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South Luangwa, September 2014


vikramghanekar
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Hi all,

This is my first post on Safaritalk. So let me introduce myself.

I am from India, a doctor by profession and a keen amateur wildlife photographer.

I have visited many Indian National Parks in the past. This was my third trip to Africa after South Africa (Timbavati and Phinda in 2009), Kenya (Masai Mara 2012).

This was my first trip alone (normally my wife who is equally keen wildlifer accompanies me on all my trips). But she was staying back to care of our 1 year old son. We were supposed to do this trip together in 2013 but we had to postpone it as our son was born.

My trip was arranged by UK based Expert Africa. After spending a lot of time on the phone and a lot of emails back and forth, finally I decided to spend a week in Bushcamp Company's three camps- Bilimungwe, Kapamba and Kuyenda. They were offering a good deal with so single supplement!

I left Mumbai airport on Saturday 29th August by Emirates flying to Dubai and then onwards to Lusaka by early morning flight. What surprised me was the number of chinese passengers on board the Dubai to Lusaka flight. I arrived in Lusaka post lunch. Fortunately, the meet and greet person was right at the exit and I had no trouble finding him. Lusaka airport reminded me of old Mumbai airport from 1980s with a laidback feel with absence of all the razzmatazz associated a modern airport. I tried to get a local mobile sim card, but the Airtel shop at the airport was closed (apparently closes early on Saturday and remains closed throughout Sunday). There was no other shop to be seen which sold sim cards!!

My next immediate problem was that I was carrying a couple of heavy camera lenses and was exceeding my baggage allowance by a mile. Fortunately, the flight to Mfuwe was not full and the check in counter guy turned a blind eye. I breathed a sigh of relief as this was playing on my mind right from the time I left Mumbai.

The flight to Mfuwe was a little eventful as the wind was quite strong. Landing in a small plane with strong crosswinds was a hair raising experience. The smiles that broke out on passengers' faces were that of genuine relief!

Vehicle from Bushcamp company was right there at the airport. The drive to the gate of the park was a smooth one on a recently built tar road (apparently by Chinese). The scenes along the roadside looked familiar to my Indian eyes. Fortunately, my phone with Indian sim card was showing registered on Airtel Zambia. I called my wife just to let her know that I was safe (Airtel coverage is pretty good at Mfuwe, but international roaming will burn a hole in your pocket)

As we crossed the bridge on the Luangwa river, immediately we started seeing wildlife. Pukus and Impalas were the first wild animals that greeted me in South Luangwa. The driver informed me that first I was to be taken to the Mfuwe lodge, headquarters of the Bushcamp Company. As we neared the lodge, the road ahead was blocked by a large bull elephant. As we waited, I realised the elephant was limping very badly. When asked, the driver told me it was result of a bullet wound in one of his front legs and that he was being closely observed by the veterinary team. Probably result of a poaching attempt he said. I had heard that poaching for elephant tusks was back on the rise in Africa, but never thought that I would witness it firsthand on my first evening in Africa. Eventually the poor elephant moved off the road and reached Mfuwe lodge.

I was greeted warmly by Andrea, one of the owners. I had a quick tea, completed formalities and was ready to be transferred to Bilimungwe Camp, deep in the southern portion of SLNP.

I wonder if what I have written is too verbose because I have written so much and not even covered my first evening in SLNP. PLease let me know if I should be brief....

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Please include as much detail as you can, this is a great start and I look forward to reading the rest of your report!

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@@vikramghanekar Welcome! And yes, please be as verbose as possible. :) I hope that the elephant has since recovered. Looking forward to seeing what else Luangwa had in store for you.

Edited by Marks
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Hi Vikram

 

Welcome to Safaritalk and a very promising start. Please continue and if you have I would love to see photos.

 

TFS / Gregor

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Hi Vikram. I like your report, but not the wounded elephant. You probably wonder about him still. Welcome to ST.

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Hi Vikram,

 

Great report so far, many years ago my first safari trip was in South Luangwa. One day I will get back with my wife in to.

I look forward to the rest of the report.

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Hello
Thank you all for your encouragement. I'll continue with my story.
By the time I got into an open landrover which was going to take me to Bilimungwe (Bili for short), it was already dark. It was going to be a long drive (about 1 1/2 hours). But as there was a spotter sitting besides the driver with a spotlight, I expected to see some game on my way. And boy what a drive it turned out to be. I put on my jacket as It was now getting a bit chilly. The bumpy ride along with effects of a long flight started to have their effects on me. I started dozing off despite my determined efforts to keep my eyes peeled for a sighting. Suddenly there was a jolt and the vehicle came to standstill. I jerked my eyes open to see a huge hippo bang in the middle of the road! Till then I had never seen a hippo so close on dry land. The hippo gradually moved off the road and we moved on, only to stop for another hippo on the road in 10 minutes. The driver- guide informed me that the road was running parallel close to the Luangwa river and that's why we were seeing so many hippos on the road. Within next few minutes we had another a rare sighting, a white tailed mongoose. This species of mongoose is shy and almost completely nocturnal, so difficult to spot during daylight hours. We also came across many scrub hares and nightjars (Both Mozambique and Savannah) as we travelled further south. About 45 minutes into the drive, I was very tired and fell fast asleep. I was woken up from my slumber by the magical words "Leopard!" "where? where" I asked as tried to focus my sleepy eyes. "On your left right ahead" said the guide. Oh my. There was a beautiful female leopard sitting right next to the road. As we gradually moved forward she got up and started to move across the road with a grace that only leopards have. I fired off a few shots as she stopped for second, gave us stare and disappeared into thick bush. I was elated. I knew SLNP was famous for leopards but never expected to see one within an hour of my entry into the park. But the drive was not yet over. The next words from the driver that made me sit upright were "Lions!" About couple of kilometers down the road from where we had seen the leopard, we came across two lionesses and 3 playful cubs! We watched their antics for a while before we moved off. "Wow" I thought as we reached Bilimungwe camp, just on a transfer drive I had notched up two big cats of SLNP along with host of nocturnal creatures. Surely my week was going to be exciting to say the least!

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Edited by vikramghanekar
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Hi Vikram

 

Really nice. You are a good storyteller (for me it is a bit difficult to express myself in english - much easier in my native language), and some really nice pictures. The first and third, have reflections in their eyes from the spotlight, which is usual when shot in spotlight. This is unfortunately not my cup of tea, and the biggest reason I didn´t like night drives. But the second is really nice.

 

Very good start, please continue :)

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Wow, you could hardly ask for a better welcoming committee. Great nighttime photos of the leopard.

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