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Zambia – South Luangwe August 2013 – Great to be back on safari!


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How lucky we are that places like South Luangwe still exist.

How lucky we are that we can go to them.

How lucky we are at what we experienced.


This is my first Trip Report, so I hope I get the level of detail right! When putting in photos, I have tried to put in some that show the environment and what the parks look like, some that show the range of wildlife that we saw, some because they tell a little story, and some because I like them! Although we saw a lot of birds, and enjoyed watching them, I am sorry that there are few photos of them (lens not long enough).


Why South Luangwe?

It has been about seven years since our last safari – it felt like the time was right to go to Africa again. (I travelled with my wife).


We had not been to Zambia before.

South Luangwe has a reputation for good game viewing and excellent guiding. On previous safaris we had done a small amount of walking and really enjoyed it. This area gave us the possibility of doing more walking. We also hoped that we would see leopard.


We wanted to stay in relatively small camps, and we hoped that game drives wouldn’t be in the company of masses of other vehicles.


Why August?

The rains are mostly in December to March. In June, July and August the game sightings are said to get better as it gets hotter and water dries up. September and October, game concentrates around water but it gets much hotter. As we wanted to walk, we decided to go before it became too hot.


How did we organise it?

We looked at Safaritalk!. (especially helpful in relation to walking). We also looked at a range of other websites. We were impressed with the amount of detailed information on the Expert Africa website. We talked to them (Claire) and again were impressed with their knowledge. They had been to all of the camps we were interested in and were able to answer questions based on personal experience. They were not pushy, but seemed interested in us making a good choice. We would use Expert Africa again.


We ended up deciding to go to Robin Pope Camps, but could have just as easily chosen others. The camps are more luxurious than we have used before (we have mostly done mobile camping before).

What did we do?

Overnight: British Airways flight London Heathrow – Lusaka

Next morning: Proflight Lusaka- Mfuwe

Nkwali - 2 nights

Nsefu - 3 nights

Bush Camp - 2 nights

Tena Tena – 3 nights

Pioneer Camp, Lusaka – 1 night (for early morning BA flight to London.


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Photos? ;) BTW don't forget to upload an avatar image...

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What happened?

Both flights were very good. London to Lusaka took about 10 hours. We got a small amount of sleep on this overnight flight, then on arrival got a visa and were taken to an area to wait for the flight to Mfuwe. Lusaka is a very small airport so very straightforward. The flight to Mfuwe was just over an hour, and again very smooth.



We were met at Mfuwe airport by guides from Nkwali; the first part of the drive was through a number of small villages, with small shops and markets along the road. After about 20 minutes we moved into a “bush” area, and had the usual excitement of taking in the new environment and seeing the first wildlife.


When we arrived at the camp, we were greeted with a very welcome cold drink, and shown to our chalet. We had expected Nkwali to be the most built up of the camps, but there were only 5 chalets and they were well spaced out. The chalet was very large, spacious and airy; we really liked that they were fully open at the front with good views overlooking the river. (There was a rule not to walk in front of the chalets to ensure privacy). The front was closed at night with low railings and a curtain. Rooms had sockets for charging batteries.



Lunch - food was excellent. We do not eat meat – staff knew this (although we always check when we arrive) and we were very well catered for. Following lunch, there was time for a short siesta, (or more accurately sitting looking at waterbuck, impala and hippo on the other side of the river and watching elephant cross the river. Then return to the dining area for tea and cake and off for the first game drive.


gallery_45513_881_170020.jpgVervet monkey checking through dung

Nkwali is on the opposite side of the river to the reserve – so we started with a short boat ride across the river to the waiting vehicle. Game drives were in open vehicles, giving great view, and they were never “overfilled” – i.e. not more than 2 guests to a row.


Everything is exciting when you start. We love being out in the wild, seeing the landscape, and enjoying whatever we happen to see.



The first elephant blocking the track is exciting (I have left the front of the vehicle in the photo to show how close it was). He wasn’t that keen to move, but did eventually let us pass.


Starling - everything is interesting on the first drive!

Chilumba talked to us about the alarm calls we could hear, baboon, impala. He looked at what other animals were doing. A lot were looking over in one direction – so let’s go over there to see what is happening.



Puku –we had never seen them before this trip. They really are beautiful animals (and not as skittish as impala)


We found a group of lions around a recently killed Zebra. There were other vehicles around, but there was a rule that not more than three vehicles should be at a sighting, and this appeared to be obeyed.





It begins to get tiring for all concerned


We were thrilled to see the lions so early in our trip and enjoyed seeing the cubs play, and then they started to suckle on their mother (the first time we have seen that.)



We left and continued our drive


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After a sundowner (Mosi beer) and a snack (just in case you are starving as you haven’t eaten for 2 hours) we set on a night drive, with a spotter operating the lamp. (white light here, appeared to be used carefully)


We went back to see the lions on the kill, including a cub playing with what appears to be a stomach (though I am not an anatomy expert!).



I was trying to get the hang of photography in this sort of light – very high ISO and often very slow shutter speeds so apologies for quality – I put some in just to give a flavour.


We saw civet, a number of genet, and porcupine (which are much bigger and faster than I expected).





Sprinting porcupine

We came across one leopard who though fairly unperturbed by us, did eventually move on.


We then crossed back over the river, driving through the water alongside some marker canes to show (hopefully) where the river was shallow, to return to the managed area.


A bit later we had a brief encounter with another leopard who moved off fairly quickly (no usable photos!). Chilumba (our guide) explained that outside the park, the leopard are a bit more skittish.


However, we then met a leopard with her cub, and we able to watch and follow them for a while.


Back to camp, great food. It seemed incredible that we had only been in Zambia a few hours. Overnight, lots of hippo noise just outside the chalet – we loved to hear it!

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@@TonyQ what a fantastic first day and some real bonus sightings on the night drive. Great report and images - looking forward to more.

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Day 2


The typical pattern at all of the camps – get called at 5.30, breakfast a 5.45 (tea/coffee, cereal, porridge, toast), set off on the game drive 6.15-6.30


Great drive - We were the only 2 guests in the vehicle this morning. Guiding was excellent. Chilumba was knowledgeable and considerate. He knew about the behaviour of the animals and interpreted this well for us. He understood about the importance of the light for photography, and positioned the vehicle to account for this when possible.




Giraffe (Thorneycroft’s – only found in Zambia


Baboon checking through dung this time -nothing goes to waste





Another Robin Pope vehicle crossing the river


For much of the time we did not see any other vehicles - however when we came across a male lion, there was another vehicle present.



He wasn't very bothered by us!

Driving on we saw crocodile, more elephant


Impala - beautiful animals



Buffalo plus oxpeckers

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We then saw a couple of vehicles underneath a tree in the distance. We drove towards this to see a leopard (young male) with its kill- a puku.





We watched for a while, other vehicles arrived so we left. (The vehicles we saw were well behaved.)

We went away for a tea and cake break. and saw this Puku in happier circumstances


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Wow, what a great first game drive! And a great start to your trip report.

No need to apologise at all for your night photography. It is pretty darned good!

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Five different leopards in less than 24 hours is impressive by anyone's standards!

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Chilumba said the leopard is likely to be there for a while, so we would go back later to have a look.


It was still there, and as we arrived, the remaining vehicle left so we spent some time on our own with it (about 25 mins –just checked with data on photos!).


Notice the very full belly!


The leopard has now become my favourite big cat – they are just so beautiful.

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Back to base - pretty thrilled with 24 hours in Zambia.

I have realised I have not taken many pictures of the camps. Here is one of the chalet we stayed in - very spacious and open feeling - overlooking the river


We wondered if it might be too built-up - but we really liked it.


Back at base, the dining area was by a small lagoon – an excellent lunch was spent watching a large number of elephants coming to drink, bathe and wallow in the mud.


Elephant arriving


Drinking and bathing (the wood in the bottom right corner is the edge of the human dining area)



It was fascinating to watch them clear all the soil from the plants before eating them


A good mud bath


This photo shows the bridge over the lagoon – to the right is where the safari vehicles dropped us after the drive, and to the left and about another 10 metres was our chalet.



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After lunch, back to the room to relax - however still wildlife to see



Lizard on the patio area (sorry I don't know what sort of lizard)


Elephant crossing the river in front of the room (Zoom at 180mm so as not to give false impression)

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Thank you for the encouraging comments - (it is a bit nerve-wracking starting the first trip report!)

Edited by TonyQ
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An interesting afternoon drive with a range of wildlife



For much of the afternoon, we saw no other vehicles.

Chilumba asked us if we would like to go back to see if our leopard was still up the tree. (Yes!, and it was. We had other guests in our vehicle this time, but there were no other vehicles present for almost all of the half hour we were there. It was very peaceful just sitting and watching (and taking the odd photo or two!).






I know I have got a bit carried away with the leopard photos - I hope you are not as bored as him.




He got up for a wander around, and to check out the skin of the Puku, which he had put in the fork of the tree.



I know this is indulgence.


So a wash..


And to sleep.

We finally left him to sleep as we went for a celebratory sundowner (still Mosi).

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@@TonyQ - Just tell it however you want to tell it... It's all good :)

Ps - no such thing as too many leopard photos (also my favourite cat), especially if they are of that quality!

Edited by ZaminOz
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On to a night drive.

civet, genet, porcupine, scrub hare,




the four-toed elephant shrew!

(My “Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa” says that “the name is unfortunate .. as they are not related to either elephants (!) or shrews” (they should be called Sengis).

For us it had really been a thrilling day and a fantastic start to our trip to South Luangwe.

(I will take a pause and put more up later)

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Wow! Sounds amazing! Is it common to have so many great sightings in one day there or were you just incredibly lucky?? :D


My friend Natalie who travelled with me to moz and kruger said that she didn't see a single leopard in South luangwa!

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Thank you for the encouraging comments - (it is a bit nerve-wracking starting the first trip report!)

@@TonyQ don't worry, I've only just started writing my first trip report :D


The leopard photos are great and to prove we're not bored, we would also like to see them again in this thread: http://safaritalk.net/topic/4684-show-us-your-leopard-pics/



Edited by africapurohit
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@@Game Warden - thank you for the encouragement + I have now created an Avatar


@kittyKat23uk - I would think you would be unlucky to se no leopard if you were there for a decent amount of time. Having said that, I do think we were incredibly lucky. (You will see more - and different- leopard - later in the trip report in different areas. Some were very good sightings + we saw leopard on most days)


@africapurohit - Thank you - I didn't know it was your first report - I have certainly been enjoying it. (I will check out the thread you suggest)

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@TonyQ thanks so much for the trip report and photos. Can hardly wait for more. We were in the area six years ago and are planning to go again. So, your timing is perfect...keep up the good work!

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Wow wonderful report and stunning leopard photos! Keep 'em coming.

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Loving this report....the leopard shots are just lovely....I love their faces; their expressions and their eyes. You did a great job capturing them. Can't wait for more.

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Thoroughly enjoying this, @@TonyQ. Thank you for sharing.


How did your chalet close at night? I've read that a lot of 'rooms' in Zambia are actually pretty open when researching various camps and lodges.

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Wow!. Great start to a safari and an excellent report. Good combination, of text and photos.

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