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Hot in the Valley! South Luangwa Sept 27th - Oct 14th 2017


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I’m going to tempt fate and start a new trip report whilst completing my Mara 2016 report.


Preamble ~ My travelling companion Peter emailed me last January “I’ve again booked ten nights at Kaingo & Mwamba. Your welcome to join me especially as I won’t have to pay the single supplement.” And so began planning for this trip. Whilst Peter headed off to the Mara after the 10 nights I decided to stay in the South Luangwa and have a look at the Nsefu sector on the other side of the river and be able to compare two renowned Zambian safari companies.


The duration of this safari was 21 days including travel.


The itinerary consisted of;


1 night Pioneer Camp (Lusaka) 

Overnight after 30+ hours travel as we were unable to make the Proflight connection.


Shenton Safaris

3 nights Kaingo Camp

5 nights Mwamba Bush Camp

2 nights Kaingo Camp


Robin Pope Safaris

5 nights Nsefu Camp 

I did want to stay longer here but Simon King had booked out the camp for a photographic workshop so I had to find an alternative. As RPS provide a 10% discount for stays of 7 days or more at any of their camps and they do not charge Single Supplement I chose Luangwa River Lodge.

2 nights Luangwa River Lodge.


The game viewing was hot and the temperatures even hotter.

Approaching sunset on the first evening.


Last year the lions were the stars with cameo appearances from the leopards. This year it was the leopards taking centre stage.





During the day the birds were suffering in the heat.

White-fronted Bee-eater


Wire-tailed Swallow



Elephant breeding herds enjoyed their daily drink from the river.


Edited by Geoff
fix spelling typo
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@Geoff Who guided you when you stayed at Kaingo and Mwamba Camp? I have been to Kaingo twice, and Mwamba twice. I have been guided by Sly, Andrew as well as by Patrick the chief guide. I have to say that Patrick is not only one of the best guides that I've ever had I regard him as a close friend, He's also one of the funniest individuals that I've ever met. He made every walk or game drive hilariously funny. I will be returning to South Luangwa National Park but staying in a different part of the park. 

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@Optig My guides were Yoram (1st 3 days at Kaingo), then Sly (for 5 days @ Mwamba) then Patrick (last 2 days at Kaingo).


I consider Pat, Andrew and Sly to be elite guides ~ in a class of their own. I would be hard pressed to name better guides.

In fact at some point in this TR I'll mention Sly's skills that produced a very unique sighting. Something I don't expect to see again.


I've known Pat since 2008, he and Andrew were my guides during last year's trip.


Yoram was new to me. He was very good too. I think he and another guide Hendricks had come over from Lion Camp (as it was closed for renovations). There was Sandy also. Though I've spoken to him I don't know anything about him. He had back problems and took a few days off.


I also saw Meyam briefly (who you might know) he was with Shentons and is now with Lion Camp and was helping the film crews find stuff.


I must mention the RPS guides at Nsefu. Kanga who is very, very good and I suspect an exceptional walking safari guide. He also trains the new recruits for RPS. Also Sebastian & Julius. Hard for me to have an opinion on them as I only had them for 1 game drive each due to logistics.

Edited by Geoff
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I’m a man of few words but I’ll attempt to be more verbose than the TR for Sept’ 2016.


Sept 27th 6:45 am.


I’m standing in the queue for the Proflight check-in. Up at the counter is a tall, lanky character with a classical guitar hanging across his back. I turn to Peter, “That guy with the guitar looks like Derek Shenton”. Not a minute passes and the guitarist turns around. “Hi Peter, Hi Geoff.” It is Derek. 


Derek and I sit next to each other on the flight. We discuss a plethora of topics including ~ the weather (i.e. temperatures), recent game viewing, Shenton Safaris 25th year, Kaingo chalet renovations, playing the guitar, respective families, the 2 pet zebras that mow the lawns in Lusaka, the recent Patrick Bentley photographic exhibition and venomous snakes.  The 1 hour 10 minutes flight time literally flies by (no pun intended).


Upon arrival I hear the pilot say “ Welcome to Mfuwe where the local time is 8:40 and it’s already 30 degrees”.


Hendricks the transfer guide is there to greet us. It takes a little while to load some provisions onto the truck and I joke to Peter that he has to balance 5 dozen eggs on his lap all the way to Kaingo. Derek has a meeting to attend in Mfuwe and says he’ll see us in camp this afternoon.


By the time we reach the main gate and complete the brief formalities vehicles are rolling back across the bridge returning from the morning game drive.


I’m now officially on safari time. On the drive north we stop for a cuppa at a lagoon with a large fishing party of storks & pelicans.

Although the light is harsh I take a few snapshots.



Yellow-billed storks on final approach...




We arrive at Kaingo in time for brunch. As is normal at any camp we are met by the managers. Gerard, a fantastic character who has spent much of his life working in the Copperbelt of Zambia and the lovely young Loraine who has been the manageress of Lion Camp but is currently with Shentons.


Patrick is also there to greet us with his warm smile and after a shake of the hands and slap on the back we are chatting away where we left off last year. Word has got around that Peter has arrived and most of the camp staff come out to meet him. For years Peter has taken portrait images of the camp staff at all the places he stays and he either mails the prints or brings them with him on his next visit. This gesture is greatly appreciated by all the staff. 


Yoram, our guide for the next 3 days introduces himself and as it has clouded over we decide to spend an hour or so in the Hippo hide from 12:30 onwards.



With the extreme heat the hippos are lethargic with very little action so I mostly content myself with the few birds coming close enough to photograph. Including the two bird images from the 1st post.

Meves's Starling


Grey Heron


Wire-tailed Swallow


White-fronted Bee-eater



Before the afternoon drive I have a searing migraine and drag my sorry carcass onto the vehicle. I’m glad I did as I would have missed this sighting. We spend the majority of the drive with the young leopardess Chiphadzuwa (Beautiful Girl) She is located at one of her favourite spots, cooling off by lying on the damp sand in the shade of the river bank. I’m sensitive to the light and often have my eyes shut and instruct Yoram that if he thinks she is going to move to let me know.



As sunset approaches she gets a drink from a nearby pool and then leaves the river bed.





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@Geoff I have met Yoram as well and know that he's an excellent guide. Your'e right that there are no better guides than Andrew,Sly and of course Patrick. Hendricks used to work at Lion Camp where he was very liked and respected by the guests. I have met Derek as well and have to say that he has a great sense of humor as well. I'm delighted that he plays classical guitar. 

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@Geoff we're looking forward to reading more on your trip and seeing some more images. We're glad we managed to help out a little bit with the migranes. Fingers crossed it went well for the remainder or your trip.

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@Izzy I remember you most fondly from my two trips to Kaingo and my 2 to Mwamba.

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Nothing like a good wildlife sighting to improve one's feelings @Geoff!

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@optig  That won't be Izzy she has been with Kafunta for a few years along with Lisa (who also used to work for Shentons).


I suspect @ShentonSafaris is either Lyndie, Craig or Agata or all three checking up on me.

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@Geoff lovely photos of the intense Yellow-billed and Maribou storks feeding activity - looks like a popular spot. Sorry to hear that your first day was spoilt by a migraine. I hope the quality leopard sighting restored some joy into your day.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wow, what a great start @Geoff

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Apologies for the delay in continuing this report. I've now processed the next few days images.


A day or so before my arrival the biggest lion pride in the area had crossed the river so with their absence the following morning we headed upstream from Kaingo. A few hippos had died and the crocodiles had been feasting. We stopped for photo ops along the way.

Giant Kingfisher


Baby puku


Yellow baboon




Arriving at the dead hippo site the river was full of crocodiles, many were full and languishing on the sandbars. Two carcasses had not been touched. The crocs were waiting for them to ripen in the heat. The other carcass had been pushed to the other side of the river so I concentrated on the closer crocs.  

Anyone for a swim?






Crocodiles are the sneakiest of creatures. As soon as you get close or they are aware of your presence they slip quietly back beneath the water. So we devised a plan using Yoram as bait (not really) to get some action images of them entering the water.



Hammerkop flyby


White-crowned Lapwing


Whilst watching the crocs I noticed a lion on the other side of the river. I took a snapshot to hopefully identify him and sure enough it was Baldhead one of the Numbu boys. "Get back over here" I said. He was looking well fed and is nearly always with the ladies. I knew the rest of the pride would not be far away.


After morning tea we drove away from the river on our way back to camp.

Crowned Cranes





Elephant family resting in the shade


I'm as cute as a button





Edited by Geoff
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After brunch it was back to the Hippo hide. Like yesterday there were very few squabbles but at least there was more activity.





These two crocs were having a territorial dispute



Grey Heron


Common Sandpiper




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Some cracking photos in the last post @Geoff - I particularly like the striding crocodile, the lapwing flight shot and the baby giraffe.


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Really great photographs, as always. Looking forward to more!

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Afternoon drive.


Elephant in a hurry.


Checking out the interlopers in the vehicle


Gets a drink



Then gives us a disdainful look when passing passes by.


As we drove to our sundowner spot we noticed this poor impala had been in an altercation with a crocodile.


A terrapin walking along was a surprise find during sundowners


On the drive back to camp...


A spot of claw sharpening.




Edited by Geoff
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lovely photo's, especially the baby puku and the croc stepping into the river @Geoff, and that last leopard shot!

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The next morning we again drive out to the dead hippo spot. Unfortunately the 2 carcasses from yesterday are still untouched and another young hippo has died.

Last year I took one crocodile image. This year hundreds. 


Crocs were all along the river banks. 


Fish eagle fly by


and a young Batleur (I think) too.


Further downstream elephants were coming to drink.




On the way back to camp there was another young giraffe with its mother.


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More elephant on the afternoon drive.


Grey Hornbill (male)


Grey Hornbill (female)


On our way to sundowners we bumped into this guy so we arrived at a special sundowner well after dark.



All the other guests staying at Kaingo were waiting for us on the river bank not far from the Bee-eater hide. Agata was there and she talked me into having my first beer. Until then I had been subsisting on water or a rehydration salts drink. During sundowners Patrick told me he had found lions on a buffalo kill. We had a look on the night drive but as there is a bit of a story behind this sighting I'll leave it to the next instalment. 

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Fantastic photography as usual Geoff, really enjoying this report. And it seems that once again South Luangwa has really lived up to its reputation as a Leopard hotspot.

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3 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Fantastic photography as usual Geoff, really enjoying this report. And it seems that once again South Luangwa has really lived up to its reputation as a Leopard hotspot.


@michael-ibk Hi Michael, thanks for your comments and following along. All this is just a prelude, in a few days there is memorable sighting after memorable sighting (including leopards) and I capture some of my best ever African wildlife images.


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Stunning photos @Geoff - I especially like the elephant shots, the leopards of course, an that baby puku!



I can confirm that Kanga is a superb walking guide. We were lucky to have him for3 days in 2013- and we were his only guests! As well as being an excellent guide he was also a really nice man.

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4 minutes ago, TonyQ said:

I can confirm that Kanga is a superb walking guide. We were lucky to have him for3 days in 2013- and we were his only guests! As well as being an excellent guide he was also a really nice man.


@TonyQ  Yes he is a very nice man and also quite amusing. He told a funny story during one morning tea. It went something like this...


Years ago he was relief guiding at Nkwali. Kanga had been assigned two women that had just arrived at camp. He introduced himself, "Hi I'm Kanga, I'm your guide". The two women did not reply but quickly looked at each other. Thinking something was wrong Kanga said "Is everything alright?" One woman responded whilst pointing to her friend, "Oh yes everything is fine and her name is Roo". 


~ Being an Aussie that had some significance for me and I was still chuckling an hour or so later. 

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Nearing the kill site we could hear the vocalisations of hyaenas and I’m amazed at their numbers.  Using the spotlight whilst still driving we quickly count 25 individuals and many of those are youngsters. Initially I thought that the lions had surrendered the kill to the hyaenas but it was not the case. Patrick’s vehicle is up ahead of us and as the lights flash over the kill I can see lions still feeding. 


The area is strewn with old tree stumps and unfortunately our lefthand rear tyre punctures about 50 metres from the kill. Poor Yoram says a few words under his breath as he and the game scout get out to change the tyre. The flat tyre is on the opposite side of the vehicle to the kill and occasionally the game scout shines the spotlight to check on the lions. 


The tyre change is almost complete when out of the darkness and approaching the kill from behind Yoram a huge male lion appears. There is an audible gasp from everyone as he walks past within metres of Yoram and the game scout. Later I asked Yoram when he first saw the lion. His response was “not until he had passed me”.


With the flat fixed we drive up to the kill and the big male is now standing over the top of the carcass. Yoram answered my question before I could finish it. …this is the Liuwi Pride and yes, it is the surviving Hollywood male. He has been following them for sometime now since his brother was shot by a hunter almost a year ago. 

The Hollywood male.




and claw




Later, before dinner, Patrick and I had a quiet drink and he told me that the Hollywood male had called for his brother for over a week and then disappeared as he could not defend his territory. The Hollywood pride was now a mere shadow of its former self.  

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Very nice pictures and report Geoff.

Very sad to hear about the decline of the Hollywood pride, they were the stars of the show when we visited a few years ago. I still remember all of them chasing buffalo one day or one of the males matting during four days with one of the females, i remember he was more darker mane so probably the missing brother.



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