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South Luangwa (Tafika and Kaingo) and Lower Zambezi (Old Mondoro and Chiawa)- 15th July to 28th July 2018

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Julian

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Julian

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Julian

Finally ready to make a start on the report. First of all the itinerary and more general info about our choices and the trip.

 

Zambia Safari 2018: 13th July – 29th July

 

Itinerary:

 

Fri 13 July 20.40: London Heathrow to Dubai (06.35) – Emirates: Airbus A380-800

Sat 14 July 09.25: Dubai to Lusaka (14.35) – Emirates: Boeing777-300ER

Sat 14 July Transfer by car (30 minutes): Lusaka airport to Latitude 15 (1 night)

 

Sun 15 July Transfer by car (30 minutes): Latitude 15 to Lusaska airport

Sun 15 July 11.00: Proflight (British Aerospace Jetstream 41) to Mfuwe (12.10)

 

Sun 15 July Transfer (2 hours) by safari vehicle to Tafika Camp

Sun 15 July  Tafika Camp

Mon 16 July Tafika Camp

Tues 17 July Tafika Camp

 

Wed 18 July 11.00: Transfer by safari vehicle and canoe to Kaingo Camp

Wed 18 July Kaingo Camp

Thu 19 July  Kaingo Camp

Fri 20 July    Kaingo Camp

 

Sat 21 July Transfer by safari vehicle to Mfuwe airport (2 hours)

Sat 21 July 14.15: Proflight (Cessna) to Jeki airstrip, Lower Zambezi NP (15.45)

 

Sat 21 July Game drive transfer by safari vehicle to Old Mondoro Bushcamp

Sat 21 July   Old Mondoro Bushcamp

Sun 22 July  Old Mondoro Bushcamp

Mon 23 July Old Mondoro Bushcamp

 

Tues 24 July Transfer (1 hour) by boat on Lower Zambezi to Chiawa Camp

Tues 24 July Chiawa Camp

Wed 25 July Chiawa Camp

Thu 26 July  Chiawa Camp

Fri 27 July    Chiawa Camp

 

Sat 28 July Transfer by boat then safari vehicle to Royal airstrip

Sat 28 July 16.30: Proflight (Cessna) to Lusaka (17.15)

Sat 28 July 21.25: Lusaka to Dubai (06.30) – Boeing 777-300ER

Sun 29 July 09.40: Dubai to London Heathrow (14.25) – Airbus A380-800

 

We booked this safari to Zambia with Africa Travel Resource, excluding the international flights which were arranged through Uniglobe. The total cost (excluding the international flights) was £9180 per person.

 

The Emirates Airlines economy international return flight from Heathrow to Lusaka was £970 per person, booked with Uniglobe, making a total holiday cost of £10150 per person.

 

The ATR cost of the safari included the camps accommodation, all meals and snacks, all game drives, all water activities  (in Lower Zambezi NP),  laundry, all drinks,  all park and concession fees, and one night accommodation and breakfast at Latitude 15.

 

Why we chose to book with Africa Travel Resource:

 

 We had booked with ATR for our two most recent previous safaris and were very impressed with all the arrangements. For this safari we decided all the camps and length of stay at each before speaking with ATR.

 

We had hoped to go on this trip in June but as we needed to wait until late March to book it, pending the scan Rachel (my wife) had scheduled then. With that scan all clear we needed to make a prompt decision but for June it was impossible to get the camps we wanted.

 

The ATR website is very comprehensive and one of its features includes, for many of the camps, their live availability along with the ‘rack rates’ daily cost (plus any camp special offers). We used that to enable us to determine if it was possible for us to book the preferred camps and dates we wanted, for a total cost within our budget, and eventually found suitable availability for July.

 

I then phoned ATR with the camps and dates we required and, while still on the phone, they confirmed that the precise itinerary we wanted, was all available, and what the total cost would be. I also discussed one other option for June that we were possibly considering (but with mostly different camps).  ATR offered to produce two more itineraries, one for our possible June dates and one for July with some different camps.

 

An hour and a half later I received four complete fully detailed and fully price itemised itineraries, so that you can see precisely what you are paying for each element of the trip. Less than 24 hours later we had booked the trip, the international flights and the insurance.

We were lucky with the timing, considering it was now late March and we wanted a July trip, as apart from paying the ‘rack rates’ for each camp it meant we obtained a further big discount by staying at a combination of Chiawa and Old Mondoro where all the four days at Chiawa were 50% off – effectively meaning we got 7 days for the price of 5, or looking at it in another way it meant that Chiawa and Old Mondoro cost us £650 per person per day instead of £900. (We would not have considered those two camps had we needed to pay a daily rate of £900).

 

Insurance:

 

With Rachel’s pre-existing medical conditions, there was very limited choice so we booked  with the same insurance company as for our previous safari - Allclear Insurance Services Ltd.

 

International Flights:

 

As we arranged this safari for July and at relatively short notice the availability of reasonably priced flights for the dates we wanted were obviously limited. Emirates was the best option at a reasonable cost of £970 Economy return fare.

 

 Why we chose Zambia, and these specific locations and camps:

 

Last year we planned to go to Zambia in July but those plans were abandoned due to Rachel needing chemo treatment in the summer. We did go on safari later in the year, at very short notice - to Northern Tanzania in late October/November - trip report on this website. So with Rachel’s scan still all clear in March this year we were ready to book a Zambia trip.

 

Originally the plan had been to go to South Luangwa (Kaingo and Tafika) and to Kafue (Musekese and Shumba).  However on our last two safaris (both in Tanzania) Rachel has suffered with a bad reaction from the effects of the Tsetse flies - white bumps with sore areas around, and swollen feet and ankles plus generally not feeling well for a couple of days. Therefore due to a greater presence of Tsetse flies in Kafue, after a bit of research we decided, a bit reluctantly, that Kafue was off the agenda.

 

Having never been to Zambia ( other than a Victoria Falls visit) it would all be a new experience, so  hoping to avoid the worst of the Tsetses  we decided on Lower Zambezi instead of Kafue for half of the trip. Our last two safaris have been at the end of the dry season when sub-Saharan Africa is ‘brown ‘ and dusty so for this one we want to go when Africa is a bit more green  - hence the reason for initially choosing June, but having to settle for July.

 

The choices we made for the camps was due almost entirely to the excellent information and advice available on Safaritalk, especially in the form of Trip Reports and responses to our specific questions, along with the information available on the ATR website. From experience we also especially like owner-hosted camps, and all four camps this trip fell into that category.

 

A few general things to say about the trip before I get down to the daily diary with many photos.

Emirates flights and Dubai airport:

 

This was our first time travelling with Emirates and it was very much an ‘average’ experience. For the outward overnight flight from Heathrow to Dubai we decided to pay a supplement ( about £70 each) to have seats by an exit door, meaning no seats in front of us and therefore far more leg room, as we are both light sleepers and get hardly any sleep on an overnight flight. Having more legroom did help and we both slept a few hours. We thought the flight food was OK, and the service rather slow.

 

We were expecting Dubai airport to be rather grand, but comparing it to Addis Ababa airport, other than having more shops, it wasn’t any better. Poor quality toilets with long queues for the female toilets, and alcoholic drinks choice seemed to be down to just one type of beer and no wine.

 

The long time it took from disembarking from the plane to getting to the terminal building – nearly an hour, probably because of the system they have of all vehicles having to drive round the perimeter of the airport, so after disembarking into buses, a few minutes later your vehicle joins the perimeter queue.

     

Proflight light aircraft transfers/ luggage

 

We had three light aircraft transfers, all with Proflight and all were very prompt. The luggage allowance is a generous 23Kg per person, which meant for the first time we didn’t have to restrict ourselves much with what we packed.

 

We also had a new experience on the flight from Lusaka to Mfuwe – a flight attendant with a microphone and a mini refreshments trolley – all on a 16 seats light aircraft!

 

Visas

 

We decided to get ours on arrival and were pleasantly surprised with how quickly we obtained ours. Upon arrival we made our way promptly to the immigration area and joined a long queue, lots of students and even school groups. However after only a few minutes an official came up to us and asked if we had British passports. He then took us to a desk with no queue - for Diplomats/ VIPs. While we made our payment he asked for our luggage receipts and collected our luggage from the carousel. Five minutes later after thanking him with a small tip we were met by our driver from Latitude 15.  Welcome to Zambia!

 

Security at camps

 

All the camps we stayed at except Tafika, had a safe in our room – appears to be becoming increasingly common. At Tafika they stored guests’ valuables in the office safe.

 

Charging Devices

 

All the camps had charging points in the rooms, except Tafika where we had to charge things in the central camp building. All of the charging points were the UK standard three pin plugs, but I don’t think there were any USB charging points.

 

Tsetse Flies

 

Rachel ensured she was covered up more on this trip – long sleeved shirts, thicker and longer socks- which probably helped. However we did encounter a few Tsetse flies at Tafika and Kaingo.

 

On the way back to camp at Tafika after visiting the hot springs area we had to drive through the Mopane forest, and although our guide drove through quickly we both felt a few bites (they were biting through our clothes). As expected, Rachel’s bites were immediately visible as small lumps whereas I don’t get any reaction to the bites.

 

Rachel had started taking Citirizine daily from two weeks before we left home, and put antihistan cream on the bites, so that may have helped as her bites didn’t get any worse and gradually started to heal. However the unseasonal cold spell during our time in Zambia may have been the main reason we came across so few Tsetse flies.

 

Camera equipment we used:

 

We took three DSLR’s on the trip Canon EOS 80D and two Canon EOS 1200D’s – one each and a spare camera (in case we had problems with marks on the sensors). However having the spare camera enabled us to leave the zoom lenses permanently on our main cameras, avoiding dust getting on the sensors, with the spare camera being used with alternately the wide angle and the mid range lenses.  

 

Canon EF 100-400 f4.5-5.6 IS USM (mk1) [160-640]

Tamron  16-300 f3.5-6.3  [26-480]

Canon EFS 10-18 [16-28]

Canon EFS 17-55 f2.8 [27-90]

 

Due to these Canon cameras having a small sensor, the zoom actual zoom range is 1.6 x the range indicated on the lens. The figures in square brackets are therefore the actual focal range.

 

 

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offshorebirder

Thanks for the helpful details @Julian.   I look forward to following your trip report.

 

So it’s OK to tip immigration officials in Zambia?    I am not criticizing, just wanting to do the proper thing if I am in a similar situation.   But in some places that might be construed as bribery?

 

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Julian
12 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

Thanks for the helpful details @Julian.   I look forward to following your trip report.

 

So it’s OK to tip immigration officials in Zambia?    I am not criticizing, just wanting to do the proper thing if I am in a similar situation.   But in some places that might be construed as bribery?

 

@offshorebirder

Didn’t think about that at the time- in fact it never occurred to me until your post, but it obviously could be wrong to do that.

 

He wasn’t dealing with the paperwork and passports. He just seemed to be there to control/help people in the queues, so not necessarily an immigration official. He seemed please to receive the tip - smiled and thanked us. We only gave him the tip after he handed us our luggage which was after we had gone through immigration. 

Edited by Julian

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Julian

London Heathrow – Dubai –Lusaka – Latitude 15

 

We arrived at Heathrow around mid-afternoon for our overnight flight to Dubai which was departing at 20.40. We always allow several hours extra for the journey to Heathrow, as it involves travelling on the M1/M25/M4, and if there are traffic problems it can add hours to the expected journey time.

 

The flight left on time, as did the flight from Dubai to Lusaka. I have commented on Emirates and the flights in the summary information above, but just to add that as Dubai is three hours ahead of UK time we did not get a chance to sleep for long as breakfast was served at 2.30am (UK time).

 

I also commented above on the ease with our progress through immigration and getting our visa, it probably took less than 10 minutes from when we joined the visa queue to when the hotel driver met us for the half hour journey to Latitude 15.

 

By the time we arrived at the hotel in the late afternoon we were already aware of two things in Zambia we were not expecting – it was rather overcast and only moderately warm, and the vegetation was looking rather green as there had been some significant rainfall in the past week or so.

 

Latitude 15 is a nice hotel, possibly best described as rustic in style, and the staff were all very pleasant and helpful. Our room was a good size and comfortable with a balcony overlooking the rear hotel grounds and swimming pool. The evening meal was fine – but not the high quality restaurant standard that some of the reviews on Trip Advisor indicate. Breakfast was a good buffet and also included cooked breakfast to order if you wanted it.

 

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Latiude15-Lusake-Mfuwe-Tafika

 

After the half hour trip back to Lusaka airport we did not have to wait long before it was time to board our Proflight plane to Mfuwe. As mentioned above, this was our first light aircraft transfer to have a flight attendant  and refreshment trolley –  seemed a bit over-the-top for a 16 seater plane. We were met at Mfuwe by a driver from Tafika camp and were soon passing through a much more rural open landscape.

 

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As we drove on the highway past small settlements and villages it reminded us of rural Tanzania when we first went there in 2001 – very poor and far behind Western standards. Tanzania has progressed much since then, so I guess Zambia will probably do likewise in the coming years.

 

After a while we turned off the main highway onto a smaller road running parallel to it. A few minutes later we did a sharp turn and were on a bumpy sandy track, the scenery rapidly changing to bush. Up until this point in time it had still not felt as though we were about to embark on a safari, but  suddenly that feeling of elation hit us – we were back in the African bush.

 

 

Edited by Julian

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Julian

We soon began to see some wildlife – a few zebra, a few buffalo and some baboons –but as we were now into the early afternoon we pressed on quickly to the camp. Half an hour or so later we arrived at Tafika and Bryan, a manager, with one other staff member gave us the usual briefing about meal arrangements, the game drives, etc, and then we were shown to our room.  

 

The rooms have walls and roof made of reed thatch with stone floors, and they have an outside shower, giving a good combination of a bushcamp feel, but with home comforts including very comfy beds and electric lighting.

 

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The camp has a beautiful relaxed atmosphere, set out in a scenic location along the Luangwa river and appears timeless – feeling as though it is probably the same now as it was over 20 years ago.

 

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An hour later it was time for afternoon tea where we met the owners, John and Carol Coppinger who were excellent hosts throughout our stay, and along with Bryan and the guides they had many fascinating stories to relate of their experiences, the valley, the wildlife and the people. The communal meals, with excellent food, gave plenty of opportunity to hear about these experiences, and also to get to talk with the other guests.

 

Our game drives were shared with different couples of guests , but never more than four guests in a vehicle, and all of the guests we were on drives with were as interested as us in all of the wildlife. Our guide was Cooper on our first drive but then Lloyd for all the other drives, and both were excellent guides. On the afternoon/evening drives there was the addition of a spotter in the vehicle, who was always an armed park ranger. One of the older very experienced rangers also had some really interesting accounts to tell us about.

 

Here at Tafika (and all the other camps we stayed at on this safari) the afternoon game drives extended after sundowners for another couple of hours or so in darkness before returning to camp for dinner. Also at Tafika we returned to camp about 8.00pm or a bit later, whereas at the other camps it tended to be between 7.00pm and 7.30pm. Off-road driving appeared to be the norm at all of the camps.

 

Following afternoon tea, full of anticipation and enthusiasm, we set off on our first Zambian game drive.    

 

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Zim Girl
18 hours ago, Julian said:

The camp has a beautiful relaxed atmosphere, set out in a scenic location along the Luangwa river and appears timeless – feeling as though it is probably the same now as it was over 20 years ago.

 

Great start to this trip report.

We stayed at Tafika in 2007 and it doesn't look like it has changed much at all - one of my favourite camps.

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Julian

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We were in a vehicle with another nice UK couple, Gina and Oliver, with Cooper our guide and an armed ranger/spotter. The first animals we saw were a small group of puku (we think this was a new species for us although we may have seen a few in Southern Tanzania). Next we found a group of baboons, followed a few minutes later by a family group of elephants.

 

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Julian

We came into a clearing with the Luangwa river in the background and a large group of puku were grazing. On the riverbank we spotted a few crocodiles.

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 With sunset approaching Cooper found a suitable location close to the river where we could get out of the vehicle and drink our sundowners while watching the hippos, including one very young calf.

 

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After watching the sunset, around 5.30pm, it was time for the second half of the drive, requiring the spotlight for the next two hours. We found several different species of mongoose, including t he bushy-tailed mongoose (new species for us), some genets, and a family group of four porcupines. I was experimenting with my camera settings, and as most these sightings were very difficult to photograph - the mongooses were always moving away fast and the porcupines were seen through a small gap in the bushes – I did not get any reasonable photos.

 

However the highlight of this first drive turned out to be a leopard, which came up out of a gully and we were able to watch it for a few minutes. I did manage to take one (not very good) photo of it.

 

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We arrived back at the camp about 8.00pm and enjoyed an excellent sociable dinner with the guests and a couple of the staff sitting around a circular table.

 

 

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Julian

(Apologies for my progress with this report being rather slow. Hope to post more frequently from now onwards.)

 

2nd Day at Tafika

 

For our first morning drive at Tafika we were with another couple, Alex and Katrina from Holland, and our guide for this drive (and the rest of our stay at Tafika) was Lloyd. Initially we found a couple of elephants and a group of Puku.

 

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Shortly afterwards as we approached the river an elephant family were about to cross. It was a cool morning with clear skies and the low sunlight created a very nice setting as we watched the group slowly cross the river.

 

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Julian

Lloyd was keen to find us a leopard and drove along following a small gully (just a ditch really). There were puku and impala nearby and Lloyd explained that the leopards hide in the gullies as they can move closer to their prey while remaining out of sight.  We were all looking very carefully when Alex suddenly spotted a leopard which was really well concealed in the gully.

 

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The leopard was clearly not impressed by our presence so we backed away, but it eventually decided to come out of the gully as the prey had moved away.

 

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Next on the agenda was a solitary giraffe and among some birds we saw that morning were some southern ground hornbills and a lilac breasted roller.

 

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A while later we found another small group of elephants browsing, and our morning drive concluded with a sighting of a family group of giraffe.

 

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CDL111

Not exactly the leopard’s best friend. You can just make it out in your first photograph.

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Julian

While we were in our room in the afternoon a bushbuck was browsing just a few yards away from us. It seemed completely at ease and we watched it for a few minutes.

 

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It was soon time for afternoon tea prior to our evening game drive.  Today was Rachel’s birthday and our operator had informed the camps of the date included in our booking details.  However it still came as a big surprise when some of the camp staff appeared with a very large cake singing happy birthday to Rachel.

 

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Atravelynn

Your explanation of all the aspects of your safari are very helpful.  Great pics.  I can see why you said no bad points.  Lovely light on the eles in the river.  That was a fiesty leopard!

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Julian
16 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

Your explanation of all the aspects of your safari are very helpful.  Great pics.  I can see why you said no bad points.  Lovely light on the eles in the river.  That was a fiesty leopard!

@Atravelynn

Thanks for your kind comments. The light was really great some of the time - I think because the weather was very unusual/ variable  for the time of the year for all  of the time we were on this safari- unusually cold at times, rain, mixture of cloudy/ sunny skies.

 

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Julian

 

For the afternoon and evening game drive we shared a vehicle with Andreus, a vet who was only here on business and just had time for one game drive, plus Zaveri who was the daughter of a friend of the Coppingers and was temporarily working at the camp.

 

Our first significant sighting was a family of elephants wallowing in a very muddy swampy area. The family included two very young calves who were determined to wade across the mud without assistance.

 

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After that it was impala and puku, and some hippos around sunset.

 

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The weather was becoming surprisingly cold and it felt increasingly chilly in the vehicle as the evening progressed. Initially on the night drive we did see one hyena, a few mongoose and genets, and another porcupine plus a bushbaby, but for the last hour we saw hardly anything and were pleased to get back to the camp.

 

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 By now we knew it was very unlikely we would see wild dogs or lions during our remaining time at Tafika, as a pack of 16 wild dogs had been seen the day before we arrived and we were told they tend to follow a large circular hunting route and therefore only tend to be seen about every two weeks. Regarding lions some of the Hollywood pride was resident around Tafika but a few days ago they had crossed the river and had not been seen here since.

 

However it didn’t feel disappointing as we knew we were highly likely to see lions when we moved on to Kaingo, and also possibly wild dogs. The evening ended with another excellent meal including plenty of conversation with other guests.

 

 

Edited by Julian

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Julian

3rd Day at Tafika

 

This morning we were with only one other guest on the drive – Penelope from USA. It was cold windy and overcast and our thermal top, fleecy hat and a blanket were required when we set off. Early on we did come across another leopard – but it was at a considerable distance and moving away, and for the first couple of hours the wildlife consisted of impala, puku and a solitary giraffe.

 

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We stopped at a muddy pool with hippos and various birds including an intermediate egret, a hadida ibis and a goliath heron.

 

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Lloyd suggested we head off to the ‘hot springs’  a location a considerable distance away but which occasionally attracts large numbers of wildlife. However as we approached the area it was obviously not a day that appealed to the wildlife. We stopped and got out of the vehicle to have a closer inspection of the hot spring water.

 

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There were other birds here including grey crowned cranes, sacred ibis, and a first for us – southern carmine bee-eaters. Lloyd explained that these bee-eaters were not early arrivals for this year but were ones that fledged too late last season to be able to migrate. We also saw a type of dove which Lloyd indicated were quite unusual – but I can’t remember what they were called.

 

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As we started the journey back to camp (by a different route) a small group of zebra came into view.

 

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We then approached an area called the mopane forest which always has a lot of tsetse flies so Lloyd said he would drive through fast. We hoped the cold grey weather would limit their appearance but some tsetse flies still settled on us and although we had covered up more I felt a few bites through my socks and Rachel also had a few bites including one on her arm – so the tsetse had bitten through her fleece. (Fortunately this turned out to be the only occasion on this safari where tsetses were significantly present).

 

When we arrived back at camp it was time for our final lunch at Tafika. A family had just arrived from Old Mondoro so we were eager to know what they had seen as were due to go there in four days time. It turned out that as well as the usual mix of wildlife they had seen a pangolin, which the teenage daughter in the family had spotted.  We all enjoyed a pleasant lunch after which the skies darkened further, then it started to rain......

 

 

 

 

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amybatt

Enjoying this greatly!  Thank you for posting.  What an angry looking leopard, that's an excellent shot.

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Towlersonsafari

great report on a wonderful country!

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Julian
1 hour ago, amybatt said:

Enjoying this greatly!  Thank you for posting.  What an angry looking leopard, that's an excellent shot.

@amybatt

Thank you. The leopards at Tafika all seem to have one Hyena each that follows them when they are stalking prey in the evenings, so not surprised they get annoyed at any disruption at other times of day.

That one was a large male leopard.

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Julian

@Towlersonsafari

Thank you. Pleased you are enjoying it, just wish I could progress this a bit quicker. I was tempted to just post lots of photos with very minimal storyline , but my last two reports were long and detailed with many photos, and were well appreciated, plus we use the report as the basis for our photo books - which Rachel will produce when I eventually finish this one.

In the meantime, still two more drives to report on fromTafika ( and more leopards) , followed by Kaingo where the game viewing really steps up a notch........

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Hads

Loving your TR thanks @Julian.

Is the dove a namaqualand dove?

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