It’s Monday and a dazzling safari

I do hope that you are all well and cracking on with the routine of self-isolation. Here in the Luangwa well the baboons and Humphrey the hippo have pretty much taken over camp and we are a mere imposition. Anyways this week we are going to hear from Mike and Nancy who head up an organisation called Dazzle Africa and were guests here with us at the beginning of the year. Mike and Nancy over to you:

“Some might be unnerved to get news a week or so before traveling to Zambia from the US that your groups can’t stay at one of the 3 camps originally planned, but that’s what happened to us when RPS had to keep Luangwa River Camp closed due to high water. As Rob said rather descriptively in his email, the footpaths in camp were now “crocodile highways”!

The RPS team, though, went into problem solving mode and suggested Luangwa Safari House, and we were game, as it looked amazing on the website. It turned out to be fantastic and our 8 guests loved it, a very different experience than an equally great Nkwali and Nsefu! Sarel, Yonna, Emmanuel and the rest of the team made our time full of great experiences.

Dazzle Africa, as a non-profit organisation, exclusively runs philanthropic safaris, so all of the profit from our safaris go to wildlife conservation, education and community projects in the park and in Mfuwe. The RPS team was fantastic at being flexible and accommodating with our tight schedule, as we always bring our guests to visit our partners Conservation South Luangwa (CSL), Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP), Mfuwe Secondary School, and Mulberry Mongoose, Tribal Textiles, as well as Project Luangwa, in between game drives.

We partially fund the aviation program run jointly by CSL/ZCP, so Yonna and Obi worked hard to fit in a visit to the airstrip so our guests could see the anti-poaching plane. We wound up seeing wild dogs on our way to the strip and couldn’t pass up the sighting so we were a bit late! We eventually got there to listen to our friend Dr Matt Becker of ZCP and pilot Deven give a presentation about how vital the aviation program is to anti-poaching achievements and large carnivore research. These kinds of hands-on visits really inspire guests to stay involved and do their part to keep the wildlife of the valley thriving!

The same goes for our visits to the Secondary School, where Dazzle Africa has provided skills-based training to their teachers to help create an entrepreneurial arts program called Hands Over Zambia. The program resulted in a brick-and-mortar shop at the campus where high-quality crafts are offered on sale. Our guests were so impressed that they virtually cleaned out the place of great craft items. The program also trains students on how to create and run their own business. Dazzle Africa is proud to have sponsored 29 students and counting, who are training to be everything from teachers to vets and who now fund their own brothers and sisters or children to attend school.

Our visits to CSL are, as always, fascinating as one of our groups got to see a demonstration of the anti-poaching detection dogs. Both of our groups got to visit with Dr Mwamba Sichande, the only full-time wildlife vet in South Luangwa, and who Dazzle Africa is proud to fully fund.

One of our two visits to the fantastic Mulberry Mongoose was filmed for a promo for them, which was fun. The MM team always does a smashing job and people are thrilled with their high-end jewellery, both for themselves and to give as gifts, especially if it helps remove snare wire from the bush and provide high-quality employment to villagers
Despite being the rainy season the weather was superb, given there was a lot of water in the river and the ground was quite muddy but we managed to keep dry most of the time. A slight blip occurred on the boat trip up to Nsefu but Catherine had hot coffee with amaretto and tea ready and waiting to help warm us up.

The only other time we had rain was while on a game drive at Nkwali when we were supposed to have a surprise Bush Breakfast, Nancy and I were getting nervous it wasn’t going to be possible. Well, no reason to fret, RPS came through with flying colors. The rain stopped and as we turned down the track to the giant termite mound, there was the whole team cooking a huge beautiful breakfast! The chairs were ready and dry and a herd of ellies happily munched the tall gorgeously green grass just beyond the mound. Perfect.

Up at Nsefu, the bird sightings were nonpareil, thanks to Willie and Bertram. The yellow-billed storks plucking catfish from the flooded ebony forest at sundown was unforgettable. Besides the famous yellow-billed colony, the team up there also discovered an open-billed stork colony as well! This one was reached by a walk with a lot of “bushwhacking” after Willie, Berty, and scouts Justin and Gilbert tirelessly found us a landing spot, with water fast receding. It was beautiful to see the big storks flying all around as they built their nests.

Besides all of this, our wildlife sightings were amazing, with multiple wild dog experiences, lions (one pride right near the Primary School!), plenty of ellies, and a few quick leopard sightings. Speaking of leopard sightings, during one night viewing along the road back to Nkwali from the main gate, a courser was flushed out by the leopard’s movements and hit Nancy right in the head as she sat in the vehicle! She was just fine, and the poor bird seemed to have recovered.

We had many experiences we’ll all remember forever, and so much laughter. The quality of the guides-including the young ones coming up in the ranks like Canny (Banjo) and Geoffrey- and the warmth of your staff is always top notch and we are dedicated to staying regular guests when the pandemic subsides.

In fact, we have already booked a group for next Emerald season, so we hope you’re all staying positive, taking care of each other and being safe. We can’t wait to see you all again!

Thanks so much Mike and Nancy for this wonderful account of your stay and we can’t wait to have you to visit again next year. Between now and then let’s hope that all of this subsides (sooner rather than later please) and we can start sharing our wonderful slice of paradise with guests once more. Between now and then though I shall bid you all a very fond farewell and hope that you all have a fabulous week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter. Stay safe and healthy and don’t forget to look after one another.

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