Its Monday and a safari down memory lane

Hello there, I hope you are well and have had a lovely weekend. Here in the Luangwa, besides feeling like we are surrounded by lions; we are plodding along gently getting a few bits and pieces done and waiting for life to grab onto a small amount of normalcy. In the meantime, we have received a nostalgic write-up from Steve Stevens and Inge Frye of their trip with us back in 2018. Steve and Inge over to you:

Day 1: Arrival in Zambia 30th of August 2018.

We arrived off the evening flight into Mfuwe and met by the RPS team, taking us straight to Luangwa River Camp and arriving sometime after 6. We were warmly welcomed and shown to our room to freshen up before a welcome drink and dinner. It was here we met Marcos Saberes and his family, who we were later to meet at Nsefu where he was the host for the season and were instantly charmed by him.

Day 2: a somewhat early wakeup call at 05.15. Wiping sleep from our eyes we headed down to breakfast set out on the banks of the Luangwa. I proceeded to pick up an egg from a bowl, under the misconception that it was hardboiled but was somewhat surprised when after cracking it on the table it was raw. Thus, earning me the title of “the raw egg lady” for the rest of our safari! Everything cleaned up and sorted, it was not long until we were on our way on our first safari but also our transfer up to Tena Tena. After a leisurely drive with a constant lookout for wildlife, we spotted elephants, zebra, buffalo, and plenty of antelope. We reached the river where we crossed by small boat and were met by another Robin Pope Safaris car which safely took us to Tena. After arriving, we were shown to our chalet and quickly freshened up for lunch. After a siesta we met for tea and then around 16:00 we were off in the jeep with our guide Chilumba. We had a lovely afternoon drive with plenty of the usual animals, then after sundowners we spotted a leopard at night for the first time. That was exciting but difficult to photograph. Returning to camp we had a lovely candlelit dinner on the riverbank.

Day 3: Saturday 1st of September – Tena Tena.
An early start again, which now was becoming the usual start to the day; then off we went once again with Chilumba. It wasn’t long before we were able to make our first spotting of a leopard. We saw a pride of lazy lions with their cubs, several females and 2 funky male lions. The cubs were very cute and showing off. We spotted herds of buffalo, zebra, many elephants and for the first time so many of the carmine bee-eater birds. Many birds! Lilac breasted rollers, white fronted bee-eater, ibis, crowned hornbills, a white browed coucal bird and a bateleur eagle. The evening drive again was spent with an exciting leopard sighting, lions, an African spotted genet, some mongoose and an owl.

Day 4: Sunday 2nd of September – onto Nsefu.
Today we would walk the 4 hours to the Nsefu Camp with Chilumba and an armed guard, Moses lead us on our way. The walk was interesting and hot, and we saw a few mammals, but we mostly learnt about the tracks and signs and the small animals. Some good bird sightings too, such as a pair of lovely white fronted bee-eaters and a lovely spot of tea at a big termite mound. We arrive at Nsefu and were met by Marcos and also met the well-known wildlife photographer Edward Selfe who was there with a client. Long-time Zambia traveler and Robin Pope Safaris guest, Helga from Luxembourg was also at Nsefu and would be our game drive partner. Lunch was on the riverbank and during that time a herd of ellies came for a drink. They are always fun to watch especially the little ones. Lots of hippos in the river too.

During siesta we were surprised by a group of 4 elephants that came into the camp and cleaned up the leaves around our chalets. How nonchalant these animals are! The little one was trying to imitate the elders use of their trunks. Quite a show. We had to wait a bit to get to teatime as we did not want to frighten them.

As we climbed aboard our car with our new guide Braston, and our new co-traveler Helga, we were told that a pack of wild dogs had settled just outside of the camp! So off we went to watch them laze around and play a bit. Not much going on in the heat! But it was our first sighting of wild dogs and we were very pleased.

Getting close to wild dog

We saw a lovely group of giraffes, lots of elephants, and after a beautiful sunset we crossed paths with a pride of lions crossing the road. Braston heard monkeys alarm calling and we went on a wild leopard chase and spotted him in the middle of a thicket. It was very shy, but we had a lovely sighting all the same. Not long after, blocking the road in the dark was a sleepy hyena! It just lay there blinking in the light. It finally got up and slunk away when Braston turned on the engine. A lovely dinner at the camp closed the day for us and the grunting of the hippos serenaded us to sleep.

Day 5: Monday 3rd of September – Nsefu.
Every morning at Nsefu you have the lovely sight of elephants crossing the river. Great show for breakfast and dinner. Today would be my special day for leopards. The morning drive was quiet and sleepy with sleeping adult lions and their not so sleepy cubs that were very entertaining; a hyena sleeping on the road. A rather surprising meet with a young lion with a punk hairdo lying in the grass and a welcome back to camp with a big herd of elephants crossing the river.

The afternoon drive had just started when Will and Lianne Steenkamp called Braston on the Radio (they are a young couple making a leopard film) to let him know that their leopard that they were filming “Olimaba” was at the Stork Colony. And there she was walking right in front of a herd of impala! We thought she was going to attack but she just went right on her way and went over to a fallen tree and lay down.
Olimaba then moved to a lovely viewpoint where she could watch the sun go down and then she wandered back over to where we were parked and just lay down right next to our car! I mean right next to it! I could not believe how casual she was about it all.

Driving back to the camp we came upon 2 big bonfires and seats set out in the bush; Marcos had organized a surprise bush dinner for everyone. What a treat after the treat that the queen leopard had given us! We had a good night dreaming of lovely leopards.

Day 6: Tuesday 4th of September – Nsefu.
Off we went again today finding a pack of 5 lazy wild dogs followed by a pride of lions a couple of different leopard sightings. So, just the usual morning game drive up at Nsefu then! The afternoon drive we pottered off to look at one of the leopards who we had seen in the morning sleeping in a tree, only to find a lion sitting at the base of the tree having a snack. We can only assume that that lion had managed to steal the leopard’s kill from it and the poor animal was off in the bush looking a little put out by the situation.

Day 7: Wednesday 5th of September – onto Luangwa River Camp.
Early morning excitement at breakfast. While eating breakfast, a bull elephant came to the camp and started to tear off a big branch from a tree that is right beside the bar and reception area. This is only about 20 meters from where we were having breakfast. Mr. Bull munched his branch while we looked on, astonished. We even had to sneak around the bar to get to the gameviewing vehicles. The good-byes were indeed very sad, and I even shed a few tears. I had had such a good time at Nsefu. Everyone was so nice, interesting and the whole atmosphere of the camp was special, and we found the food outstanding. After lots of hugs we headed with Braston on a game drive to the river crossing point. The drive started with a bit of excitement with a herd of grumpy elephants in the middle of the road which meant Braston had to put his foot to the gas a little as one of them was particularly grumpy but we safely moved off. Then the next fleeting roadblock was a leopard being chased across the road by a troop of baboons – it managed to get away. What a sight! We then heard on the radio that a snared lion had been spotted and Braston drove to where it lay. The Zambian Carnivore Project team and Vet was on the way to put the lion to sleep and take the snare off. We heard later that this went well, and the lion was released after his ordeal. How terrible that this still happens!

After crossing the river, it wasn’t long before we were back at River Camp.

Day 8: Thursday 6th of September – Luangwa River Camp.
Early morning breakfast and off for our morning game drive with Daudi as our guide. We had many good sightings, Ginger and Garlic the lions sleeping off whatever kept them awake the night before; zebras, elephants, lots of antelope. We saw 2 lovely lions that were just begging to have their photos taken, many carmine bee-eaters and a lovely lilac breasted roller. Just as we thought we were heading back to camp we came around a corner to find a surprise breakfast set out for us in the bush – what a treat! That afternoon we took a different approach and instead we went to visit Tribal Textiles and Project Luangwa where we stocked up on souvenirs for the grandkids.

Day 9: last day.
Our last morning game drive, and once more, plenty to see including elephants and whole host of different bird species and Ginger and Garlic the big male lions who were just sleeping happily in the shade. After lunch we packed our bags said a sad goodbye and off, we set for the airport soaking in our last sunset over the Luangwa from the plane as we flew off.
I have been to Africa before, but Zambia has really impressed me, especially the South Luangwa Park and Robin Pope Safaris. The camps are really beautiful, the food is unbelievably good, the hosts and staff so kind and caring. The guides really knowledgeable and outstanding. Zambia has left very pleasant memories in my mind. I do hope to go back and if I can’t, I do hope that my grandchildren will have the opportunity to go there someday and see what I saw. I hope that they can keep up the protection of these fabulous animals so that people can still see them in their natural habitat in the future. Steve and I took over 4000 photos but when I close my eyes, I can still see the wonderful animals and smell the African plains. I had the time of my life!”

Wow, what an incredible trip! Thank you so very much for sharing this with us Steve and Inge; along with the beautiful photos to also illustrate. I think that I can safely say that in their 9-day safari, Steve and Inge may well have seen more leopard than I have seen in my entire time in the bush – phenomenal! Again, a huge thank you for sharing and we look forward to welcoming you and your family back to our special home soon.

In the meantime, I am left with very little to say, except have a wonderful week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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