It’s Monday 16th May and Bush Camping

It is great to be back in my fantastic new home country, Malawi, and to see again the beautiful landscapes, and the warm people and to feel the warm sun my face.

I’ve just returned from Durban, where I’ve been with Rob, attending the travel show which we enjoy the most. Each day after a demanding 8 hours of back to back half-hour appointments, we then socialize with friends, and friends of friends, from all over the world. Lots of dinners and parties – all “networking” as they call it. hmmmm…

Still in Durban and the Safari Awards. Robin and Jo won the Best Personal Contribution to Safari Tourism in Africa – congratulations to them, we are very, very proud!! We also got the runner up for Best Safari Guiding Team in Africa, Best Safari House in Africa with Luangwa Safari House and the 3rd place for the Best Mobile Safari Operator in Africa.

Here, I am under big pressure to get the travel show follow up done in time. With my fingers flying across the keypad to catch up on all the 114 emails in my inbox, I’ve found a pearl – Jane and Julie, who stayed with us for Luangwa Bush Camping guided by Debs, have sent the story of their trip. Over to them:

“As regular safari travellers Julie and I had always wanted to undertake a ‘real’ walking safari. Not a stroll during late morning when the bush sleeps, but starting at daybreak with the potential to get really close to the wonderful animals and plants of the bush – on foot.

The only way to do this is of course to camp out in the bush. No electricity, cooking on open fires, hearing the animals practically outside your tent at night and one of the best places to do this is South Luangwa.

restingby the bank

In planning our trip we asked two of our best friends (Eilean and Debs) to join us and the four of us set off on our ‘fly camp’ adventure. Selecting RPS we knew we would be in good hands, especially with the experienced guide Debs Tittle.

The morning of our adventure began, we loved it, a no nonsense 2 minute briefing, can’t even remember what was said but it was something like “Baron is at the front, don’t get too far behind and just do as you are told!” and we were off (thankfully no ’10 hour’ health and safety briefing – what a relief!).

the bara tent

It was a great feeling just heading out into the bush, leaving Nsefu Camp behind us as we meandered along the river bank, taking time to get close to the edge of the river to see the hippos and having a tea break near the carmine beeeaters (until my rudimentary stalking technique managed to frighten them all away).

As we turned into the wooded area we startled a hippo, fortunately it decided to exit stage right and head for the safety of the river.

cookingswinging

On arriving at the camp we loved it. Beautifully appointed tents and of course a bar! I guess technically to be really camping you should carry your own tents and pitch camp yourself, but the beauty of this trip is that you get to do all the best bits of camping!

posingbridge

Each day comprised of a morning walk, lunch & relax, afternoon walk and then back to camp for dinner and beers round the camp fire. The food was superb; nothing like a meal cooked on an open fire followed by an Amarula night cap.

The great thing about fly camping is that you are right in the thick of it, completely at one with the natural environment. In camp we used the panga and set up a swing across a small ditch; and on our walks we built bridges across muddy streams (of course Debs and her team will do that for you – but for us getting involved was part of the fun).

the dead crocodilehiding from elephants

On the exciting walks Debs taught us how to listen for the calls. An alarm call in the distance sounded like there could be a leopard in the vicinity and we excitedly set off at pace. We could never reach the standard of Debs; it was like she could really talk to and understand the animals (as we nicknamed her Dr Debs Doolittle!).

We came across a crocodile apparently sleeping in the open some distance from the river; we all agreed Debs should go and see if it was still alive. Fortunately it was not as Debs gently moved her foot towards the jaw. We all came down to look now – oh so brave!

The big cats have always been a passion and on our walking safari we got really close to a small pride of one male and four females. As long as we kept a reasonable distance they didn’t seem too concerned. However the next day we caught them by surprise in the distance as they caught our scent. The ‘scaredy big cats’ ran away, obviously wary of the “evil two legged” (and rightly so given humans often dreadful behavior towards the animals with whom we share this planet!).

Our best moment with lions was when we got within about 20 feet of the lionesses sleeping. As we passed we tried to ensure we avoided every twig; it was fantastic to be so close on foot a completely different feeling to being in a jeep.

hidingDebs checks direction

Elephants – are they not just the most wondrous animals. As we headed down to a muddy lagoon a small family herd appeared on the other side. We were safe as they were upwind of us. We quietly retreated to some bushes for cover hoping to see the elephants head down to the lagoon. The viewing was wonderful until a youngster clearly picked up our scent from the ground. This caused some concern for the matriarch and they decided to charge towards our scent trail. This is where we did as we were told and headed sharply behind a large tree; the elephants lost interest and headed back the way they came.

Our second ‘interesting’ elephant encounter was rather closer. As we three wise monkeys sat down for tea and a discussion about ‘jammy dodgers’ (an old English biscuit!) a young elephant appeared from the tree cover. Nothing to be concerned about until her young calf followed her. As she picked up our scent a charge was in order. Debs calmed her down and everything seemed to be fine as she started to go on her way; but then no she wasn’t quite happy and came back for a second charge. We all remained silent and perfectly still, awaiting any instructions. This time Debs stood up to the elephant trying to be a big as possible – no contest really! We all relaxed as the danger was averted and the young mother decided to avoid our group.

three wise monkeysand the fourth wise monkey with Debs

With fly camping, yes there are moments of excitement but these just happen naturally and there is never any attempt to set up these situations as the bush belongs to the animals and one should not deliberately aim to cause stress. Further, Debs intuitively understands your limits and whether you have the confidence and mind-set to do the right thing. There is always the potential for a surprise but Debs will listen to the bush and ensure you have the type of trip that suits you.

Fly camping was a wonderful experience, one we will definitely repeat.

Thank you to Debs and her team for an unforgettable time.”

And thank you Jane and Julie for sharing it with us.

A final note to tell you that tomorrow I’ll be joining a post-Indaba educational trip through Malawi and, together with one of our best Tour Operators, I’ll be visiting Pumulani, Mvuu and Mkulumadzi where, hopefully, I will see how the building work is getting on – I will keep you posted!

Have a wonderful week!

rita

Happy Campers

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