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


Julian

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Julian

The hippos then began calling to other hippos resting on a sand bank in the river, which sounded really good as the rocky cliff-like river bank created great acoustics.

 

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A pied kingfisher settled on a post nearby just as we were about to leave the hide.

 

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Arrived back home a week ago from our seventh safari, but our first safari to Zambia.   So... how was it..... Amazing! .............Easily our best ever safari. All our guides were superb, n

Here is a taster of a highlight of the trip:              

After watching the elephants for a while Lloyd said it was time to drive us to where we would be transferring on the river to Kaingo. However a few minutes into the journey he had a call on the radio

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Julian

At afternoon tea we met Derek Shenton along with his family. Just after 4.00pm we set off on our afternoon/evening game drive. The weather had not improved and it was still cold and windy with fairly cloudy skies, meaning the wildlife appeared to be quite sparse. However we did come across one of the leopards we saw on our first game drive yesterday, she is known as Mama Kaingo. Normally she is relaxed with vehicles around but she seemed a bit agitated so we continued on our drive.

 

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We set off to try and find the big lion pride we saw this morning (this pride is called the Mwamba-Kaingo pride), and passed by a few kudu and a solitary elephant on the way.

 

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We soon found the lions not too far from where we had seen them earlier but they were now up and on the move. Hendrix thought they were probably interested in a large herd of buffalo that were in the direction the lions were heading.

 

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After following the lions for a while Hendrix was confident that they were definitely following the buffalo - unseen from a considerable distance – so we were going to try and get in front of the buffalo.With the grey cloudy skies the light began to fade as it was now around sunset, so we had our sundowners while on the move.

 

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The lions were in thick bush cover so we could not see if they were still following, but a couple of other vehicles (from Mwamba and Lion camp) followed behind to try and keep track of the lions while we got ahead of the buffalo herd.

 

Hendrix turned off the track and on to the grass and we parked up– facing an oncoming herd of steadily marching buffalo – about 200 of them. It felt slightly uncomfortable with the vehicle parked directly in their path and as the buffalo spotted us they gradually came to a halt about 40 yards or so in front of us, and stared at us. As the buffalo behind caught up they spread out, so the front line of buffalo facing us was about 40 or more in number.  (Only one poor quality photo of the buffalo lined up in front of us).

 

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Darkness was approaching, but as we hadn’t stopped for our sundowner and the usual bush toilet, we now definitely needed to use the facilities. There was a mound with bushes about 30 yards behind us so Hendrix said to go there – but be quick. We were very quick, and it was only a few days later when we realised how potentially dangerous that was. What if the buffalo suddenly moved forward because the lions had caught up with them, while we were behind the mound?

 

A few minutes later and it was dark, and by now three other vehicles had joined us to wait and see if the lions would arrive and go after the buffalo. After a considerable wait we all realised the lions were not coming. We decided to arc round behind the buffalo and go searching for the lions with a spotlight. Another vehicle also started to look for them with their spotlight. The rutted, hard terrain made progress incredibly slow but the lions were eventually found – settling down for a snooze. A disappointing outcome but it had all been a very interesting experience.

 

As all else was rather quiet on the wildlife front we decide to go and see if the male lion who had stolen the leopard’s kill was still in the same spot – which he was, clearly in no rush to go anywhere!

 

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On our way back to camp we did spot an elephant shrew and a cape hare.

 

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Then just five minutes from the camp we had a lucky rare sighting on a bough of a tree – two Pel’s fishing owls - an adult female and a juvenile (unfortunately no even vaguely usable photos of them).

 

Back at camp the only guests were us, but with Hendrix and Gerard the Ops manger joining us for dinner it still made it a very pleasant sociable meal. As we had the vehicle to ourselves for the whole stay and with no other guests in camp until tomorrow afternoon we asked Eve, the ‘front of house’ manager, if she would like to join us in the morning on our game drive. Eve used to be a guide in South Africa (at Sabi Sands) but got bored with the routine and type of guests she had to guide so changed her job, and although she loves being out in the bush, so far had very little time to get out since being at Kaingo, and so was keen to take up the offer.

 

 

 

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Julian

3rd Day at Kaingo

 

Another cold and windy morning greeted us so we continued to be unlucky with the weather, but the wildlife viewing was good.  After going to check out if the male lion was still feeding on the impala we spotted him nearby walking and looking very determined.

 

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A group of puku and an elephant family were our next sightings.

 

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Next we found a group of six lions who were resting and just being a bit playful. These were part of the Hollywood pride, so named because this pride was the stars of a wildlife film made some years ago.

 

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Julian

After a short while we left them as they were settling down to sleep, and a few minutes later we came across a few eland, not very common in this area of South Luangwa.

 

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Soon after that we stopped for a break by the river and took a few photos, including some of Hendrix and Eve.

 

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We decided to go back to where we saw the Mwamba Kaingo pride yesterday morning and found five of them there, mostly youngsters. One other vehicle was also there and one of the lionesses had walked right up to and around the vehicle and was biting the edges of it. After a few minutes she decided there was nothing to eat and walked off to lie down.

 

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We drove on but soon stopped for a nice surprise early bush brunch.

 

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After that we headed back to camp as we had chosen to go on a short walking safari soon at midday.

 

The walk began after the usual serious talk with the dos and don’ts about being on foot in the bush. It was the typical walk with lots of information about plants, trees and, as usual, poo.

 

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We did see some wildlife as well – a couple of kudu walking quickly away from us, and a bit later some elephants and hippos at a long distance by the river. Just after we returned o the vehicle a kingfisher was perched in a nearby tree – brown hooded or grey headed – not sure which one?

 

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Following the afternoon tea we set off on our final evening game drive at Kaingo.

 

 

 

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Julian

It was another rather chilly afternoon but only a couple of minutes from camp and our spotter for this drive, Simon, found a leopard. She was perched on top of a large termite mound – it was Mama Kaingo again.

 

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What Simon had seen for just a few seconds, but we had not, was the leopard’s young cub, which had gone down behind the mound. We waited around for a while but guessed that the cub had probably fallen asleep.

 

Sometime later we encountered a new group of four lions next to a buffalo kill. These were nomadic males who had formed a coalition and were trying to take over the local territory. One of them had a badly scarred face with some new wounds as well – almost certainly the result of taking down the buffalo.

 

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The lions were all resting now and quite a few vultures were waiting around for their chance to feed on the carcass.

 

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Soon after leaving them it was time to stop for our sundowner. Hendrix found a nice location by the river and we got out to stretch our legs and looked out across the river as the light began to fade. I had taken a couple of photos and walked back the few paces to the vehicle to put the camera down when something caught my eye – a lion approaching from the left in some longish grass.

 

It was walking slowly and looking straight ahead towards a few big trees – then I realised it was looking at the tree that Hendrix told us to use for the bush toilet – and Rachel was behind that tree. I called out to Rachel and told her there was a lion walking towards her. Not surprisingly she briskly - without running - came back to the vehicle.

 

(It was only later that evening back at camp that we realised how dangerous a situation Rachel had been in. If I had not returned to the vehicle to put my camera down I would not have seen the lion. Given where we had parked, the fading light, the fact that the tree was about 30 yards from the vehicle, and close by the terrain was long grass and some bush, Hendrix should have been keeping watch while we used the facilities).

 

The lion continued walking in the same direction, past us, and continued on its way. It was one of the Hollywood pride, so Hendrix suggested she might be off to join the others for a hunt, so we would try and follow her. Before we located her we found the rest of the pride who were prowling steadily past groups of impala and puku, who did not seem aware of the lions in the darkness. It was difficult to follow them as we had to drive through bush or around inaccessible areas, and anticipate which way they would turn, so hardly surprising that as we turned one corner one of the lions was walking directly towards us. We did also come across the occasional hyena. However we did eventually lose the lions and headed back to camp.

 

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 Among the new guests that had arrived was a mother and son from New York who were being escorted by their guide who was a professional photographer. He was full of information as had taken people on many safaris and so we used the opportunity to ask him about the best time to go and see the mountain gorillas in Uganda.

 

Then over dinner he asked us about all we had seen while at Kaingo, and admitted he was rather jealous that we had seen two Pel’s fishing owls, as in all the many trips he had done he had never seen one.

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ZaminOz
12 hours ago, Julian said:

Just after we returned o the vehicle a kingfisher was perched in a nearby tree – brown hooded or grey headed – not sure which one?

 

Not 100% sure, but it might not be either. It looks more like a Striped Kingfisher to me?

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Julian
8 hours ago, ZaminOz said:

 

Not 100% sure, but it might not be either. It looks more like a Striped Kingfisher to me?

@ZaminOz

Thanks for this. Just spent some time looking them up in my Helm field guide to Birds of East Africa.

It can’t be a striped kingfisher because of the bill - they have dark brown/ black upper bill and bright red lower bill.

However the problem with the two options I suggested is they are shown as having a black back and a bright red upper and lower bill, but further reading reveals that the female brown-hooded kingfisher actually has a dark brown back.

Also regarding the beak colour in the photo, the immature grey-headed kingfisher has a  “ dark-tipped red bill” - which looks right for the photo, but they have black backs.

Unfortunately it doesn’t say what colour the beak is for an immature brown-hooded kingfisher, but my bets are that it is an immature female( because the females have a brown back) brown-hooded kingfisher.

Unless someone else who is a birding expert on here says otherwise...........?

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Though the hippo will not win any prizes on the must see list, l think that it is a good idea to put the hide were it is.

Regarding the kingfisher, what’s the opinion of the possibility of a juvenile blue breasted kingfisher?  

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Julian

Morning game drive at Kaingo- transfer to Mfuwe- flight to Lower Zambezi NP - transfer to Old Mondoro bushcamp

 

Our final game drive at Kaingo would be a shorter one but we would still have three hours out in the bush. A few minutes after starting we found an elephant family including a female with her young calf walking through the forest.

 

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The skies quickly cleared and finally we had sunny warmer weather. The beautiful low light gave us a chance to take some landscape photos.

 

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After a while we noticed some movement a long way off on the other side of the river. It was a pack of painted wolves but not the same pack we saw on our first drive. They had obviously been down to the river to drink and were in a playful mood on the sand bank as they started to move back towards the bush.  (The photo was taken on full zoom, 400mm, so you can see that they were a long way off from our location).

 

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Julian
2 hours ago, CDL111 said:

Though the hippo will not win any prizes on the must see list, l think that it is a good idea to put the hide were it is.

Regarding the kingfisher, what’s the opinion of the possibility of a juvenile blue breasted kingfisher?  

@CDL111

Don't think so , as according to the book they have a "blue hind-crown"  - including the juveniles. Also dont think its normally found in Zambia??

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Julian

Next on the agenda was a leopard, a familiar one called Chiphadzuwa. (This was the same leopard that had made the impala kills and was resting nearby while a lion fed on her impala).  She was walking along so we decided to wait and see if she was interested in hunting.

 

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However she decided to head down into a gulley and then settled down to have wash and just generally relax in the warm sunshine.

 

 

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In the opposite direction a family of elephants was approaching .

 

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Julian

A few minutes later the leopard decided to come out of the gulley and walk off, so we followed her very slowly.

 

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Julian

She eventually decided to settle down on a large horizontal base root of a tree with completely exposed roots. She looked very relaxed and was clearly enjoying the shade and her raised viewing position that enabled her to see in all directions.

 

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Julian

After a while we moved on and came across another family of elephants.

 

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After that there was just enough time left for a final stop at the river where there were plenty of hippos present. The light was still really good so we took a few final photos of the Luangwa before returning to camp.

 

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We said our farewells and were soon off on the longish drive back to Mfuwe. Then it was the usual waiting around until it was time for our flight. It was sad to be leaving South Luangwa but at the same time we were really looking forward to the second half of this safari – in Lower Zambezi National Park – as we still had seven more days to be out in the bush on this trip.

 

 The flight was about 90 minutes and with about half an hour to go the Lower Zambezi river came into view. It looked stunningly beautiful - very wide with a myriad of sandbanks and islands as it snaked its way through the landscape. As we came closer to our landing location – Jeki airstrip – the plane descended, circled round in a huge arc and approached the landing strip flying across the Zambezi. As we came to a halt on the airstrip I could see two vehicles – one with the name of our next camp on the side of it.......

 

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Julian

Just to let those of you know, who are following this report , that there will be a gap of at least a week before I post more, while I now reduce and edit the photos from Old Mondoro.

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michael-ibk
On 4/3/2019 at 4:04 PM, Julian said:

Just after we returned o the vehicle a kingfisher was perched in a nearby tree – brown hooded or grey headed – not sure which one?

 

I agree with Brown-Hooded. As you say, Striped is out because of the red upper mandible, there´s no Blue-Breasted in Luangwa, and Grey-Headed (IMO) should have less contrast between head and upper back.

 

Continue to enjoy this report, great Leopard sightings especially and that baby Hippo is very cute. Hairy Lion situation indeed, high grass is always an environment which demands extra care.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Julian

I really don’t know where the time goes! 

When I finished posting the Kaingo section of this trip I hoped to have the photos ready in a couple of weeks to start posting the Old Mondoro, but five weeks has raced by . I know quite a few of you are following this report and it will continue shortly.

I have finally finished reducing and editing the Old Mondoro photos and will start posting them within the next few days.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
Julian

Apologies, ‘Next few days’ has now become next few weeks. Trying to find time to make progress is a priority, but with late spring about to become the main summer season there are so many other things currently occupying much of my time. This trip report will be completed ..... but it’s obviously taking considerably longer than I anticipated.......

 

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Pamshelton3932

I’ll keep checking back.  I’m sure it will be worth the wait. 

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  • 1 month later...

take your time even if we wish you will work harder😀😀😀. it s a very good report. i will stay tuned 😉😉

Edited by chui71
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  • 4 weeks later...
TravelMore
On ‎2‎/‎22‎/‎2019 at 11:58 PM, Caracal said:

Really enjoyed catching up with this TR - what wonderful sightings and great photos @Julian

 

Particularly drawn to those landscapes with the Luangwa and those stunning skies in #63

 

You seem to have acquired a knack of locating and photographing giraffes sitting - it's got me thinking. Don't think I've ever seen that - the ones I've seen have always been standing browsing or strolling.

 

Hope you get a chance to post more soon.

Ditto on the skies!

 

Double ditto on the giraffes sitting.  I was floored, I didn't know they "sat".  lol  

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Julian

Thanks @TravelMore I intend to continue with this from mid September onwards - far too many other things to do at present.

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TravelMore
4 hours ago, Julian said:

Thanks @TravelMore I intend to continue with this from mid September onwards - far too many other things to do at present.

Wonderful!   I'm enjoying the whole report with pics and videos SO much.  You've opened my mind to Zambia.  The cats seem to be relaxed enough to get good photos so I'm good.  The added plus is hippos!!   Lots of hippos and elephants too.  My husband thanks you.  Can I ask what focal lengths you used the most?  When I was near Kruger I mostly never put down my 100-400mm lens.  I used the wide angle at about 12-14 mm for some landscapes and had an 85mm 1.8.  Most times I didn't use the 85mm because when the guide would shine the light, the 100-400 worked fine with my camera which I didn't expect.

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Julian
21 hours ago, TravelMore said:

Wonderful!   I'm enjoying the whole report with pics and videos SO much.  You've opened my mind to Zambia.  The cats seem to be relaxed enough to get good photos so I'm good.  The added plus is hippos!!   Lots of hippos and elephants too.  My husband thanks you.  Can I ask what focal lengths you used the most?  When I was near Kruger I mostly never put down my 100-400mm lens.  I used the wide angle at about 12-14 mm for some landscapes and had an 85mm 1.8.  Most times I didn't use the 85mm because when the guide would shine the light, the 100-400 worked fine with my camera which I didn't expect.

 

@TravelMore

I used the Canon 100 - 400 (actual range 160-640) most. 

Canon Wide angle lens  10-18 (16-28) for landscapes and outdoor shots around the camp.

Canon 17-55 f2.8 (27 -88) for some night photos and inside rooms etc at the camp.

Rachel used the Tamron 16-300 ( 26-480)  nearly all the time, as it covers almost all the focal range needed, and is a lightweight lens ( disadvantage being it only covers f3.5 to f6.3, and is not the same quality as the Canon lenses).

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  • 7 months later...

It is finally time to continue with this.............

 

I can hardly believe it is nearly 11 months since I posted any of the actual trip report and photos. To remind anyone who has previously read up to this point in the story,  we are currently half way through having completed the South Luangwa  stage at Tafika and then Kaingo, and we have just landed in the Lower Zambezi Valley ..........................................

 

We were greeted by Sebastian (one of the camp guides) and set off quickly in the direction of the camp. The late afternoon sunshine and cool breeze were very pleasant and, we felt very relaxed, if a little tired, to be back in the bush again after the travelling. We opted to head for camp directly, rather than start the game drive now, and only stop if there was something of significance on the way. We would then quickly settle in and still have time for a shorter evening game drive.

 

The landscape was very different to South Luangwa, but very beautiful, with lots of large, tall trees, most being winterthorns, and then plenty of the usual bushes and smaller trees, plus some more open spaces within this forested environment. Although the grasses were dried out the leaves of the trees still added plenty of green colour to the landscape.

 

We only came across impala and baboons on the way and after about 45 minutes arrived at the camp.  We met the camp host/manager, Michelle and were given a quick orientation before heading off to our room (number 4). We had a quick sort out of our belongings, freshened up, admired our room and the view from it, and then promptly walked back to the central area to start our evening game drive as it would soon be sunset.

 

The four rooms at Old Mondoro camp are fairly typical simple bushcamp rooms, and are made of wood and reed, opening out on to decking on the side with a view, number 1 having a view of the Zambezi and the other three spaced out along the seasonal back channel. The rooms have all the typical comforts including outdoor shower and bath, sockets for charging, excellent large bed and adequate storage. However the outstanding feature of our room had to be the views looking across the back channel and into the forest beyond, which as we would soon find out presented us with some superb wildlife viewing every afternoon.

 

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The central lounge/bar/ dining area was a raised decked area overlooking the river, with a canopy and the camp fire off to one side.  This gave completely unobstructed views and the whole camp location had a wonderful remote, serene and pleasant feel to it, and as we would find out, wildlife wandered through including relaxed elephants that were regularly a feature of the camp during the daytime. 

 

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The daily schedule consisted of getting up at dawn, a quick breakfast by the camp fire, then out on a game drive until late morning. Back at the camp brunch was then served around midday, with the first half of the afternoon free, followed by a drink and a snack before the game drive started out about 4.00pm and continuing on after sunset into darkness. There were also options for getting out on to the river including an afternoon to sunset cruise, canoeing, and fishing ( although the canoeing and fishing were not actually available during our stay, but we would get to do those when we went on to Chiawa for the last leg of our trip.) The evening meals were communal which created a cosy and friendly atmosphere at such a small camp, with the guides (Marshal and Sebastian) and the managers/hosts (Michelle and her husband Reon) dining with the guests.

 

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