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


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i do love an elephant shrew!

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Day 6


At 6:00 am it is already hot, on Lion Plain about 3 k’s from camp is a large buffalo herd (circa 300 individuals).

We speculate that they are on their way to the Mwamba waterhole, a portent of things to come.


It is a quiet morning of game viewing and much of what is about has headed for the shade.



Foraging warthog


Hippo still on his way home from a late night out.


Curious giraffe


Little Bee-eater



Later in the morning we find lions. Blondie, one of the Numbu Boys (the 3 dominant males in the area) is with a female that has lost her tail tuft. Sly tells me she is a Kapanda Pride lioness. Eighteen members of the Mwamba pride have finally crossed back over to the Kaingo side of the river and they are less than a kilometre from Blondie and his girlfriend. As with many lion sightings they can be ~ Exciting to find but boring to watch and this is no exception. All are flat out in the shade.



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Brunch is served around 11:30 am, I’m about to sit at the table when I hear a lowing sound in the distance. The noise becomes louder with each minute and soon I can see the vanguard of the buffalo herd. I finish what remains on my plate and stand. “Excuse me but I’m off to the hide”.


I grab two cameras from my chalet on the way and rearranging the seating crawl into the lower section of the hide. Within minutes I’m joined by Andre who squeezes his solid 6’ 3” frame into the little metal camouflaged cage. I look up to the middle section of the hide and there is a line of heads, the rest of the guests are there along with Craig, the camp manager.


A brief moment later and the herd arrives with a rush. From our ground level perspective it is a fabulous spectacle and the most memorable buffalo sighting. I literally felt as if I was amongst the herd with such closeness to these huge, dangerous herbivores.  The buffalo were aware of our presence and kept a gap of a few metres from us whilst they drank. At one point Craig yelled to me and pointed, I looked behind to see a huge bull investigating the rear of the hide barely a metre away.


45 minutes later and it was all over with the bulk of the herd moving off to the shade of nearby trees. Both Andre and I were sweating profusely from the heat & aching from the cramped confines of the hide but it was all worth it.


 I doubt my photos (I captured hundreds of images) can do justice to just how good this game viewing moment was.



When the buffalo moved away a small herd of zebra moved in.


A few hours later I took this image of a section of the herd from the upper section of the hide.



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Fantastic buffalo portraits. Amazing sightings and photography throughout this report. Thank you @Geoff for sharing. 

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@Geoff I have never seen photos of buffalo before. 

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@Geoff...thanks for being hot and cramped.  The photos are worth it!

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@Geoff...an absolutely amazing TR of a great safari! I love no 10 and 11 photos of the mating leopards where the male jumped straight up in the air...especially where there is just 1 leg touching ground... a great display of his strength and vitality! But yes....every post is totally amazing and SLNP is high up on my bucket list. 

Thank you kindly.

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@Ritsgaai  Thanks for your interest and following along. The agility of these cats is amazing (more on that later). Another pic before continuing the TR. 



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After the lunchtime buffalo excitement the afternoon drive was fairly sedate. We caught up with the Hollywood pride to the north of Lion Camp just before sunset, then moved a discrete distance away for sundowners before rejoining them where they unsuccessfully hunted waterbuck on the apply named Waterbuck Dambo.



This male (which I think is Blondie one of the Numbu boys) followed along behind the hunting lioness.


Edited by Geoff
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Day 7


The next morning I awoke unwell before the 5:00 am drums. I took some meds and went back to bed and slept through to 2:30 pm when I felt much better. It was the first game drive I had ever missed on safari. I didn't ask anyone what they saw on the morning drive and no one offered to tell me.. 


On the afternoon drive we again headed west of Mwamba camp. Six members of the Kapanda pride had brought down a buffalo not far from where the wild dog had been spending their time. We first drove past the dog den and as suspected they had moved on with the lion activity being so close. The six Kapanda lions were well inside the Mwamba pride's territory. They were very nervous and not that happy with our presence. Often they would go behind a bush and stare at the vehicle.



Whilst watching the lions an elephant trio meandered past.


  A hyaena den was not far away. Expecting aardvark burrows I was surprised to find the hyaenas were using a fallen tree trunk as the den. We all thought the den was empty and I took an image looking into the dark hole of the fallen tree. When i looked on the back of the camera I noticed a pair of eyes peering out of the trunk. With a bit of post processing I got this..



I mentioned to Sly that the den looked very small and he said “When the pups get too big for this tree they take them to another fallen tree trunk a few hundred metres away”. And sure enough that den was occupied too with an older pup coming out to investigate the vehicle.



We then made our way back towards the river for sundowners before a very entertaining night drive.


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A puku never lies….


During sundowners a puku alarm call stops Sly & my conversation. We both listen intently,  “there it is again. …a puku never lies.” says Sly. With everyone back in the vehicle and night descending we investigate. It only takes a brief minute for Benson using the spotlight to locate a hyaena at the base of a tree. A short but bumpy off road trip across to the tree and the spotlight reveals a leopard in the branches happily munching away on an impala. It is Luambe.


After feeding Luambe climbs down to an almost horizontal limb and fastidiously licks his front legs clean. “Ah, he’s going to go for a drink” says Sly and sure enough Luambe descends the few remaining metres and disappears into the night.


Within a moment another young male leopard appears from out of a thicket next to the vehicle, looks in the direction that Luambe took and then climbs the tree and begins to feed.


Watching a hyaena



The river is perhaps 400 metres away and although we don’t know Luambe's whereabouts the occasional alarm call has provided a clue to his current location.

Whilst feeding the young male often plucks the impala fur and as we are sitting downwind much of the fur is landing in the vehicle, one large piece with fresh leopard spit splats into my forehead. The young leopard is enjoying his meal but then there is a growl at the base of the tree.


Luambe has returned unnoticed by everyone. An instant later and Luambe runs up the tree growling as he goes. The young male climbs higher to some spindly branches and at the same time pisses himself. Sly, Benson and myself sitting at the front of the vehicle cop a spray of leopard urine. Eeww, I’ll definitely need a shower before dinner tonight.


Luambe reclaims the meal and growls continuously,



...the young male is stuck precariously 6 metres from the ground. This scenario remains for sometime and we are discussing whether the youngster could fall/jump that distance without sustaining injuries when he takes a huge leap of faith and jumps over the top of Luambe landing on the horizontal section of tree limb, scurries down the trunk and disappears into the night. The agility of leopards is astounding.



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Sorry to hear you were ill, Geoff, but I bet that Leopard sighting was a good cure.

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anointed by leopard spit and leopard urine the true sign of a seasoned ( in all sense of the word ) safari goer. Only really one more bodily fluid I can think of for your possibly unique  hat trick! -how close did you get to the mating leopards again @Geoff ? 

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wow Geoff you were really in the thick of the action! taking the urine or a spit of a leopard is all worth it - I'm sure no one complained after that!


cracking photos, as expected. those low pics of the buff heads were just amazing. 


p/s glad you recovered quickly for the night drive.

Edited by Kitsafari
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Simply great photos, again. It's no fun to be sick on safari, but I'm glad you recovered enough for the afternoon/evening drive and the leopard sighting. But weren't you even slightly curious about what they saw that morning?? 

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On 12/1/2017 at 8:04 PM, Towlersonsafari said:

anointed by leopard spit and leopard urine the true sign of a seasoned ( in all sense of the word ) safari goer. Only really one more bodily fluid I can think of for your possibly unique  hat trick! -how close did you get to the mating leopards again @Geoff ? 


@Towlersonsafari Luckily we were not close enough to achieve the hat trick. :)


On 12/2/2017 at 11:10 AM, Alexander33 said:

Simply great photos, again. It's no fun to be sick on safari, but I'm glad you recovered enough for the afternoon/evening drive and the leopard sighting. But weren't you even slightly curious about what they saw that morning?? 


@Alexander33 Yes, I was curious but Peter and I have an agreement never to mention what was seen on a game drive that the other person missed. You just end up with these unproductive conversations... We all pay a lot of money to get to these places and it's hard when you fall ill on safari.  


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Day 8


This is our last full day at Mwamba. On the morning drive we head towards the river. The waterbuck bachelor herd is still out on the plain.


Youngsters sparring.  



The Sausage trees are heavy in flower carpeting the ground with their spoils. 

Many of the prey species are attracted for a meal as well as the cool shady retreat that these trees provide.


Male bushbuck 



This scenario also attracts another creature.

And who do we have here?


Finally she got up, stretched and yawned and we thought she was going to get active.


But no, just repositioned on another part of the tree limb and went back to sleep. So we moved on.Leopard-Kaingo_G8A1687.thumb.jpg.fb1225c6960e128a2411b328e13a76c0.jpg

Zebra foal and mother.


Elephant herds were already arriving at the river.


Later we found some of the Mwamba pride. They were doing absolutely nothing.

This lioness must have a piece of her top lip missing as I noticed her tooth was often poking out.


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As it was our last afternoon at Mwamba I spent a bit of time in the hide.

Bushbuck & monkeys


elephant herd




Blue waxbill


Yellow-billed Oxpecker (An image I neglected to include in post #55)



I was hoping that a flock of lovebirds would come to drink from the waterhole but no such luck. During afternoon tea I noticed they had landed in a bush near the birdbath. So I sat on the ground close by and patiently waited. They didn't leave the bush so I moved back a few paces, they still stayed in the bush so i moved back two more paces and that did the trick. 


Lillian's Lovebirds (They remind me of some of the Australian lorikeet species)




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On the afternoon drive...

Elephant youngster



The leopard from the morning drive was still in the same tree but was now snuggled up to a Sausage tree fruit.


The Mwamba pride was also still in the same location and had only moved with the shade. At least some of them were now sitting up.


A lone hyaena was cooling off in the river bed.


Yet another leopard but the tree clutter made photography difficult 


Quelea nest


During sundowners I tried to get down to water level to capture the hippos in the sunset but the hippo on the left was behaving aggressively and as I had to run 50 + metres across the river bed to get back to the vehicle I thought discretion was the better part of valour and settled for a lesser composition.


A mediocre shot of a civet during the night drive.



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lovely lovebirds and the ele's in single file is a very fine shot @Geoff

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@Geoff...thanks for the great photos, especially the Lillian's Lovebirds!

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Although there are no photos I should mention our dinner guest from that night. Andrew (one of the guides) is called to the kitchen, he returns with a glass. In the glass is (what I believe is called) a Fat-tailed scorpion. Its local name roughly translates into “It will make you cry”.  The discussion turns to how venomous it is. Andrew has been stung by one of these and responds that although it will not kill a healthy adult a young child or the infirm could be in trouble.


Apparently there is an intense burning pain at the site of the sting that will last for up to 10 hours. The best thing you can do is take painkillers and a sleeping tablet and hopefully sleep it off. After the burning pain recedes a dull ache in the lymph nodes continues for 2 days.


Sounds lovely!! Needless to say I thoroughly checked my shoes the next morning.


Craig (Mwamba camp manager) has attended courses on scorpions and snakes. He said that during the scorpion course they asked for a volunteer to be stung by a scorpion. Eventually one brave or foolhardy soul put up their hand. Interestingly the scorpion did everything it could not to use its sting and was at the point of being crushed before defending itself.   

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Day 9


The morning drive is our last with Sly before we are transferred back to Kaingo. It is an extremely enjoyable morning of game viewing (even without seeing a leopard :) ) and after morning tea Sly’s exceptional skills detect an incredible sighting. Something that I never expect to witness again. The bulk of the morning’s viewing was along the river. 


Bushbuck on the track that leads through a beautiful area north of Kaingo camp.


Kudu cow sniffing a twig


Puku with baby


The Mwamba pride were lying around on the river bank at a known drinking and crossing point.

Six lions are out of picture in the shade on our right.

For those that do not know the area I have pin pointed the location of the hippo hide in the background.




After visiting the lions we headed upstream to check on the crocodile activity at the hippo carcasses.

A few images taken along the way.

Elephant herd getting a drink


Black-headed heron


Yellow-billed Storks


Pied Kingfisher


A few more hippos had died and the crocs were having a field day. It was a gruesome spectacle.



We spent so much time with the crocs that we decided to have morning tea in a shady spot with an overview of the scene.

Edited by Geoff
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