It’s October 2004 and …

 

It’s October 2004 and …

 

It’s Monday 4th and a franklin in a pear tree

Kim has gone up to the Nsefu Sector to experience fly camping before the end of the season. After all she does “sell” it and has yet to actually be there. It will be hot but that experience of being in a small totally temporary camp for a night is amazing.

By the river bank

Drinking at the riverThe temperatures have risen but we are all saying that it is not as hot as normal. However, the river is lower than normal – we are already driving across at Nkwali, which we started three weeks later last year. The lagoons are drying up very fast now and the game is being forced to the river for water. This makes the viewing from the camps increasingly spectacular. From Nkwali we are seeing a leopard almost daily coming down to drink. There are buffalo, giraffe, elephant as well as the usual suspects of various antelope. Wonderful to just sit quietly in camp and have the game come to you !!

Last week I organised the first drive up to the top of the Chendeni Hills. As some of you will remember, Gordon built a 22 km road up the rocky and very steep hills. It took 2.5 months, did considerable damage to Dobbin (our oldest landcruiser), and a number of casuals left the team as the work was too hard. But miraculously he reached the top. We had hoped to put a very small fly camp up there but we are still waiting for the permissions. So I took a group up, with lots of water, picnic and warnings of “this is an adventure and not a safari”. We saw a number of different species, including duiker, klipspringer, rock hyrax, gryspok and to my delighted a pair of black eagles. They were in the distance, ridge surfing. What a day – views, rocks, remoteness in abundance. I had forgotten how rugged the road was and it still amazes me that Gordon achieved what he did. In the workshopDobbin was Robin’s first vehicle and is over 20 years old. Not bad considering the conditions here. But it’s chassis has been repeated rewelded. I have tried to put it on the “to sell” list a number of times but Robin quickly takes it off again. But Robin managed to find another old cruiser of the same style and last week there was a chassis swop. The workshop staff worked fast and the whole vehicle was taken apart, moved over and rebuilt. Impressive in our “home spun” workshop.

Today is the last day of the last mobile of the season. It has been a great year for mobiles. They have been very full, the game has been excellent. Often it is a common animal that gives a memorable experience. Simon remembers creeping up to a warthog, getting closer and closer, and it still ignored the group. The last night of the mobile is always celebrated with champers in the river. It is sad to pack up the camp for the season !!

Close to the warthoglast night of the mobile Nsefu report outstanding viewing. On 30 September, for example, three afternoon/night drives, all with amazing and different sightings…

  • Jacob: 2 leopards, 2 honeybadgers, 2 hyena and then 3 lioness feeding on a puku
  • Daudi: 5 lioness, 1 leopard and 1 very new hyena pup suckling (now total of 3 at the den)
  • Kerri: day time leopard, 5 lions, 1 black necked spitting cobra on the hunt, and a great view of a genet marking it’s territory (which is….reverse up to a tree and spray 1-2 feet up the trunk, take a sniff and walk off !)
  • And a franklin in a pear tree!

This almost seems like a shopping list (or a Christmas Carol !) and I hate to put it this way. But as the reports come into the office it continues to stagger me how prolific the gameviewing can be.

leopardlion kill

Have a excellent week
cheers Jo

It’s Monday 11th and the New Mechanic

Kim is galavanting again – a night at Kutandala in the North Luangwa and so I am writing to you. It has been a busy week on the game viewing front again. All of the camps have had amazing sightings recently with the dry season taking a firm grip on the Luangwa Valley and all of the animals having to rely heavily on what water is left in the big lagoons and the river. The monotonous drone of the cicada beetles in noticeable everywhere now – a true indication the the hot season is now in full swing!!

The New MechanicThe two older little hyena pups at Nsefu are becoming increasingly bolder and more curious as the days go by and are constantly approaching the vehicles as they arrive at the den. One little fellow seemed to be putting in an application as a new mechanic at the Robin Pope Safaris workshop by trying to impress us with the attempt to remove the front left wheel of Kerri’s game viewing vehicle with it’s teeth!!! Although this sort of technique for removing the wheel is not common in the RPS workshop it certainly would command a lot of respect from the rest of the mechanics – and who knows……….. with the strength of an adult hyena’s jaw, and the things that they are able crush, it would surprise me if they could do it!!!

baboons had chased a leopard up a treeKerri had another fantastic sighting this week. A large commotion was heard coming from the ebony grove just up river from Nsefu during afternoon tea. All of the animals were alarm calling and the baboons, in particular were making a real fuss over something. All the guests jumped into the vehicles and rushed over to find a troop of baboons had chased a leopard up a tree and the frightened leopard was sitting at the very top of a sausage tree with baboons surrounding the bottom of the tree. The baboons kept up their harrasment of the leopard until darkess fell – a case of the hunter becoming the hunted!!!

The carmine bee-eatersThe carmine bee-eaters continue to provide great viewing from all the camps. Thy young are hatching and the adults are spending their days hawking insects from all over the place and returning to the river bank to feed the hungry little mouths. it never ceases to amaze me that the, in the myriad of holes to choose from, they find the right one !! The fish eagles and yellow-billed kites are now eying up the carmine bee-eater colonies waiting to snatch the young chicks to appear on the edge of the holes.

The carmine bee-eaters

The carmine bee-eatersThe carmine bee-eaters

frog and snake - not Shanie !!! A little amusing incident occured yesterday morning, in our bathroom no less — Shanie was answering the call of nature, admiring the vast array of little frogs that have taken up residence when a large spotted bush snake fell out of the roof, caught one of the frogs and dashed back up into the rafters to eat his kill – not what you expect when trying to have a quiet moment!! Until next week……… Take care, Simon

It’s Monday 18th and the skies turn black

Dawn after the stormI am sure that you are reading this from much cooler climes than here in South Luangwa, where mid October is upon us, temperatures were rocketing and we were all baking – anyone fancy slow roasted camp staff in a khaki dressing?! But this week the heavens opens and we had huge storms every afternoon for 4 days. But the sky is blue and clear today.

Our bookings & reservations guru, Kim, who normally keeps you all to date on our news, has done a runner to Kenya for ten days where she is wining and dining, sunning and safariing with the best of them in the Masai, so the lovely Mrs Pope has persuaded me to pen a few words this week.

Storms on the plainMy name is Ali and I look after Robin’s House. Robin’s House is slightly further up the river from Nkwali – set apart from the camp, with its own guide, private facilities and catering. It is ideal for families, honeymoon couples, groups of friends or those who just want a little bit more privacy. Children often struggle keeping up with the long game drives so at Robin’s House we provide a variety of other activities including shorter kids game drives, swimming, painting, fishing, a sandpit, egg collecting from the chickens and cookie making, So I have spent a number of hours this season in the kitchen making red and blue cookies!

Our most recent guests at Robins House should really have been classed in the kids category (well…. big kids category) and kept in the sandpit for safety reasons during their stay….

Take a bunch of hyperactive Canadians including one camera man to film their safari, more big cats than you could shake a stick at (not that you would want to shake a stick at a growling lion), add a variety of fresh kills, spend three days in South Luangwa and mix with a generous sprinkling of thunder, lighting and heavy rain. And what an incredible trip they had.

Straight after filming a commercial for care (www.care.ca – education and aids education) in Lusaka, this gaggle arrived in the bush. On their first day, the big cat viewing was spectacular (not to mention the abundance of other game), thanks to our man with an eye for a kill, the Robin’s House guide Obi (or Obi-1-Kenobi as guests find endless amusement in calling him). Our first sighting was of a beautiful lion by the rivers edge who was feasting on a huge and rotten hippo head (slightly revolting but pretty fascinating). Twenty crocodiles, beadily eyeing up the remains, waited in the surrounding water. Resting nearby was a one eyed, short tailed lioness – a frequently sighted resident these days.

Some camera film later and we spotted a striking looking leopard lazing in a tree with its legs dangling and belly full from a recent impala kill. When we past the kill, a black cloud of vultures erupted into the sky and left behind just a few bare and bloodied bones.

Further up the park we chanced upon a recently deceased buffalo. It had lost its life not through an attack but from becoming hopelessly stuck in thick clay mud. It had been part of a large herd but his friends were long gone. It was wedged up to its rib cage and was being devoured, rear first, by two hungry lions. Two hyenas were hanging back with tongues hanging, waiting for their turn. When the lionesses had had their fill and had settled to digest, the hyenas took their chance and bickering all the while, started to rip off great chunks of the animal in a ferocious manner. Three more hyenas heard the commotion and scampered, hunch backed, over to join the others. This irritated the lionesses and a fight ensued where they demonstrated their awesome power over the hyenas. During the ruckus, one hyena got stuck in the mud as well, his efforts to break free just making the situation worse until all four legs were trapped. The others fled and left this helpless hyena to the mercy of the big cats. Distressed, the hyena would attempt a bite at the lionesses resulting in an almighty blow from a huge paw or a canine crunch to the animals neck. Blow after blow ensued; the hyena making weaker and weaker attempts to defend itself and it died as we left the scene – much to the satisfaction of the pride’s lion who had come out of his shady spot to check that the females had everything in hand before disappearing back into the bush. Amazing!

On their night drive that day our Canadian friends came across two fresh lions kills. They were a little taken aback to see the gory sight of the lions ripping open the insides of a waterbuck . It was the groups first time on safari and being so close to such a powerful predator was quite an experience for these city dwellers. Hearts were thumping as they turned their heads to discover another kill (impala) by the bumper of the game vehicle and were surrounded at all sides by a pride of feasting lions! Despite Obi’s calm reassurances, our guests were adamant that they were on the prides pudding menu. At this point the heavens opened to a spectacle of sheet lightening and booming thunder and the Canadians (all accounted for and all limbs in tact!) returned, adrenaline fueled and soaking wet to Robin’s House for a stiff G&T! Not quite the state we would like to arrive back in after a game drive but there are always exceptions!

Have a lovely week where ever you are,
Ali

It’s Monday 25th and the mobile caterer

Its 5:30am cold, dark and the rain drips on the window are rather disconcerting although strangely comforting! Can you guess where I am? I arrived back in the UK last night after what can only be described as one of the most incredible four and a half months of my twenty-six years. My Zambian name is Kafunga (which means “skirt” in the local language) because I was never to be seen in anything else but a skirt even in the remote area of the bush that I referred to as home whilst there! Important to add a feminine touch when working in a male dominated industry!

I have been employed by RPS on the mobile walking safaris in the very north of the South Luangwa Park, an isolated area where there are no surrounding camps, and radio calls are restricted to twice daily. The concept of the mobile is that we move between 3 camp sites all situated close by or on the Mupamadzi River (Mupamadzi meaning the gift or giver of water) which runs straight off the Western escarpment/boundary of the park. Six is the maximum number of guests taken on this magical five-night ulendo (journey), walking during the morning and then again in the afternoon after a well earned siesta. An “on foot” safari makes it possible to discover all the many extraordinary and wondrous facets of the bush from the tiniest termite, seed pod or feather to the most enormous elephant and the ever regal lion.

Among some of my most memorable experiences from the Mupamadzi and the South Luangwa Valley comprise of, getting stuck between a red ant infestation and a honey badger who felt that after 9pm the kitchen was solely his territory! Seeing my first ever leopard calmly lying in some long grass as the guests and myself stared in wonder at his awesome splendour from very close by. Having termites attempt to build a mound under my tent much to my horror! Having the delightful job of clearing the campsite paths of enormous piles of animal dung, whether it was elephant or buffalo, all much of a muchness really! Waking up in the mornings to the sound of lion calling and the low pan pipe tubular echoes of the ground hornbills in the river. Various days out at Kawaza village, watching football matches in the pouring rain with a lightening lit pitch. Meeting the wives and children of all the guys I worked with, and having the most amazing emotional farewell end of season party filled with singing, dancing, good spirits and plenty of mankwala (beer)!

Having reflected on all these enchanting events its is highly probable that I will return next year for another intoxicating dose of Zambian bush life.

Lots of love
Kafunga

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