Its Monday and 30 years of RPS Mobile Walking Safaris

Hello there, I hope you are well and cracking on with the lockdown routine that I think most of us are practicing. Here in the Luangwa, well its eerily quiet around camp and we cannot wait to be back up and running; with the great news that Zambia borders are now open for international travel with no self-isolation required (but you will need a negative Covid-19 result certificate from your country of residence).

Today however, we continue with the second and last part of our series on 30 years of Mobile Walking Safaris with us. Jason over to you:

Jason Alfonsi
Jason Alfonsi

“So last week I left you hanging without any update on the wildlife up at Mobile Walking so here we are for a roundup. It’s not as simple as that though, as I am sure you can appreciate how things change year on year, let alone over 30 years. One of the more dramatic changes over the years in terms of animals is in the number of elephants. We have in the last 5 years or so had an incredible increase in elephant numbers, so much that the woodland along the river is getting quite a trim and these days we can hardly do a walk without seeing elephants; which is a very welcome change compared to 10 years ago when we would hardly ever see them. It has been fascinating watching the elephant numbers increase and the impact that they have on the woodland. The mopani along the river was very much a recovering woodland with heavily coppiced trees growing straight and true. No sooner had the trees recovered from the pressure of the huge elephant population we had in Luangwa in the 1960’s then the cycle comes around again, a wonderful display of a natural system restoring its balance.

Luangwa Elephants

Other animals have all had their ups and downs, some more than others. We seem to have more hippo sticking around longer than usual. We actually heard a hippo honking last season, the first time I have ever heard one up there and also saw tracks quite often near camp 2. We also seem to have a group of 4-5 hippos who stay on in the lagoons in the thickets near camp 4.

Hippo

Lions, leopards and hyena are all more or less in competition and their numbers tend to move in opposite directions. Some 10 years ago we had a high leopard concentration and very low lion sightings, now however the tables have turned, and we seem to have a pride of lions in the surrounding area of each of our camps. Camp 1 has a very small pride that is particularly skilled at hiding and are rarely seen but often heard. Camps 2 and 3 share a pride and we first met the founding female 5 years ago and over the last few years have watched her raise her cubs and start her own pride. Her 3 female cubs have now also had cubs and some of her granddaughters may well start breeding this year. Our male lions have for many years been rather mobile, but they also seem to be settling down a little bit as the prides become more and more stable.

Walking Safari
Luangwa Lions

With the lions having asserted themselves along the river the leopard are significantly less evident.

Leopard

The Hyena are little changed and whilst we don’t see them that often we certainly hear them and last year a young hyena would sneak into Camp 2 most nights that we were there and try to steal the rope that ties all the kit onto the big truck. It may have also stolen a radio, a thermos flask and our bird book! We have also been over the last few years been seeing an increase in the Wild Dog sightings most especially around Camp 4 but last year the big pack were denning quite a lot further than our walking range so we did not see them as often, instead we saw a small pack who were far more timid.

Hyena

We have a fantastic range of antelope that we see up on the Mupamadzi with roan, reedbuck, waterbuck, hartebeest, eland, kudu, grysbok and very very occasionally some oribi. We have a consistent flow of buffalo which seem to be pretty constant over the years and are always fun to see on foot. And our giraffes seem to be making a comeback, as for many years we didn’t see any up there but over the last 2-3 years we have been starting to have occasional sightings although they remain very skeptical over our presence!

Antelope
Antelope
Antelope

When we take to the skies nothing much changes, but no safari is complete without pointing the binoculars to the trees and skies to marvel in the wonderful variety of birds that we see. The usual suspects get ticked off the list with everything from moustached warblers, red faced cisticolas and waxbills having a blast in the reeds along the river but we also have our slightly different sightings including palm nut vulture who we find nesting regularly over the last few years. A pair of long crested eagles that seem to reside in a thicket near Camp 4 and last year one very unusual sighting of a hildebrandts francolin. The list could go on and on, but I should probably end it there and maybe suggest that you come and see it for yourselves. In essence nothing changes and yet everything changes!”

Wow thanks so much Jason, this is amazing! Now all that remains after this wonderful summary is for this Pandemic to be over, the airlines to fully open up and for it to be safe for everyone to travel so that we can properly celebrate our Mobile Walking Safaris.

Walking Safari
Luangwa Walking

For now though, it is up to me to bid you all a very fond farewell and hope that you have a wonderful week ahead please stay safe and look after one another.

Emily
Antelope
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