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Kafue is wild.




Kafue is beautiful.




Kafue is diverse.




Kafue is a birder´s paradise.




And Kafue is harsh. Difficult. Uncomfortable. And unwilling to easily reveal its many treasures.


We had discussed Kafue with @Doug Macdonald on our last trip to Mana Pools, and his enthusiasm for this rarely visited, huge national park convinced us that we had to see it, and that we wanted to see it "properly". @Atravelynn had had similar talks with Doug and had come to the same conclusion, and so it was a logical thing that we would team up for this again. To our delight @Kitsafari also decided to join up, and so we were a very Safaritalky ensemble since we decided to have Doug along as well as a private guide. This was our itinerary, from Oct 3d/4th to Oct 16th:


1 nt Pioneer Camp, Lusaka (2 nts for Kit)

3 nts Konkamoya Lodge, at the Southern shore of Lake Itezhi Tezhi (about 7 hours from Pioneer)

3 nts Musekese Camp, Northern sector (about five hours from Konkamoya)

3 nts Ntemwa-Busanga Camp (Musekese mobile), Busanga Plains (about four hours from Musekese)

1 nt Musekese Camp, Northern sector

1 nt Pioneer Camp (only Michael and @AndMic)




( @wilddog I hope it´s ok to include this map? If not here´s the link: https://www.expertafrica.com/zambia/kafue-national-park/reference-map))


So let´s gonna find out how it was for us. Not always easy, I will admit that. But in the end, so much worth it.





Edited by michael-ibk
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Like so many other Safaritalkers before us we spent our first night after arrival at Pioneer Camp. @AndMic and me would also stay there at the end of this trip since we´d move on to Zimbabwe afterwards.




It´s a very good alternative to staying in a hotel in Lusaka. Only about 30 minutes to the international airport (and it would be even quicker if not for that terrible access road), really nice gardens and very reasonable rates (from USD 44,-- pp for the tents up to USD 94,-- for the Chalets).








If I only would judge accommodation from our first night I´d say pretty much perfect. Clean, airy, spacious, showers with good water pressure - all super. The experience on our second night was not equally convincing.




This stony Chalet was very dark inside, looked like a vault, and what was worse it was not clean at all. There was batshit in the bathroom which in all fairness could have been fresh, but in general it felt like nobody had been inside here for quite a while. I´m not very picky but actually considered requesting a change but then decided against it because we were just too lazy to pack again and move, and it was only one night after all. Food was alright to pretty good, and staff friendly and welcoming.




And as mentioned the gardens are really, really lovely. I was quite surprised when I looked up during lunch and saw these (Epauletted?) Fruit Bats staring down on us. I spent a bit of time in the morning to do some birding, and was very happy with what I found. Some of my clicks:




Spectacled Weaver




Scarlet-Chested Sunbird




African Yellow White-Eye




Chinspot Batis




Village Weaver




Blue Waxbill




Variable Sunbird




Grey-Headed Bushshrike




Schalow´s Turaco - I was particularly pleased to find this one.


It was great to see Lynn and Doug again, and a real pleasure to meet Kit. She even came to the airport with Doug to be part of the welcome committee, such a nice thing to do. I knew from the get-go that we would get along splendidly, and was right of course. You simply cannot ask for better travel mates than Lynn and Kit, and we are thankful they put up with us.:wub:


Immigration into Zambia was a fairly smooth process. Actually much quicker than we or Doug had anticipated, and so we were outside the airport 10 minutes before he got there! We had actually wanted to get the "Kaza" visa which grants access to Zimbabwe and Zambia for almost the same price. But we were unable to get them, "no Kaza sorry", we were told, and the officer avoided giving a clear answer to why not. Understandable, since the reason is quite embarrassing - they ran out of stickers and were unable to produce new ones in time. It´s a good thing we knew that in advance, so it did not bother us too much - no point in getting worked up about stuff you cannot change. But had I not known in advance and would have been explained right there I´m sure the poor officer would have received some pretty incredulous What-do-you-mean-no-stickers comments from me. :)

Edited by michael-ibk
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WooHoo, so good to relive the trip again, especially after being thrown into relentless and endless work after my return home. Sorry to hear about the room on your second stay - that shouldn't have happened and you should have asked them to clean it up before bedtime, so you didn't need to move rooms. 


@michael-ibk cracking photos of the birds. I was quite amazed your keen eyes could pick out the birds from a mile away throughout the trip. Love the bats!


Not much to add as Michael has described Pioneer so well,  the garden and its two cute dogs (and one very friendly cat) were very pleasant. My room was fine, and the lights were bright. But I have to add that the bed was way too soft for me and I had to sleep across and at the foot of the bed so that my poor lower back would not suffer that much. 

The funny thing was how small the world is. I was out of the Ethiopian Airlines plane and through the immigration pretty quickly, and waited a while with my transfer driver for another guest who was also staying at Pioneer. It turned out to be the friend of Michael, who had asked me to send his regards to. So the friend was also heading to Kafue at another lodge. While at Pioneer I met a couple who was staying a few nights at Shumba before heading to Musekese - the same period that we would be there. and of course, we would just miss meeting @gatoratlarge at musekese by a few days. it was as if everyone who knew everyone was gathering in Kafue. 

Edited by Kitsafari
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I remember that large stone lodge from some years ago when someone I travelled with had that one. I thought it was the luxury room and was slightly jealous but from what you say it may be rarely used so perhaps I missed nothing


Looking forward to hearing more about your trip particularly Konkomoya where I stayed many years ago as the sole guest for a week. (It has now changed ownership) and of course your time at Musakese.

Edited by wilddog
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ah I've been waiting for this one :) Off to a good birdy start with that Shalow's Turaco! I've still not gotten a decent look at that one.

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We left Pioneer only about 08:30 since Doug wanted to go after the worst of rush hour, we still had Lusaka to cross through after all. And indeed, it takes some time to get through it. It´s a sprawling, pretty modern city and often called one of the fastest-developing cities in Africa.






It was almost 10:00 when we finally left the city behind us and had open country before us. I asked Doug if there was wildlife around in Zambia since we were told most human settlements are found along the main roads. The answer was quite sobering, no, there´s not much left outside the National Parks and Game Management (=hunting) areas.




It´s not too far from Lusaka to Kafue, we were at Nalusanga Check Point, at the Easternmost end of the park, after a bit more than two hours. But given the sheer size of the park (22,400 km²!) getting to the border only means you´re halfway there - at best! Just see the map in post #1 to get an idea of scale, at a guess I´day we still had more than 150 kms to go. We soon left the park and used a road through a GMA going South to Lake Itezhi Tezhi.




We didn´t see anything on our way through the GMA except for a few Baboons which was a bit worrying. But once we re-entered the park a bit South of the dam we rejoiced - we saw a good number of general game. I made a fool of myself trying to get a photo of the first distant Puku we saw. Obviously we would see hundreds, no thousands, during this trip. The light was awful (and would unfortunately stay that way for most of our time in Konkamoya), so we did not take many photos.


We had to stop, of course, for an Elephant family enjoying the lush feeding grounds by the lake. A good thing we did, since this was actually the closest we managed to get to them in Konkamoya. Which is absolutely not reflective of their numbers here. We´d see many, many hundreds of them, huge herds by the lake - but through our binocs. They´re terrified of humans here, and each and any of our attempts to get close to them failed, they always went into hiding when we approached. Only on our night drives we would manage to get close to the herds. It´s a widely known fact that Kafue was nearly poached out by the 90ies, Elephant numbers down to 4,000 from more than 30,000 three decades earlier. And Elephants don´t forget, at least not here down South, where the park borders, the hunting areas and many villages are close. (They would be much less on edge farther North in Musekese.)






This one had a nasty wound on his foot:




My obligatory birding pic - a Wood Sandpiper.




The stretch between the park gate and the turnoff to the lodge was the only area where we would see Zebra in this area.




We finally arrived at Konkamoya at about 16:00.




After some refreshing welcome drinks and some really good snacks we hopped back into the car to have a sundowner by the lake. It was almost dark even at 17:00 (because of the clouds) but it was great being back - Gin Tonic in hand, Elephants for a view, this is Africa! :)



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We spent the bulk of or game drives in Konkamoya close to the lake. As is to be expected this is - by far - the most game-rich area around Konkamoya, and the number of Puku alone should be sufficient to nourish several prides of Lions. Apparently they are snacks on legs since they are neither very fast nor very bright. :)


As mentioned before we were not too lucky with the weather. Only a very few times (like in the picture above) the sun valiantly tried to fight its way through the thick clouds and haze but most of the time it was more like shown below, and we´d also have very strong wind and some drizzle (which turned into proper rain in the night) the third day.






Which did give the area a pretty cool mystical ambience but of course it was not exactly perfect for photography. Still, we tried to make the most of what little light we were given.




Waterbucks were regulary seen.




African Wattled Lapwing




Banded Mongoose - the only "predators" we´d encounter. This is not exactly Big Cat central here though all of them are a possibility, Dogs as well. We did see a Leopard in the afternoon, but it was deep in the thickish and I´m afraid I was the only one of the four of us who could see it - for seconds only. I´m not quite sure but seem to remember that we saw Lion tracks as well. As mentioned the prey base is more than sufficient so there definitely should be more of them around. Why there are not - well let´s just say there are a lot of humans here, we saw many fishermen on the lake, i.e. inside the park, and who knows what else they are "fishing". It was also remarkable that this place should be full of Hippos, it´s just perfect for them, but we actually saw quite few. Again, Hippo meat is very tasty according to the locals here. Kafue is on its way up, definitely, but that does not mean its problems are a thing of the past.






A mixed flock of White-Faced & Egyptian Geese and Knob-Billed Ducks




An obliging Bateleur.




We didn´t see big Buffalo herds but enountered small Daggaboy groups now and then.




Tawny Eagle





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Let´s take a minute to celebrate Puku.




They are everywhere in Kafue, an enormously successful antelope here, even outcompeting Impala (by far). But this is only the case in Zambia and (still) the Kilombero Valley in Tanzania, everywhere else they are declining. So their IUCN status is "vulnerable".


Two Puku doing their best to counteract the declining trend:






And the eventual outcome - little Puke are very cute:






We did find some nice birds along the lake:




I won´t tell you the name of this one.






Collared Pratincole




Glossy Ibis




Yellow-Billed Stork




Two fishermen hard at work.




One of my top "Must sees" for this trip - a Rosy-Throated Longclaw, a Kafue specialty.




The team. B)

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I enjoyed the night drives at Konkamoya very much. I remember we saw lots of Bushbabies (jumping frantically around), Genets, a Civet and of course these guys:




Hare taxonomy is way over my head, but apparently what used to be Scrub Hare (Lepus saxatilis) all over Africa is now only Scrub Hare anymore in South Africa and Namibia and "African Savanna Hare" (Lepus microtis) anywhere else.


We did a very long, very late night drive on our second evening from around 21:00 to 01:00 in the morning, hoping to find Aardvark pretty far South of camp. The area we went to looked suitable enough, and we did see plenty of holes, but not even the tip of a long snout was seen. Oh well, we´ll never see an Aardvark without trying hard (or going to Tswalu), and we did see other nice stuff on the way, including lots of Springhares. We also thought we had found four(!) Cheetahs but they turned out to be Oribis. ^_^




We did see a Serval, which kept his distance.




We had a great sighting of a Porcupine, actually pretty close but it moved amazingly quickly, the car did as well, and so apologies for this very poor picture - but this one was actually one of my favourite sightings.




White-Tailed Mongoose was seen quite regularly.




As were Genets - I do know Lynn has a better photo than this.




This was a small highlight for me, an Elephant Shrew! Such tiny and fantastically cool-looking creatures. I´d guess it´s a Four-Toed Elephant Shrew but not completely certain.




And this was very cool as well - a Sharpe´s Grysbok, not an antelope you see every day. "Grys" is Afrikaans for "Old Man" and refers to the fact that their fur is densely interspersed with white hairs.

Edited by michael-ibk
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On our second full day we left the lake for our morning drive and explored the area South of Konkamoya. It was much drier here of course, but not as barren as one could expect that late in the season (Zambia had good rain this year), and the wildflowers sparkled up the landscape.






Game was much sparser (TseTses were not) but it was a very nice and tranquil morning.






Spot the Jackal. :)






Warthogs were quite common but did not appreciate our presence too much - we mostly saw their tails.




By a small creek we found a colony of White-Fronted Bee-Eaters.




All of this area should be perfect terrain for Kudu but we did not see too many of them. It´s pretty obvious this area is nowhere near its carrying capacity yet.








If I understood correctly (probably not) this plant is kind of living upside down. What we see is just a tiny part of it and 90 % of it grows and expands subterraneanly.




Many Impala females were already very pregnant, they were just waiting for the rain to drop their young ones. We did see one baby (probably one of the very first of the season). Here with some Reedbuck in the background.




Watching this Gymnogene was very cool - it actually changed colour from red to yellow! I knew they can do that but had no idea that fast.




What kind of Baboon is this? Actually a rather complicated question. The general thinking was it´s Yellow Baboons to be found all over Zambia but most authorities now consider the so-called "Kinda Baboon" a full species in its own right. Kindas are apparently a bit smaller and have shorter faces than their yellow cousins. According to IUCN there are only Kindas in Zambia but it appears to be quite a confusing matter - some people apparently are of the opinion both species are present in Kafue, and to make it more complicated, are even hybridising a lot.






Zambia, as Doug said, is blessed with water.




I was thrilled to finally get a photo of a Giant Kingfisher - a bird I´ve been hoping to see for many trips now.




A large flock of Great White Pelicans was soaring above us and then coming down, always something special to see.








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@Micheal-ibk as you would agree your'e so lucky to be going on safari with my  two buddies @Kitboey and @Atravelynne;I'm sure that you would agree that there could be no better safari companions than the two of them. They are two ladies whom I have nothing but the greatest respect,admiration and yes love for.  I'm quite aware of Doug's  reputation as a guide and couldn't be happier that he'll be guiding me soon enough in Zakouma. He'll l make an awesome location even more unforgettable. I just love your report. 

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Loving this trip report!  A trip down memory lane for me...so that was "the end" for the hippo they dubbed "Satan" ...he brutalized another hippo until death and then some like a hippo possessed---by the time we arrived he was laying very still nursing his wounds out in the flood plain for our entire time there...he must have been a sitting duck for the lions...

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Back in 2015 @michael-ibk, you said "When I get to Kafue in 2017 I hope it will be a trip as successful as yours!" - It's certainly shaping up that way & I'm really enjoying seeing a different part of Kafue with you

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12 hours ago, optig said:

@Micheal-ibk as you would agree your'e so lucky to be going on safari with my  two buddies @Kitboey and @Atravelynn

Thank you very much!  All four of us had a great time. 

12 hours ago, gatoratlarge said:

Loving this trip report!  A trip down memory lane for me...so that was "the end" for the hippo they dubbed "Satan" ...he brutalized another hippo until death and then some like a hippo possessed---by the time we arrived he was laying very still nursing his wounds out in the flood plain for our entire time there...he must have been a sitting duck for the lions...Thanks for Chapter 1 in the story!


8 hours ago, AfricIan said:

Back in 2015 @michael-ibk, you said "When I get to Kafue in 2017 I hope it will be a trip as successful as yours!" - It's certainly shaping up that way & I'm really enjoying seeing a different part of Kafue with you

I just saw a couple of your Kafue shots on the plains.  Took me right back there!


Since the title of this report includes "faces" of Kafue, here's a face in a gift balaclava from Austria.  It has little mountains and ski lifts on it for decoration.  Despite it being October "suicide month" there were a couple of mornings that I appreciated the warmth of this balaclava.

000 balaclava.jpg

Atravelynn in Austrian balaclava



Edited by Atravelynn
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Kurrichane Thrush at Pioneer Inn



Lake Itezhi Tezhi  - Konkamoya



Arnott's Chat






This was the first sighting of the Rosy-throated Longclaw, we were told.

We tried to make lemonade from lemons and take photographic advantage of the overcast, murky conditions.



The 3 shots of Puku and Lake Itezi Tezi were taken on the Konkamoya grounds.



Lesser spotted Genet



The Elephant Shrew was a first for all four of us.  @Kitsafari had specifically requested one!


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oh great photos all around.


@optig thank you for such generous words!


2 hours ago, Atravelynn said:


The Elephant Shrew was a first for all four of us.  @Kitsafari had specifically requested one!



actually, i've seen elephant shrews in South Luangwa but they were always on the run and I never had a good shot of one. So i asked for a shrew, and it heard me and granted my request. This particular one was quite accommodating - posing for us for a long while. but darn the twigs. I think it was the only one we saw during the entire trip. 


Lusaka's markets were vibrant and thriving! so many shops along the road with colourful displays. 



the rose-throated longclaw was certainly a bird I much wanted to see, after I was told  it was a rare species. and we were not disappointed - its beautiful song became the song of the lovely and scenic Lake Itezhi Tezhi






Lovely placid lake





The area around Konkamoya was pretty quiet in terms of game. A lot of antelopes and eles, but the big predators were elusive. Perhaps they were still not used to vehicles or perhaps the overcast skies and grey gloom kept them in in the shade. But Michael remembered right - we saw lion tracks and its kill off the road. while another vehicle saw the big cat, we didn't even see its shadow. 



Looking for that cat or that special bird


we were disappointed about the aardvark as the lodge had said aardvark nights were its specialty but after failing to find one following a long drive - we were told they hadn't seen for about a year. :(

But we did see the sharpe's grysbok - which was a first for me! so that made up for it. 


There were loads of puku in and around the lodge, and each time i saw one, i thought of @TonyQ as he loves the pretty little animal.




But all thoughts of it being a fluffy cute peace-loving species went out the window when I witnessed a scene being played out while I sat on the deck outside my tent - a puku chasing a family of bushbuck from what I assume was his territory. 


(a slightly long clip)







Edited by Kitsafari
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I enjoyed the drive to the south. we saw quite a few birds, and there some scenic spots.

just to supplement Michael and Atravelynn's photos: 


The sun valliantly trying to emerge






a pair of attractive side-striped jackals






the gathering of the pelicans and marabou storks - it felt as if we were spying at their secret meeting. 




i was fascinated by this beautiful butterfly - despite a tattered wing, it still looked lovely. and it was busy having a meal.







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We also visited the Kafue Elephant Orphanage in the park, or, to be more preciese, the Release Facility. Rescued Elephant orphans are brought into the rehabilitation centre in Lusaka. After a while, if their health permits it, they are transferred to Kafue to be prepared to return to the wild. So it´s similar to what Sheldrick´s is doing in Kenya. The operation started in 2008, and we actually met the guy who helped set up the release centre - he was a guest at Konkamoya. The Elephants here are not kept in their enclosure but venture out daily into the wild, accompanied by their human guardians as I understood. There are obviously strong bonds between the Elephants and their human "family members" and it was nice to see that. Sad that operations like these are needed but it´s such a good thing they are there. Just to be clear, this is not like in Nairobi - no interactions are allowed, no close contact, as a visitor you always stay behind the fence. One Elephant named Lukas was very curious about us, he seemed to enjoy any human contact, and came very close to us, like to say Hello.









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Lovely report so far!

Was the snared elephant (you can see the snare behind its leg) reported? I wound like that can heal if treated, but will be fatal if it isn't treated.

In you picture of a mixed flock of birds there are red-billed teals too!

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So how was Konkamoya Lodge itself? The location and all the premises are pretty much perfect:




The main lobby and lunch/dining room. Very comfortable.




Quality of food was very good to excellent.




The elevated breakfast room.




The "tents" - very comfortable, clean, spacious and airy.






Open air bathroom.




This little guy in the toilet was lucky - I was about to do unspeakable things to him but discovered and removed him just in time. :o




The view from the tent´s decks - Puku everywhere!






Lots and lots of birds in the lake.




Little Egrets, Great Egret and Spoonbill




And always some nice little stuff to take pictures of, like this colourful Skink on the lobby floor.




A Swallow-Tailed Bee-Eater - very common in the Kalahari but a much rarer bird up here in Zambia.




Collared Sunbird




Miombo Scrub Robin




Grey-Backed Camaroptera


So would I return?


No, I would not because I was not very happy with the way they run things there. You know, in other lodges (like Musekese, our next stop) you really feel "at home". Not here. Just to give an example, for all meals none of management would even shop us, as a matter of fact they ate separately from us with the one other guest at the breakfast lobby. In all fairness, apparently they seemed to think this was our preference because we had asked for private vehicle but it was not. And even if it had been, it wouldn´t hurt to show up now and then and ask your guests if everything is alright. I wasn´t even quite clear of who´s who, there´s Andrea, the Italian owner, and his wife, and then a couple who maybe or maybe not were the managers. It was hard to tell since they never bothered to explain who they actually were. Andrea also said some pretty nasty stuff about his own staff, and I never appreciate that. He even remarked that when the rains´d come in full (and it certainly looked that way) "all the animals will be gone for weeks". Exactly what you want to hear.


I also had some issues with food. I mentioned before quality was very satisfactory, everthing we got was very nice. But ... for breakfast we only had one muffin, coffe and juice, no toast, cereals or anything like that. Which is no problem if you have a packed breakfast but we did not - and we were usually out until noon. "Their way" is returning to lodge at about 09:30 or 10ish, have a hearty breakfast then and a light lunch later. But for us, we came back at noon, were very hungry and only had the light lunch then - which definitely was too light for me. Only some Samosas and Potato Balls. I sat there thinking if I could go take one more Samosa or should rather not because then I would have one more than the others, would rob them of their fourth.  And even at Doug´s request they were not flexible enough to make some changes for us. I mean, it really cannot be very hard to prepare a small breakfast box with some sandwiches, can it? On our second day we returned a bit before noon and asked when lunch was ready. 10 minutes, they said, and so we decided to just stay and get to the tents later. It was 10 minutes again and again, and finally they served at 13:00. If they would have told us right from the start, fine, no problem, but this was a bit irritating.


None of this was a huge deal but these minor nuisances added up to me ... not feeling very welcome there. And that´s not how one should feel at a lodge like Konkamoya.  We had actually chosen it because at the time of booking (late 2015) they had advertised a 90 % chance of seeing Aardvark. As Kit already mentioned, it that ever was true certainly not this year.


A bit of a shame, since place and lodge premises and facilites are really beautiful, but I have no desire to return - at least not under current management.

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But to end on a more conciliatory note, we did have a very nice farewell from the lodge - we found out Banded Mongoose are coming to the kitchen for scraps every morning, and we had great fun watching them before leaving!












Two videos:




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3 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

But Michael remembered right - we saw lion tracks and its kill off the road. while another vehicle saw the big cat, we didn't even see its shadow. 


That was Leopard, Kit (pretty sure about it). BTW, love that Longclaw video!


16 hours ago, AfricIan said:

Back in 2015 @michael-ibk, you said "When I get to Kafue in 2017 I hope it will be a trip as successful as yours!" - It's certainly shaping up that way & I'm really enjoying seeing a different part of Kafue with you


Thanks, @AfricIan, your report had a big part in convincing me to go, and I´m thankful I did.


24 minutes ago, egilio said:

Lovely report so far!

Was the snared elephant (you can see the snare behind its leg) reported? I wound like that can heal if treated, but will be fatal if it isn't treated.

In you picture of a mixed flock of birds there are red-billed teals too!


Thanks, @egilio. To be honest I´m not quite sure. I have a fuzzy memory of Doug saying he would take care of that but that might be wishful thinking on my part. We certainly did not realize it was a snare.

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1 hour ago, michael-ibk said:


That was Leopard, Kit (pretty sure about it). BTW, love that Longclaw video!



I must have been dreaming about lions then! :blink:

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