It’s Monday 3rd May 2010 and story-time from Nkwali Camp

There’s nothing more enjoyable than showing guests around the camp, especially when it’s their first time ever in the African bush. Their faces light up as you lead them to the bar and deck under the enormous African ebony tree, then to the infinity swimming pool – sparkling in the dappled light – and finally to their rooms. Here, they test the king-size bed, slump into one of the outdoor chairs overlooking the Luangwa River and marvel at the outdoor showers, above which swing vervet monkeys and baboons in the trees. My job while the guests are here is to make them feel welcome, resolve any problems they might have and join them for meals; such interaction means that I listen to hundreds of fantastic stories from the bush, over breakfast, lunch and dinner…

Nkwali Camp, South Luangwa, ZambiaNkwali Camp, South Luangwa, Zambia

A couple of mornings ago, we were sitting around the camp fire at breakfast when Veronica Wilkinson, a second-time guest here, highly amused me with her report that her shower had been made far more exciting by the discovery of a frog in her towel, followed by another in her right shoe – she had clearly found it hilarious. Another guest encapsulated the night-time noises of the bush for me, exclaiming, “It’s like sleeping in my own menagerie but I love it!” I agreed with him wholeheartedly. You lie in bed, listening to hippos snorting, baboons rustling in the trees, lions grunting and even the twit-twoo of wood owls in the trees; the habitual humming of frogs and geckos make up the night-time orchestra in the African wildlife’s lullaby, as I see it.

Frog, South Luangwa, ZambiaCrocodile, South Luangwa, Zambia

After another morning drive, I was told a sad account of a hippo’s demise, which had been found floating down the river. The guests described the sight as fascinating but grotesque as they watched the hippo viciously attacked by hungry crocs. It was a morning for crocodiles it seems; the guests also avidly described a scene where they had watched a crocodile sit motionless with sharp jaws open, trying to decide whether a baby impala or a nearby bird would make a better supper. The ending, to the guests’ disappointment, was a lucky escape for both.

Leopard, South Luangwa, ZambiaLeopard on a kill, South Luangwa, Zambia

One evening, I joined the night-drive, so was able to join in the story-telling that night. One incident stands out. We had been driving along in the dark with the spotlight swinging from side to side, when suddenly the car came to a halt and Bertram muttered a single word, “Leopard!” There on the road, lay a fully grown leopard, golden and black. It lay there, still, panting slightly, regal; this was the king of the jungle in all its magnificent glory. Then Bertie murmured, “Look! There are more!” and there in the tree, we saw the mangled, limp head of a puku, suspended from a branch and beside it another adult leopard and a cub gnawing at the carcass. Three leopards together – it was almost unheard of! The leopards seemed entirely unfazed by us six humans gawping from the car just metres away. They were content to relax and enjoy a well-earned feast. The spotted hyenas were gathering too but they kept well-hidden behind the bushes, from time to time, making a wheezing sound, like an old man sniggering.

Lion, South Luangwa, ZambiaWalking Safari, Robin Pope Safaris, South Luangwa, Zambia

To top off another incredible week at Nkwali Camp , on the guests’ walking safari yesterday, they came face to face with two lions. As they told me over lunch in the bush, while other people gawped from their cars, they had experienced the immense exhilaration of walking with lions. I knew that feeling as just a week before, I had been walking through the bush knowing that a leopard was loitering; the baboon barking incessantly as an urgent warning to other animals had sent a thrill down my spine.

Nothing is more exciting than experiencing nature at its best in the heart of the African bush.

Have a wonderful week and until next Monday!

Laura Griffith-Jones
(writing from Nkwali Camp)

Elephants, South Luangwa, Zambia

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