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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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BRACQUENE

@JulianThanks a lot for the info looking out for the next post and  I certainly didn’t forget it !

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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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offshorebirder

Take your time @Julian - I know what a chore sorting + processing photos can be.    This is a delightful TR and we need to space out these dwindling reports due to travel bans.

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  • 2 months later...
Julian

I am finally starting the last section of this trip report......

 

It was a very pleasant boat journey in bright sunshine which took well over an hour even though we appeared to be travelling very fast all the time. As expected, there were staff to greet us on arrival and it immediately became obvious that this was a more substantial camp set in woodland overlooking the Zambezi.  Guests are not able to leave their room or return to their room without being escorted, as elephants are frequently wandering through and browsing (sometimes on tamarind pods) in the forested camp grounds. 

We were quickly introduced to Simon, the camp manager, who was very welcoming as were the other managers, staff, guides and spotters.  We had a number of excellent guides during our stay including Moses, Chris and Spencer, and Boaz who was a highly experienced outstanding guide.

The rooms are large and comfortable, with electric lighting and sockets, and include indoor and outdoor showers plus a bath.  From inside our room as well as out on the veranda we could watch elephants as they crossed a nearby channel and walked towards and past our room.

 

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Julian

 

The camp is relatively large (9 rooms, 20 guests), but it still has a similar feel to the smaller camps we are more used to staying in. The meals are served communally, although 2 or 3 tables are used with one or more guides/managers hosting each table. The food was very good with lunch and evening meals usually in the dining room, and breakfast round the camp fire before departing for your morning activity.

 

In addition to the usual game drives other options included river cruises, canoeing and fishing. Also as we discovered very quickly (less than an hour after arriving), surprise ‘experiences’ would happen on several occasions during our stay.

 

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Julian

 

Shortly after we arrived it was time for lunch so we were escorted back to the central camp area where Simon was waiting to inform us that we would be having our lunch elsewhere – the first of our surprise experiences -we would be having lunch out on a boat on the Zambezi. So we were out on the river again, with a two-man crew to steer the boat and serve us lunch. Pity the weather was not suited to cruising – completely overcast skies with a strong cold wind – but it was still a nice surprise.

 

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When we returned to camp we watched some elephants that were moving along the river edge.

 

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After that we only had a short time back in the room before going to the lounge area for ‘afternoon tea’ (drinks/cakes/snacks) prior to our afternoon/evening game drive. For the first three of our four days here we would be sharing our game drives with another easygoing UK couple, Janette and Brendan, who were probably of similar ages to us, had also been on several safaris, and liked seeing all the wildlife, which made the game drives feel easygoing.

 

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Julian

The afternoon drive started with plenty of elephants appearing, including a couple of bull elephants shortly after seeing the family. Boaz, our guide this afternoon, suggested we spend some time looking for a leopard and cubs which had been seen earlier in the day, but without any luck. The rest of the drive including the time in darkness was uneventful, possibly caused by the unusually cold weather. 

 

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Upon returning to camp we had to drive in via a back route by the camp kitchen and staff area as elephants were in the camp by the main entrance. A very nice evening meal followed with lively conversation with a few other guests and staff round the same table. It had seemed to be a very long day and it hardly seemed possible that shortly after sunrise that morning we were still at Old Mondoro watching three adult male lions feeding on a buffalo. Maybe the weather would improve tomorrow.....

 

 

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I am glad you carry on with your trip report @Julian.

Looking very much forward to Chiawa and Old Mondoro next September. Hopefully it can happen and also your upcoming trip to Uganda and Zimbabwe.

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Julian
37 minutes ago, Athene said:

I am glad you carry on with your trip report @Julian.

Looking very much forward to Chiawa and Old Mondoro next September. Hopefully it can happen and also your upcoming trip to Uganda and Zimbabwe.


Thanks @Athene

This trip report will be completed soon. I know I have said this a few times while producing it but the difference now is I have the time to steadily complete it. Uganda/Zimbabwe trip - moving it back to Sept 21 was the sensible thing to do , but now not so certain that the virus situation won’t delay it further still. Fingers crossed .......

 

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we are waiting.......

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Julian
10 hours ago, marg said:

we are waiting.......

@marg

I started posting again yesterday if you scroll up the page, intend to post more today,

 

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BRACQUENE

@Julian

 

I can assure you that it was worthwhile to wait a few months for the continuation of this splendid TR ; in the meantime , impressed by the scenery in your pictures , I booked my next safari to the Lower Zambezi with my family ( Tusk and Mane ) which we will combine with the other side of the Zambezi , Mana Pools , in July 2021 ( hopefully ) 

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Julian

2nd Day at Chiawa

 

We had our wakeup call at about 5.30 each day, still dark, with breakfast ready at the camp fire area from 6.00. Breakfast only took about 15 to 20 minutes as everyone was keen to get out. We left the camp just as sunrise began. Five minutes later we stopped very briefly at an excellent viewing point to get a quick sunrise photo.

 

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We had only been driving for a few minutes when Janette shouted stop ... leopard.  She had spotted a leopard stalking down a slope. The leopard disappeared into some bushes after we had a good look at her. Our guide Boaz had spotted some impala which he thought the leopard might be hunting and so he drove round the bushes and stopped, and we waited to see if she would come out, which she did. However although she was looking at the impala she didn’t seem that interested, even when they moved a bit closer to her, so we eventually left her to hunt in peace and see what else we could find.

 

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Julian

 

Boaz then received a call on the radio to say some others had found a group of lions not far from our location. It was a group of five lions, a mix of adult, sub-adult and one cub. We watched them for quite a while as they were settling down.

 

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The weather had become considerably warmer today and the skies were gradually clearing. Around mid morning we spotted a small group of elephants in a heavily forested area.

 

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After taking a few photos of them we did not see much else other than baboons, impala and the occasional bird including a white fronted bee-eater and a fiscal.

 

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Julian

 

When we arrived back at camp we had to wait in one of the lounge areas as a large bull elephant was strolling through the main camp area – until it found a tamarind tree, which it shook hard and a few pods dropped. It promptly ate the pods and then slowly strolled back out of the camp.

 

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After a nice lunch we went back to our room and did the necessary tasks – which usually included a quick clean of camera lenses, charge batteries, shower and get ready for our afternoon/evening activity. We also spent some time watching elephants from our veranda.

 

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This afternoon we had opted to go fishing (catch and release fishing), with me doing the fishing and Rachel enjoying the sunshine and views, and taking some photos while were out on the fishing boat. This would only last for under two hours, as we would then meet our colleagues in the vehicle for sundowners and the evening part of the game drive.

 

It had turned into a glorious very warm and sunny afternoon and so it felt really nice being out on the Zambezi. Our fishing guide had the rods and other tackle and he decided where we should stop and begin fishing. The main species fished for in the lower Zambezi are tiger fish but they would be unlikely to get caught at this time of the year, so our target fish was to be vundu (a species of catfish) which can go grow very large. What made this fishing unusual was the bait they used – a chunk of rich blue coloured soap - the sort of soap that used to be common over half a century ago. I assume it is used because the soap is made from animal fat, and catfish hunt by smell.

 

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The time passed very quickly but I did manage to hook a vundu. It was very powerful and had taken a lot of line, but I gradually brought it closer until the fish managed to get the line around a floating ‘raft’ – a log with reeds on it.

 

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Unfortunately the fish freed itself and left the hook embedded in the raft, so no fish caught but at least I felt the power of a large vundu. Our colleagues arrived in the vehicle shortly before sunset and we took a few photos while having our sundowners and then set off as darkness fell.

 

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We found the five lions again but this time they were up and walking purposefully. We hoped we could follow them but they soon disappeared into a thicket, so we continued on our way. The usual small wildlife – genets and mongooses - were all we spotted for the remainder of the drive. (Didn’t manage to get any decent photos from the evening drive).

 

Back in the camp we had another very nice dinner, drinks and chatting with staff and guests round our table.

 

 

 

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19 minutes ago, Athene said:

Lovely landscape pictures @Julian.

I would love to be there now.

 

@Athene

Thanks, I will be posting some more of the report in the next half hour.

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3rd Day at Chiawa

 

The warmer weather and sunshine meant we felt more optimistic today as we left the camp. Boaz suggested we have another look for the lions and as we started the drive more wildlife began to appear. First to put in an appearance was a bushbuck, next a hyena.

 

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Then there were several occasions to photograph birds including a crested guinea fowl, an ibis and a hoopoe.

 

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Soon after that we came to a scenic woodland area where there were quite a large number of baboons mixed in with impala. Some of the baboons began to get agitated about something and crossed over a shallow swampy patch and into a dense thicket area.

 

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We moved on and Boaz found some lion tracks which we followed. However there was no sign of lions but Boaz was convinced they were around this location as the tracks were heading this way. We doubled back on the route and Boaz indicated where the lion tracks disappeared, switched the engine off and we sat in near silence for a few minutes. We were just about to give up waiting when there was a very faint snorting growl.

 

We drove off the track and headed very slowly into the bush.  A couple of minutes later he found the same lions we saw previously but this time they were feeding on a kill – a porcupine – so there was a bit of arguing over the meal as it is obviously not much for five lions. We watched them for a while and they all eventually had a share.

 

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We moved on and passed by an elephant and then another waterbuck as we made our way to a pleasant open area by water so we could stop for a break and stretch our legs.

 

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After that we were hoping for a chance of another leopard sighting, but without any luck, so eventually we made our way back towards the camp. We were only a few minutes from camp when there was a call on the radio from another guide about a leopard sighting some distance from us, so Boaz turned the vehicle round and we set off quickly to the location.

 

When we arrived there were a few vehicles there (three I think), but we were able to have a good sighting of the leopard for a few minutes. However the leopard seemed to be getting bothered by all the attention and suddenly jumped up and into a tree, at which point we decided to leave. (This was the same leopard we saw previously).

 

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Back in camp we had a nice lunch and back at our room there was another opportunity to watch a few elephants, including a fairly large bull climbing up the embankment and making its way towards us and then past our room.

 

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Edited by Julian
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This afternoon we had chosen to go canoeing. The weather was ideal, bright sunshine, clear blue skies and little breeze. First of all we all set off on the river by boat.

 

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There were eight of us going canoeing (the other six were a family group also from the UK).  About twenty minutes later we arrived at the location where the canoes and guides were waiting for us.

 

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One of the canoe guides gave us a very detailed and serious clear talk about what we must do in the event of various problems happening, the worst being if the boat is attacked by a hippo.  This made us a bit less relaxed but made absolutely sure we knew what to do. The canoes either held two or three persons, one of those persons in each canoe being the guide who paddled the canoe, so we just had to relax and enjoy the scenery, once we had all put our life jackets on and managed to get in our canoes and sat down.

 

The first part of the journey was on the main river but after a short while we turned off into one of the back channels. 

 

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A few minutes along the channel and everything became beautifully serene, the blue skies, the forested landscape either side, and the warmth of the sun as we glided almost silently along the river. Wildlife began to appear on the banks - baboons, crocodiles, warthogs, and further on browsing elephants watched us go by as we watched them. It was so blissfully peaceful and we felt completely chilled out. Soon the sun was dropping lower in the sky as sunset approached.

 

 

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Eventually we saw a boat moored in the distance and realised this was the end of this experience.  (We would highly recommend this to anyone considering canoeing on the lower Zambezi).

 

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We had our sundowners on the boat and then climbed into our vehicles for the evening part of our game drive. One of the guides had found a leopard and so we drove to the location. By the time we arrived there were already three other vehicles there. After a few minutes it was clear that the leopard wanted to start hunting so the guides decided we should all leave her alone. However we still had a great sighting of her, as when the vehicles were leaving she stood up she stood up and walked right past our vehicle – probably just five or six feet away. (Unfortunately no usable night-time photos again).

 

When we arrived back at camp Rachel and I were ushered quietly away from the rest of the guests and down to where the boats are moored. We were taken out on one of the boats and then out on to the middle of the river – maybe 200 yards from camp – the anchor was dropped. This was another surprise – for Rachel’s birthday a celebration dinner for us.

 

The two staff then left us alone on the boat, with a radio – for when we were ready for our main course, and again when were ready for dessert. Our starters and drinks (water plus bottles of red and white wine) were already on the boat.  About twenty minutes later we radioed for the main course which was promptly brought out on another boat. Later when we radioed for dessert a boat appeared all lit up with lots of staff on it who were all singing and bearing a birthday cake. This was all good fun and a really different way to celebrate Rachel’s birthday, a great finish to a really nice day.

 

 

 

Edited by Julian
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@Julian Beautiful leopard and scenery pictures. Indeed, gliding along the Zambezi in the canoes looks very peaceful.

In Botswana we had a ride in a mokoro and came close to a hippo which was very aggressive. I am not sure if a go in a mokoro or canoe again:rolleyes:.

 

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Towlersonsafari

wonderful report @Julian we had the evening meal on the boat experience-it was lovely but also we couldn't stop pretending to be pirates.well one of us couldn't. what impressed us about both Old mondoro and chiawa was how friendly and helpful all the staff were, a kind of understated confidence, and of course the stunning scenery

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35 minutes ago, Towlersonsafari said:

wonderful report @Julian we had the evening meal on the boat experience-it was lovely but also we couldn't stop pretending to be pirates.well one of us couldn't. what impressed us about both Old mondoro and chiawa was how friendly and helpful all the staff were, a kind of understated confidence, and of course the stunning scenery

@Towlersonsafari

Thanks, I agree re the staff. However the most helpful and friendly staff of all we have encountered were the Asilia staff at the two camps of theirs that we have stayed at (Namiri Plains and Highlands).

Also, forgot this one, should add that by far the best staff overall experience we had was staying at Mwagusi in Ruaha.

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I have edited a a few sections of my recent posts to remove duplicated photos and photos which appeared at the end of a couple of the posted sections. Not sure why this happpened but I think it is now all as I intended it to be .

 

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4th Day at Chiawa

 

Boaz suggested we go to a different part of the park this morning, as a leopard was seen in that area yesterday. We would be travelling west, near to the park boundary, but first we stopped very briefly at the viewing point to watch the sun rising, and just after that we had a good sighting of a southern ground hornbill.

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We didn’t manage to find a leopard at the location but we did find five lions resting in the morning sunshine. Boaz told us these five lions had broken away fairly recently from the other five lions we had seen previously (ie originally a pride of ten). This group of five males were all fairly young – four sub-adults and the fifth one probably only a year old. Their manes were only just beginning to grow.

 

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Although they were resting and looked like they were about to fall asleep they did immediately notice a herd of buffalo that appeared a couple of hundred yards away. After a while Boaz suggested we take a closer look at the buffalo herd and see if the lions become interested.

 

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While we were watching the buffalo herd, which contained several calves, we also kept a close eye on the lions in the distance. The buffalo did not seem to notice the lions and continued grazing while moving down into a wide gully among the rocks towards a channel of water with a large island.

 

As soon as they were out of the line-of-sight of the lions each lion slowly stood up and started to move towards the buffalo. Their coats blended perfectly into the background as they slowly came closer.

 

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One of them seemed to be the leader and Boaz then told us that one would lead the hunt, with the others following, except for the youngster who would not join in the hunt. The leader now parallel to us was poised ready. I glanced towards the buffalo then back to the leading lion – he had moved down the gully with the others following, and at that point the buffalo had seen the lions. 

 

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Suddenly everything happened at once, it became chaotic. The buffalo panicked and seemed to be running in all directions, snorting loudly, with clouds of dust everywhere. Some were chasing the lions off, but we could not see the lion leader as the bushes obscured our view.

 

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Boaz suddenly exclaimed – he’s got one, we need to move (no idea how Boaz knew as we could not see through the dense bushes). So we very quickly moved round to the other side of the gully.

The four lions were carefully lifting their kill, a buffalo calf, out of a sort of ditch. I marveled at the teamwork they were using to do this in order move the calf to a flat open space where they could eat it.

 

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They kept looking back towards the buffalo herd, expecting the buffalo to chase them off their kill, but the herd had disappeared in a cloud of dust chasing the young lion off. Was the young lion’s role to act as a decoy? Did he deliberately encourage the herd to chase him off so the others could deal with the kill?

 

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