Jump to content

South Luangwa August 2018


Recommended Posts


Hello Safaritalkers,

I have just gotten back from a 8 night trip to South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

Over the years I have enjoyed reading reports written by so many fellow safaritalkers but I haven't contributed much to the community. I had started writing a TR or two but soon they fizzled out before  completion. With that pre-amble here it goes.


17th August: Mumbai- Lusaka via Nairobi

17th August Overnight stay at Cresta Golf View, Lusaka

18th August Proflight 0730 Lusaka-Mfuwe

18th August to 23rd August Stay at Zikomo safari camp, Nsefu sector

23rd August Transfer to Nkonzi camp (Located in central part of the park but towards west, well away from Luangwa river)

23rd August to 26th August Stay at Nkonzi Camp

26th August Mfuwe to Lusaka at 1240

26th August Lusaka to Mumbai via Nairobi


Since I stay 300 km south of Mumbai city in a small town, as usual getting anywhere requires a travel to the big city. This travel has always been a painful experience with bad congested roads and taking upto 6 hours of driving. This year the monsoon has been in full force and the road to Mumbai has become a total disaster. The road is getting 4 laned with several overbridges and bypasses. As a result there has been no maintenance of the old road!

To avoid the torture I booked myself on train to Mumbai. I booked the new "Tejas express". I was in for a surprise. A pleasant one at that!

Tejas Express:

AC, Reclining seats with individual screens, huge panoramic windows, spotlessly clean and courteous service!



Beauty of Konkan in monsoon was on full display!



I reached Mumbai on time. Got a Uber to my brother in law's place in Bandra. Everything is looking good.

At 10 pm I got a call from Kenya Airways. "Your flight has been delayed sir!"By how much?" I asked. "By 2 1/2 hours" was the answer I got. Instead of 0630 it was now scheduled to leave at 0900! I panicked. The layover in Nairobi between connections was 3 hours. Now it was down to 30 minutes. When I asked if I will get my connection, "Airport staff will advise you" was the answer.

I reached airport 0530 only to find myself to be the first person checking in at Kenya airways counter. The person checking me in assured me that flying time is reduced by 45 minutes (what? different aircraft? or the pilot is going to floor the accelerator?) and that I will make it for my flight to Lusaka! Some relief though I didn't fully believe her, I accepted my boarding passes gratefully. 

I headed to the lounge where I spend next few hours eating, reading, watching people and getting frustrated in general. The lounge is a decent place though to spend a couple of hours. Too glitzy though.







Finally I got onto the aircraft.

Reached Nairobi airspace with 1 hour to spare for the next flight when the aircraft started making usual circles in air, sending my anxiety into stratosphere.

After landing, I rushed through the transfer, managing to lose my belt at the X Ray counter. (I am going to stop wearing belt on aircraft from now onwards). Had a interesting chat with airline staff when lady there refused to accept my "Visa approval letter from Zambian Government website". "where is your visa? She kept on asking. I got her to get her supervisor who dismissed her query and waived me on. Of course no apologies from her. Kenya airways is bloody convenient but absolutely useless in terms of customer service. Bu their own admission, their on time performance is 40% (I got the info from the backseat display of the aircraft :-)) 

Finally reached Lusaka, got my bag (a big relief), purchased sim card from MTN kiosk for my mobile phone. Got out of the airport only to find absence of any welcome party what so ever. After milling about for 15-20 minutes and getting offers of drop to the hotel at "only $25" , I finally found the driver from Cresta who apologised profusely for having forgotten the placard with my name on it (I forgot it at the hotel!).

The driver was nice enough though. A quick transfer to Cresta, settled in my room, changed phone sim cards, called up my wife and promptly went off to sleep. Big day tomorrow!


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Great start!  I enjoyed the preamble and am looking forward to more.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


18th August 2018

I woke up at 0530 and in the lobby at 0600. The reception handed me a packed breakfast (as requested the previous night) and soon I was dropped at the airport by the hotel shuttle.

I had purchased additional "bundle" for extra baggage so there was no hassle at the Proflight check in counter. I handed my check in bag and kept my camera bag(s). Just I was boarding the aircraft, I handed over my large camera bag which was  put in the hold (on top of other bags)  in front of my eyes. So no worries there. The flight was on time and there was even a small "service" of juice, water and a small piece of bread.

We landed in Mfuwe on time. A person from Zikomo  Camp was right there at the arrivals who picked my luggage and we got into an old open landcruiser for my transfer to Zikomo.

Line of camp vehicles in Mufwe airport parking



Mfuwe to Zikomo involved travelling for good 1.5 hours. First it was asphalt road upto Mfuwe village then a right turn onto a gravel road towards Nsefu sector. The travel also included crossing 2 (dry) rivers, requiring 4x4. Since there are no bridges, this road becomes unusable during wet season.

We reached Zikomo camp at 1100 (which in Nyanja means "Thank you"), but not before experiencing some hospitality from a few tse tse flies. They made sure that I realised that I had arrived in Africa.


At Zikomo I was welcomed by Victoria, the owner, manager, trouble shooter, guest relations person all rolled in one. After tragic loss of her son in February, Victoria is practically running the camp all by herself with the help of her Zambian staff. She showed me around the camp, explained where all things were, the safari timings etc. "If there is anything wrong e.g. no water in shower, please tell me immediately so that I can get it fixed quickly"! Music to my ears.


After a quick shower and lunch followed by unpacking/ assembling camera gear, it was time for afternoon tea/cake followed by game drive.

Julius introduced himself as our guide (Apart from me, there was a nice Dutch family- Parents with 17 year old boy and well, a not so nice American lady).  We left at 1600, entering the Nsefu sector (where all the game drives are conducted) by Zikomo's private entrance.

Julius turned out to be a very experienced guide, having worked for Robin Pope Safari's Tena tena and Nsefu camps for well over 10 years. 

Drive started with usual suspects: Impalas, Pukus and birds.


Hadeda Ibis




Julius drove us to one of the oxbow lagoons with dwindling levels of water. 

Soon some elephants decided to cross the lagoon..



Mother and calf





After the elephants left, we moved on, coming across a big herd of buffaloes. (close to 100 animal strong)




A few Dagga boys





Buffalo watching was followed by some sundowners on the banks of Luangwa. I am not on safari till I have had a G&T!

This was followed by SLNP special: Spotlit game drive.

Since NSefu sector has very few camps, there was hardly any traffic. Just 2 more vehicles out, one from Zikomo and one from Tena Tena.


First of many good sightings!



This male put on a nice show as he "sawed" his way through the evening.

Another individual, backlit by spotlight from another vehicle.




2 leopards on my first evening! This couldn't get any better, could it?





Spectacular sighting of Pel's Fishing Owl perched on a dead tree on the banks of the Luangwa river.


With that in the bag, I was ready to call in the night.

We were back in camp at 1945. Dinner at 2000 followed by good night!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thanks for this trip report, @vikramghanekar.    Excellent photos and I appreciate the travel details.  


What at a great first game drive  - a vocalizing male leopard and a Pel’s Fishing-Owl!


I noted they took your camera bag from you and stowed it in the hold - is that normal?   Mandatory?   I would be concerned about that and am starting to plan a future Zambia trip so that is a point of interest.


thanks again for this report.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 minutes ago, offshorebirder said:

Thanks for this trip report, @vikramghanekar.    Excellent photos and I appreciate the travel details.  


What at a great first game drive  - a vocalizing male leopard and a Pel’s Fishing-Owl!


I noted they took your camera bag from you and stowed it in the hold - is that normal?   Mandatory?   I would be concerned about that and am starting to plan a future Zambia trip so that is a point of interest.


thanks again for this report.

Thank you.

The camera bag was too big to fit in the overhead locker in the cabin. So when I was actually boarding (just before climbing that tiny ladder into the aircraft), I handed over the bag to the attendants loading the hold. I waited till the bag was kept inside the hold and the door was locked shut. So no worries.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Glad you had a good time. I enjoyed your photos in the Mana report much. I'm happy you are doing this trip report. I'll have now pictures to look forward to.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice one on getting a the Pels!
And that backlit leopard is awesome.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting about the camera bag. We took that same Proflight trip and we just stuffed the camera bags under our feet. Not exactly under the seat as they didn't quite fit, but no one said a word and we noted others did the same.  No one asked us to put them in the hold.


Anyway great start, we saw Zikomo vehicles a few times while staying at Tena Tena. Sorry I'll have to catch up with the rest of the report at the end, as I am leaving today for a few weeks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


@anocn4 @Big_Dog Thank you!


@janzin Yes, I could have done the same thing and no one would have bothered. But I had 2 bags. The smaller one went under the seat and larger one went into the hold. I had gone a little overboard with my cameras.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

Thanks for this trip report, @vikramghanekar.    Excellent photos and I appreciate the travel details.  


What at a great first game drive  - a vocalizing male leopard and a Pel’s Fishing-Owl!


I noted they took your camera bag from you and stowed it in the hold - is that normal?   Mandatory?   I would be concerned about that and am starting to plan a future Zambia trip so that is a point of interest.


thanks again for this report.

Those flights within Zambia are with small planes, often 30 seater planes or smaller. Often times people stow their handluggage in a compartment in the back, or like he did with the rest of the luggage. You walk out to the plane in Lusaka, and walk off again in Mfuwe. You can see where everything goes and can keep an eye on your stuff the whole time, I wouldn't worry (in fact I did never worry) about my luggage on those legs, not even about laptops, camera gear etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Day 2

As pointed out by @janzin, the morning started with a breakfast porridge/toast/fruits etc. around fire which meant the sun was already up when we left for morning drive. Fortunately, this changed from day 3 as you would see.

The drive started slowly, the sky was overcast with clouds. However, that made for a spectacular sunrise.

I have uploaded video to youtube. Please let me know if the link works.

The birds on the ground (not very clear in the video) are Guinea Fowl. I had never seen so many of them together!


Morning drive, Zikomo Camp, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia


Soon we came across a breeding herd of elephants.

2 babies in the herd were really cute. In fact I saw many young elephant calves on this trip throughout the park.



Warthogs were everywhere with a lot of babies too! But most would run away before I got a chance to photograph.

This one individual was quite busy feeding though.



Soon we reached one of the many oxbow lagoons which was drying up fast, attracting huge number of birds and animals.

A saddle billed stork.



We were trying to locate the Nsefu pride. It was seen feeding on a hippo carcass a day before.

Soon we reached the spot where lions were seen yesterday.

One lioness was resting on the warm sand of the dry riverbed.



Julius manoeuvred the vehicle close to the river bank in order to take a close look at the hippo carcass. 

Sure enough, another lioness was feeding on the dead and almost finished hippo.






Vultures were waiting patiently nearby. Some of them were sitting flat with their bellies on sand. ?A way to warm up



Soon the lioness finished eating and left to join rest of the pride members. A cue for the vultures to make their move.




Display of dominance- White backed vulture.

The lone marabou stork had no chance of getting to the carcass with all those vultures dominating the scene.




Finally some guests in the vehicle had had enough of the special aroma wafting through the air and begged to leave. ( well begged is just an expression. A big show of covering nose and all sort of noises from a not so nice American lady meant the nice Dutch family and me had enjoyed the sighting long enough.)


We made our way inland to another lagoon, only to find a huge herd of buffaloes coming down to drink.



After the left, a nice bull elephant made an appearance.



It was now starting to get quite hot and we made our way back to the camp.

Zikomo has an early lunch policy (1130 am) which I really liked. This meant we would remain out till 1100 am, come back, drop camera gear in the room and have lunch straightaway. This allowed a nice big gap till 1530 for a nice long siesta. Some camps do breakfast at 10:00

and then lunch at 13:00. I preferred Zikomo's policy.

Evening drive started at 1600 hours after tea and cake.

Just outside the camp, this handsome male puku was enjoying his sunbath.



Pukus are really strange antelopes. In the heat of mid day, all other animals would seek shade while Pukus will be sitting in open riverbed, seemingly enjoying the hot sun!


A troupe of baboons out foraging. 



I saw huge troops of baboons in the Nsefu sector, each troupe almost always more than 30-40 animal strong. In the main section of the park, they were much less in number and in smaller troupes. I wonder if it has to do with predator densities especially wild dogs. I asked the guide if dogs hunt baboons. He was not very sure. I remember in Mana Pools, baboons were a big item on the dogs' menu.


A small herd of buffaloes having last drink before settling for the night



Soon it was time for a sundowners and obligatory G&T for me. Sunset was spectacular.



Spotlight night drive yielded a few hyenas, genets (many but too shy for a photograph) and leopard.





We returned to the camp at 1945, straight to dinner at 20:00 before calling it a night at 2200.

Over dinner I had a discussion with my vehicle mates ad Julius. Everybody agreed to leave the camp at 0545 so that we can be out in time for sunrise in the park. Wake up time at 0515 and coffee/ breakfast at 0530! Problem of late starts solved.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Some photos of the camp at night.

Dining area



Swimming Pool



Bar with Damien's portrait


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for this report @vikramghanekar I have been eyeing off both properties you stayed in for my next safari so will be very interested in hearing your thoughts on them.


Great start to your adventure, despite the stressful beginning to your journey!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm looking forward to the Nkonzi part, haven't seen pictures from that yet.

Puku have hollow hairs, which insulates them better against the heat. Therefor they can stay out in the open, which is safer as it's harder for lions and leopards to stalk up to them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Day 3

We started early as decided.

Just as the sun was rising we reached an almost dry lagoon. There were quite a few Pukus and huge number of Egyptian geese.

Puku in rising sun.




Drying lagoon filled with Egyptian geese



Egyptian Goose



After enjoying the peaceful scene for some time we moved on.

Julius heard a vervet monkey's alarm call and we went in search of the monkey, hoping for the subject to lead us to a leopard. Instead we found the monkey enjoying sun's warm on the top of tree. Searching the vicinity yielded this juvenile Bateleur eagle.



Moving on, we found a troop of baboons moving through forest. An opportunity to create some backlit images with sunlight filtering through the bushes.



The search of lions was on. Soon enough we sort of found them. Well actually we found one lioness close to the road warming herself in the early morning sun. She was behind some tall grass allowing me to capture a few interesting images.



After a while she got up and moved into shade.

The shade: Do you notice anything?




There are 6 lions in there.  No kidding!



The lions were not doing much. So we left them to find a spot for a bit of tea and biscuits.

Bushes nearby were full of Blue Waxbills which were surprisingly very relaxed and allowed me to get close.



After tea, Julius decided to drive a bit further to the north hoping to catch up with wild dogs which were not seen for 2 weeks.

We found some vultures circling overhead. Some of them started dropping to the ground.

We immediately followed.



We found fresh remains of a kill (leg of an impala) which had attracted the vultures. However, there was no sign of the perps.

Suddenly, Julius went alert. "I think I heard a leopard calling" (it was 1030 am!). We I hadn't heard a thing. Off we went in search of the elusive cat. After searching some ravines, we caught brief sight of a male leopard who quickly disappeared in thick bushes.

It was an example of phenomenal tracking from just one call!

Satisfied, we returned to basecamp for lunch and some siesta.

Afternoon drive:

Some white fronted bee eaters were nesting in the banks of a small dry river. We stopped briefly for a look.






Julius told me that they already had had chicks and that they will be finished with nesting a week or two. Beautiful birds.

Drive yielded some female Kudus. Quite shy though.



Oxpecker on top



Some more birding: Western Banded Snake Eagle



Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thank you, Matt @Game Warden!

In the evening we went back to the place where we had seen lions in the morning, hoping that they will be active.

Sure enough we found them. But they were far from being active!

That's a subadult male with Norman Carr Safari's Kakuli camp in the background.





The sun was setting and I was keen to get some shots of lions with sunset in the background. Unfortunately another vehicle was right between the lions and the sunset. We waited till they left and Julius manoeuvred the vehicle into perfect position. By this time, however, the sun had already set. But the sky was still on fire.


I got off a few shots before we left the lions.





Night drive yielded some interesting sightings.


A pair of porcupines. Though they were quite some distance away.



Hyenas were out on a mission. Interestingly, Julius told me that hyenas in SLNP hardly hunt. They rely more on scavenging. Often they are seen following leopards! I wonder if it has to do with smaller size of clans or it's just the way it has always been (behavioural thing). Can anybody throw some light on this?

A scrub hare froze in the lights.




All in all it was a good day with lots of cool sightings!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Could only spot a lion cub, it did catch the wife out though. Enjoying you report, hope you keep it going to the finish.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great photos throughout- I particularly like the backlit baboons.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


@vikramghanekar Thanks for a great report! Amazing photos, love how you capture the scenery. The third photo of the lion yawning is great. Looking forward to reading the rest of the report :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Day 4

Started the game drive before sunrise. We were entertained by this family herd of elephants right outside the camp.



I saw quite a few young elephant calves everywhere in the park. Surely a sign of the park doing well?


The sun started to rise.

A puku feeding in one of the almost dry lagoons.



Baboons were just warming up



So were the birds



African spoonbill



Sacred Ibis



Some Thornicroft's Giraffes with obligatory oxpeckers.



Peeping oxpecker



Beautiful markings




Giraffe drinking. I have always wanted to see this. They look so uncomfortable when drinking.




After some search we found the Nsefu pride warming themselves up on the banks of Luangwa.



The situation suddenly changed when a breeding her of elephants approached. They had a small calf with them and had not yet noticed the lions. The lions of course were very much interested.

Soon, the matriarch realised that lions were around and charged the lions.

One of the subadult males beat a hasty retreat



Within a few minutes all members of the pride dispersed except for one female. She was lying hidden in the grass, a bit away from the rest of the pride. Elephants never realised that she was there. She had her eyes on the calf.



She started stalking the calf. But she needed her pride by her side. She started calling softly for others to join her in the hunt. Unfortunately (for her), her calls went unanswered. Frustrated, she gave out a roar, attracting attention of the elephant family. Immediately, all members surrounded the calf and moved into a thicket. Now, rest of the members of the pride made their way to the lioness but the opportunity was gone. It was thrilling to observe the behaviour. I was able to capture some of it on video. Hopefully I will be able to upload it soon.


The lions too moved into thick bush and we lost them completely. Next day, we found a young elephant calf without its tail in nearby area. The wound looked fresh but we were not sure that it was the same calf. The injury could have been from a crocodile attack too!


We moved on. Found a pair of eagles on a nest . Julius identified them as Wahlberg's eagles.



Black headed heron



Some white fronted bee eaters



joined by a pied Kingfisher



Julius drove along the river. He knew of a crossing point in the vicinity which he thought might be interesting.

Lucky to find a few elephants drinking.



Some actually started crossing.






Some continued mud bathing!



Lucky shot of a Fish Eagle which decided to do a fly past.



It was now getting hot, time to head back to the camp.

Not before being charged by this cute young elephant.




Afternoon drive started quietly. Most animals seemed to be enjoying a siesta.

A drying lagoon had a family herd of elephants mud bathing.

This one seemed to have lost tip of his trunk. But looked comfortable doing what elephants do.



This baboon seemed deep in thought.



Southern Ground Hornbill. Certainly one of my favourite birds from africa!



Somehow it was rare to see hyenas in day light. And whenever I saw them, they seemed to be quite shy. So this particular individual came as surprise. Lying close to the road and not bothered by our presence. Julius thought she might have a den nearby.




As usual, sundowners by the river. There is certainly no dearth of spectacular sunsets in Africa!



Sun had set and the sky turned absolutely pink in colour. The colour in turn reflected on the surface of the river. It was spectacular.

I tried to capture it. Here are my feeble attempts at ISO 17000



It got even more dark, but the pink still remained



Night drive yielded some Genets, Bushy tailed mongoose, white tailed mongoose and some interesting birds

Three banded courser



Thick knee



We returned to camp after another super day in the bush.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy