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


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The following morning we again checked on the lions. There was a strange truce between the lions and hyaenas. The lions were full and sleepy & the hyaenas still hungry and lying around not far from the lions. The Hollywood male had moved off elsewhere. 



at least one hyaena was getting a meal



Back at the river we watched this giraffe for over 30 minutes before its thirst overcame its nervousness and it finally had a drink



Whilst the others were watching a bird in a tree I amused myself by trying to capture this dragonfly perched on a stem swaying in the breeze.

Any dragonfly experts... I think it is either a Red Basker or Red Darter.


I should add we also saw another leopard but she was uncooperative from a photography perspective.

So I'm not really counting this sighting.


Edited by Geoff
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Great photos @Geoff and however uncooperative the latest leopard may have seemed it's sighting most definitely needs to be counted.


There was quite a collective of crocodiles in the Luangwa and I keep going back to photo 2 #18 with its reflections of an adult's massive head beside a partly submerged youngster's tail.


The tooth & claw photos in #24 really bring home the raw power of the lion.


Looking forward to more instalments.


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@Caracal Let me know your thoughts on the next few leopard sightings coming up... :)


I'll also provide a tally at the end of this report.


EDIT: I have Peter to thank for photo 2 in #18. He pointed it out to me.


Edited by Geoff
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Excellent stuff Geoff. Croc action stands out for me, but the close up of the terrapin was a nice surprise. 


I am catching up from a long way back so I will stop at the end of page one, although I am totally intrigued that this is "just a prelude"  Great! :D

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After brunch, we transferred to Mwamba. Also moving across was a lovely Dutch couple Andre & Bianca. Although we were never on a game drive together I enjoyed their company and conversation around camp and during dinner. Gerard was relief managing at Mwamba for Craig & Lyndie who were returning tomorrow from a few days off.


Mwamba was its rough, ready & wild self. Within an hour of arriving a grumpy elephant bull was making a nuisance of himself. At one point I walked behind the bar to keep my distance from him and I looked down to see a freshly shed cobra’s skin.


Mr Grumpy then moved off to one of the chalets and was tossing the outside table and chairs about. I snuck past him on the way to the hide and he stank to high heaven. 


Rough & Ready Mwamba ~ Chalets 1 & 2 (I call them huts).




Bathroom (excuse my undies :) )


Shower area


Dining Table and Bar


Mr Grumpy



With a little time before the afternoon drive I reacquainted myself with the hide. 

White-fronted Bee-eater (photo taken from the top section)


Blue Waxbill (photo taken from lowest section)




Yellow Baboon




Elephants resting in shade (image taken from top section)


Same elephants (Image taken from middle section)




Edited by Geoff
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Cracking pictures indeed Geoff!


mwamba! one of my most fav camps. and i recognise that hut 2 (that was where we stayed) and i recognise that lovely bar. who's the grumpy bull? 


very sad to hear about the decline of the hollywood pride. If it had been due to nature, I would have been able to accept it. but human inteference is most upsetting. 


You are making me long to be back in south luangwa. Is that the Peter I met? please send our regards to him. i'm guessing no nasty lion shocks at mwamba hide this time too. :) 



Edited by Kitsafari
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lovely photo's @Geoff and as @Kitsafari says Mwamba is one of the most splendid camps. I rememebr seeing lions from our bed on one occasion, and an afternoon drive starting with a female leopard just outside, takin in a sundowner lion/hippo standoff and ending, via some more leopards with 2 Pels fishing owls-the best game drive ever

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Excellent stuff @Towlersonsafari  and drop back for a look as the sightings over the coming days are out of this world.

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On 11/18/2017 at 7:07 PM, Kitsafari said:

who's the grumpy bull? 


Is that the Peter I met? 


i'm guessing no nasty lion shocks at mwamba hide this time too. :) 




@Kitsafari   Kit, no idea about the Grumpy elephant bull but Craig told me he had been a problem all season and sure enough he was back the next few days.


Yes in deed that is the Peter you met. In fact in your epic Ebb & Flow TR there is an image with Peter in it. 


No lion shocks this time but the whole Mwamba pride spent a few days near the waterhole after I had left.

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Peter & I now have Sly as our guide for the next 5 days. On the afternoon drives, Benson one of the camp staff comes along for the ride to act as the spotlight man after sundowners. 


On our first drive together we head west from Mwamba. It is an area I’ve rarely ventured, usually due to the tsetse fly nuisance further inland and also that at this time of the season most of the game is near the river. But our quarry for this drive is currently out there.


During the drive it clouds over and the light becomes quite dull. We also see evidence of a sizeable buffalo herd having recently passed through the area. A few minutes of driving later and Peter who is not known for his spotting abilities says “Wild dog on the road up ahead” He has beaten Sly, Benson and myself to the punch and has bragging rights for this drive at least.


There are 5 adults and 5 pups in the pack, there were 6 pups but they had lost one to a hyaena. As we approach we can see that the adults are out on point duty, spread out mostly 50 - 100 metres apart surrounding the pups that are happily playing and investigating their world. 


An adult on point duty.


From a photography perspective I hate collars.




 Playful and curious pups.

Often they would follow us when we moved the vehicle and we then realised that the smell of the buffalo dung on the tyres was irresistible to them.





begging for food


beautiful markings on the pups





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@Geoff - beautiful markings on those dogs.


I saw a couple of episodes on Animal Planet a couple weeks ago -(forget what it's called) ..... but, features the Hollywood Pride you've mentioned.  Had some amazing scenics there from SLNP.

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Agree, really beautiful pups, they look so clean and white.

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Day 5.


You can’t be in two places at once…


5:40 am. With our success finding the dogs Andre & Bianca are keen to see them. They leave camp with their guide Andrew a few seconds before us in search of them. We are also considering returning to the dogs but as we follow Andrew’s vehicle out of camp a transfer guide radios Sly about a sighting a fair distance away. There is no hesitation from us. “Lets go for it…” 


Five hours later we arrive back at camp. Craig & Lyndie have returned from their time off and I’m welcomed with a warm hug from Lyndie and a nice cool refresher towel. We adjourn to the bar for a cold drink before brunch. 


Andrew, Andre & Bianca are seated at the bar. I take a quick glance at Andrew as I approach and he winks at me. Andre & Bianca are looking at me with beaming smiles. “Ok” I said “What did you see?” Their words spill out, “20 minutes from camp, the dogs, the whole pack, adults & pups on the road hunting. They bring down an impala right in front of us and then the hyaenas arrive. The dogs viciously attack the hyaenas defending the pups, but the matriarch hyaena gets the bulk of the kill, the noise was incredible and all of this in beautiful light”.


It is a fabulous sighting and I’m really happy for them. In fact Andrew shows me some of his video, I could clearly see the blood on hyaena rumps from dog bites and the noise was incredible.


There is a moments silence and then Craig asks “What did you see Geoff?” “Oh, I saw leopards mating about forty times and then a lone lioness from the Mwamba pride on her wildebeest kill”.


Arriving at the leopard sighting we find there are 3 leopards, a female known as Maya and 2 big males. One male is Luambe, the dominant male in the Kaingo area and the other male is known to the guides but is still without a name. He is younger and smaller than Luambe but has a huge head and is a fine looking specimen. His territory is to the south of Kaingo and we suspect that this is their territorial boundary. Much to Luambe’s chagrin the female has chosen the younger male and Luambe watches on as she is led away, deeper into the younger males territory. 


Over the next few hours they mate continuously with only 1 - 3 minutes between couplings. With the day heating up they begin to slow down and when leave both leopards are lying somewhat exhausted in a shady spot in a dry creek bed.


Luambe watches the object of his desire led away.


I took hundreds of images that morning and this is just one of many sequences.

This sequence has been cut down from 45 frames to the 12 shown here.




The happy couple


Just 2 K’s up the track and this lone lioness had brought down a wildebeeste. We stop there on our way to find a shady spot along the river to have morning tea.

This lioness from the Mwamba pride had returned from the other side of the river. The guides said she did have a cub but we never saw it and there was talk that she had lost it to a crocodile during a river crossing.


We stopped for morning tea near the rest of the Cookson's wildebeeste herd.


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@Geoff...great photographic puppies!  Then, to view the wild dog and hyena interaction...there is almost nothing quite like it.  It's both exciting and frightening with sounds to match.

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what wonderful leopard shots in particular @Geoff  what a special sighting! 

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Geoff, great series of leopard shots, some more for Africa wildlife photographer of the year.  Your pictures, especially the first ones, give a good idea of the size difference between the male and the female.  

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@Geoff, I only hope that I'll be as lucky as you have been with your sightings when I go to South Luangwa next year. I can hardly wait.

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Great stuff @Geoff - from your wild welcome to Mwamba, to the dogs, to the incredible extended Leopard sighting.   You also did well capturing the special sightings. 

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Great to see a picture of Luambe! Do you have more? Years ago we took a collar off him. The collar was put on him during leopard research in Luambe NP. It was supposed to be a drop off collar but never dropped off, and he moved to South Luangwa, beyond the reach of the research study in Luambe. They tried for a bit to de-collar him, but then the study ended. We (ZCP, SLCS with great help from Shenton Safaris) set up a trap and were lucky that he was the first animal in there, on the second night. As leopards keep growing throughout their lives it was really necessary to take the collar off as it was way too tight. Collars on cats always look tight, because they have so much loose skin around their neck and the neck is wider than the head, but in him it was really too tight. I've been following the Kaingo blogs and see his name mentioned often, but never saw a picture of him anymore. Would you maybe have a picture of him from the side?

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Mwamba delivers again! that's why I Love it. and the guides and the feel of the camp too, of course. 


Love those doggie pictures, especially those of the pups. and the leopard pictures are amazing. Luambe looks pretty old but looks like he's doing well despite the collar. 


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@egilio  Hi Egil, I'd been told Luambe's story before but didn't realise you were personally involved. He's one hell of a cat, looking battle scarred but still going strong and the master of that prime leopard territory around Kaingo. Yes, I've got some images of him. It's from a fabulous night sighting that happens in a few days time and I'll post them then.  I'll also recheck my images and look for a side on shot.


EDIT: I've just remembered Patrick showing me a few images of him from  2017 sightings. I'm sure they are somewhere on the Shenton's website. 

Edited by Geoff
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On 14/11/2017 at 3:46 PM, Geoff said:

@Caracal Let me know your thoughts on the next few leopard sightings coming up... :)





Amazing sightings - stunningly captured in your photos @Geoff

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In the afternoon Sel & Annabel that shared our vehicle for some of our stay at Kaingo arrive at Mwamba. We are again paired with them and they are happy to see the dogs so we head back out to the dog's current den site. I was hoping that after having their kill stolen in the morning they would hunt again but they had other ideas and predominantly remained amongst the tickets close to the den making photography difficult.

Peering out of the den


Stalking birds


Playing with sticks


One of the adults



On the night drive there were a few things of interest.


Three banded courser and chick.


Elephant shrew


Arse end of a porcupine. I saw quite a few of them but they always ran away as soon as the spotlight was on them.


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