It’s Monday 27th August 2012 and let’s reach for the stars!

Hope that you have enjoyed a glorious weekend and are sitting comfortably at work, revelling in the fact that it is Monday and there is another week ahead of us all!  Anyway for this week I thought that we would hear about the delights of the night sky, something that has always interested me and one of the real treats of clear African evenings.

We recently had experienced astronomer, Ad Matthijs over from the Netherlands to give the guides at Pumulani and in Zambia a little bit of a more detailed insight into what happens up in the sky, all those millions of miles away. So for this week, over to Ad.

“As a boy I was always fascinated by everything visible in the night sky and have never lost that.  Growing older, my knowledge grew but I also realised that the Southern sky had a lot more to offer, so when I was invited by Robin Pope Safaris to come and share my knowledge of astronomy with their guides I did not hesitate for a second!

This was my best chance so far to explore the Southern sky and an added bonus was that Pumulani has a large telescope that allows one to observe the many marvels that the night sky has to offer.

Stargazer

As this was my first time to Africa, it was a bit of a culture shock. In spite of the limited possibilities in Malawi and Zambia, people are eager to learn and explore.  Mobile phones are also surprisingly popular in these parts!

Village lifeAfrica

Pumulani! How to describe it?  Let me try: a place that brings all the good things on earth together in a way that invites you to come to rest!

My job at Pumulani was to teach Roy and Glynn how to get the most out of the telescope as well as to share my knowledge with them! The telescope is quite something! You can even use your personal camera to take pictures of the milky way!

Milky WayGlynn

While staying at Pumulani, I got to enjoy some of the activities on offer there like a cruise on their dhow, snorkelling amongst the rainbow coloured cichlids and of course using the telescope to observe the wonders of the southern sky!

>Dhow CruiseRainbow coloured cichlids

Fish Eagle swooping down on lunchFish eagle with his lunch (a small  fish)

Time went by quickly at Pumulani and my trip continued on to Nkwali and Nsefu in South Luangwa, Zambia, where I met 4 guides at each camp and spent time with them sharing my knowledge about the stars.

Some eager learners

All the camps offer some great game viewing activities, namely game drives and walking safaris. I was invited to join a few game drives.  It is always a surprise to see what is around the next corner.  The guides know the most promising places to see the wildlife and also know how to handle the unexpected.

Off on a game driveAt night

Sundowners

The location and the set-up of each camp is a story in itself. Looking out over the Luangwa River one can see hippos scattered in and along the river all the time! Crocodiles are always lurking about and there are elephants galore, particularly at Nsefu, where there is a herd of elephants that cross the river almost daily. At Nkwali, it is not uncommon for elephants to come into camp to get their fill of the ebony tree fruit, one of their favourites!  Baboons are pretty much everywhere.  I found it a great pleasure simply to sit and watch all the things happening around me.

NsefuElephant crossing

BaboonEllies

The chalets are built with local materials and blend in nicely with their surroundings. Breakfast, lunch and dinner at the camps were served in various locations, from the dining area within the camp to special spots in the bush. The food was really delicious and the people I met along the way were so interesting and fun, with many stories shared over the course of my trip.

The service from all the people at Robin Pope Safaris during the whole trip was great! From the minute you get off the plane there is an RPS staff member to meet you and help you with any customs and immigration formalities. That in itself is great as you feel less overwhelmed and more at ease with your new surroundings.

At the airport heading to board the  RPS plane

What I found important is that all (and I mean all!) employees of RPS are fond of their job and manage to give a high level of service but remain themselves and have good personal contact with the guests.  That is something to cherish.

Thank you Mara, Kiki and Daudi for your support, as well as Ton and Margaux, for inviting me to their home, and letting me play with their children! I enjoyed it!”

Thanks ever so much Ad! It is great to hear from you especially as this was your first time out here.

So for this week there is really only one more snippet of information: Kiki (the guy with the infectious laugh and huge appetite for chocolate mousse) is leaving us!  Don’t panic he will be back though! He is heading over to the UK to do a management course at university for a year.  Back to school for him it is and we will be checking that he is doing his homework on time and not having so much fun in England that he forgets about us!!  So if any of you are walking down the street and hear that laugh, you may well not be imagining things!  I do hope that you will all join me in wishing him good luck in this and we look forward to hearing all about it when he is back next August.

Have a great week and that’s all for now.

Cheers

Emily

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