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


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We take a tea break


Baron, our impressively calm armed guard - his full time job is with the ranger service. He is seconded to RPS for a period of the year.


Elephant walk in front of us as we enjoy our tea




Kanga was an excellent guide, knowledgeable and interesting and very good company in talking about the wildlife and their environment, but at meals, also more generally about life in Zambia. (He is a Chelsea fan but we didn't hold this against him).


We carry on walking, enjoying the countryside and the wildlife sightings




Puku and Warthog


Impala and Puku




Hippo - having just enjoyed a mud bath

We found the walking and bush camping to be a wonderful experience. It was very well organised and the staff were excellent. Kanga was a great guide.

We enjoyed the experience of moving slowly through the environment, and the wildlife viewing was much better than we expected. We loved it all!

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Edited by TonyQ
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Tena Tena

We walked into Tena Tena after Bushcamping. The tents are very spacious, with mesh sides which gave a feeling of openness which we really like. There are only six tents (2 on one side of the communal areas and 4 on the other) and they are very well spread out. There is a view over the river, but at this time of year the water is a fair distance away. There are sockets in the rooms to charge batteries.




Showing the mesh sides giving an open feel (can be covered but we kept it like this overnight as well


Open bathroom

Tena Tena was moved a year or so ago as the old camp became more distant from the river as it moved its course. A number of people nostalgically went to see the old site - but we don't know how it compares.


When going to lunch on the first day, we had to take a different route because of 2 elephants near the tent. On one evening we had to be driven to the tent because of more elephants on the path. At night the hippo (and hyena) provided a tremendous chorus. We really liked it, but others might want earplugs.

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The first game drive was enjoyable. We went up the river to a site where the carmine bee-eaters were beginning to arrive on a site they shared with white fronted bee-eaters. (I struggled photographically!)



A large number of hippo catching the last rays - notice how wide the river must be in the wet season


3 giraffe head off into the sunset

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We started the night drive with views of civet, genet, eagle owl, Pel's fishing owl. We also watched three lions, fairly distant, walk across a flat piece of ground. We also had a glimpse of a bush baby high in a tree.


However, given previous history, you probably know what is coming next?





Each time seeing a leopard is exciting. This on walked towards and then passed us - it seems completely unbothered by us

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I've never been in the green season but here's an idea of how different the river is-


http://livingluangwa.com/blog-3/page/3 see the 7 March entry

That is an incredible difference - I can see a Geography lesson on ox-bow lakes happening in front of me - the river has almost looped back on itself.

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I've never been in the green season but here's an idea of how different the river is-


http://livingluangwa.com/blog-3/page/3 see the 7 March entry

That is an incredible difference - I can see a Geography lesson on ox-bow lakes happening in front of me - the river has almost looped back on itself.



Well there is one in the formation- you can see in the dry picture on the far right, the river has cut across that loop, but the loop fills up in the green season.


Did you get a photo of the Pel's?

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Next morning...


A baby Puku in a bush

(I tried to get the feel of the bush while also getting a clear Puku + had to use manual focus)

Apparently mothers often leave them in a safe place during part of the night and come back for them. Can you imagine being left there on your own overnight? - Walking did make me empathise much more with antelope.


This morning we saw a lot of elephant - and it was encouraging to see many young ones. We love watching elephant, to see them interact.




Keeping up with mum



Warning us off - protecting the young


Impala watching us (usually they ran off when we stopped, unlike Puku who generally stayed around)

Edited by TonyQ
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I have checked back - no photo of the Pel's I am afraid.


More elephant heading towards a lagoon for water




Enthusiastically combining drinking and bathing



Mother keeping a close eye on her baby


More arrive to drink

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lovely pix of the bee-eaters. if you struggled, I couldn't tell though that doesn't count much since i know next to nothing about photography except to try to frame and press.


this looks such a tranquil place to be in.

Edited by Kitsafari
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Thank you - it is very tranquil - the only other vehicles we saw were from Tena Tena (and then only occasionally)

Photo was difficult because of really strong light behind the birds.


Tena Tena (continued)


The views from the dining area were not quite as good as from the other camps – at this time of year the river was fairly distant. However it was a nice place to sit, and wildlife was still visible. (We saw giraffe walking along the river, and many hippo). We also saw this while having lunch



Green winged(?) Ptylia

Afternoon game drive


Distant lions on the other side of the river

Some views of impala, kudu, puku, and then


A brief glimpse of an Eland - the only one we saw (which is why I have put the photo in even though it is poor)

Sundowner (usual Mosi beer) followed by a night drive


Genet (these were regular sightings, but often brief, distant or in trees)



A little later we saw a male and female porcupine walking some distance away - after watching with binoculars for a while, I saw that there was also a baby walking in between them - it was a tiny little thing, looking a bit like a hedgehog! We were very excited. Apparently it is quite unusual to see the babies out. (I can also confirm that it is very unusual for me to see creatures first!)


A little later, we saw movement in a bush and moved a bit closer -you will need to look closely


Leopard cub

There was a very small leopard cub hiding in the bush. Its mother was out hunting, and its twin would also be around (the twins had been seen playing together a couple of nights ago by a fellow guest). We looked for a while and tried to photograph through the thick bushes.


Our guide asked if we wanted to go closer, but we were concerned that we would scare it out of the bush and make it vulnerable with its mother away - so we all agreed that we would rather leave it safely in hiding, and we headed back to camp.

Edited by TonyQ
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So far I haven't mentioned our guide for this section. We found him a bit frustrating, although he was popular with other guests. His style didn't quite match ours. We really enjoyed watching animal behaviour, and enjoyed the guide explaining this, and explaining what he (the guide) was doing and why - and he didn't really do this.


We talked about it overnight, and then had a word with camp management first thing in the morning (we went down early). I think they dealt with it well - they switched us to another guide (Bertrame) in the morning, and George (who we knew from Nsefu) for the remaining drives. We were much happier with their style.


With hindsight, part of this is knowing what we want and communicating it. When we first met a guide for the first time, they ask “What would you like to see?” We are happy to see anything, so I guess our response is not very helpful. However, we want to spend time with animals, watch their behaviour and learn about them. We’ve learnt it is important for us to think about what we enjoy & communicate this to the guide.


(A bit of a pause and then the final stretch!)

Edited by TonyQ
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Phew....another great installment!

You're right about the hyena-hippo opera....I too would choose that symphony to put me to sleep any day :)


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Hippos are the sound of Africa for me. That was one thing I missed in Ruaha.

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Hippos are the sound of Africa for me. That was one thing I missed in Ruaha.

You'll see them with Moli next year. Were not close enough to hear them but saw them from afar. One animal I'd never try to get close to. They scare the bejesis out of me; along with crocs riding a close second. Can't believe I allowed myself to stay in a tent so close to them while at Serian Kenya in 2010. Never slept a wink


@@TonyQ, love your bird photo - but to follow a leopard at night - Amazing shots. Would love it.


And of course I never tire of elies. They have such presence!

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Just reading this through for the first time - wonderful. It is bringing back great memories of when we were in South Luangwa in 2007, although we definitely did not see as many leopards!!

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I recently canoed for three days on the Zambezi river. I can't say that I was ever scared of the literally thousands of hippos because my fellow canoeist Mark kept warning them of our presence, furthermore my guide Alistair was armed with both a pistol and rifle.

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Thanks @@TonyQ - continuing to enjoy the writing and photos (and push SL further up the list for a family safari). You've done great with your night-time shots.


And it's definitely a Green-winged Pytilia.

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We start the next morning with a new guide - Bertrame - and we like his style.



Brown-hooded kingfisher


Male Kudu

We also continued to see a lot of elephant


We enjoyed watching them clean the earth from the grass before eating it


As we stopped for our tea break, some elephant began to approach - Bertrame told us to get back in the vehicle as it looked like they would come quite close to us





Baby safely protected by family

After the elephant passed, we saw some white fronted bee-eaters in nearby trees, occasionally swooping around catching insects.



As we watched, one flew up and caught a large insect, flew back to the perch and passed it to the other one as a gift. It then proceeded to get on top of the second bird and mate with it. Fascinating behaviour which I had not seen before (indeed Bertrame said he had not seen it before). (Sorry no photo - too busy watching).


Morning continued with Puku and more elephant




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For the afternoon drive and the final morning drive we would have George as our guide. We had a drive at Nsefu with him and liked the way he guided.


We spent a lot of time watching baboons playing, and sat near a beautiful glade, looking at whatever came out of hiding or chose to come into our vision. It was very relaxing


Female bushbuck

I have a series of photos of her taken over a few minutes as I tried different exposures etc. In each one she is in exactly the same position, but with different baboons moving around her.


After the night drive, back to camp for our last night. We went down for dinner and were meeting a new group of guests. Suddenly, one of the guides pointed towards the river. The night-watchman was shining his torch down the "beach" at the edge of the river, and there in the beam was a leopard walking towards the light. We saw it for about a minute and it walked out of view. (For once we didn't take cameras to dinner). It was great to have a sighting on our last night.

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The final morning -looking for signs, listening for signs - there may be a lion in the area - it is fascinating to be let into the guide's though processes. We do see a distant lion, but are not able to get close. We see giraffe, puku, kudu, and of course elephant



It is a strange feeling on the last drive - will this be the last puku we see? Will these be the last elephant?


We then saw some really interesting behaviour from an animal it is easy to overlook. A verve monkey moved towards a small group of baboons, and literally began to stand up to them.





Just after this shot, we caught a glimpse of a young vervet come out of the bush and run past this adult male - it seemed as if he was drawing the baboons attention away from the youngster. Very brave against a group of baboons. (when reading @SafariCal in his Kenya report he has a section where a vervet chases off a Martial Eagle).


It was a good last memory from this drive


After a quick return to base, it was time for a transfer to the airport with George - with a final chance to see some baboons.



It was strange entering an area where people lived, then onto tarmac road and to Mfuwe airport. A short flight and we were in Lusaka. We were staying at Pioneer Camp, and they picked us up from the airport. For a one night stay, getting ready for an early flight next day, we felt it was a good choice. we would use it again if we were there again.


The following morning, they prepared breakfast early so that we could return to the airport for our early (and now removed) BA flight to London.

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Final reflections


We loved South Luangwa.

The wildlife viewing far exceeded our expectations.

We could not have dreamt of better leopard viewings in terms of number, quality and variety.

However, we also appreciated all of the other wildlife we saw, from the Elephant Shrew to the Elephant (and all those in between)

The Puku were beautiful.

The walking was wonderful and we want to do that style of trip again.


This trip certainly rekindled our desire to visit Africa again. We met an American couple who had been to South Luangwa every year for ten years. We will have a different approach - we want to go somewhere with a very different environment so we do not compare trips.


Where to choose - Safaritalk is providing much stimulus for discussion. Could it be Ruhaha and Selous?, Could it be Laikipia? Could it be Mana Pools. We are also seriously considering Borneo or The Pantanal (because of reading Trip Reports!)


Thank you for those who have read this and offered encouragement along the way. I have enjoyed putting it together and have relived many wonderful memories while doing so.

Edited by TonyQ
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