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Are there any Leopards in South Luangwa?

Wild Dogger

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Well, maybe the foolishst title for a trip report about a safari to South Luangwa.


As my business was supposed to be very low in July, we decided to do a Safari to South Luangwa.
We never been on Safari in Southern Africa in the so called high season, so I was very eager to see how it is compared to November, when we normally go.


We flew from Germany via Dubai directly to Lusaka, from there to Mfuwe, closed to SLNP.

Arriving at late afternoon a guide of Lion Camp awaited us. It turned out, that he should not be our guide, he was just the „taxi driver“ to Camp.
The drive to Lion Camp was unspectacular and as it was already getting dark, it was quit chilly.


Arriving at Lion Camp we were welcomed by a young lady who showed us our chalet, which was the furthest away from the public area.

The chalet was a bit dark, but that was no problem.

The walk ways of the camp are raised wooden walkways, which are also „roofed“ by branches.

In the beginning we were sceptical about the camp, but in the end it turned out, that this was maybe the best camp (for our needs) we ever stayed in. Best food we ever had on Safari!


At dinner time we were introduced to our guide Isaac. He turned out to be a good guide, nothing to complain about.

As well we were introduced to our „car mates“ Gary and Kit, a nice couple from New Jersey, USA.

Dinner at Lion Camp is not as we were used to served as buffet style. There is real table service. All guests sit at a long table which we always enjoy very much.


15. July
day 1

as always on Safari we go out early, here it is 6. It is still very cold and the animals seem to hide from the cold. We later think, that there is no need to go out before 7 (besides the golden light), we rarely have seen anything in the first 90 minutes of the drives besides


Puku and Impala.
We found that strange compared to our November trips.
Well, this morning we see a taxi hippo shutteling a Grey Heron.




After a while we come close to a Grey-hooded Kingsfisher.




Yellow Baboons in the forest





It is a quite drive that morning and I begin to think about the myth of high season Safari.




Gary and Kit tell us, that they had seen a Leopard with cub the other day, something you don´t want to hear, but hear often arriving at a camp.

As the sun is warming up, we meet a nice little herd of tuskless tuskers.










Close to camp we also see our first Leopard, far, far away.


Back in Camp we have our brunch before Siesta.


The lagoon in front of the camp is frequented by all kinds of critters.
The number of animals increased day by day. Maybe because water got more sparse elsewhere.

We saw elephants, lots of Zebra, crocs, Kudu, Puku, Impala and






In the afternoon we first visit a pool with hippos





and lots of birds.
Isaac spotes a Malachite Kingfisher somewhere there. We spent about 20 minutes without seeing what he sees. In the end we say, yes we can see it, so that we can proceed ;)) .

There is

African Spoonbill




Sacred Ibis





Openbilled Stork




and a Great White Egret.




For the remaining of the afternoon there is not a lot to be seen.

After sundowner we slowly go back to camp.

And then there is, why we came here:





a young female Leopard is posing for us in a tree.





She´s relaxed and allows us to take a couple of shots








before she decides that it is enough, climbs down and walks her way.








This was it for day one. One day, one Leopard (don´t count the one in the faaaaaaar distance) and still counting.

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Great control of the lighting situation with the leopard sequence at night.


And the baboon photo is absolutely LIGHTS OUT!!!


@@Wild Dogger

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Here comes

16. July

Day 2
again the day starts slow, just




Puku and Impala.

Radio Zambia´s crossing after an hour.




A beautiful LBR let´s us have a close look.




We spot a huge croc in the Luangwa.




While we´re having our breakfast brake, we watch a hippo and a calf playing in the river.




After we filled our stomachs we find the animal, that gave the camp its name:

lions, the Hollywood pride.








We observe them for half an hour before we proceed.

The camp has prepared a bush brunch for us on the banks of the Luangwa, very nice idea in a beautiful setting.


There´s 2 hippo bulls fighting.




Well, at least they splash each other with water. A very noisy business.


Back in Camp an elephant comes to bath in front of our chalet.




In the afternoon we go back the Hollywood beauties, but before we see a Tree Squirrel.






This one does not look healty:






There´s also Baboons around and a hyena´s not far.

As it is getting dark we try to find a place for sundowner.

There´s another Leopard! I can´t believe, that this cat was so close to the lions!




After sundowner we find a Puff Adder



and another Leopard.




So it´s day 2: 3 Leopards by now and still counting!


At dinner we sit beside Emma, who´s the manager of the camp. We have a nice chat and I tell her how much I like this camp. She asks a lot of things what might be improved and I tell her, the only thing I miss was an outside shower.

Well, there should be a surprise for us coming up soon.

Edited by Wild Dogger
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@@Wild Dogger...great report and photos. It is so nice to be reading rather than writing!

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Great start with excellent images.


The Leopard photo with a totally black background has an ideal atmosphere , that's how I imagine a leopard at night , silence , shadows, secrecy, mystery, danger !!!
Keep going !
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Fantastic pictures and a very good start to this trip report. Brings back good memories :)

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Great photos +1 from me on the excellent lighting on the leopards at night. Also for the baboon and leopard in the darkness ahots.

3 days and 3 leopards. I guess there are leopards in South Luangwa :)

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I've spotted some tusks on your tuskless tuskers! Little ones, perhaps, though. :)

Incredible leopard photos, some of the best I've seen - especially in the dark.

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17. July
Day 3

I ask Isaac, if we can try to find Cookson´s Wildebeest.

For that, we had to go away from the riverside into the woodlands. Gary and Kit are also happy with that idea and up we go.


Again it is quit in the early morning. The usual Puku and Impala and also some Thornycroft Giraffes are to be seen.





Isaac spots a Saddlebilled Stork. As we drive closer, the beautiful bird flies away. We see, where it lands and go there.

There´s a hippo in a small pod




and then Isaac spots them:


a pride of lions!


Isaac says, that this is a split off of the „Mwamba pride“.


There´s a beautiful young male lion in this pride.


A huge lion! He still has the spots, that indicates that he´s still young. If this guy is still growing, than he will be a weapon!

They approach us and settle down just in front of us.

After a while we decide to proceed.

After some seconds, I ask to go back, because we came to take a picture of the Saddlebilled Stork and due to the lions we didn´t take one.

What a good decision.

Suddenly some Zebras appear, wanting to take a drink in the pod where the hippo is.


Within a second the lions are alert.

Our car is between the lions and the prey, so the Zebras can´t see the danger.

The young male is making himself as small as possible.


As the Zebras reach the water, the young male stalks them.




What a sighting, what a powerful cat!




We did not see a hunt, the lions where too far from the water, but it still was a thrill to watch this male´s attempt!


Up we go, we are still on the mission for Cookson´s!


We receive call, that one of the other cars have found some of those endemic animals.

We go there and take some shots.





We have our breakfast stop as usual on the river banks and we take the traditional family shots ;)





As we get back to camp, Emma takes us aside and says, if we were interested, she could move us into another chalet. She showed us and pointed to one special feature: an outside shower! The only thing, I was missing in this beautiful camp!

That´s what I call perfect management. Listen to your clients wishes and if possible correspond it!

The chalet was the „Honeymoon Chalet“, much bigger and brighter with almost 180° view of the lagoon!


No Leopard yet, but there´s still an afternoon drive coming up.

Edited by Wild Dogger
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Thomas, love that BW Leopard! - Did you do any walking from Lion camp? How was the experience?

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Hari, we did a walk one morning. Well, it was like all walks we did on Safari, nothing special, nice for the exercise and a change, but that´s it.
Like I may have mentioned somewhere, I don´t get that special feeling, some of you have when touching african ground.
So, I might not be the person to ask for the experience :)

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Peak season is very good so far, I think - apart from the early morning activity, which is strange - although I never travel during peak either, so what do I know?


Beautiful photos and in addition to the others mentioned, I'd like to praise the crocodile.

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In the afternoon we go back to the place, where we left the lions.

First we see a Little Bee-Eater (not sure, if that´s the right name).


The usual suspects liek Puku, Impala and Zebra are still around.

And the lions have not moved a lot.




We watch them for a while.

Or do they watch us????




Out of nothing a nice herd of tuskless tuskers appears and walks straight to the waterhole.

The light is lovely and I am happy to get some good shots.










Some of these tuskless elephants look my Grandpa used to look, when he took of his 3rd teeth.




and some still have tusks, lucky guys.










The lions are off to hunt, we are not able to follow them.


After our Sundowner drinks it´s time for another






The following morning we will make a walk.
Gary and Kit are leaving to the Mfuwe sector before they continue their safari in Botswana.

Isaac will take them down, so we get another guide for the walk (sorry, forgot the name :( )

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Beautiful photos and the camp looks lovely.

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18 July
Day 4
A walk is scheduled this morning.





On our way to the designated walking area we find the usual suspects.




In South Luangwa the walks are conducted with an armed ZAWA ranger in front, followed by the guide and then the tourists. We were told that in case of danger the ranger takes care of the animal (whatever that means) while the guide brings his guests into a safe position.

We see lion tracks and I am sure that they are not far, but I guess the ranger is leading us away from them.

Animals we see are Puku, Giraffe, Impala and Buffalo on the opposite side of a pod. In this water we also see Sacred Ibis and Grey Heron.

Back at the car, we realize some buffalos right behind the bushes.
We have to move a bit, before we can have our well deserved coffee and cookies.


In the water hole close to camp we see a herd of Buffalos. We were told that so early in the Safari season these animals are still very skittish. At the end of the season they are used to vehicles and more easy to be approached. So we only are able to see them from far.


View from our deck, it´s a zoo out there.




Isaac´s back!
First in he afternoon we always visit this water hole, I think it is some kind of a routine.

This time we see a croc inside.

The Buffalos are still around and Isaac mananges to get a bit closer before they speed away.




Wattled Starlings up on a dead tree





If there´s nothing around there´s always "just“ another Leopard :rolleyes: ,




same one we saw yesterday night.




She´s hiding a cub somewhere, we don´t get to see it.






We pop out as another car arrives as we are a little off road.


Those guys later tell me, that they saw the leopard just a few minutes later with her cub and climbing up a tree. Something you really don´t want to hear.


The light is just lovely that afternoon, would have liked that on the Leopard.



Puku Fawn,



Ram and








Baboon run



Driving around, we get close to the area, we made the walk in the morning.

And we find lions,




the Hollywood pride again.




They really look hungry.




It´s time for sundowner.

And again Lion Camp surprises us with a sundowner, set up for all guests on the banks of the Luangwa.


After sundowner it´s time to look for the lions.

They disappear somewhere in the dark.


Instead of witnessing a lion hunt, we see






Another 2 on just one drive!


The cat tries to hunt and we watch her attempts for a while.

She starts an attack into the bushes and all we hear is some kind of noise out of the bushes, sounded like a cry, don´t know, if antelopes cry when they get killed.


Heading back into camp for another delicious dinner.

The Hollywood Pride has made his way to the lagoon right in front of camp. We watch them pass by before we enjoy our last dinner at the lovely Lion Camp.


Tomorrow we will leave for Mfuwe, we will stay at Kapani, a Norman Carr Lodge.


Stay tuned!

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Great sightings! Those lions do look hungry.

''If there´s nothing around there´s always "just“ another Leopard :rolleyes:''

I think this could have been an alternative title for your trip report.

And there is still more to come from Mfuwe.....I will be mightily disappointed if there isn't at least one leopard sighting :)

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@@Wild Dogger


Very interesting read, and fantastic photography. A couple of tech Q's:


1. between bare lens, TC 14 and TC 20 which combo was most used/useful?


2. when using flash for leopard shots, was it camera flash or separate flash?



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Mostly I used the 300 L2.8 without TC, I would guess about 80% of the shots are taken that way.

I used the 1.4 and 2.0 almost equally, slightly more the 2.0.

We came close enough to the animals, so the 300 was fine in most cases. If you are after birds, that´s a different business.


The flash was a Canon speedlite 580 with a better beamer mounted. The 5d MK3 has no camera flash but even if, on these distances the inbuild flashes are of no help. Even the speedlite without better beamer would not be helpful. You need the BB.


Hope that helps


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@@Wild Dogger So you shoot only at one fixed focal length at at time, Thomas? If so, and in the past too, it's amazing what a variety of shots you manage to get. Or I misunderstood your answer?


Re. The latest update. Wow! What a view from the deck. Love the sound and look of this place. Great leopard photos too. Yeah, just another leopard.


You are so clearly under-impressed by the walk. I take note that you are not a walking fan though... so why do you do it if I may ask?

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