It’s October 2003 and …

It’s October 2003 and …

It’s Monday 6th and birding bonanza

Nkwali is seeing a full scale battle of the sexes this week. The girls went out for a night on the town – well dinner at the next door camp is the closest we get to hitting the nightspots but anyway you get the drift. On the way out of Nkwali we passed Simon, Shanie and Shanie’s parents on the way back from a game drive and they found it quite a sight – 6 girls dressed up in their finest khaki with a few sparkly bits added – piled into the minibus accompanied by the sound of clinking wine bottles in the back – all very hen partyish…

However, after a sedate and very ladylike evening…we decide to take the short cut back to camp – well to be honest as I was driving I decide to prove that we would not get lost as Adam and Ryan had intimated earlier in the evening when telling me that I should go the long way round. After about 5 minutes Eve spotted a caracal. Now being extremely unlikely in the area we had to reverse and get a better look and we all agreed that it was indeed a caracal. However, the men in camp have failed to agree – we of course are mere cooks and typists who could not possible tell the difference between a caracal and a hippo let alone the subtle differences between one and a serval… the debate continues.

Over to Simon who had a super day trip with Shanie’s parents this week….

Shanie’s parents have just been out to Nkwali for a few days and had done a number of drives and walks but were looking to do something a little different. So Shanie, myself and Jason Alfonsi decided that a little birding trip up into the Chindeni Hills, just south of Nkwali, was in order.

We set off at the crack of dawn so as to try and get to the hills before it got too hot – this doesn’t last too long at this time of the season and the incessant drone of the cicada insects was soon underway which is a sure sign that things are starting to get warm!! We headed south along the river for a while before turning left up into the hills. It is amazing how quickly the vegetation changes once you leave the riverine vegetation belt. We were soon weaving our way around boulders and over rocks – really putting the game-viewing vehicle to the test. Not an experience for the faint-hearted (or Adam, our workshop manager, who thankfully is on leave!!)

It wasn’t too long before we saw the first of many different creatures. The sighting came in the form of a pair of klipspringers that darted across the “road” in front of us. These little antelope are only found in rocky country so it was great to see them. We also started to see brief sightings of rock hyraxes as they darted in and out of the crevices and cracks in the rocks that were now surrounding us.

The most amazing sighting of the day must go to a BLACK EAGLE!!!! – as there are no official recordings of black eagle in the Luangwa Valley and this sighting had everybody jumping around, in particular Jason, who has never seen a black eagle before!!! The birding surprises continued with sightings of familiar chat, african crowned eagle, a young martial eagle with a rock hyrax in it’s talons, african hawk eagle, augur buzzard (another rare sighting for the area) and another new bird for the valley (and for both Jason and I) – a slaty flycatcher!! This could only be positively identified when we returned to camp as the bird does not occur in our Southern African bird books!!!

We returned to camp nine an a half hours later, hot, tired but exhilarated – and just in time for sundowners at the Nkwali bar!!!

Stay well and have a great week
Cheers
Kim

It’s Monday 13th October and the otter

Big news of the week – Simon and his intended saw a cape clawless otter at croc bridge whilst on a game drive at Nsefu with Shanie’s parents – a very unusual sighting for the area. Bruce and Jill then came back to Nkwali and pointed out a whimbrel on the opposite bank – this migrant is an uncommon bird to be seen here and so they certainly win the most unusual sightings award for this week.

Nsefu lions have been in action again. With the 2 males already full and one female off giving birth (hopefully) the remaining 3 females went hunting in the bright moonlight. Following some surprisingly intelligent stalking they managed to bring down an impala and one of them proudly emerged with a foetus – a somewhat gruesome first sighting of the season of a baby impala. In the same vein a baby bushbuck was taken by a baboon just behind Nkwali and the adult bushbuck spent quite some time chasing the the baboons around in circles trying to get it back – obviously to no avail.

On the same drive as the baby impala incident, Ed saw a leopard dragging a recently killed impala off the stork colony. This was almost an exact re-run of last year for Helen Robinson, who kindly brought photos from her last trip with us. Ed and Helen believe that it was even the same female
leopard – extraordinary.

Meanwhile Paul is now our wildebeest man – he has seen a herd this week and more were spotted at the salt pan. Paul has also seen the somewhat elusive males lions from the salt pan pride. Jacob continues his honey badger bonanza and also saw a penant winged night jar on the wafwa.

Just had a short break to pop across the camp and see over 100 buffalos drinking from the other side of the river – fabulous.

Stay well and have a great week
Cheers
Kim

It’s Monday 20th October and our chopper holiday!

Jo here – Kim is taking time out and spending 3 days in the Lower Zambezi. So you have me this week. Robin and I have also been away this month. So have Shanie and Simon (R and R on the Lake – Malawi that is). Marcus is in Lilongwe. Clare on the way back from the Lake. Yes we do take time out! It is essential to take a rest and we insist that everyone takes 4 days rest every month. Four days is not long but you can certainly pack in a great time…..

So where did Robin and I go…..Kenya. Busman’s holiday you may say – but it was not. We had the most exciting holiday imaginable. We started off at Loisaba, a wonderful lodge on the Laikipia plateau. There we met Humphrey Carter at tea time – and he in his beaten up motor bike leathers. He was off for a spin on his new bike and smilingly told us that the last time he rode he broke his hand! He got an earful from me – “don’t you dare hurt yourself before our trip”. He was to be our helicopter pilot, guide and soon best friend over the next 4 days. Yes – we did a 4 day helicopter trip from the Rift Valley to the rugged Northern Frontier and Lake Turkana. We flew over mountains, down narrow valleys, and over a flamingo filled lake, landed on a volcanic plug for champagne, learnt all about the fossils at Koobi Fora, fly-camped on Central Island of the lake, swam in the full moon (with the crocs!), flew to the middle of the Chalbi Desert to have champagne breakfast whilst watching camels drink at a spring, landed at Desert Rose for a quick swim, flew down the sand rivers with the singing wells, had champagne on a pinnacle and finally ended up with a camel ride to our last lunch. We had such a fun fun time. In 4 days we flew 9 hours, traveled for months and simply loved every minute. I have always wanted to go there and thought the chances of driving up some time were very remote. I saw a short write up on Humphrey a year ago and thought – “now that is the most spoily, thrilling, wonderful thing to do” and we did it! And Humphrey was brilliant. We were joined by Chris Holt of Tena Tena (and Mobiles) guiding fame and Possum who many of you will remember from the ’90’s (they both worked for us). So yes – our short break was a safari, with ex staff and we LOVED every minute of it.

So back to the Valley……it was hot hot hot. When the heat builds like that we know there is going to be rain soon and sure enough yesterday evening, during sundowners, the storm arrived. We are now in the “will it rain, will it not rain” season! And with it comes the start of the migratory birds. The broadbilled rollers are here. The first greater spotted cuckoo was seen and a very early grey hooded kingfisher (chestnut bellied for the old timers) has been hanging around Nsefu. Possum has also been at Nsefu with her mother and they had an epic drive with Ed. The afternoon was spent watching a pride of lions with 3 generations – and the youngest being 8 weeks old. As the G and Ts were handed around at sundowners, the alarm calls started nearby. The gin took priority! Later, off they went with the spotlight, with Possum spotting and she soon picked up a young female leopard stalking impala. The leopard brought a female impala down and soon an older female leopard appeared and stole the kill. The rear end was opened and the near full term foetus was pulled from the carcass. This is not easy to watch but obviously happens at this time of the year, just before all the impala drop their young. The first female lay nearby and kept her eye on the proceedings. The finale was a third leopard approaching who thought better of joining in and quietly slung away.

The Tena Tena pride of lions have been hanging out at Lunga Lagoon and stalking the buffalo coming down to drink. They are succeeding every couple of days so lots of fat lions laying out! However, a large group of ‘kakulis’ (old and grumpy buffs) decided they were not having it. There was lots chasing back and forth and finally the lions left them alone and flopped in exhaustion under a tree. A female saw a chance as the impala came down to drink – and she went for it! The baboons went crazy, screaming and barking and the impala scattered. One female was too slow and was caught in the mud! Again, the foetus was the prize and was quickly taken out by the dominant female lion.

The impala will drop in a week or so…..and as the rain brings on the first spurt of fresh green grass we will know that the season is changing again.

Oops a long one…..

From all of us at RPS….have a wonderful week and don’t forget to pick some daisies!
Jo

It’s Monday 27th and the wedding

Weddings at RPS wouldn’t be complete without their fare share of amusing incidents – if you remember last year the White wedding involved a lot of rain and mud and a dead lion a the wedding site!! Nothing quite so dramatic at the wedding we just did on Friday for Kerry and Pat Hammond but it was a memorable day nonetheless.

Kerry and Pat had decided to go for a game drive/walk on the morning of their wedding and whilst on this noticed two young buffalo stuck in the mud at Lunga Lagoon. It was obvious to all that unless we intervened they would not survive. So Jason Alfonsi called for back up – in the form of Daudi and Simon and the 3 of them plus Kerry set about rescuing the buffalo. This included having the bride-to-be trying to drive the 4X4 but she had knocked out the gear! Instructions were being shouted from the muddy men and it worked. The rescue was no mean feat as they were well and truly stuck. After a lot of huffing and puffing on all accounts, they did manage to get them out.

After a short rest they struggled to their feet and moved on to join the main herd who were not far away. However in the process the rescuers got completely covered in sticky smelly black mud. You can imagine, with hours to go before the wedding, the reaction they got on returning to camp!!! The expression on Reverend Mwanza’s face on meeting a very muddy groom was a little surprised to say the least. Luckily after a good hosing down and a scrub in the shower Kerry came up looking and smelling pretty good!!

The wedding itself was a great success – a very simple relaxed occasion on the banks of the Luangwa River with hippos snorting in the back ground and lots of laughter. The bride and groom skipped back down the aisle doing a great Morecambe and Wise impersonation!! After lots of champagne and yummy canapes the vehicles set off for a game drive back to camp. They were lucky enough to come across 2 mating leopards!! A great ending to a very special day in the bush.

The couple had arranged the safari around the Saturday rugby matches and so twice they were in the back, with the staff, yelling at the TV! On their final night, Jo decided to invite them to a staff Sunday sundowner and they arrived at the top of Chichele hill to find half a dozen of us tucking in. The evening was simply hilarious and the humour became more and more base as 5 bottles of champers, 20 beers and Olivia’s strong G and Ts were consumed. It is amazing what can seem funny under the influence. One of those magical, hysterical evenings, on top of a hill in Africa. On the way back, Jo decided that they were in no fit state to eat with the guests up front so they were kept in the staff common room for dinner and darts! Kim tells me “staff common room” is a rather grand title for “The Cage”.

Have a good week
Shanie

PS – oh yes – great migratory birds arriving including all the cuckoos and Jason saw a European Hobby. It is incredible to think how far they have flown.

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