It’s September 2003 and …

It’s September 2003 and …

It’s Monday 1st and Caterers’ Capers

I am standing back this week and handing over to our caterers and ex caterer who have been on some amazing game drives. Kate from Nkwali has had a few days off and stayed up at Tena Tena and gave a super report of one game drive. Shanie who was covering for Aniek whilst she was at Nkwali with her mother and sister had another great drive with Simon and then Claire from Nsefu sent in a report of what is happening at Nsefu – so over to them…

Kate writes:

On Tuesday morning I had an early start to join some guests on a drive that Ross was doing. They had been at Nkwali with me so I knew them and they kindly asked me to go on a drive with them. It was the game drive of a lifetime! About half an hour after setting off, we were looking at a beautiful fish eagle at the top of a tree and drove in a bit closer to get good photos. As we were clicking away Ross noticed a huge male leopard further down in the very tree. He was an enormous beast with a thick neck like a rugby player. He was feasting on a puku and within a few minutes decided he had had enough so slunk down the tree only for his son to appear. They had a small spat and the father, resigned, skulked off into the grass and leaving the young boy to nip up the tree and have the leftovers. The boy was not so adept at keeping all the puku bits up on high and various gnawed limbs tumbled off the tree much to the excitement of a waiting hyena who we’d also been watching, looking on longingly and patiently hoping for a chance to move in and get what he could.

So the hyena made the most of the falling puku pieces at the bottom of the tree and then suddenly the grass moved again and the young leopard was joined by his sister! Both proceeded to move up and down the tree finishing off what they could until the sister was chased off by not one but now three hyenas! The brother then made his way down the tree to the site of the kill which was right by our vehicle and came slowly and calmly within probably 2 metres of me before wandering off, full and happy and ready for a snooze in the grass. It really was amazing, heart in mouth stuff and we were all on tenterhooks throughout, not really able to believe what we were seeing. We probably watched the action unfold over an hour and a bit – never a dull moment and usually more than one thing to see, not knowing where to look next!

Claire reports:

Nsefu are having some great birding at the moment. We saw our first Wahlbergs at Miliyoti Gate recently and also a male pennant winged nightjar with full plumage between Lunga and Baka Baka on the way back from a jolly outing to Mfuwe. On one afternoon with a lovely family on their last drive at Nsefu we saw a female leopard and a pride of lions in the same frame during daylight. We have also had some interesting sights whilst still in camp with banded mongoose drinking at the lagoon after breakfast and a male puku literally tripping up a female to get her in a convenient position for mating – right infront of the bar. Jacob also had the amazing luck to see a lesser bushbaby and then a leopard outside the park on the way to the airport.

Shanie tells us:

I have just returned from 3 days at Tena – a great escape from the office!!

On my first night there a group of regular guests – Frank and Barbara Jones and Paul Deniger of Doctor Death fame (who you may remember me writing about earlier this month) asked me to join them on their night drive – and who am I to deny a client their wishes!! We had a lovely daylight drive with an excellent sighting of a herd of Kudu including a male with a beautiful set of horns but the real excitement started after dark. The first hour of darkness heralded little apart from an elephant shrew and a fast disappearing gennet and we all thought that Paul aka Doctor Death had lost his touch or was it Simon’s guiding!!

But we were not to be disappointed …. whilst driving back from Baka Baka lagoon we spotted a beautiful male leopard stalking a herd of impala through the grass. We turned off our lights and sat and waited with baited breath, after about 20 minutes we heard the impala running and then the death rattle as one went down. Quickly turning on the spot light we saw the leopard in the classic strangulation pose with a large female impala beneath it. He then proceeded to drag the dead impala through the grass and down the road in front of us. It was a large impala and he obviously found it hard going and had to keeping stopping for breaks.

After passing several likely looking “leopard” trees he eventually came to spot he felt comfortable with – at the base of a sausage tree which had a capparis creeper growing up and around it. The kill was obviously too big for the leopard to take straight into the tree and he set about disemboweling it and licking off the impala’s hair to get to the flesh. It was amazing to watch the cat’s behaviour – even if it was a little gruesome! In the distance we heard a hyena calling and this seemed to worry the leopard who tried on two occasions to get the carcass into the tree – but failed. Once dropping the carcass and another falling out himself as well – looking a little embarrassed afterwards. Eventually he retreated without the kill into the tree and gave us the most wonderful viewing of him cleaning himself and settling down to a well earned sleep.

There was some serious photography going on around me and I can’t wait to see some of the pictures. We had watched the whole event from beginning to end for about 1.5 hours and we all felt quite exhausted from the adrenaline and excitement of it. I feel so privileged to have seem such a magnificent animal hunting and killing at such close quarters. Needless to say we had few drinks when we returned to camp. To conclude, Paul Deniger saw a total of 33 leopard sightings during his stay – an offer RPS can only promise if you also stay for a total of 35 days!!!

Stay well and have a great week

It’s Monday 8th and dancing leopards

Well, the weather is hotting up and to go along with it a number of bush fires are adding to the hot atmosphere.

Last night a few of us went out for sundowners and on the way back I spotted a fire that was a little too close to Nkwali for comfort. Therefore we rounded up the camp staff and set off to beat the fire out. I was of course in the midst of things generally bossing everyone around – resplendent in my white skirt and top beating away with the best of them. Expecting to come back to camp black from head to toe – much to everyone’s amazement my outfit was still snowy white but my face was black and the soles of my shoes had begun to melt…..anyway all well and the fire was extinguished before it had a change to do any damage. I can now add firefighter to my CV!!

LeopardTena Tena are having a super period of game viewing. Ross was recently on an afternoon drive when he spotted 4 leopard – three female and one male in long grass popping their heads up and then disappearing back into the thicket rather like hounds on the scent of a fox. The sight of the leopards prancing around in a small area was quite incredible with them taking it in turns to come running out of the grass, looking around excitedly before bounding back in to join the others – rather like a troop of dancers taking it in turns to come to the front of the stage. Then out of the same patch of grass came a very fat hyena with an impala kill. He seemed confused by the leopards’ behaviour too. Eventually the leopards ran out of steam and one by one came out of the grass panting from their exertion to lie down a few yards from the vehicle.

Another bizarre sight at Tena Tena was that of a giraffe at a buffalo kill. Yes really – guests watched the giraffe for about 20 minutes licking the carcass and sucking at the spinal cord. This giraffe even had the audacity to chase off a hooded vulture who thought he should have a go at carcass. We have heard of giraffes sucking bones to obtain calcium before but quite extraordinary to see one licking and nibbling at a carcass – should prove to be some interesting photos.

Tena Tena has also found 2 hyena cubs who are becoming increasingly friendly and enjoying putting on a show for guests.

Meanwhile not to be out done Nsefu is happy to report a new Carmine Colony in front of camp which is the cause of much enjoyment.

Lions on a killGuests also happened upon lions killing a puku recently. The 3 lionesses had worked hard to stalk and bring down the puku when a male sprung about 3 metres out of its hiding place and grabbed the kill from the lionesses – typical it is always the women who do all the work and the men who profit…..

These 3 lionesses may have been so annoyed that they fancied a night on the town. When Ed and Claire arrived at the Nsefu bar early one morning they could clearly see signs of the 3 lions who had passed through camp the night before. They had obviously spent a lengthy time hanging out in the bar and whilst they did not drink the place dry, they certainly used it as a “midden” and some speedy cleaning was required.

Stay well and have a great week

It’s Monday 15th September and it spits

Yesterday afternoon I went for a zip across the river in the boat. At Nkwali we often boat guests straight across to the park from camp. I had not done this for a while and with Adam at the helm I was the counter balance for the empty trip back – not a very flattering description. However, as we were having tea it clouded over and Zebron appeared with rain coats – it is only mid September surely it is not going to rain! But yes, half way down to the boat we felt the first spits and by the time we got to the middle of the river it was raining enough for us to get little wet. After the heat of the last few days and build up of humidity yesterday morning it was quite a welcome relief. Only a short spit though.

However, as I sit here this morning we have had another little shower and the smell is just amazing – Ross told me last year that this musty, instantly recognisable smell is called petrichor – the first drops of rain release enzymes in the soil which produce the wonderful aroma. I am sure this is just a little taster for more rain to come at the normal time of year but it has put Shanie is a slight tail spin and she had banned any more rain until the new chalet covers are ready for erection in November.

Adrienne Waterfield, one of our regular guests, has just departed after a wonderful time game viewing. Adrienne was on a walk with Daudi at Tena Tena, who was busy explaining the intricacies of a termite mound when they heard a warthog screaming. They hastily climbed the mount only to fine that on the other side were 6 lions now eating the poor warthog. Continuing on they stopped for tea at Baka Baka and a hyena waded into the water and sat watching them as he cooled himself off. During her stay at Nsefu with Ed, Adrienne saw 2 leopards whilst on foot and then came across the Nsefu lion pride on her transfer to the next camp.

Another group of repeat guests, the Farmers and Bunces had the great chance of coming across a leopard with Jacob. This leopard was up a tree and they watched for some time as she licked the fur off the puku oblivious of her audience. Waterbuck and Buffalo numbers have increased greatly of late with the onset of the heat and lack of water elsewhere. Claire even saw a herd of some 30 plus eland on her way to the Tena Tena crossing the other day and including 2 fabulous males.

Nsefu has continued to see good honeybadger sightings and came across one digging up a monitor lizards nest and then eating the eggs. On the bird front they had a whole host of European bee-eaters flying over camp on their way south and Paul reported a European roller on this way to the airport earlier in the week.

Meanwhile Ed and Claire have squatters in the house at Nsefu. Two spine-tailed swallows have fledged their nest in the roof and are becoming very friendly, sitting watching as Ed and Claire move around their room. They are also, however, having to share the roof with a spotted bush snake who tends to get too close for comfort at times. The swallows start to dive bomb the snake to keep him at bay – urged on by Ed and Claire, who are not getting much sleep in during siesta time due to the in house entertainment.

Stay well and have a great week

It’s Monday 22nd and the not so dumb waiter

Well, the saga of the wire-tailed swallows (not spine-tail as miss reported last week) continues at Nsefu. The spotted bush snake is still at large in Ed and Claire’s room but has turned his attention to the collection of frogs quietly waiting for the rains. Claire has been trying to catch the snake. It is a wonderful specimen of over a metre in length that she thought the guests would like to have a look at it at close quarters – me… I am not so sure…. the further away the better, even if they are of a harmless variety!

Frog and snake in an earlier incidentSo the opportunity presented itself in a rather gruesome manner. The snake managed to catch one of the resident frogs and then wanting some peace to eat it decided to exit backwards through the chicken wire which covers the bedroom window. All well until the snake tried to push the head through – of course still with the frog in its mouth. It would not of course fit and so Claire grabbed a container and put it over the frog and snake – frog head in snakes mouth and legs still kicking wildly. The snake came back through the wire but then dropped the frog and headed back into the grass roof. Luckily the frog shock himself and hopped off – amazing after being in the snakes mouth for several minutes.

Meanwhile the swallow chicks have taken their first flight – literally pushed out of the nest whilst Claire was trying to siesta. They apparently were not too good to start with and circled the bed whilst trying to get enough height to fly back up to the rafters – eventually making it. Nothing like entertainment for the siesta period.

Elephant at Nkwali - lunch time (July 2002)Kate and guests saw an extraordinary sight from Nkwali bar early last week. Lunch was just about over when a familiar (and very cheeky young) elephant appeared at the lagoon and all retreated to the bar. The dining table had been partially cleared leaving just the tablecloth, water jugs and a few glasses. The elephant walked up to the table, took hold of the cloth with his trunk and pulled it out from under the jugs etc – leaving them all in place just like the old waiters trick. Kate was glad that some of the guests had witnessed this as we would never have believed her!

Game viewing has been exceptional with lots of cats being seen at all camps. Nsefu had a buffalo carcass on the beach in front of camp. Firstly a sick and old lioness came down and “sucked” on the carcass as she had no teeth. Then two young males arrived from the back country but were subsequently dispatched by the Mwamba pride who crossed from the other side of the river. These intruders where then chased away by the two males from the Nsefu pride.

The backcountry visitors may be the 2 males that were around for most of last season at Tena Tena. However, with a resident pride already in situ we may see some fur flying as the boys may be preparing to invade.

Nsefu have been watching a heavily pregnant lioness for the last few weeks and it appears that she has just had her cubs. Normally they are well hidden for the first 4 or 5 weeks and so we are hoping to see the new borns before Nsefu closes in early November.

Ed has seen madagascan bee-eaters at the wafwa as well as 2 steppe eagles and Jacob continues on his honey badger bonanza. The Nsefu kill of the week was a genet taking sleeping quelea…

At Tena Tena Daudi and guests found a leopard lying on a termite mound on Baka Island. They watched for a while when all of a sudden a small cub jumped up from behind the leopard and bound down the mound. The cub looked barely a month old and they watch it play for some 30 mins before both Mother and cub strolled off. The cub then found a old elephant bone and began to play with it just like a kitten with a ball of wool – an enthralling sighting for all present.

Buffalo drinkingNkwali has become the in drinking spot – no not with two-legged beasts. We have seen a large herd of about 300 or so buffalos coming down to drink on several occasions – kicking up a cloud of dust as they approach the river opposite the bar. Giraffe have also been down for a draft and are amazing to see as they slay their legs and flick the water down their throats. We also saw a leopard across from the office wandering along the bank one morning – so who need to go on game drives….

Stay well and have a great week

It’s Monday 29th and mobiles go out with a bang

Hope we find you all well and enjoying life. I have just come back from a couple of days off in Lusaka so am full of the joys of spring. A couple of days is quite long enough in the big smoke and I did enjoy the novelty of eating out and choosing what to eat from a menu and ordering take away pizza! As you can see it doesn’t take much to make me happy. I also had a new glam hair do, however, on returning all I seem to be attracting are geckos!

First one fell on my head and then this morning I was sitting have my morning wake up coffee at 0615 when I felt a thump on my back. I lept up with a screech, fearing that a snake had fallen onto me from the roof. Kipe, one of the airwaves pilots had to come to my rescue and take 2 geckos from my back. Nervous laughter followed as I had a quick look up at the rafters to see if these geckos had jumped to escape the jaws of a predator, I then made a hasty retreat to my office.

Shanie is on good form and wandering around showing her thigh to anyone who is interested… She was stung by a bee yesterday and the guys are all queuing up to inspect the damage – needless to say Simon is beating them off with a stick.

The Nsefu lion cubs have appeared earlier than expected and are proving very popular with guests and staff alike. The lioness introduced the 2 males and a female to the pride a few days ago and they look to be only about 4 or 5 weeks old. It is fascinating to watch them playing and interacting with the rest of the pride, who seem quite happy for the guests to sit and watch them. Their are also 2 lactating leopards in the area and I am sure that it is just a matter of time before they are seen too.

Paul had the great fortune of finding a herd of some 30 wildebeest at the salt pan the other day – great to see them back after a long absence. An Jacob continues to spot a whitewinged tern at Casicisi lagoon.

Meanwhile still on the cub theme, Marcus had a super sighting of a leopard cub whilst walking with guests near the Nkwali pontoon. New life seems to be appearing everywhere.

The mobile safaris have now finished for another season and certainly went out with a bang. Daudi took 6 American guest for the last mobile, all of whom had been friends since school and by all accounts had a ball.
They were lucky enough to have good sightings of eland, buffalo and 3 lions on walks. However, the best was definitely left until last. Driving back from the Mupamudzi site 2 caracals were spotted in the road just by Zebra pans and then to the amazement of all a 3rd appeared and they all trotted down the road in front of the car before disappearing off into the bushes – a very clear sighting and quite rare. As if this was not enough 8 roan antelope were then seen near Lundu plains just after the big baobab. A great finale for the mobile crew.

From Eve – mobile caterer

What an excellent season in the far northern reaches of the Luangwa, unbelievable it is all over so soon. Robin, Jason, Simon and Daudi all had fabulous sightings throughout their mobiles but the biggest treat was the time we all spent wallowing in the clear Mudamudzi water. The cooling, knee deep waters were too tempting to resist when gin and tonics were served with water lapping the ankles. Often abstaining from afternoon siestas to lie about like a hippo, I, like many guests, looked like a prune when emerging for tea.

We departed the Mudamudzi yesterday after filling in the famous oven in the ground. Nickson, our mobiles’ chef, has produced such wonderful meals over the season and has only just recovered from being asked by one female guest if he would marry her! We all thoroughly enjoyed the season – hopefully as much as those of you who joined us for the experience.

Stay well and have a great week

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