It’s Monday and safari dreaming from down under…

Well hello there, I hope that you are all well and hopefully enjoying a slightly freer pace of life. Anyway, news from the Luangwa? Well we have been inundated with people sending stories recent and old as part of our Safari Dreaming campaign which was an initiative to share safari stories on our social media platform. We have been receiving some wonderful stories and thanks to everyone who has participated so far – we really are enjoying sharing these with the rest of you! This week we hear from Gordon Ramsay (not the chef!) from ‘down under’. Over to you Gordon:

“I had 18 nights in three camps: the first 6 were at Kapani, when I was looked after wonderfully well by Willie, who has now become the manager of Nsefu Camp. The next 6 nights were at the Luangwa River Camp, which I thought was very special, and whilst there I was thoroughly spoilt by Sebastian, Yona and Polly, being the only guest during what was the last week of operation that season.

I think we saw three leopards on two separate evenings, all found by the sharp shooter Amos, who seems to have an eye for them. On one evening at Luangwa River Camp we had a terrific wind accompanied by a dust storm – then rain – and I told the team about hot conditions in my home town of Sydney, when, after very hot weather, storm clouds gather to the south of the city as we watch and feel the cold change blow in over the harbour. You can see it happening as the wind unleashes over the harbour and the temperature plummets 10 to 20 degrees. We call it the Southerly Buster. So, I suggested to the River Camp team that they call theirs the Luangwan Buster.

On Friday 29th November I said a sad farewell to Luangwa River Camp and with Yona at the helm headed off for Nkwali. I must admit that after a few hours of game drive I was starting to wonder where this camp was but I should have known that the guides love a surprise, and a surprise it was when I was driven up to a lovely site on the river under a big shade tree. And there I was greeted by the new team headed by Kiki, and before long I was munching into a delicious breakfast/brunch prepared by Robert the chef. I met most of the Nkwali team right there in the bush: Christobel, Justin and Leonard. The bubbling, ever-smiling Christabel, had to tell me what a buzz it was to have someone called Gordon Ramsay on the guest list. And we had a laugh while I explained that I was a quite a bit older than the famous chef.

The approach to Nkwali took me by surprise too, as, when I was at Kapani, we used to pass a sign on the same corner which said Kapani and Nkwali, so I expected to approach Nkwali by road but no, we drove onto the river bed, Kiki parked the vehicle and there was a boat to take us over the river to the camp. After a stern briefing from Christabel about the habits of the baboons, that they loved toothpaste etc, and that everything I valued should be zipped away and proceeded with a well-earned siesta.

I fell in love with Nkwali right away – goodness it’s hard not to. The camp blends into the bush and belongs to it. Everything fits.

There were a lot of incredible sightings that we had while we were there but just to give you a few of our highlights among many we had an epic hunt for an Angola pitta. Kiki suggested that we have a serious go at finding it in the grounds around camp so off we went with his computer and its speakers on full blast calling the bird in but no luck! The following day we did the same again but this time in the park in an area where Kiki had heard one just a few days prior.

Whilst the mission was not accomplished the challenge was almost as rewarding. In a similar Ornithological quest Kiki also suggested we headed off into the Mopani woodlands to search for a Racket-Tailed Roller this quest was also to no avail however we did find an Arnots Chat as well as witness the devastation to a forest that elephants can cause. As well as Kiki I was also guided by Thomas who at first appeared rather serious but quickly showed me to joys of the bush and the animals that I seriously thought I would never have an interest in such as termites.

On one morning we had a good look at termites, three types: dry wood; damp wood; and fungus termites. How am I doing? Before long I understood where they lived and how they fed and colonised. Thomas, like all good teachers, turned the learning into a game, and I, who have taught at university level, lapped it up. We got back to camp where I announced that Nkwali had a new professor – and his name was Thomas. He managed to get the balance of seriousness, fun and niceness just right, as do all the staff of course, the best example of all being Kiki.

I have to thank the entire team for such a wonderful and memorable holiday and I look forward to returning sometime once life returns to normal.”

Wow what a wonderful account thanks so much Gordon for sharing with us, it’s always such a joy to hear a firsthand account of someone’s stay with us.

After that there is very little left for me to say except stay safe, stay sane and don’t forget to look after one another.

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