Its Monday and RPS Mobile Walking Safaris turns 30

Hello there! I hope you are well and that cabin fever hasn’t completely set in. Today we are hearing from Jason, as we celebrate 30 years of our Mobile Walking Safaris this year. When I asked Jason to write something about the last 30 years, there was a definite silence – I mean how do you sum up in one newsletter 30 years of safaris…? So, we decided to make this a two-part series because there is just too much to cover. Over to Jason now:

Jason Alfonsi
Jason Alfonsi

“This year is the 30th anniversary of our Mobile Walking Safaris. I can’t believe it has been this long already! It feels like we are still discovering new little parts up on mobile trails even after 30 years. I first went up the 05 route in 1987, long before I came to work at RPS. We used one of the roads put in by the company that was doing a geological survey for oil in the park! They were called Geosource and we still have a few of their roads still in use. We did not get far down the 05, only as far as the Chikya River but did have a good look at Frank’s Lakes on our way home. Franks Lakes is where we often stop for a break on the journey up and down the 05, it is a perfect spot to stop the car and have a cup of tea whilst enjoying some of the more unusual bird species that we find here in the Luangwa, particularly the ducks and other water birds.

Luangwa Birds
Luangwa Birds

The poor rains we had 3 years ago has had a huge effect on the bird life as the water dried out completely. It seems that all the resident birds either left or ran out of food when the water dried out, so for the last 2-3 years birds have been rather thin on the ground. We do still get the hartebeest, roan, zebra and reedbuck gathering to drink once the back country dries out. So far, the water birds have not re-appeared. Perhaps with our very good rain this last season we might see some of the water birds returning. I really look forward to heading back up there and seeing what has happened.

The 05 track was made in the 1960s to provide access to the Northern part of the park, the story is that it was made with a bulldozer, the driver given a compass and told to go straight up following compass bearing 005º, giving us the interesting if somewhat unimaginative name for the road! On my 1987 trip there were small trees growing in the road, averaging 8cm in diameter, the road had not been graded for 20 odd years. The sturdy bumper on my vehicle took a beating but it was wonderful to get out into the back county and see all that woodland! After a bumpy start, it took a couple of years of determined pushing from Robin to get DPNW to re-open the road and get our Mobile Safaris started. We have since added a couple of extra roads, but we mostly use the Lundu Plain road, which was put in by Moses Mkumbi, it is also known as Moses’s road!

Since my very first day trip up the 05 I had always wanted to spend more time up that way, compounded by all the stories we would hear over a cold beer with Robin after each of his trips; until I eventually managed to get him to put me on the roster. As those of you who have done more than one mobile walking safari will know, it is just one of those amazing places that seems to stay the same despite the continuous changes that nature affords us. Over the years we have been running our mobile safaris, we have seen plenty of erosion, some incredible sink holes appear which put a bit of a damper on the route but nothing that can’t be handled but the river has pretty much stayed on the same track. There are some areas where there has been some pretty fast erosion and some large holes churned out by the moving water but this year it will certainly be interesting to see what has happened as we have had an incredible rainy season.

We have watched trees grow and fall down we have watched lagoons fill and dry up, depending on the rains that we receive each year; we have watched sink holes appear and roads change. The animals come and go but the one thing that remains the same, and I hope it does for many years to come, is the absolute magic of this slice of the National Park.

For now, though I am going to get going and next week I shall be talking to you about the wildlife that we see while on Mobile Walking Safaris and how that has changed over the years.”

Great, thanks so much Jason this is amazing history behind the Mobile Walking Safaris. I can’t believe it has already been 30 years, it’s incredible. We can’t wait to hear from you next week Jason. Between now and then, I hope that you all have a wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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