It’s Monday 4th April 2011 and the South Luangwa photo safari

A couple of weeks ago, there was a long weekend in Malawi and I took the opportunity to travel north and explore Nyika National Park, where we are starting a very exclusive itinerary led by Robin. After 7 hours of driving, I found Chelinda lodge located on the top of a hill in a very remote location inside the Park. I was looking forward to the sun rise to be able to see the views, which were even more stunning than I was expecting: rolling grasslands, dotted with large herds of Crawshay’s zebras faded by the early morning fog….
Crawshay's zebrasServal

At Nyika Plateau you will find plenty of antelopes such as roan, eland, bushbucks. I also saw a serval and hyena and leopard footprints, so they were around! Definitely a place to consider for those who enjoy walking in the untouched wild.

Also a few weeks ago another thrilling Photographic Workshop in South Luangwa was led by David Rogers. This year we enjoyed the company of Marion Whitehead, a journalist from Getaway magazine with great photographic talent. Marion will share with us today her experience and her fabulous pictures. Over to Marion:

A female leopard enjoying the ‘sweet light’ Taking pix on the photo safari with David Rogers (left)

Three leopard sightings in three days – two of them in what our guide Jacob Shawa calls ‘the sweet light’ when photos have that soft, golden quality. That was the tally on our photo safari in South Luangwa National Park with well-known author and photographer David Rogers.

The Emerald Season at its bestGuide Jacob Shawa doing some bird spotting

The Emerald Season , in March on the tail end of the summer rains, proved a good time to visit the Luangwa Valley. While some parts of the park are closed in the wet, there were still huge tracts accessible to the game-viewing vehicles and Jacob seemed to find the big cats more easily, as they head for the higher ground when it’s wet. The bush was a lush green and the plains thick with grass – no wonder the herbivores were fat and sleek, in prime condition.

The pool at Nkwali CampDainty puku in a river bed near Nkwali Camp

We were based at Nkwali Camp outside Mfuwe on the banks of the Luangwa River for the first three days. Our little band of photographers was out in the bush by sunrise each morning, ready to capture images after a short boat ride across the river, where our vehicle was waiting for us. We had a ball, training our lenses on everything from dainty puku and ungainly ground hornbills to the big cats and mud-encrusted buffalo. One evening we watched spellbound as a lone elephant bull took a sand bath and then lay down for a power nap.

Nkwali Camp, view from the riverNkwali Camp chalets

I was impressed with Nkwali Camp’s unfussy, classic bush style. It’s small and personal, with just six chalets strung along the south bank of the river overlooking the park. The swimming pool was a boon after a hot drive and we could make like the hippos grunting in the water below our chalets. One lazy afternoon I spotted an elephant browsing on the opposite bank. It was hard to imagine the next camp could top Nkwali.

Nsefu Camp’s bungalows are a national monumentThe classic bar at Nsefu Camp

But Nsefu Camp turned out to be my favorite. The open-side pub area and six thatched bungalows were part of the original camp, the first in this park and all of Zambia in the 1950s. They have been beautifully kept and retain that old-fashioned air of ‘being on safari’ in the bush. The en suite bathrooms are a welcome addition that have been sensitively handled. They come with modern takes on accessories such as shaving mirrors and perfect soap ‘dishes’ made out of a leaf from a nearby tree. Talk about environmentally friendly kit!

Crossing the Luangwa River for the morning game driveGame scout Chris Banda stands guard over photographers at dusk

Outings from Nsefu were all by boat and included opportunities to stop and walk into the bush. We spent a morning watching yellow-billed storks building their nests, tracking their flights endlessly with our cameras. The golden glow of the setting sun caressing the trunks of a mahogany forest was a photographer’s delight and the bush walk to train our macro lenses on the little things presented plenty of surprises.

Luangwa Safari HouseLuangwa Safari House

We captured some amazing images on our Emerald Season photo safari, which ended with a night of indulgent luxury at Luangwa House . It’s an experience that will stand out in my memory for a long time to come. Thank you David, Jacob and all at Robin Pope Safaris who made this amazing trip such a fantastic adventure.

Marion Whitehead,
Getaway assistant editor

Thanks you so much Marion. For more on Marion’s impressions of David Rogers’s photo safari in South Luangwa, see her Getaway blog.

I’m going on leave this week, so will catch up soon.

Have fun,

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