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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

We chose to go out on the river in the afternoon for a leisurely cruise which would last until sunset, then we would continue with the evening game drive by the landcruiser. Another guide (forgotten his name) took us out on the small power boat and we had a very relaxing time slowing down and occasionally stopping to observe and photo any birds, crocodiles or hippos as we cruised slowly down river. We were also hoping to see some elephants but only found one.  As the Zambezi, apart from being very beautiful, is very wide here (possibly a mile or more in places), there are a number of substantial islands so we could weave around some of them giving us a partly different route and view for the return leg of the cruise.

 

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Grey Heron

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Pied Kingfisher

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Burchell's Coucal

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Yellow-Billed Stork

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We moored up as the sun was dropping low and had our sundowner drinks while admiring a beautiful scenic sunset.

 

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Marshal arrived with Michelle and we set off as darkness fell. They had not seen anything of significance on the afternoon drive, so we had not missed-out by going on the river cruise. It was quite a chilly evening again and we had to search hard to find the wildlife. We did see two civets and two porcupines, and eventually luck was on our side when we came across two hyenas under a tree.

The hyenas were clearly interested by something but as the tree (more like a tall thick bush) contained very dense foliage it took a few minutes before we could see a small patch of a leopard’s coat and its tail. It obviously was not going to come down while the hyenas were there so Marshal suggested we leave and return to this spot fairly promptly in the morning.

 

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Back at camp we had a very nice dinner where we spent some time chatting with Marshal, as well as the camp host Michelle. 

 

 

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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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BRACQUENE

@Julian

 

 Could be the widest open mouth of a hippo I have ever seen and on top a  magic sunset to remember ; those river safaris are a dream and I remember vividly the ones at Musekese Camp with Phil last September  !

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Julian
11 minutes ago, BRACQUENE said:

@Julian

 

 Could be the widest open mouth of a hippo I have ever seen and on top a  magic sunset to remember ; those river safaris are a dream and I remember vividly the ones at Musekese Camp with Phil last September  !

@BRACQUENE

Thanks for  your comments. Apparently that particular hippo nearly always responds in that way if the guide brings the boat fairly close to the bank. Yes, the river cruises are definitely memorable, however the best views of the Zambezi were on the flight in, it looks really spectacular from the air when the plane gets low.

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Such beautiful pictures from Old Mondoro! Can't wait for your Chiawa trip report! For my upcoming trip in early September 2021 I allocated 5 nights to LZNP,  and even though it was a close call between Chiawa and OM, I ultimately decided to spend all of them in Chiawa (I could have divided them between Chiawa and OM, but I do not like moving - packing/unpacking, all that)...now - seeing your trip report and pictures - I wonder if that was a mistake, and I should have gone with OM instead...anyway - great trip report and great pictures!!

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Julian
9 hours ago, Rg09 said:

Such beautiful pictures from Old Mondoro! Can't wait for your Chiawa trip report! For my upcoming trip in early September 2021 I allocated 5 nights to LZNP,  and even though it was a close call between Chiawa and OM, I ultimately decided to spend all of them in Chiawa (I could have divided them between Chiawa and OM, but I do not like moving - packing/unpacking, all that)...now - seeing your trip report and pictures - I wonder if that was a mistake, and I should have gone with OM instead...anyway - great trip report and great pictures!!

@Rg09

Thanks for your comments. Chiawa is a larger camp ( 9 rooms) and therefore has more guides, vehicles, etc, but the landscape and the wildlife you are likely to see is very similar. You don’t get the wildlife views from your room that you would have at Old Mondoro but at Chiawa you also have elephants coming into the camp, and you get all the river options, including cruise, canoeing, fishing and various organised surprises, some of which you will hear about when I do the Chiawa part of the report. When I have finished the report if you think you would prefer Old Mondoro then you should be easily able to change your booking, as it is a long way off, and with both camps having the same owners it should not be a problem.

 

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Thank you, Julian! I am sure Chiawa is nice, too...and we booked a so-called "safari suite" - the one with a pool and a view (at least from what I can tell from pictures) over the river...besides, with OM being so small, I am afraid it would be all booked up by the time I decide to change my mind :)  Maybe will save OM for the next time (because from what I hear and read - Zambia is addictive!)...but thank you again - your report is much fun and very helpful (esp since I will be in all of the camps you stayed at - Kaingo, Tafika and Chiawa)...

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Julian

3rd Day at Old Mondoro

 

We set off after a quick breakfast heading towards the location of the leopard we saw the evening before. It was a very pleasant bright morning and with the low sunlight lighting up the landscape. 

 

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Quelea??

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It did not take long to reach the location but the leopard was not in the tree. After driving slowly round nearby bushes we eventually spotted her, well hidden. We watched her for a while hoping she would move and luckily she came out into the open before settling down again into some more bushes close by. However this time we could see her very clearly. A few minutes later she decided to move off again so we decided to move on.

 

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Marshal suggested we search for some lions but there was no sign of them, so after a while we stopped at a very nice spot for a coffee break.  

 

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After this we went back to see if the leopard was still about and she was back up in the tree with her kill. As the morning progressed more wildlife appeared including warthogs, buffalo, waterbuck, kudu, impala and a great egret.

 

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Nearer to the camp some elephants in the distance were crossing an open plain.

 

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Back at camp it was time for another good lunch and then watching the wildlife from our room and veranda over the following couple of hours.

 

 

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BRACQUENE

I love that leopard sequence @Julian and the beauty of the landscape and the animals integrated in that part of the Lower Zambezi around Old Mondoro is absolutely stunning !

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Julian
4 hours ago, BRACQUENE said:

I love that leopard sequence @Julian and the beauty of the landscape and the animals integrated in that part of the Lower Zambezi around Old Mondoro is absolutely stunning !

Thanks. The mix of species grazing and browsing so close together and usually appearing very relaxed was something I thought seemed quite unusual.  When the beauty of the forested landscape is added, it made me think of when I was a very young child and first read about African wildlife or the jungle and had images in my mind of all the wildlife species being together in the landscape.

 

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BRACQUENE

@Julian

You could not have said it with more eloquence ; My first impressions to be honest came when seeing Disney's "Jungle Book "in primary school  in 1967 at the local cinema  in my home town , even if it is a cartoon of course and may be a bit dated nowadays !

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Julian

With less than 24 hours left at this camp we were feeling slightly disappointed regarding the lack of sightings of leopards (just the one leopard) and lions (again just the one male on the first evening). However that was about to change considerably on our final two drives here at Old Mondoro.

 

The weather had turned out very warm this afternoon and about 4.00pm we set off on our next drive. On each afternoon/evening drive we had a spotter with us as well as our guide Marshal, and we were only a few minutes into the drive when our spotter saw something on the ground. Marshal stopped and turned off the track and a few yards away were..................................two mating snakes (definitely a first for us). Marshal and the spotter were unclear as to exactly which species of snake these were – either a cobra or a mamba.

 

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An interesting start and it made us feel optimistic about what we might see.  We initially spotted the usual mix of game including impala, baboons and kudu.

 

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After a while we headed further north, away from the river, and soon found a few zebra (not many in Lower Zambezi NP. Next we watched a group of waterbuck moving towards the top of a hillside.

 

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We then went back to the area where we had seen the leopard previously and had a brief glimpse of the same leopard again, before moving on and finding more kudu and waterbuck, impala, a zebra having a dust bath, a few vultures, one elephant and a sleeping hyena.

 

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It was then time for our sundowners with another beautiful sunset.

 

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Not long afterwards we stopped by an area of long dense grass, where a vehicle from another camp was parked. Marshal told us that there was a female leopard with two seven months old cubs somewhere in the grass. We decided we would wait here and hope the leopards would come out.

 

After a while the other vehicle left but we decided to stay on, and our patience was rewarded a few minutes later as a male cub came out and decided to investigate our vehicle and then sat down next to it, calling for his mother and sister.  The sister did eventually appear but only very briefly before retreating into the grass. The mother also showed herself but only for a few seconds, enough time for the male cub to realise he needed to be back in the cover of the dense grass. Unfortunately we did not get any decent photos of the female cub or the mother, but we did get some of the male cub.

 

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After that it was time to return to camp. On the way back we spotted two civets and two honey badgers, and not far from camp we had a brief sighting of a male leopard, making a total of five leopards on this game drive.

 

When we arrived back at camp instead of dropping us off at the central camp area we were taken our room, and as we entered realised there was a surprise, a table set out on our veranda as the camp had organised a private dinner for the two of us, as a belated birthday present for Rachel. A very nice end to the day.

 

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BRACQUENE

What a great surprise for Rachel’s birthday @Julian ; we should definitely consider Old Mondoro even if the more recent Tusk and Mane is still our favorite when we will visit the Lower Zambezi 

As for the mating snakes I would instinctively have said  mambas but I am not sure at all !

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Julian

Morning game drive at Old Mondoro then transfer by boat to Chiawa camp

 

As we would be transferring to Chiawa before midday the game drive this morning would be shorter. The plan was to go back to where we saw the leopard and her two cubs yesterday evening, but we had only driven for a few minutes  when we came into a clearing where there were three lions feeding on a buffalo. These were the three males that we had heard calling (but only seen one of them) on the first evening. Not surprisingly they had been named - Blackie, Blondie and Robbie.

 

They had taken the adult buffalo during the night and after a few minutes we realised that they had also taken a calf which they had dragged under a nearby tree.  The sun had only just risen and with clear skies the low light beaming through the trees into this ‘arena’ was superb for taking photos.

 

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After a few minutes I decided to start filming them, as it was obvious they were going to continue feeding, and with the excellent light and being in close proximity to them it was an excellent opportunity to create a longer video than I would normally attempt.

 

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Two jackals, the first we had seen in Lower Zambezi, were waiting nearby for a chance to grab a meal. We continued to watch the lions and photograph them for a total of about 45 minutes, before we set off again.

 

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Julian

When we arrived at the area where we previously saw the leopards we looked very carefully but there was no sign of them, and were just about to move on when Marshal spotted them on the far side of a gully. The mother and two cubs were walking along together, with the male cub being the most curious again, this time coming to sit down on a bough of a tree close to us.

 

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The mother and female cub were reluctant to come close and headed off along and up the far side of the gully, with the male cub joining them.

 

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After that we headed back to camp, stopping briefly to watch a herd of buffalo and then a group of zebra on the plains.

 

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Close to camp we came to the large open area where the lions were feeding earlier. One of the jackals had managed to get a piece of the carcass and some vultures were squabbling over some scraps. Two of the lions had retreated into the shade, by the tree where the buffalo calf had been cached, but the other lion remained out in the open looking rather exhausted and clearly in need of some sleep.

 

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Back in the camp we said our farewells to Michelle the camp manager and Marshal our guide, then to the other guest Michelle, who was with us on the game drives, and was now going to Kaingo. Old Mondoro had been a fantastic start for her first ever safari.  We had really enjoyed staying at this camp and although the wildlife viewing was a bit slow at times, the last 24 hours had made all the difference, with the five leopard sightings, and finally getting some good views of the cubs, and then the three adult male lions feeding on the buffalo at sunrise.

 

We set off at speed on the boat for our river transfer to Chiawa camp.

 

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Julian

There will now be a pause for about  two weeks (hopefully no longer and possibly shorter) before I begin posting about our last camp on this trip, as I have to reduce/edit all the photos we took at Chiawa.

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OM certainly sent you off in style @Julian

Your images of the park itself are wonderful.

Looking forward to Chiawa.

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Julian
12 hours ago, mopsy said:

OM certainly sent you off in style @Julian

Your images of the park itself are wonderful.

Looking forward to Chiawa.

@mopsy

Thanks. The last 24 hours really made a huge difference to our wildlife experience there, which made me realise how important it is to spend enough time at each camp. In future we will probably stay a minimum of four days , and preferably five days at each camp we go to. It will of course mean less camps/ locations per safari but our chances of seeing a wider range of wildlife experiences will increase, providing we choose very carefully where we stay. When we arrived at Old Mondoro we discovered that Aardvark had been seen eleven times so far that season on the evening drives (which I worked out to about once every four days), so I think we might have seen one if we had stayed a day or two longer. However there is always the element of luck, a family  who were there a week or so earlier on their first safari had a sighting of a pangolin in the daytime.

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BRACQUENE

@Julian

 

Totally agree with you on the 4 to 5 night minimum in a camp when possible ; In Tanzania Ruaha we did  5 nights Mwagusi and 5 Kichaka Expeditions and  the sightings were incredible !

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@Julian

I started reading your trip report again right from the beginning. It provides so much information and details. I can hardly wait to see the Lower Zambezi for myself. 

Beautiful photos, I very much love the beauty of the landscapes also from the South Luangwa valley. 

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Julian

@Athene

Thank you very much. With regard to the landscapes, don’t forget that for all sub-Saharan African countries the landscape usually looks vastly different depending upon the time of the year. When we went in July Zambia still had plenty of vegetation and colour. By September and October it would be a much ‘browner’ landscape.

I was  amazed at how different southern Tanzania (Selous and Ruaha) was in October( very dry  and arid when I was there) in comparison to a Trip Report posted from someone who went in January/ February (incredibly lush green growth everywhere) .

 

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Towlersonsafari

Splendid  report @Julian we really loved our time in the Lower Zambezi  and your report brings it all back

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Julian

@Towlersonsafari

Thank you. Still Chiawa section to produce, when I have edited those photos. Haven’t started on those photos yet as I needed to use the opportunity of the sunny dry weather we had last week to do the garden/lawn/pond jobs. Still a few more outside jobs, after which  I’ll make the most of this lockdown time to get the report finished.

 

 

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You are right @Julian, the landscape is much more beautiful when it is still green. It is a good reason to visit Africa also in the rainy season or after the rains.

Ruaha and Selous are on our list this year in June but we probably have to cancel it. 

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Julian

For those of you following this trip report, I realise the ‘two weeks pause for me to edit the Chiawa photos’ before I continue with the last section of this report has now passed. I have to admit I have not yet started on the photos as the lockdown and sudden improvement in the weather here in the south of the UK has enabled me to do all the springtime gardening/pond jobs earlier than usual, and has made us decide, due to our regular home cleaners not being able to work, to use the lockdown opportunity to have a real cleaning blitz through the house, which is now more than halfway done. 
So I think a more realistic resumption date for this report will be the beginning of next month. Many thanks for all those of you who have shown an interest in this report so far.

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  • 1 month later...
Julian

Just to let those of you who have been following this report know, I haven’t forgotten about this, I am halfway through reducing and editing the photos for the last section of this report, at Chiawa. 
I am determined to finish this report as the photos I post on here are mostly the ones that determine what we put  in our photo books of our trips.

So , if I’m realistic, I expect it will be the end of June  by the time.  I finish  editing the photos, and therefore commence posting the last section at the beginning of July.

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