It’s October 2002 and …

It’s Monday Oct 7th and the wonderful wedding

As you know we are able to host weddings in the South Luangwa and one took place last Wednesday. I (Jo) just have to write about it – an experience our newly and very happily married guests won’t ever forget!! And next week’s newsletter will be full of incredible wildlife sightings which we are storing up for now!


Colin and SueColin and Sue arrived from the UK to get married on the banks of the Luangwa. It was a wonderful wedding – a very special day – but not without a few incidents on the way! I have full permission to relate the whole story to you.

Colin and Sue had never been to Africa. So we thought it was quite brave of Colin to arrange for Sue, as a surprise, to stay at Kawaza Village the night before the wedding. We all hoped that he knew her very well. They had just completed their 3 day walk (Nsefu Walking Trails) and while Colin stayed at Nsefu his wife-to-be was delivered to the “secret destination”, Kawaza. I met her there and I have to say, she was a little surprised. I offered her the alternative of staying at Nkwali but Sue is amazing – very relaxed and took it all in her stride. After an hour, the distant clouds had become the blackest, darkest horizon.

I asked our village host, Obi, “will it rain?” “No” he says with confidence.

Within a few minutes we are now in the most amazing sand storm as the wind rushes through the villages. And did it rain! Sue and I sat in a mud hut watching a tropical storm through the door and an hour later the village was awash. There was now no alternative bed at Nkwali. We would not get out of the Village in the mud.

We were happy; chatting away – watching the most incredible lightening show. And after a delicious local dinner we went to bed early.

The next morning the sky was clear and we visited the school. On the radio I told Kim at Tena Tena that we were fine and leaving soon to come up to camp to get ready for the wedding.
“Jo, there is a problem with tent 4”.
“I’m with Sue” I quickly said. Tent 4 is the honeymoon tent.
“That must be my tent” Sue guessed.
“Yup – go and meet the kids, I will catch up”.

In the storm a “flying” sausage had smashed into the loo in the open air bathroom – there was no spare tent until the evening.
“Do you think that Colin and Sue would mind staying at Nsefu.” “Make a plan” I say, “they will not want to change plans at this late stage”. And off we go.

The roads were wet and VERY muddy. The drive to Tena Tena was a slipping and sliding adventure and we arrive having had a mobile mud pack. Robin promptly gave us a gin and tonic (yes, at 8.30 in the morning).

Robin quietly said that we needed to check out the wedding location. I am surprised but off we go……there is a problem. There is a 2 week old lion carcass 20 meters from the “altar”. And it stinks. We throw the remains into the river and spend an hour clearing up the very smelly soil and throwing disinfectant down. The smell abates.

The day is becoming a little surreal…..

The MarriageBack at camp we make the bouquet, the altar decorations and generally prepare for the afternoon wedding. All is going well. Sue is getting emotional – it is really happening!

Father George and his lovely wife, Gloria, arrive. But Miss Lungu – the registrar – did not come! Ouch – her form makes the wedding legal. I do not see the funny side of this – we have reconfirmed her six times – but all of her bosses decided to go out and so she had to stay. Never mind – we will make a plan tomorrow and get her up (which we do). On on…..

I leave to set up the “church” but forget the scout. The site has feeding elephants. I start to feel the strain! I encourage them to move on and now we are late. We set up fast, keeping an eye open for the ellys, and the most beautiful “church” is created. The altar is right against the edge of the bank and we all look across the river and the sweeping view.

The CakeIt was the most wonderful wedding. The bride looked beautiful, the setting was superb, the choir sang well and the cake was delicious. And the Champagne was French!

The only moment……

“Will you, Colin, take Carol to be your …….”
“The name is Sue, Father”

We all laugh!

On this romantic note…have a lovely week!

The Choir!

It’s Monday 14th and Drumming under the stars

There is SO MUCH to talk about on what has been going on over the past two weeks! I think it is going to be a long one this week – be warned!! As usual I will start with the weather. HOT but not quite like one would expect from the middle of October. It feels like September with lovely breezes, lots of sun and warm nights but not cover yourself with a wet kikoi and lie on the bed type of warm! A tell-tale sign of the time of year we are currently in is the sudden bright flash of green that can be seen across the mopane woodlands!

Much of it still resembles the Valley of the Dead but in a very short time (and before the rains commence) it will be a bright green wilderness once more. And then will come the rains bringing more and more green again. As you know we have had some unexpected showers recently with the result being that the wildlife has scattered a bit…thinking that the rains had come and there was water-a-plenty in far-flung areas of the Park. Within a short time they realised it was a trick played by mother nature and then back to the river they all came. And how!!

I’m told that this morning guests at Nsefu (first timers to Africa) enjoyed breakfast whilst in front of them a pride of lion crossed the river. What a way to start the day and what a beautiful sighting. All of our camps have had excellent all-round gameviewing lately.

Nsefu continues with its great season of leopard all over the place. Guests and staff at Nsefu have been spotting baby porcupine (quite a treat) and aardvark!

Jason is quite excited about the baby porcupines and is extremely chuffed about the aardvark! Not to be outdone, our last mobile walking safari for the season had two leopard sightings and an aardvark during one of the last activities on the trip!!!!

Issy felt very pleased as she packed up her camps for the last time! TenaTena have had a good run on honeybadger sightings and also eland up at the salt pan.

Nkwali has had cats all over too, along with the more unusual spottings…only this morning Simon saw a long tailed barred cuckoo by the bar! This cuckoo is very uncommon around here and Simon thinks he has never seen one before – very exciting! On the cuckoo front…they are all returning at the moment to feed and breed in preparation for the rains. I always think I should start thinking about booking in for therapy treatment as the first annoying calls of the Emerald Cuckoo are heard…and yes, the all-too-familiar broken record sound of “hello Georgie” was first heard by Jo the other day. Here we go again!!

Lilac breasted roller

Another interesting avian sighting, as told by Marcus, involved a male lilacbreasted roller giving a female a centipede followed quickly by a bit of “reproductive” activity before flying away. What does it all mean??

However the bird sighting of the week (and quite possibly of the year), also as seen by the lucky Marcus and guests, involved the African Fish Eagle.

On the river bank not far from Nkwali a crocodile was trying to swallow a brown squeaker (a fish to the rest of us). It was too large for the croc to throw the head back and gulp down in one stroke so required a bit of mastical manourvering first! In the meantime Zambia’s national bird swooped down and sat next to the croc. The gameviewers stopped to watch. The eagle decided it wanted that fish, as you can imagine, and suddenly swooped in to grab it from the croc’s jaws but missed and came to rest again next to the large reptile. The croc all the while trying to get this fish into its gullet quickly!! Another try – the eagle swooped in again and succeeded! It actually prized the fish out of the croc’s mouth and flew victoriously away.

The croc, quite understandably peeved at losing its lunch, turned to a piece of wood and started biting into it!!

Wild dogThe area around Nkwali has also shown evidence that the wild dogs are back WITH pups! They have been spotted lately which is great news and Simon is just itching to see them again – hopefully we shall be able to report on this soon! And finally the baby warthogs are out there and have been seen by everyone (except Jo!!!) which brings many “oooh’s” and “aaaah’s” from the vehicles these days!

As much fun, if not more, can be had in camp rather than out in the Park!! Wendy led one of the last walking safaris of the season whose guests included Robert and Glenese from Australia. It became quickly apparent that Robert (Rob), in particular, is a very good drummer. On the first of five nights at our mobile tented camps along the Mupamadzi River, Rob asked if he could be taken ‘out the back’ to the kitchen/camp staff area. Issy took him out there and Wendy thought nothing more of it until the sounds of some seriously good drumming could be heard. What a great background sound under the bright stars!

On night two Rob told everyone to come to the kitchen and grab anything they could use to create some sound. Wendy used a roasting pan and a wooden spoon!! I’m told this was extremely good fun indeed – very interactive and a great way to digest one’s dinner before bed!!

Night three and just when everyone thought they been given the night off from bush music lessons out came Rob with all the camp staff and the “musical instruments” to do it all again but this time by the fire! Anything and everything was used – wine glasses (one met its end after a forceful bang from a spoon!), winterthorn seed pods, pans, bottles and sticks. The seed pods were collected during the daytime walks specifically in preparation for the nighttime outdoor concerts! Rob made a didgereedoo (if spelling is incorrect many apologies!) out of a tent pole and a copper water jug (but it didn’t work that well). It was a lot of fun!

Night four was a reprieve and night five was the big finale. It was, in fact, a surprise provided by the staff. They prepared it in secret and alone without any help from Rob. Wendy, Issy and guests were reclining around the fire when out came the campstaff with their own kit – buckets, containers, pots, pans and Mosi bottles with stones inside held up by sticks! They prepared face masks and became ‘ladies’ by wrapping table cloths around their waists!! One of our guys re-invented himself as a heavily pregnant woman with a large bottom and big stomach – they thought this was hilarious! And did they dance!!! The music instruments and natural talent resulted in some excellent dancing performed for the guests, as individuals or in small groups, then everybody was up and dancing around the fire. It was a very special night and overall certainly a safari they will never forget. A big thankyou to Rob for getting everyone going and facilitating such interaction!!

I’ll never look at a Mosi bottle the same way again!!!


It’s Monday 21st and sharing the hippo carcass

A wonderful thing about this time of year (our hottest!) is the sudden reminder that the rains are not too far away! A long hot day with bright sun and little breeze can sometimes end with exciting stormy cloud build-ups. At this time of year they lead to little more than a few large drops of water and a lot of strong wind. These little bursts certainly cool things right down at night. The river is dropping dramatically now with much of it turning into bare sand and diminishing pools of water.

The pontoonOne way to enjoy this time of year is to head over the pontoon and settle on Chichele Hill for sundowners – the sunset is bright bright red these days and watching it from altitude is both breathtaking and a rarity in these parts! Jo said that with all the leafless mopane woodlands this dry landscape would have made the perfect set location for the filming of Lord of the Rings (I’ve not seen it but I am under the assumption that this is correct)!!! After a few drinks and before all the light had gone we came back to Nkwali…but not by conventional means! Simon had us driving towards camp from the OTHER side of the river…then suddenly he drove down the bank, onto the sand and headed directly into the river itself!! The water level is low enough to make this a very quick option of getting into (or out of) the Park! We drove past the camp, past Matthew & Sara’s house on the far west side and then came out of the river bank and onto the private loop roads that we can use in the dry season for private gameviewing. An excellent way to end a Sunday afternoon!!

Gameviewing has been of the unusual kind this past week. Nkwali guests have enjoyed the sight of baby warthogs on the other side of the river..their little tails bobbing high in the air! We haven’t seen baby impala yet – it shouldn’t be too long now! A very interesting sight from the bar at lunchtime were two male kudu fighting across the bank. The repeated sounds of their horns knocking together alerted everyone’s attention. And for a second time in a week Simon spotted the long tailed barred cuckoo that has located itself, for the time being, at Nkwali camp…this time it was seen in the staff housing area. Robin has missed both of these recent sightings (and he is yet to see one). I was fortunate to see this bird which is very rarely seen around here – it sat on a low branch watching us all with much interest! It certainly wasn’t shy and had beautiful markings.

Tena Tena guests had a visit from a Steppe Eagle…a migrant to this area and great to see it back again!! And many hours later, at 4am to be precise, everybody woke suddenly to the roar of several lion particularly close to camp! Certainly gets the adrenaline going!!

Nsefu punters, on their way to sundowners, came across an amazing sight – between 70 to 100 crocodile feeding on a hippo carcass in shallow water!! The crocs go into a feeding frenzy when this opportunity arises by grabbing hold of the carcass with their teeth and spinning around in the water to prize the flesh away. This is followed by throwing chunks of flesh into the air before catching and swallowing the lot! Anyway, suddenly a young adult male lion strode into the water and pulled the carcass onto dry ground! It braved the crocs and only had a few of them snapping at him as he took their dinner away from them!!
Not long up the track the same punters came to the scene of another hippo carcass with a pride of lion feeding on it. They looked for a while, went for sundowners and came back later to find only one female lion on one side of the hippo and one croc on the other…they were barely one metre apart from each other!! I wonder which was the more brave of the two??!


We are very pleased to report that US$9987.00 has been pledged so far as part of our Food Shortage Relief effort. This amount does not include American pledges and we should have this information soon.

Thanks VERY much to all those who have pledged – your generosity is making a big difference! If anybody else wants to donate money to this cause please send us an email and we will let you know how to do it.

It’s Monday 28th and headache!

Hello there…

I’m gathering what energy and clarity of thought that I have left this morning, at the head of a working week (well done Jeffrey!), to bring this newsletter to you. The brain is a little slow today and the body isn’t responding too well to neurological commands…but at least the panadol has kicked in!! Yes, I admit it….a bit too much Sunday afternoon joy was had yesterday (though it was good fun!) when Jo hosted a lunch for all her friends in the Valley at Flatdogs Camp! A Mediterranean style feast was fully laid on for over 30 guests on one long table under the welcome shade of some wild fig trees. At that moment when everyone was assembled at the table, glass of sangria in hand, and the glorious food was strewn along in bowls, trays and plates…the setting could easily have been taken right out of a gorgeous little European foreign language film!! We’d had a brief shower the night before so the air was fresh and it was slightly cooler than usual…so very pleasant sunny atmosphere!!

The sangria kept on coming and so did the wine. By sunset everybody was very merry indeed! Jo wanted to throw a lunch as she is going away tomorrow for over a month and wasn’t going to see many local faces again until the new year (this is the last week of our “peak season” so many camps will be packing up and seasonal staff leaving shortly). Jo is visiting family in the UK and will be launching her wonderful book Safari Dreaming . So yesterday was an opportunity to celebrate the end of the season with everybody. And what a wonderful season it has been!!! By coincidence Karen and David Back flew into the Valley yesterday afternoon to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. You might recall this time last year we were gearing up for their mammoth wedding (with over sixty guests) at the Ebony Grove near Nsefu! Karen & David disembarked the aircraft to a waiting message to come straight to the lunch and not to Nsefu! So more cheer, and more jugs of sangria, when they arrived at the scene!! It was such good fun and I’m beginning to feel better as I type! And, for the record, I’m not the only one who is a wee bit slow this morning (ahem!).

I have a feeling that a similar set of circumstances currently exists along the sunny shores of Lake Malawi this morning. Simon and Shanie have taken a short break with Jason Gifford and have joined Corinna Sanday (last year’s Tena Tena caterer), her partner Jonny and some of their friends who flew out from the UK on the weekend. They are staying at the Cousins’ holiday home on the Lake for a few days of relaxation: early nights, lashings of tea and cake, perhaps a card game or two and a delightful walk along the lake shore.

Well that’s what they told me but I didn’t buy it!! The whole lot of them come back here in a few days… and I look forward to their tales and to seeing Corinna here again! Corinna will just have enough time to pop up to Tena Tena before it closes on Friday..and Nsefu which farewells the season’s last guests on Saturday. Then commences the huge task of camp closure….including packing up everything, stocktaking, dismantling Tena Tena and preparing the camps for the rains. Nkwali will be buzzing with Nsefu & Tena staff for a couple of days before they too head off until next year. How sad – I can hardly believe that we are at the end of the main season already!

The fun and games continued last night. Whilst we were all soundly asleep a group of elies took a sudden dislike to our swimming pool enclosure at Nkwali. Robin, on wandering over for his morning swim, found overturned chairs & umbrellas and the fence had been completely kicked down!! Why they decided to do this after 18 months is a mystery…perhaps they had a headache as well??! I heard the familiar sounds of elies tearing branches off trees in a middle-of-the-night feeding could have been the same herd!

Next week we will report on gameviewing in the final week up at the Nsefu Sector though I must report that Robin found a pink backed pelican at Lunga Lagoon (near Tena Tena) the other day. This pelican is hardly ever seen in this part of Africa (it must have flown off its course!) and the second time ever that Robin has seen one. It has been an interesting month for unfamiliar bird sightings!

The sighting of the week was enjoyed from the Nkwali bar (yet again proving it is a good option to stay in camp instead going out on a gamedrive!). Just after lunch guests were enjoying the sight of two adult warthog and 3 little “wartlets” on the sandbank on the other side of the river from camp. Suddenly the warthog’s attention diverted to the bushes on the riverbank and as if on queue a leopard emerged from the thickets! The leopard couldn’t resist the temptation in the midday sun and started descending the riverbank and headed towards the warthog family. The warthogs scattered! The leopard gave chase and the adult warthogs quickly disappeared up the embankment and out of sight. The littlies remained below and kept running along the riverbank as fast as their little legs could carry them. Victory to the baby warthogs – they OUTRAN the leopard – and the leopard gave up exhausted! A lovely bit of theatre before retiring for afternoon siesta!!

I hope your week has got off to a healthy start…and this weekend, if you haven’t enjoyed a refreshing glass of chilled sangria with friends I highly recommend it!!

Bottoms up!

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