. it has been a life experience and a pleasure to work with such fantastic people. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving for a short break to my home country – Portugal, followed by a week in UK visiting some tour operators.

Next week Mark and Jenna will update us about the developments of our future safari lodge in the Majete Game Reserve, Malawi. And the week after Norma Gardner will describe her Walking Safari in Liuwa Plain with Robin Pope. I’ll be back around middle June …I must confess I’m missing the valley already…!

Stay well and have a wonderful week!

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