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Galago

Three Rivers Safari: Luambe, Kafue, Vic Falls

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lmonmm

Ok- this (and all the pictures) sounds wonderful. Your descriptions of things are also just wonderful...I remember you talking about the kudu and them looking like someone had dripped white enamel paint on then....it really does look like that. I remember a few trips ago being mesmerized by a male kudu (one of my favorites) and how it looked like he had a goatee. If that is your OH (which I am assuming it is)- he looked pretty happy peering through his binocs. A python- so jealous........I've always wanted to see one and have only seen one that, unfortunately, was not alive. Not being able to see another tent from yours?  Bliss....total bliss. Something I always look for in a camp. You are correct....Musekese has jumped to the top of the list. :) Looking forward to hearing more.

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Tom Kellie
4 hours ago, Galago said:

@Towlersonsafari I think you've nailed it! After a bit of searching some rather esoteric websites (not being a lepidopterist by a long shot) I've come up with Acraea acerata, aka Sweet potato butterfly, the caterpillar a pest on said crops. However, I also found out that it's found near riverine habitats and, according to a description in Uganda, it's the Small Yellow-banded Acraea. So it turns out to be a butterfly, a pest, and not something I can ID and add me moniker to - haha! :lol: It's very widespread from west Africa across to Ethiopia and down to Zambia and so, not surprisingly, its colouration and patterning changes quite a bit.

 

@Tom Kellie Would love to know what you think after my very amateur sleuth activities online. Do you think this fits?

 

~ @Galago

 

Thank you so much for your lepidopteric (is that even a word?) sleuthing.

 

It's impressive, as such arcane information isn't easy to obtain.

 

Who might be able to confirm is @armchair bushman from Nairobi, who is a skilled entomologist.

 

Someday he's sure to read this thread, after he returns from his multi-month stay in Southeast Asia, south of me.

 

Were I forced to conjecture, I'd propose that it's not a butterfly but a moth (possibly Saturniid) exemplifying Batesian mimicry, possibly of Acraea acerata.

 

Zambia does have butterfly-looking Saturniid moths. Moth species have been known to use Batesian mimicry for protection against potential predators.

 

My hesitation to settle on Acraea acerata stems from several points.

 

• The body girth and patterning are unlike Acraea acerata.

 

• The exact patterning of the somewhat jagged outer orange wing blotch is characteristic of Acraea acerata, but your specimen has a more rounded look.

 

• After seeing the second image, the feathered antennae are unmistakably moth-like, while images of Acraea acerata depict standard butterfly-like antennae.

 

Please don't trust me on this. I'm far from an expert. Nothing more than an aging nature enthusiast.

 

When @Zarek Cockar returns from Southeast Asia, it will be well worth posing this identification question to him.

 

I'll gladly take my licks if I'm flat-out mistaken. On the other hand, if you've photographed a previously unknown moth species, I'll second a motion that it be named Galago galagoensis!

 

Tom K.

 

 

    

 

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Tom Kellie
4 hours ago, Galago said:

 

 

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~ @Galago

 

When this image appeared on my computer screen, I jumped a bit in my seat.

 

Startling!

 

Terrific photography. Thank you for posting it.

 

Tom K.

 

 

Edited by Tom Kellie

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Galago

@Tom Kellie Sorry, didn't mean to give you a fright! It is remarkably human looking, isn't it?

 

And the mystery of the gold and black thing with wings deepens. So interesting to read about mimicry, something I knew nothing about. Meanwhile, I'm going to email our guide there, James, as his knowledge is phenomenal. If I find out anything I will let you know.

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Galago

A quick but tasty breakfast of porridge and toast at 5.30 and we’re off at six into a chilly dawn. Wattled Cranes are making their stately walk across the floodplain and a Red-eyed Dove calls, ‘I’m a red-eyed dove’ over and over. Arnot’s Chats flit around, smartly black and white, and European Bee-eaters swoop overhead in their winter home. A Trumpeter Hornbill, an enormous bird with a massive casque on its bill, makes its crying baby call. The Orange-breasted Bushshrike asks ‘Coffee? Tea? Or me?’

An eight month old lion almost runs into the vehicle and rushes back to its twin brother and mum. The cubs still have lots of baby spots and they look strong and healthy.

 

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They go down a slope to the river, out of sight, while the mother sits at the top watching them. There are large crocodiles here and they could easily be taken. James explains that lion numbers in this area have dropped because five were lost to illegal snares. Snares are a particularly nasty form of poaching because they are indiscriminate, trapping anything that steps them, condemning them to a slow, horrible death. The need now is for more females, so it’s a shame that these two youngsters are male. The mother makes a contact call and then walks back through the bush. James wonders if she is going to meet another lion. The bush here is very thick and we can’t see her or the cubs but we sit quietly, waiting.

The great thing about bird-watching is that, if you’re just waiting for a mammal to appear, there are always birds to see and listen for, the latter made much easier by James’ remarkable ability to identify every call.  A Paradise Flycatcher flashes past, all cinnamon brown and long tail. Meyer’s Parrots squawk noisily in their rapid flight. A Black-collared Barbet is making its frantic sounding, two-note call and, still on the black theme, a Black-headed Oriole is whistling tunefully. A Yellow-fronted Apalis pops up not far away. 

Then we hear a quick, harsh growl. James explains that the female is making the Flehmen response. This is when a lion sniffs the urine of another lion and uses a gland above the palate, the Jacobsen’s organ, to analyse the smell. It’s like an olfactory messaging system whereby a lion can tell if the other lion is familiar or an interloper and, if it’s female, whether she is ready for mating. She walks along the edge of the scrub and then crosses the track, disappearing into the scrub again.

 

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The youngsters are not so ready to follow her, flopping down just a few metres away, watching us with lazy curiosity. One puts his head on the other’s belly and dozes, his head rising and falling with his brother’s breathing. After a while the mother calls them but they don’t move. She calls again and they reluctantly stand, yawning, before trotting off to find her.

 

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The monkeys here are Vervets, but these are a particularly nice looking sub-species called Malbrouck’s Vervets. They are slender with very long tails, greyish fur trimmed with white and intelligent looking, black faces. In common with all Vervets though, the males do flash it up a bit, displaying bright blue balls and a red penis. Talk about flying the flag! They don’t seem to have any of the bravado of other sub-species, and they are quite nervous. But perhaps that’s because they don’t see many people round here and aren’t habituated. And, having said how nice looking they are, I find I don't have any photos of them :wacko:

 

Some fat warthogs scuttle away towards a couple of Kudu who stand staring at us.

 

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Four bull elephants cross the track accompanied by an entourage of Cattle Egrets that strut rapidly between their enormous feet, grabbing the insects that fly up. We stop for coffee by the river and a Schalow’s Turaco flies up flashing that amazing red under its wings. This red is made by turacin, a chemical compound unique to the turaco family. One of the striking features of the landscape in this part of the Kafue is the euphorbia tree. It looks like a giant cactus and somehow oddly out of kilter with the other plant and tree life. Nevertheless, these 'trees' are strikingly architectural.

 

 

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Late afternoon, after tea and cake, we get in the boat with James and @stokeygirl. The river is calm and refreshingly cool.

 

 

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A Black Crake is a superb cartoonish bird, jet black with orange legs topping enormous feet, red eyes and eye rings plus an acid yellow bill.

 

 

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Lots of birds are sitting out on branches over the river: a Malachite Kingfisher, Cormorants both Reed and White-breasted, Darter, Little Bee-eater, Giant Kingfisher and Lesser Masked Weaver. Hadeda Ibis fly past yelling as usual 'ha dee da, ha dee da'. James says that they used to be very common in his grandmother's garden in South Africa and she always referred to them as the La-Di-Da's. And so they shall always be for me now! Between them they cover all the colours of the rainbow and a few more. Wattled Lapwings are on the bank and Skimmers fly low over the water, their strange, large, lower mandibles just touching the water surface and snapping shut if prey is sensed.

 

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Over sundowners James tells us about Lufupa Camp along the opposite bank. It’s set up only to take American guests who book through a particular agent and then they are taken out on a set programme of trips. It sounds bizarre, especially when the essence of a good safari is flexibility, reading the signs, listening to the sounds and following clues. A boat passes on the other side, carrying perhaps 20 people. James tells us that it goes along the river bank a certain distance, stops for sundowners and then goes back – regardless of what’s about! It’s getting dark and we travel quite fast back to the mooring, the wind in my hair feeling like the best kind of air-conditioning.

 

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Edited by Galago

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AfricIan

After your "lee than perfect start" @Galago, it's good to see that Musekese is delivering.  @PhilJ was our guide on both our visits but James impressed us when we talked over meals/round the fire.  Those afternoon boat "cruises" on the Kafue are great aren't they.

59 minutes ago, Galago said:

Over sundowners James tells us about Lufupa Camp along the opposite bank. It’s set up only to take American guests who book through a particular agent and then they are taken out on a set programme of trips. It sounds bizarre, especially when the essence of a good safari is flexibility, reading the signs, listening to the sounds and following clues. A boat passes on the other side, carrying perhaps 20 people. James tells us that it goes along the river bank a certain distance, stops for sundowners and then goes back – regardless of what’s about!

Unless things have changed since our first visit (2015) the block bookings at Lufupa are through OAT and it is very formulaic - the thought of stopping 50m from the dock because there was a young leopard on the bank & spending the next hour and a half just watching her as we did "does not compute".

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Tom Kellie

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~ @Galago

 

The three images above made such a powerful impression on me.

 

The lion portrait dazzles. The details! As if one could reach out to stroke its neck.

 

Warthogs and kudu together? Wonderful!

 

The Giant Kingfisher's chestnut underplumage fits the branch color.

 

Your trip report has been too much fun! Thank you.

 

Tom K.

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Kitsafari

you've brought back wonderful memories of Musekese. James was also our guide  -a really lovely guy. 

Terribly depressing to hear the news of the declining numbers of lions due to the nasty snares. ooh the tent is evolving as i see there's a hanging cupboard now in the tent? mine was just a bar across to hang the clothes! 

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Galago

@Tom Kellie I have heard back from James Duncan-Anderson. He agrees it is a moth, most probably doing Batesian mimicry. He has sent this out to some colleagues but no one able to id as yet. He is away from his reference books in Zambia at the mo, but he will get back to me. It's a rather exciting trail, isn't it?!

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Galago

Walking down the path to the vehicle in the half light before sunrise, James points out a Collared Palm Thrush, always a lovely bird to see. There’s not even time to get the bins on it when he says, ‘Oh, there’s a Narina Trogon.’ I’ve spent 17 years wanting to see this bird, one of the top three in any birder’s Zambia wish-list. What a treat and I'm pathetically tearful! Next time perhaps I’ll get a photo. As we drive out into the woodland, the dawn is lovely, looking rather like a Valentine's greeting - except it's November...

 

 

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A Bataleur Eagle sits on the top of a dead tree, turning its big head to watch us as we drive by. At last there are some Cisticolas, the archetypal LBJs, Chirping and Zitting, just two of the insanely named long list of this species. We drive over golden grass towards the lagoon that runs past camp and, some distance away, are a couple of Bush Pig. That’s a new one for me and it’s fascinating to see these weird creatures, tawny brown with a platinum blond Mohican running down the back of the head and neck. They were a long way off and the pics ain't great, but, hey, it was a first!

 

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Out on the lagoon is a wide variety of birds, several herons: Squacco, Black-headed and Hammerkop, Egrets both Great and Cattle, Spur-winged Goose, Open-billed Stork, Wattled and Grey-crowned Crane and the ever present Jacanas, trotting around on enormous feet. The dambo might be pretty dry, but the activity and diversity of wildlife there is wonderful. A particular treat for me is seeing Wattled Cranes so close and so calm. They really are the most elegant of birds.

 

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A little further on and a male Puku catches the light perfectly, his horns curling over the tall, bronze grasses.

 

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The morning is turning into a long bird list from the tiny Blue Waxbill to the large Senegal Coucal. Two young Puku males start locking horns and practice fight, while an adult lies chewing the cud, unfazed by their antics and, if an antelope can actually look bored, this one does! 

 

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The overnight shower has sent the Eremurus or Foxtail lilies shooting up from the ground and, when we stop to watch a group of zebras, a Blue Swordtail dragonfly perches on a dead stick, the blue looking jet black in this light.

 

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We stop for coffee and admire the termite mounds here. I've only ever seen ones like this in the Kafue, and they really are wonderful, like a Neolithic graveyard.

 

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A couple of large bull elephants come up the bank from the river and start feeding. One has exceptionally long tusks and James wonders if this is ‘Phil’s ele’. Apparently Phil was walking through the bush and a large bull was threatening to charge so he threw the only thing he had to hand, a spanner, and shouted loudly. The elephant backed off but now it remembers his voice and, if he hears it, he shows his dislike. And once again I'm blown away by the intelligence of elephants!

 

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Suddenly a leopard runs through the tall grass. James says it’s a female known to them and she’s coming up to three years old.

 

Back at camp we sit on the deck watching the ever changing bird parade out on the lagoon. After tea the OH goes on the boat and I go off on a drive with James, @StokeyGirl and a new guest. We see a host of good birds: Racket-tailed Roller, Violet-backed Starling, Temminck’s Courser, Brubru, Black-crowned Tchagra, European and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Yellow-fronted Canary, Southern Black Tit and a Barn Swallow all the way from Europe. Time after time I have seen birds that spend their summers near me and I never cease to be totally amazed at the distances they fly on migration. It really is one of the most amazing phenomena in the natural world. I remember the first time I flew to southern Africa. Some very nice people were siting next to me and we chatted away, then drinks came, then dinner came, the time passed. And after all this, we were still flying over the Sahara. These tiny birds do this, and it never ceases to amaze me.

After tea I opt to go on a drive but then James hears from Ephy, the trainee guide who’s out with the boat, that lions are on the other side of the river and would we like to see them and then continue with our drive. The others don’t want to so they drop me off and I get in the boat with the OH and the two other guests. We see an elephant crossing the river in deep water, ‘snorkelling’ with his trunk so we move closer to see him better and then turn round to go and find the lions.

 

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We don’t find any lions but we see two boats full of life-jacketed seniors from Lufupa. The boats look like those self-paddle affairs you get on boating lakes and the hordes of red-jacketed Americans look in horror at our little boat carrying its non-jacketed occupants, lolling back, drink in hand. 

 

We reach the confluence and turn into the Lufupa River. Here it’s very still with Jacanas trotting over lily pads and the trees reflecting beautifully in the glassy, green water. A Goliath Heron strides slowly along the river bank, dwarfing a Spur-winged Goose.

 

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There are a few streaks of lightning and rolls of thunder. An aluminium boat on the river is not the place to be in a storm!

 

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Edited by Galago

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Tom Kellie
5 hours ago, Galago said:

@Tom Kellie I have heard back from James Duncan-Anderson. He agrees it is a moth, most probably doing Batesian mimicry. He has sent this out to some colleagues but no one able to id as yet. He is away from his reference books in Zambia at the mo, but he will get back to me. It's a rather exciting trail, isn't it?!

 

~ @Galago

 

This is great news! Thanks so much for this update.

 

It's wonderful how your one single image turns out to be a learning experience. 

 

This goes to show that photographing the humblest wildlife may later result in increased understanding.

 

A Zambian moth exhibiting Batesian mimicry. Who knew?

 

I'll be eager to know what Mr. Duncan-Anderson finds.

 

Tom K.

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Galago

It rained a little in the night and the barometric change is reflected by quiet in the bush. The OH and I walk with James and Godfrey, the armed scout, looking at the small stuff that you miss in a vehicle.

 

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We watch an ant trapped by the steep, sandy sides of an antlion trap. It keeps trying to climb up but the dry sand sends it tumbling down again and then the antlion grabs it and drags it underground. Our first kill of the trip!

Cotton-stainer bugs are locked in end to end mating. They are beige with red legs, antennae, head and tails and black spots on their wing cases. This makes them look like a design you’d find at Tribal Textiles in the Luangwa Valley.

 

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James finds a shed snake skin, ghostly white but retaining the imprint of the scales, looking like stretchy plastic wrapping.

 

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He goes up to a large tree, a False Baobab, and calls us over. There’s a long opening in the bark and inside we can just see a large beak and grey, fluffy face. It’s a Grey Hornbill chick apparently completely alone. When these birds nest the male seals up the nest hole to keep the female and the eggs/ chicks safe from predators, but it’s also a risky strategy because, if the male dies, then the female and chicks are doomed in a walled up tomb. The Aida of the avian world! We don’t know how the nest seal was destroyed but it looks as though the poor chick will die as it’s too young to fend for itself.

 

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We see loads of birds, including Purple Indigobird, a lifer for me. Of course, it’s not purple at all because it’s not in breeding plumage and it belongs to a group of birds that, whilst looking good when breeding, are plain LBJs the rest of the time. An Angolan Green snake is bright and almost translucent as it moves up a small dead tree, holding its head up and looking at us with shiny dark eyes.

We’re welcomed back enthusiastically by Ason and Peter with cold flannels and then it’s lunch with two new guests who are good fun. The constant activity on the dambo is endlessly fascinating with an array of waders and herons, puku and a couple of bushbuck come very close. 

 

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After tea the OH is happy reading in the lounge and I go off on a drive with the two new guests. We joke about people mishearing unfamiliar animal and bird names and coming up with something quite different, like a Slender Mongoose becoming Cylinder Mongoose. A large herd of zebra with foals goes past and I remember being told that they’re called pyjama donkeys in South Africa. What a lovely name!

 

We stop on some higher ground overlooking the lagoon where various wetland and grassland birds are feeding peacefully. Suddenly the Puku are all frozen statues, looking in the same direction. There’s a leopard lying down in the long grass and occasionally we catch a glimpse of a tiny bit of its head. We wait for ages, hoping it will move and show itself. I’m dying for a pee, but this is no place to get out of the vehicle! After a long time a Hartebeest goes quite close to where the leopard had been and it seems that it must have sneaked away along a gully, so we drive off to find a place for sundowners when we see ‘frozen Puku’ again. We go to look and find a leopard sitting in the grass. She moves and we can see her walking and then she rolls around on the track but the light has faded so much it’s impossible to photograph her. James says that this is not the leopard we saw earlier as that was a large male. Two leopards just when the OH decides to stay in camp makes me sad as I would have loved him to see them. After dark Lesser Bushbabies do their battery powered jumps through the trees as we drive back to camp.

 

 

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Edited by Galago

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AfricIan
19 hours ago, Galago said:

and the hordes of red-jacketed Americans look in horror at our little boat carrying its non-jacketed occupants, lolling back, drink in hand

 

Yes, I also remember the OAT crowd doing this - we weren't jacketed either :D

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Galago

5 am, it’s raining and a lion is calling, quite far away. The rash that started yesterday now covers my back and front, so Kolo takes photos to send to a nurse at a clinic in Mongu. I think it must be the doxycycline I’m taking as an anti-malarial. It’s just the OH and me with James this morning and, as we leave the camp, there’s a Barred Owlet staring at us from a branch over James’ tent. I say staring but really glaring would be more accurate, except I’m anthropomorphising again!

 

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We drive over to the middle of the dried up part of the lagoon which reaches a whole new level of bumpiness as we hang on for dear life. The list of birds we see is really long, including several I’ve not seen so far on this trip and a lifer, Grey Penduline Tit. I get a fly in my shirt and have to take it off, earning the moniker, Lesser Spotted Bush- stripper. A Common Duiker stands and stares for a moment, a nice change from seeing this little antelope charging off through the bush at top speed.

Back at camp Red-throated Twinspots are out in force along the path to the room and I manage to get a few photos of them. They move continually through the shady areas and getting a decent shot isn’t easy. Terrestrial Bulbuls quietly and methodically turn over the leaf litter looking for insects. A male Bushbuck, all white spots, socks and face paint stands on the path. We look at each other for quite a while, neither of us moving a muscle. I slowly reach for the camera, get a photo of him and then he’s off.

 

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After tea we decide to stay in camp. A sundowner on the deck at the edge of the lagoon is really nice. There’s no sunset for once because it’s too cloudy but there’s a spectacular storm and we ooh and ah at the wonderful jags of lightning that seem to fly in every direction. The thunder is fairly distant so the storm must be some way off and we watch it all without getting wet.

 

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Galago

Not much sleep for me as the rash is driving me insane. I’m up at 2 am having a cold shower, just to cool it down. Did I hear a leopard in the night? I’m not sure but it could have been. It’s a beautiful morning with sun rising through a mist as we set off with James. An African Fish-eagle is pecking away at prey on a tree branch. A mother and baby hippo are out in the wet part of the lagoon along with Saddle-billed Storks, Great and Cattle Egrets, Hammerkops and the feeding Fish-eagle’s mate. There’s a large hippo skull, its owner having died in a fight to the death with another male hippo earlier in the season. In a tree an African Green Pigeon stands in the sun, psychedelic in multiple shades of green with blue eyes, a red and white beak, orange feet and yellow ‘trousers’.

 

 

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We drive off into the bush and James hears a Lesser Honeyguide calling. I’m really keen to see this as it’s a lifer. We walk round and round a giant Albizia tree growing out of a termite mound, hearing it but not seeing it as it hides in the foliage high above us. After several circuits it shows itself and, at exactly that moment, a Greater Honeyguide arrives, sitting out at the end of a branch for all to see. It’s almost as though it’s saying, ‘Well, I don’t hide away so why look at the silly Lesser. Look at me!’

 

Further on and birds are kicking up a right old racket on another tree mound. Crested Barbets are yelling, jumping up and down, looking at the ground. It must be a snake. We drive around the mound and suddenly multiple species start mobbing a snake about 2.5 metres long, which moves at great speed across the open ground to protective scrub. The OH is really pleased to see a large snake in action and so am I as this is the notorious Black Mamba, the snake that strikes fear into so many Zambians.

 

 

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We drive on and there’s another racket going on as Wattled Lapwings stand guard over their chicks. There are only two chicks, just balls of fluff running around on long legs. Despite their camouflage, they are so vulnerable to predation as they learn to forage for themselves which, presumably, is why there are only two left.

 

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We stop for coffee in a dip near the lagoon and the OH goes up the slope for a pee. As he walks off he whispers ‘Elephant’ and we turn to see a black tsetse fly trap flapping in the breeze behind a small bush, looking for all the world like an elephant’s ear. We all have a good laugh.

Back at camp the lagoon has a large group of Yellow-billed Storks fishing in the little water that’s left. They’re joined by baboons, Puku and Bushbuck. After lunch we watch a Monitor Lizard slowly climbing a tree, its forked tongue flashing. We stay back at camp that afternoon and just chill.

 

 

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Edited by Galago

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Galago

In the night I heard a strange sound, like a quick scream. At breakfast the baboons are barking like mad on the other side of the lagoon. Is there a leopard around? The OH stays in camp again, (which shows how very comfortable it is), and I go on a drive with two new guests. We cross the lagoon and suddenly the Puku are ‘frozen’. As we watch and wait, a big, male leopard walks along the far edge of the lagoon and disappears into the bush.

 

We drive back a short distance to a point where the lagoon runs by camp and there, almost opposite our room but quite a long way off, is a dead male puku. James reckons this is a leopard kill, possibly by the young female we saw yesterday. She wouldn’t have been able to drag the kill all the way across the lagoon to a tree so it looks as though she’s eaten the rear end and left the rest to the scavengers. That explains the noise I heard in the night. The dead puku looks rather gruesome with the whole of the back end gone but the front end intact with one foreleg up and the other bent, as though it’s playing. A Tawny Eagle stands over it, pecking at the flesh while a Fish-eagle, less powerful than the Tawny, waits its turn. Despite its name, it’s not entirely pescatarian, but there’s plenty for both at the moment as it’s too early for the vultures to go food spotting on the thermals.

 

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We drive to another part of the lagoon where it’s full of feeding critters: puku and impala, various wetland birds and a small herd of zebra. Some of the zebra stare intently at us while others turn their backs and continue feeding, giving us the classic zebra bum pose. The impala are starting to give birth and, although most won’t be born until the rains start in earnest and bring on the new grass, there are a few, all looking gorgeously leggy and sweet.

 

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A male puku keeps sticking his head in the dry grass and then looking up with clumps of it hanging, and falling, from his horns. He’s looks utterly ridiculous. This is what’s known as ‘horning’ where a male scoops up dry grass onto his horns with the goal of making himself appear larger and more powerful. Another male chases him off as if to say ‘You look like a complete wally’. As he runs away the grass falls from his head. Two other males are sparring and we can hear their horns bang together.

 

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We drive through woodland, and in a clearing an African Firefinch poses in the hazy light. The light has changed and there's a lot more moisture in the air, which doesn't do much for my photos, but it looks quite beautiful.

 

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A family of warthogs are feeding, front legs bent in at the ‘wrist’. The young male has light coloured bristles in a line either side of his face to emulate the horns that will grow as he matures. Like the puku just now, it’s a way to make him appear tougher than he really is.

 

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A group of Grey-crowned Cranes fly over, their mournful call carrying across the lagoon.

 

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A couple of hours later we return to the scene of the kill. White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures stand in groups around a rib-cage that’s been picked clean. A couple of the Lappets stand over the head, using their strong beaks to tear into it. Further along the lagoon the baboons are in a noisy fight then, just as two are having a peace-making hug, several come barrelling in and the fighting resumes. We return to the camp to the usual great welcome from staff. 

 

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It’s time to shower and pack, a last G&T before an early lunch, chicken stir-fry with rice, vegetables and salad, all very tasty. A Bushbuck feeds in front of the deck and a couple of Southern Ground Hornbills slowly walk across the grass looking like Victorian gentlemen in frock coats.

 

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Back to the room to check nothing’s been left behind and, on leaving, I spend a moment on the veranda looking at the lagoon. Tears well up, as always. A part of my heart stays in the bush. Pascal Mercier describes that feeling so well in Night Train to Lisbon:

"We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place. We stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there."

 

We’re both rather dreading the drive back to Lusaka but the 50kms track through the park isn’t nearly as bad as before. This driver is experienced and he knows how to drive on the sandy track without throwing us around. A real bonus is seeing a beautiful, male Sable. He turns and looks at us, his face a painted mask.

 

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The tedium of the journey to Lusaka is broken by the names of stores along the roadside. ‘Bit by Bit Grocery’ and ‘Wait a While Nursery’ (for plants, not children). A lorry announces on its windscreen ‘Only God Knows the Destination’, which sounds a little worrying for the driver and his mate. As we come into the city there are snacks for drivers: trays of oranges on the heads of brightly dressed women and little shacks selling popcorn and peanuts. Mini-bus transport announces ‘God’s Time is the Best’ and ‘Praise the Lord’.

 

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Long defunct brands from my childhood appear: Wimpy, Bata, Woolworths. Men walk between the lines of vehicles selling plastic bags of mangoes, okra, chillies, peanuts, while others carry piles of hats, men’s ties, trainers, backpacks, toilet rolls, phone top up cards and even live puppies. A hot sauce ad exhorts ‘Peri Peri to the people’. An advertising hoarding offers probably the wordiest tagline ever, ‘A roof without Harvey Tiles is like an aeroplane without a pilot: it might not take off’. It takes me a while to get that one, using a negative to prove a positive!

 

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Advertising is painted on walls and there are plenty for Twin Cows milk, Milkit milkshake and Charm loo rolls. My favourite is for Amigo Classic Crisps, Barbeque Flavoured Potato Chips with the tagline ‘Original Crisipsee’ which explains the pronunciation of ‘crisps’ I heard at Luambe. The ad also exhorts folks to 'Build Zambia Buy Zambian', at odds with the fact that every construction site appears to be Chinese owned. Our driver, like others we’ve spoken to, is not happy, citing poor pay and long hours plus a belief that those in power are pocketing large sums of money from the Chinese investors.

 

 

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Edited by Galago

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lmonmm

Gosh- I seriously don't know what to say....this visit to Musekese has been pure poetry. Your descriptions are ...well...pretty mindblowing. What an incredible time you had there and I am hoping the OH has a new found love of Africa. Which is clear in your writing. Wow. Thank you.

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Galago
9 hours ago, lmonmm said:

Gosh- I seriously don't know what to say....this visit to Musekese has been pure poetry. Your descriptions are ...well...pretty mindblowing. What an incredible time you had there and I am hoping the OH has a new found love of Africa. Which is clear in your writing. Wow. Thank you.

 

Thank you very much. It's not difficult to write about such a great camp and location! Are you planning to go there this year?

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CDL111

Thoroughly enjoying reading this report, it’s very disappointing on the quality of food at Luambe and the other concern for me, at what will be the new camp, is what type of vehicle will they have,  a SWB  or LWB. It will not be near the top of my go to list. 

Your photograph sequence of the moon is something to admire and for me, a couple more G&T’s each night and l wouldn’t have noticed the hippos.  The photographs of all the different birds is enlightening.

Looking forward to more, as Kafue is top of our list for 2020, just need to sort out who to fly with.

 

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Galago
1 hour ago, CDL111 said:

Thoroughly enjoying reading this report, it’s very disappointing on the quality of food at Luambe and the other concern for me, at what will be the new camp, is what type of vehicle will they have,  a SWB  or LWB. It will not be near the top of my go to list. 

Your photograph sequence of the moon is something to admire and for me, a couple more G&T’s each night and l wouldn’t have noticed the hippos.  The photographs of all the different birds is enlightening.

Looking forward to more, as Kafue is top of our list for 2020, just need to sort out who to fly with.

 

The response I had is that they are taking the food complaint on board. Sorry, I don't understand short wheel vs long wheel base vehicles. What I do know is that of the two vehicles available we had the 'second best'. How that translated for me was that when I sat in row 2 (of 3) I was sliding around all over and, as I have osteo-arthritis, it was difficult. Fortunately our lovely companions offered to let us sit in the front. Our guide Lameck said that this had inferior suspension cf. the other vehicle, but I didn't understand the technical specs. This is a pic of our safari vehicle if that helps.

 

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Many thanks for you kind words and, believe me, I hit the G&Ts but the decibel level of those hippos waaaay exceeded anything I've come across in many safaris, including a previous five trips to the Luangwa!

 

 

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wilddog

How lovely to see that fine sable as you headed back to Lusaka.

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Galago

Part 3: Zambezi and Waterberry Lodge

 

This section will be a little different. Waterbury Lodge was for a few chill out days, although we actually ended up being quite busy. However, it's not about safari stuff so, rather than split this section day by day, I'll report on it in terms of the lodge itself, a brief note on our trip to Vic Falls, visiting the villages and school and - no surprises here - the birding!

After another night at Pioneer we fly down to Livingstone and what a lovely airport they’ve built since I was last there. It’s shiny, clean and quiet with a short walk to the baggage carousel where, first time anywhere, our bags are already waiting for us. We’re picked up by Mr K in a very comfortable people carrier and 45 minutes later we arrive at Waterberry Lodge. It’s still only 9 am and so, of course, our room isn’t ready but we’re installed in the airy upstairs lounge with a pot of coffee while everything is explained to us and we choose which outings we want to go for. There’s a whole range of outings included in our tariff and then other excursions which are privately organised and quite expensive, but seeing as many are about bungee jumping and other 'no way' activities it's not difficult. 

The view from the lounge is delightful, a broad expanse of grass sloping down to beautiful Winterthorn and Waterberry trees, the Zambezi river with Zimbabwe on the other side.

 

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After an hour or two our room is ready and we expect to go to the cottages we passed on our way to the lounge but instead we’re taken down towards the river, over a wooden bridge, round a corner to a perfect thatched cottage with wonderful views of the Zambezi. The room is lovely, all white and beige with hot pink and lime touches and ‘welcome’ spelled out in dried grass on the bed cover. The ceiling rises to a very high point, the thatch held in place by dark wooden beams. The bathroom is spacious with a large shower area and extraordinarily bright bathrobes.

 

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The grounds are quite extensive and, behind the main lounge and dining area, there’s a swimming pool. The OH goes off for a swim and I sit on the deck, G&T to hand, contemplating the glorious view. Chef comes to discuss dietary requirements with me and nothing is too much trouble for her. It seems that lunch is usually a hot meal but she’s happy to do salad for us which turns out to be deliciously fresh.

 

 

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The Sunset Cruise is in a small, aluminium, flat bottomed boat moored at the pontoon across the lawn. We are with just one other couple, from Holland, and Chrispin is our guide. We see some eles with two little ones on the opposite bank but Chrispin takes the boat too close and the elephants turn off into the bush. I’m not pleased! The river is glorious though, blue and calm with beautiful reflections, Goliath Heron, Rock Pratincole, Osprey and the ever-present Darter. There's an Osprey, which always amazes me as their geographical range is phenomenal. It's a bird I first saw in Scotland but, since then, I've seen it in eastern England, Mexico, Florida, Gambia...…. We move into the Golden Hour as baboons grub up grass on the bank and a large flock of Egyptian Geese take off for their night-time roost. The sunset is just amazing and we return happy and relaxed for dinner on the terrace.

 

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We're up early tomorrow to go to Vic Falls. Having visited there five years ago at the same time of year I know what to expect. How wrong was I!!!

 

 

Edited by Galago

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CDL111

SWB have 2 rows of seats, therefore at the new camp, if full means 3 people per row, not good for photography. LWB will have 3 rows of seats. Hope you are going to share some photographs of birds taken at Waterbury Lodge.

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AfricIan

Without wishing to rehash the old Land Rover vs Land Cruiser arguments, it's my experience that the ride in a  Land Rover (either SWB or LWB) is much more comfortable than in a Land Cruiser.

 

Some great pictures of Waterberry and just to show what a difference a few months makes, when we were there (June) the guests in Swallow were complaining it was damp - not overly surprising as 2 weeks earlier the Zambezi was coming through the front door :unsure:

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Galago

@CDL111 The two vehicles currently used have three rows, although I struggled in the middle row, so goodness knows what the back row would be like. And, as you can imagine, I've been in a few safari vehicles! Yes, I do have a few bird pics and I will be posting them.

 

@Africlan  I'd never thought about that but at Musekese they use Land Rovers and that vehicle was good. How very interesting that our gorgeous cottage was so different in June. Certainly would not have have appreciated damp but when we were there it seemed like we'd landed the top room!

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