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Safaridude

Zambia Double-double

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Safaridude
Posted (edited)

To echo the sentiment of  @Wild Dogger, coronavirus madness leads me to yet another trip report.

 

I know this much… twice is twice as good as once.  So good was my 2016 safari to Zambia, as soon as I returned I booked an almost identical trip for 2018.  Both safaris took place in September, both times with Benson Siyawareva guiding, and both times to South Luangwa and Kafue only.  Those parks are like yin and yang in many respects, but they are both so Zambian– the chalky skies, the heavy air, the uniquely earthy essence – that they are more like fraternal twins.  The following is my tardy recollection of my Zambia double-double.

 

Sep 2016 Itinerary:  2 nights Kaingo (S. Luangwa); 3 nights Mwamba (S. Luangwa); 5 nights Nanzhila Plains Camp (Kafue); 4 nights Busanga Bush Camp (Kafue)

 

Sep 2018 Itinerary:  3 nights Mwamba (S. Luangwa); 3 nights Tafika Camp (S. Luangwa); 4 nights Busanga Bush Camp (Kafue); 5 nights Nanzhila Plains Camp (Kafue)

 

 

South Luangwa

 

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I have written extensively about South Luangwa in the past (https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/11635-a-safari-all-over-zambia-september-2013/), so I will forgo many of the details here.  What else can one really say anyway?  As Derek Shenton, the owner of Shenton Safaris (which operates Kaingo and Mwamba), once said to me, “things are happening” in Luangwa.  The dwindling water and food supply in the interior of the park during the dry season force the herbivores toward the Luangwa River, and predators follow.  For lions and leopards, their territorial boundaries begin to blur with their dry season movements. Said in a less ambiguous way, there are a xxxx-ton of lions and leopards near the Luangwa River in September. They are met there by more things that are potentially hazardous to your well-being:  a xxxx-ton of hippos, crocs, eles and buffs.  

 

Then there are the superb camps that “bring it home”.  Every aspect of Kaingo and Mwamba caters to the keen photographer:  thoughtfully fitted vehicles; strategic photographic hides (including the incomparable carmine bee-eater hide); flexible and, if desired, long days and nights; and some of the best guiding on the continent. Tafika Camp, on the other side of the Luangwa River (technically outside the national park in an area called Nsefu), has fantastic photographic hides as well and offers up a slightly different terrain with ever so slightly more consistent doggie sightings.  Along with Sabi Sands in South Africa, the Luangwa Valley provides the best opportunities for night photography.  I know it’s just a matter of arbitrary time zones, but the Valley goes pitch-dark early – just a few minutes past 6pm.  You can’t eat dinner at 6pm on safari, can you?  There is ample time for a night drive before dinner.

 

2016 was one of the driest years in memory.  There was hardly any grass left on the plains and the bushes were more drab than usual. And to add insult to injury, sausage tree flowers, which provide juicy nectar to the browsers, dropped late that year. The Mwamba hide, with pumped water, served as the convention center for the northern end of South Luangwa. Leopard viewing was absolutely phenomenal that year and may never be equaled.  2018 was more “normal”. Two different packs of wild dogs roamed Nsefu, and the guests of Tafika had frequent sightings of them.

 

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Carmine bee-eaters from the Shenton Safaris' floating hide (accessible from both Kaingo and Mwamba)

 

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A lone Dagga Boy in the dust

 

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During the heat of the day is a fine time to visit the hippo hide (accessible from Kaingo).  The heat gets the hippos ornery and active.

 

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In 2016, these two nicely-maned lions (big manes are not common in Luangwa) graced the Kaingo/Mwamba area.

 

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Near Kaingo, there is a fairyland-like ebony (jackalberry) forest.

 

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A single member from a pack of four we saw from Mwamba in 2016

 

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Cookson's wildebeest, the rarest of the wildebeest subspecies, can be seen near Kaingo and Mwamba.  They can be seen from Tafika as well, but they are ordinarily

far from Tafika.  North Luangwa has more of them than the South Park.

 

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South Luangwa is an outstanding environment for night photography

 

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Lion by vehicle light

 

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Sausage tree fruit

 

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Benson (right) and Sylvester ("Sly") at Mwamba.  Sly has always been our local guide at Kaingo and Mwamba.

He and Patrick are the senior guides at Shenton Safaris, and they are both indescribably awesome.

 

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And there they are... Sly (left) and Patrick

Edited by Safaridude

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Safaridude

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Kudus and impalas from the Mwamba camp hide

 

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Zebras from the same hide

 

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Panicked Cookson's wildebeests

 

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A pair of buffalos

 

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This buffalo needs a mask

 

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A huge bonus... a Pel's fishing owl seen at night

 

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Patrick

 

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Impala at the hide

 

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Thornicroft's giraffe browsing

 

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African harrier-hawk (or "gymnogene")

 

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Buffalos drinking from the Luangwa River

 

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Leopard in the darkness

 

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Africa's wolves (from Tafika Camp in 2018)

 

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Lion chiaroscuro

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Safaridude

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Lilian's lovebirds from the Mwamba hide

 

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A line of Cookson's wildebeests

 

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This zebra was hanging out close to Mwamba in 2018.  That's Benson and Sly.  We determined that this zebra was completely blind (even though we could not see any cloudiness or anything

like that in the eyes), and he was clinging to the camp for protection against predators.

 

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Later, this blind zebra came to the Mwamba waterhole

 

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This leopard was "treed" by marauding lions (see below)

 

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Looking up at the treed leopard

 

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A juvenile saddle-billed stork at dusk

 

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Members of one of the two wild dog packs roaming the Nsefu area in 2018

 

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Crocs converging on a waterbuck carcass

 

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Lions on a buffalo near Mwamba

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Game Warden
2 hours ago, Safaridude said:

both times to South Luangwa and Kafue only

 

And there was I in a recent topic expressing my wish, once this crisis was over, to visit Zambia, inc. South Luangwa and Kafue.

 

Well, all I need do now is read your report, admire your photos and job done...

 

Matt.

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Safaridude

@Game Warden

 

You can do better than that... you WILL get there.

 

 

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janzin

wow, simply amazing photos. I especially love the night shots and "leopard in the darkness."

 

I've stated before that I was disappointed in South Luangwa, but I think it was a poor choice of camps. If I return--and I would like to after reading several reports from Kaingo/Mwamba-- I will definitely stay at the Shenton camps.

 

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TonyQ

Excellent photos, particularly those in the dark. The leopard, and the lion shots are stunning 

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Safaridude
Posted (edited)

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Spooked zebras at the Mwamba hide

 

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A zebra fetus

 

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A pack that was spotted very close to Tafika Camp

 

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Grey heron

 

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Digging in (Nsefu sector)

 

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A close encounter with an elephant

 

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Smoke from a bush fire forming the shape of Africa

 

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A leopard during a hunt

 

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At last light

 

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At one of Tafika's camp waterholes

 

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At the Mwamba hide

 

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The pack found close to Tafika had taken down a puku

 

 

Edited by Safaridude

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Safaridude
Posted (edited)

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Elephants in the Nsefu sector

 

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Scavengers waiting it out near a lion/buffalo kill

 

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Another waterhole near Tafika Camp

 

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Deep inside Nsefu, a pride of lions have killed a buffalo

 

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A pack deep in the Nsefu sector had killed a puku.  After an initial feeding, they, for whatever reason, ran and played around.  They are returning to the kill in this photo.

 

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Going in for more

 

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A carmine bee-eater just before dark

Edited by Safaridude

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Safaridude
Posted (edited)

@TonyQ

Thank you.

 

@janzin

Thank you.  South Luangwa in the dry season is phenomenal.  There are certain parts of the park (and the Nsefu sector outside it) that are slightly crowded now.  Of course, in the post-COVID world (I hope there is one) it could change.  The Shenton camps and Tafika are simply outstanding for the game and photography (and not crowded).

Edited by Safaridude

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Julian

@Safaridude

So many superb photos, I really liked all of them, and the hide photos were outstanding. Maybe you should consider visiting Lower Zambezi in the future. 
 

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Caracal

Wonderful @Safaridude and those photos of the ebony forest took me down memory lane - of a great guided walk with Derek Shenton.

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xelas

It is the first time I have seen infrared photography included in the trip report. Or am I wrong, @Safaridude?

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mtanenbaum

Thanks so much for sharing--your photos are so amazing! How do you do those night photos? Are you bringing your own spotlights with you? It seems when I have been on night drives the guides are usually illuminating with red light.

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Safaridude

@mtanenbaum

 

No, I don't bring my own spotlight.  The key, in my opinion, is controlling the exposure, because if you leave the camera on auto or evaluative metering, it will overexpose the shot (by 2 to 5 stops!), resulting in blown highlights and blurry photos (not enough shutter speed).  Spot metering, or better yet, going to total manual mode works much better.

 

If a red filter is used, you can still get good results by going B&W (though you will lose a stop or two of light).

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BRACQUENE

@Safaridude

 

Only this  morning waking up I was aware that there was the start of  this exiting new report on South Luangwa and Kafue , already dating from a few years ago , but who cares when it has photos of this quality : I am looking forward to the follow up !

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Biko

@Safaridude your amazing pictures are a true feast for my eyes. Can’t wait to go there. As soon as travel bans are lifted. 

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ForWildlife

Very cool night and IR photography!

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marg

@Safaridude....enjoying this so very much!  We have had such good sightings in the area.  Do not want to intrude but do you think that your Grey Heron and mine are the same and on the same dead tree?  I took the photo on Sept. 10, 2018.

7E2565C5-FCFA-4B7F-BFE1-BD1ABD34CF91_1_201_a.jpeg

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Safaridude

@BRACQUENE, @Biko@ForWildlife, @marg  Thank you.

 

 

@marg, that is absolutely amazing.  I would say with 99.999% confidence that that is the same dead tree (look at the two "knobs" on the branch near the heron's feet, for instance).  Now, for the heron... hard to say... but probably, huh?  I took that photo on Sep 6, 2018 in the Nsefu sector while staying at Tafika.  Unfortunately, all my shots are from the same angle, so I can't compare the spot pattern on the heron's neck.  But wow.


7E2565C5-FCFA-4B7F-BFE1-BD1ABD34CF91_1_2

 

 

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michael-ibk

Exceptional photography, especially like the night stuff and the forest pictures - very moody. Not sure I ever wanted to see a Zebra fetus.:)

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marg

@Safaridude  we were at Tafika for four nights and I think that nearly each time we went in that area the Grey Heron was there.  Interesting!

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Safaridude

@michael-ibk

 

Always too kind...

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Safaridude
Posted (edited)

Kafue

 

My previous Kafue reports:

https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/4250-trip-report-kafue-national-park-and-other-places-in-zambia-sept-09/

https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/11635-a-safari-all-over-zambia-september-2013/

 

Kafue is really four parks in one.  The vast majority of the park is “sourveld” miombo woodland on acidic soil.  Then there is the mighty Kafue River (and the Lufupa River) and its riverine environs.  Lastly, there are the bookends:  the dotted plains with miombo and mopane mixture (tending toward northern Botswana-ish in places) of Nanzhila in the far south; and the vast, open, game-rich flood plains of Busanga in the far north.  Taken as a whole, Kafue is undoubtedly the continent’s finest representation of the “moist Zambezian biome”.

 

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Part I – the South

 

Cheetahs are rarely encountered in Zambia, but Benson and I have had good luck with them at Nanzhila (or I should say Benson seems to will them out of the bush there).  In five total visits to Nanzhila Plains Camp, we’ve only failed to see cheetah once.  In 2016, a mother cheetah and two cubs were seen on three successive days; in 2018, five sub-adult cheetahs hung out near camp one morning.  Black-cheeked lovebirds (nearly endemic to the Nanzhila area) are always a specialty in the area, guaranteed to be seen but also guaranteed to frustrate the photographer.  There are normally excellent serval, civet, sable, roan, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and kudu sightings, and lions, which were rare and shy in the past, can now be expected to turn up.  Nanzhila Plains Camp is one of the few places where the owners (Steve and Cindy Smith) actually host.  This adds an extra homey touch to the place, and indeed for me and Benson the camp has become somewhat of a home away from home.

 

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One would guess Tarangire or Ruaha or northern Botswana... but no, this is Nanzhila Plains.  Baobab, mopane, miombo, camelthorn and Natal mahogany all occur within

shouting distance of one another at Nanzhila.

 

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A group of bull elephants visited the camp waterhole (Nanzhila Plains Camp) every day during my stay in 2016

 

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Benson photographing the elephants with his iPad from the deck

 

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The Nanzhila area is one of the best places in Africa for sable antelope

 

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Cheetahs seen in 2016.  We followed mum and two cubs on three consecutive days.

 

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One of the cubs

 

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The area is always good for saddle-billed storks

 

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Sausage tree flowers

 

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Nanzhila is a good place to see greater kudus out in the open.  I have seen many bulls out on the plains picking up fallen acacia pods.

 

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Sunrise near camp

Edited by Safaridude

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