Its Monday 13th October and a preview to forthcoming attractions

Hello there – so are you all well? I do hope so and if you are sitting there thinking how you are about to embark on winter with cold rainy days whilst we are here in the extreme October heat, I have received something which will hopefully inspire some of you to come and see us during the Emerald Season. Regular guests and now RPS family members Peter and Alison Williams have visited us at various times of the year. After years of debate they finally settled on visiting during the rains earlier this year. Below they explain to all of us why this is such a magical time of the year – so for today over to Peter and Alison.

“I suspect that most people think that it’s a risky business to embark on a safari holiday during the Emerald season. After all we are programmed to require our holidays to be full of cloudless, sun filled days. The thought of possibly having to endure storms, wind and torrents of rain needling down our bodies is enough to make us think twice. Added to this, the word ‘Emerald’ conjures up pictures of thick, verdant pastures and bushes, trees thickly canopied in lush green leaves and grass as high as that proverbial elephants eye! Umm we think — not a brilliant time to see, never mind get close to, the very reason most of us want to experience a safari, namely, the animals and possibly, if you are like my husband and me, the birds.

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By now you will have guessed that I am about to obliterate these thoughts and make you reconsider.

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Without doubt the Emerald Season is an amazing, thrilling and unforgettable time to visit the valley. The Luangwa is of course at its mightiest, flowing fast and furious, effortlessly carrying huge tree trunks that have been undercut and torn from the banks upstream. And yes, there will be some storms but oh how thrilling to watch the spectacular light displays that rip with such ferocity through menacing doom laden skies – a prelude to the ear splitting thunder that reverberates and echoes throughout the valley. Yet on a calmer note it is also possible to marvel at beautiful cloud formations and exquisite kaleidoscopic sunsets, while sipping your sundowner, as you float tranquilly into the beautiful Wafwa lagoon. There you will wind your way effortlessly and silently through hippo pods, while dreamily watching, as the open billed stork and heron squadrons, silhouetted against this breathtaking backdrop, fly to their nightly roosting positions.

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River journeys during the day also offer a totally different safari experience to bumping along in a land cruiser. It’s only during the Emerald Season that both these modes of transport can fully be appreciated and enjoyed. You get to watch the animals from completely different perspectives. Double your enjoyment!!

Yes that’s all very well I hear you cry but there’s all that thick and verdant greenery where the animals can hide. Well, like us, most of them do not like getting their feet wet. Consequently they prefer areas where it is drier. These areas are few and far between but those clever, cunning guides know exactly where to find them. Lions and leopards, those same trusty guides will tell you, often prefer to travel along the roads, especially when it’s wet!! Well it has to be said that last February, on our arrival, we hadn’t even got to camp before we met up with our first lioness as she sauntered, in front of us along the road.

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Wild dog – our best and most exciting sightings have mainly been during the Emerald Season. We’ve watched them flash past like Exocet missiles relentlessly homing in on their prey, jumping and prancing with each other in the shallow water under Kateti Bridge, chasing elephants in Lupunga Spur just for the sheer fun of it, teaching sub adults hunting skills or simply just chilling out by the side of the road. As for leopards — this February it seemed that almost every corner had one languishing on a thick bough, its previous nights meal all too evident, still hanging in the larder ready for future feasts. One morning I (my husband had decided to enjoy a morning in camp) went out early with Chilumba and we were lucky to find a female leopard with her 2 (almost grown) cubs relaxing on a Kateti sand bank. We caught up with them twice more that morning!!!

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We have never seen so many elephants as we did this February from huge tusked males to tiny, wobbly newborns. They gorged on the sweet vegetation, as they allowed us to get close. They seemed relaxed, fit and healthy. Giraffes towered everywhere, loftily peering at us. On the way to Chichele one evening we came across 6 of them. To our amazement two of them began to duel while the other four watched curiously from a well measured distance. The fight lasted for some time and was pretty violent. Once the dominant male had established his superiority the fighting ceased and they all continued peacefully on their way. Other cloven beasts, were just as numerous – Buffaloes, Zebra, Impala, Puku, Waterbuck, the majestic Kudu, and even the shy Bushbuck delighted us with their Emerald season antics.

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As mentioned birds are a passion of ours. The Emerald season brings countless numbers of migratory birds to swell the already numerous resident numbers. It is the main breeding time for many birds. The males all decked out in their finest feathers (and occasionally magnificent tails) declaring to the females, with their spectacular displays, their varied vocalisations and sometimes their nest building techniques just how macho and able THEY are and why THEY alone should be chosen for the mating game! I can’t tell you how fascinating it is to sit and watch hundreds of Village weavers all building their intricate nests above pools of water. The cacophony of noise from these little birds is truly amazing, as is the clacking of the somewhat larger yellow billed storks as they, in their thousands, prepare their nests at a special nesting site (used I suspect since time immemorial) in the Nsefu District.

I haven’t even mentioned all the ‘little things’ we encountered that helped to enrich our knowledge and understanding of how all the animals, the plants and the local people (be they great or small) depend on the Emerald Season for their very existence.

I hope this has inspired some of you to visit during the Emerald Season.  To coin a well loved phrase – every morning you wake up ‘Another day in Paradise’ will be waiting to enthrall you.”

Thanks so much Peter and Alison – I have to say this has even made me look forward to the start of the rains (well that and the fact that it was already 35C at 8am this morning). So if any of you out there have questioned as to why people would come out during the rainy season I do hope that this has put all your minds at rest and that some of you will come and share this incredibly magical time with us.

From me though for this week that is all I have for you so shall leave you to have fun and laugh lots.

Cheers

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