Its Monday 9th February 2015 and River Journeys

Well hello there! So are you all sitting nice and comfortably after a wonderful weekend of friends and family? During the last week of January I arrived in South Luangwa for the first RPS River Journeys safari of the year. I’d been warned I may not see as much in the green season – the animals would have dispersed, the roads would be impassable and the bush impenetrable. This was fine: I didn’t need to tick off the Big Five; I just wanted to experience the valley at this special time of year.

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In the event, however, I saw more than I ever have before. My seven-night trip took me from Luangwa River Camp up to Nsefu and finally back down to Nkwali. As promised, the lush valley was unrecognisable from the dusty dry-season terrain of my previous visits, with its towering storm skies and impossibly vivid greens. The river was swollen, the plains had become swamps and water lay everywhere – in pools, puddles, surging channels and sweeping lagoons.

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Wildlife-wise, there was plenty of smaller stuff that you’d never find during the dry season. The soundtrack, for a start, was much richer, with inter-African migrant birds such as woodland kingfishers and emerald cuckoos calling from every thicket; a chorus of frogs whistling and belching through the night; and a constant background hum of insects, as though we were living inside a bee-hive. And then there was the exuberant seasonal behaviour – from the breeding dances of crowned cranes and courtship displays of malachite kingfishers, to the vigorous suckling of young impala and dancing swarms of migrant butterflies.

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But there was no shortage of big game either. And with a boat at our disposal, the flooded roads were not an issue. We followed the channels – crocs sliding off the banks and hippos snorting from the shallows – until they could take us no further, then tied up on the bank and set out on foot. Following tracks through the mopane, we found elusive eland and Cookson’s wildebeest among the zebra, impala and puku, and skirted numerous breeding herds of elephant.

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For sheer drama, the highlight came upriver from Nsefu, where we nudged into a small inlet amid a serious bust-up between 28 elephants and a pride of 18 lions on their buffalo kill. My guide Bertram poled us ever closer as, to a chorus of trumpeting, the pachyderms saw off most of the cats – which floundered muddily through the swamp to the safety of a nearby thicket. The male, however, refused to be intimidated: resisting one charge from a young bull, he sank deeper into the grass and started up an intimidating roar, deafeningly answered by his companion from the thicket beside us.

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This was the second of four lion prides we met in seven days – two of them on foot. And back at Nkwali, where higher ground allowed a little more driving, we also caught up with the hyenas I’d been hearing all week and, mid-afternoon, met a gorgeous young female leopard stalking an impala. All we missed were the wild dogs, whose tracks were everywhere. But hey, you have to leave something for next time.

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The week was a revelation. Quite apart from what we saw, it was how we saw it. My guides were exploring upriver for the first time since the rains started, so knew no better than I what to expect from the transformed terrain. And, with so few other camps open, and hardly a vehicle in sight, it felt as though we had South Luangwa to entirely to ourselves. An extraordinary privilege.”

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Thanks for that fabulous account and the stunning photos Mike!

Well thats all for this Monday, i hope you have a great week with lots of fun.

Cheers

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