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First time in Zambia (September 2020)


ElenaH

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First time in Zambia (September 2020)

 

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Actually it was our second time but the first time in Zambian National Parks. The very first time was in 2019 when we crossed it to get to Chirundu and then to Mana Pools. This year we also planned Mana but at the time of our departure Zimbabwe was still closed and we needed to decide if it’s not better to cancel the trip due to corona pandemic. 

 

Every day I was checking the internet sites to find the information about travel restrictions and corona development and in the end of July I wrote to Ramon the owner of Safari Explorers Camp in Nsefu: „…Can we cancel the booking and get the money back?...“ The answer was more than surprising: „Please take note that the borders and airports with the normal schedule will be open from 1st August. We already have the camp open, and we are expecting customers from 3rd August.“ Ramon is a Honorary Consul of Zambia in Spain.

 

We decided that we had no other option but to try to get to Zambia. Of course, there was an option to loose the money (about 1200eur) and stay home but was it really an option? Even apart from money? 
The new stage began. To re-schedule the second part of the trip and change Mana to Zambia. „Lower Zambezi? It looks like Mana Pools. Let us go where we have never been before and what looks differently!“ So, the idea of Kafue was born.
I read all trip reports about Kafue I found in Safaritalk. You cannot image how helpful it was!! Yes, what you did, folks, it is just incredible performance and high of value! Without you I would never have such an unforgettable wonderful trip to Kafue! I thank you every time when I login to ST! Thank you!

 

I found out about resident rates in September 2020 and wrote to some lodges and camps. We changed our plan again and again. The reservation-services were flexible and at the end we had a following schedule:
28.08.2020 flight from Vienna to Lusaka
29.09.2020 Wild Dogs Lodge, Lusaka, 1 night
30.08.2020 – 08.09.2020 Croc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National Park (SLNP), 10 nights
09.09.2020 – 11.09.2020 Safari Explorers Camp, Nsefu Sector SLNP, 3 nights
12.09.2020 –  14.09.2020 nothing reserved, 3 nights
15.09.2020 –  18.09.2020 Fig Tree Bush Camp of Mukambi Safaris, Kafue, 4 nights
19.09.2020 – 22.09.2020 Kasonso Busanga of Northern Kafue Safaris, Kafue, 4 nights
23.09.2020 – 26.09.2020 KaingU Lodge, Kafue, 4 nights
27.09.2020 flight back

 

We didn’t pay any deposit. The owners and managers of camps knew about the situation and were agreed for payment upon arrival. The resident rates were fantastic, and we could manage to pay almost everything in cash. 
The procedure to get to Zambia at the end of August was not easy. The Zambian travel agent must have to apply for us to Ministry of Health and get the approval latter. As soon as letter was received we had to apply for visa online. Our car rental company „The Wild Life“ (www.thewildlifeafrica.com) applied for us for the whole stay. And we got the visa within 48 hours.
The time passed by and there was I (still not believing standing) under Zambian beautiful warming sun… 

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Hi Elena, thanks for sharing, when will you share your pictures and videos....looking forward to it.

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That looks like a great itinerary, with both SL and Kafue. Extra special to have been able to travel in these times. Great leopard photo to start with. Also looking forward to hear about your experience at Kasonso Busanga, hadn't heard about that camp before.

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@JPS, I was so expired by your videos that I bought a Rode microfon but sometimes I forgot to switch it on :lol: :lol: :lol:.  I tried to film with Nikon z7 mirroless camera (earlier I did with DSLR) and I must say that I am an absolutely horrible film-maker! So, that side I need to work on my skills ;-)

@LarsS, I must say I thought about you one day because I saw your video of Fig Tree and I have never expected I would be there myself!  And as I was there it was so familiar to me already ;-) that room you showed, the chalet outside, the beach with lion tarcks... I don't remember if there was already a pool when you were there. Fig Tree was fantastic!

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michael-ibk

Great Leopard photo for an opener, @ElenaH, I am really looking forward to your report. I was not aware you spent a whole month in Zambia, fantastic!

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mtanenbaum

Stunning leopard photo--but I don't understand how if you carry a European passport they gave you the resident rates...I'd love to hear more about how you managed that. Was it because of using a Zambian travel agent?

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@mtanenbaum, as I started to look for accommodation in Kafue and  I just tried my luck and wrote to Northern Kafue Safaris directly because they stated on their website: "We threw away our rates! Please contact us for more information". They have these Covid-rates until 30.11.2020. They had no guests (we were the first) and probably they don't have many guests now (if some). I think they have no other option: either they have guests for resident price or they don't have guests at all. Kasonso and later Mukambi were the only operating lodges in Busanga. All others were closed. 

Additionally, we were on self-driving basis and drove a Zambian vehicle. The officer on the gate of one National Park was wandering that we wanted to pay park entry fees as international tourists. Nobody asks you about the passport.

The next example is KaingU lodge. We booked a camping place there but as we arrived the owners just said: we have resident tariff now. And we took the lodge for published on mentioned website rates. 

The other story was with Fig Tree and Musekese. Fig Tree made a first offer for $315ppn but after some negotiation lowered it to $235. Musekese - for $325 and didn't negotiate. We took Fig Tree and it was the highlight of our trip. So, we didn't get resident prices but we got an excellent offer anyway. 

I think the problem is that we don't even try to negotiate. People are ready to pay high price and therefore travel agents ask for that price. At the moment camps are empty or half-empty. I am quite sure if you try to negotiate you will get a good deal.

I see in ST a big potential to get good deals if we will build groups and travel together. Actually, if ST would register as a tour operator we all can profit. Perhaps, the future lies in such social media groups of people with the same interests because everybody will profit. It is also better for companies like Northern Kafue Safaris to have many people travelling regularly for lower price than one or two for higher. But maybe I am wrong, of course. Interestingly, no one tour operator came with idea of Safari Forum or I am mistaken?

Anyway, I think that people rather stick with one Forum where they know members and application. At the end we don't have so much time to be present on all media ;-)

Edited by ElenaH
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Caracal

@ElenaHI'm really looking forward to seeing Kafue through your eyes. Interested to learn about Fig Tree Camp which I see is on the Shishamba River. I recall a number of drives along that river but don't recall seeing or any mention about a camp there so I'm thinking it must be a new camp or alternatively on a different section of the river. I've a feeling you're going to have me yearning to return to Kafue but roll on with the TR! 

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18 hours ago, ElenaH said:

@JPS, I was so expired by your videos that I bought a Rode microfon but sometimes I forgot to switch it on :lol: :lol: :lol:.  I tried to film with Nikon z7 mirroless camera (earlier I did with DSLR) and I must say that I am an absolutely horrible film-maker! So, that side I need to work on my skills ;-)

@LarsS, I must say I thought about you one day because I saw your video of Fig Tree and I have never expected I would be there myself!  And as I was there it was so familiar to me already ;-) that room you showed, the chalet outside, the beach with lion tarcks... I don't remember if there was already a pool when you were there. Fig Tree was fantastic!

 

Glad I could help you find your way around Fig Tree camp. :) There was no pool when I was there. Shortly after I was back home, I visited a travel event (you might remember, an event was a gathering of many people usually packed in a room ;) ), the owners of Mukambi were there and we spoke about the camps. I believe they were upgrading/renovating at the time their Fig Tree and Busanga camp. So just missed the pool. Although, missed, I rarely make use of pools actually. Great to hear it was the highlight of your trip!

 

9 hours ago, ElenaH said:

I think the problem is that we don't even try to negotiate.

 

I'm not a big negotiator (I can hear my wife laughing now...), but as I usually book everything myself and directly with the camps, I usually ask for their rates. Sometimes I ask around, also depending on whether I have a preference or not. Sometimes I just try to find out if we can agree on a special deal/package. Especially in low season you can get deals like stay 4 nights, pay 3 nights. When we went to Sabi Sands, I negotiated pretty well, since I think their prices are really high and I don't have to feel bad for asking for a better rate. In a place like Kafue, I wouldn't push till the last cent/penny.

Camps usually create special deals for low season or a few days when there's little occupancy. Which isn't always stated on their websites. In fact, the first time I ended up at Mukambi's main lodge in Kafue, was because we asked the guesthouse we stayed in for advice. They had just received a special offer from Mukambi the day before, they showed us, it looked great and within 10mins we had booked ourself a trip to Mukambi. 

 

 

6 hours ago, Caracal said:

@ElenaHI'm really looking forward to seeing Kafue through your eyes. Interested to learn about Fig Tree Camp which I see is on the Shishamba River. I recall a number of drives along that river but don't recall seeing or any mention about a camp there so I'm thinking it must be a new camp or alternatively on a different section of the river. I've a feeling you're going to have me yearning to return to Kafue but roll on with the TR! 

 

Here as well someone who can't wait for more stories and pictures and ready to yearn for Kafue. I know they openend fig tree camp in 2015. I always thought they were located on a lagoon at the end of a tributary of the river. But now I've looked it up again and I see on the map the river continues. Probably only a for short period of time after the rains. They promote is as located on a lagoon, so I don't think they are open when the river still flows through.

 

 

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ForWildlife

I think few people really use the pools, but most people are excited when they see one!

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That is indeed the best leopard photo I've seen for a long time.

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@MartinDT, thank you very much :-) About photograph: taken with Nikon Z7 mirrorless und Nikkor 300mm/4 IF-ED win 1/640s by f4, auto-ISO (640). Theoretically I could have used 1/80s because IBIS allows it but it is always a question if animal moves faster than your shutter speed... 

I saw a couple of excellent leopard shots on ST ;-)

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Part One. South Luangwa. - Love is in the Air!

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30.08.2020 - 02.09.2020 The Rule Number One

 

Our flight to Lusaka was OK. My partner Hans got a cold a week before departure and I got it from him during the flight. The face mask pressed on my suffering nose. But nothing could stop me from being optimistic and exciting. It was also not good to cough because everybody just started to stare at you. But could something spoil your day when you step out of the international airport in Lusaka?

 

We stayed at Wild Dogs Lodge in Lusaka. You can read my review here: Wild Dogs Lodge, Lusaka

Chizy from www.thewildlifeafrica.com escorted us to the lodge where we took over a car and paid for it. The cars in Zambia are more expensive than for example, Bushlore cars (South Africa) even if you pay for the car-transfer from Johannesburg to Lusaka. But we didn’t have the other option as South Africa was closed. The vehicle Isuzu was well-groomed, it needed 10l/100km on tarred road and became our good friend for the next four weeks.

 

We left Wild Dogs Lodge at 6:30 and get to Petauke at 11:15. So, it took us 4hrs and 45mins. Then we decided to take the old Petauke road. "You will have fun", wrote a manager of Croc Valley about this road. The first part of it was being built, perhaps it will be tarred. In Lusandwa Forest Reserve we drove not faster than 30km/hr; water washed away the sand from the road and we were climbing up and down on stones. After the forest there were small villages all the way to Luangwa Valley. Under each beautiful tree there was a house or two. Here each tree was of a great value. I thought about a new Vienna building site where all trees were cut to build the houses. Zambians build a house under the tree. We cut the trees to build the house.

It was difficult to find a place for a break and when we found it under the sun we heard the people coming. But we had two breaks. We reached Croc Valley at about 16:15. So, it was about 4,5hrs drive plus breaks. In sum it will take you between 9,5 and 10 hours depending on breaks.

 

A resident bushbuck was welcoming us:

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II loved the camp. It was simple but functional. I don’t like to be over-protected or over-cared. I feel myself uncomfortable. As self-drivers we could eat when we wanted and could drive in the park any time between 06:00 and 18:00.

My review about Croc Valley Camp: Croc Valley Camp

Of course, with pictures!

 

We decided to take it easy and to drive the first two days by ourselves and the third day take game drives with Simon, the guide. We stuck to that pattern 2-1-2-1-2-1 for the next 9 days. 

The first morning we paid our fees but we didn’t have any Kwacha to pay for vehicle. We got Kwacha in the ATM in Mfuwe airport later that day. We must have taken Kwacha in Lusaka to avoid the drive to Mfuwe.

 

That first day… It seemed that you had a lot of time and the whole trip was in front of you. We crossed the bridge and had no idea where to drive. Undiscovered park lied in front of us. 

 

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We took the first left turn. If you know this area of the park it is about 300m from the bridge. 

„What is it? What for a cat is it?“ Hans stopped. And here he was; a leopard on the road looking at us. Cameras are still in the bag. Would you expect to find a leopard 300m after you crossed the bridge, 30m from the main road at 6:30 AM? I wouldn’t. We starred at each other for a while. Me and Leopard.

„So, folks, I need to go,“ said the leopard and vanished like only leopards can do. I violated the rule number one: take the camera every time and everywhere with you. The camera which is ready to shoot.

 

Well… But anyway it was a nice welcome. Sometimes we remember moments without photos better than those with photos. The most important pictures are in our mind.

 

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We drove along the beautiful lagoons, passed majestic trees and meadows. We looked into gullies and up the trees. Everywhere were animals. The scenery was stunning. It reminded me Mana Pools.

 

We saw some wired hunting technics:

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Some synchronous flights:

 

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or almost synchronous:

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Or just resting:

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Is it a mating season?

Oh, well, here is a stork alone:

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And here is bird I don't know. Is it some kind of Sparrow-Weaver? Who can help with identification? @PeterHG@michael-ibk? Who else are birders in ST?

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And wo is that small heron needing a hair-dresser? Malagasy? Or some kind of Squacco?

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Suddenly Fish Eagle took off just in front of us... _D8H9308_DxO_cv_l.jpg.fe81feaaf462f71b38caf258b70298af.jpg

 

We saw also Three-Banded Plover, Jackanas, Sacret Ibis, Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed storks, Openbills, White-Fronted and Carmine Bee-eaters. And there were certainly many birds who saw us.

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I loved fluffy furry Pukus:

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Interestingly I saw not a lot of them during my previous 13 Safaris... But here they were plenty.

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I sucked that beauty like a dried sponge, eaten by corona-news and unsteadiness. It seemed that all worries and troubles were left on some other planet and here was only a flow of a peaceful life the part of which I was.

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Our first day ended with gorgeous sunset:

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The other day was again full of encounters.

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As a self-driver you need to find the animals yourself but we were just enjoying being here. We didn’t see any other vehicle.

 

Our guide Simon was not only an excellent guide but a very nice person. A person with whom you feel relaxed. On 2.09.2020 it was his first game drive with us after a half-a-year break due to pandemic. There were no other game drive vehicle and therefore no information where animals are hiding.

 

We saw elephants crossing the river coming from the village and drove to watch them by sand-bathing:

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„In the evening the elephants go to the village to steal mangos and in the morning they go back into the park because here they feel themselves more protected.“ - mentioned Simon.

 

That day we saw game drive vehicle of Thornicroft lodge. A vehicle was almost like an exclusive animal. The next vehicles were coming full fo local people and children. I saw a young lady who was nursing a baby in the game drive vehicle. Some people were dressed in the uniform and sitting like at the school desk: straight with hands on knees, all with facemasks the same color. Probably lodges stuff. The Luangwa Project was organising those drives to show local population the value of animals. Great idea!!

 

Here is perhaps our friend from a day before:_Z7Z0079-Bearbeitet.jpg.f7bd8a8ab3e0d455c1368f66868d0f2b.jpg

 

But someone here doesn't look like a friend:_Z7Z0112-Bearbeitet.jpg.7371560776f14eda22d3ffb03dc0abe4.jpg

 

In the sand-sofa is much better:

 

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The advantage to drive with guide is to see nocturnal animals, to stay longer until 20:00.

Buffalos in the dusk:

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In the evening Simon found two different leopards. It is also easier to find them in my opinion because of shining eyes. One was an adult:

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and the other looked rather like a cub:

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Edited by ElenaH
double pics
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michael-ibk

Beautiful! The Weaver you asked about is a White-Browed Sparrow Weaver (abundant in drier areas), and that´s a Squacco Heron Indeed. Love the sleeping Hippo. :-)

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thank you @michael-ibk, thank you @TonyQ

very appreciated!!

somehow I inserted two double pictures at the end and cannot delete them anymore, no way...

maybe @Game Wardencan help? perhaps I shall delete them from media-library first and then insert again? I cannot delete them from my post. the two pics at the end (double pics)

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Thank you so much @ElenaHfor this TR. It feels so good to know that some of us can go. South Luangwa is on my list of bookings for June 2021.

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PeterHG

What an amazing set of photos! Really beautiful!

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Caracal
5 hours ago, ElenaH said:

Sometimes we remember moments without photos better than those with photos. The most important pictures are in our mind.

 

That's true @ElenaHbut your superb photos and interesting dialogue are taking me on a great return to South Luangwa after a long absence and I'm enjoying it all - the scenery and wildlife.

That first hippo with the gash on his side looks like he's resting after a battle.

I would consider a daytime sighting of a hyena pretty special - I only recall infrequent nocturnal sightings.

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Those are some amazing photos @ElenaH, great job! That sand sofa looks really comfortable :) 

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On 10/29/2020 at 11:12 AM, ForWildlife said:

I think few people really use the pools, but most people are excited when they see one!

Some pools are probably more visited by ellies than humans ;) 

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Towlersonsafari

Wonderful report so far @ElenaH

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03.09.2020-05.09.2020  - Africa’s Next Top Models

 

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Again two days of self-driving and one day with Simon. He showed us the best shop in Kakumbi and now we have chocolate for our espresso from hand-press machine. In front of each shop was a bucket with water, soap and  bottle with disinfection:

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Here was also a market. Four tomatoes costed 3 Kwacha. I thought it was for one and wondered as I got the change. So, one could survive on tomatoes. But you could also buy sausages and meat. Chicken was extremely fresh as you can see (in the cage):

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Monkeys and baboon always visited me during the lunch. Here I managed to take a photo with 40mm manual focusing lens. I was close! The resident animals are indeed very good models!

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Sometimes we went to camps' restaurant to eat and chat with friends. Wifi was available there. Hans often used a gym, and I used to go swimming in a camp’s huge swimming pool.

 

During our drives we enjoyed taking pictures of general game and bee-eaters. Isn't Impala a beautiful animal? The horns shaped in a heart-form.

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and also without horns:

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and when they are still with horns but could be soon without:

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No, they are not at all so full of spirits. They can be also very romantic:

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and listen to the fairy-tales of some whisperers:

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Sometimes the whisperers have quite a long way to find the ear of listener:

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and when they found it then they place themselves just in the meddle! 

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Giraffes sometimes go to cemetery to visit dead relatives:

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Perhaps, Sacred Ibis was also there. Otherwise why it is sacred?

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The officers at he gate explained us where the lions were. We did some shots in the morning and in the evening we spent sundowner with lions. There was no other vehicle. We were alone on the site. Who can imagine it? Lions about 1km from the gate in SLNP and no cars.

Here is a boss (shoot with consumer lens Sigma 150-600mm at 600mm and f6,3):_D5H3762-Bearbeitet-Bearbeitet.jpg.9896f4c1e911035a4f367e5b26711218.jpg

 

And here is the boss shoot by Hans with professional equipment (400mm f2,8 plus 1,4x TC at 560mm and f4)

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The bokeh, details (lens resolution) and the rendering is of course, amazing. But it is important what the photos tell us, the force of expression. And I can tell you, when I am in Africa I can express myself like this:

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Here is a young male model in the evening light:

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The others were not so excited to pose and enjoyed sunset:

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a bit thoughtful:

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I know why we all could come in that thoughtful mood. Because of this sunset:

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During the day South Luangwa looks rather like this:_D5H4155.jpg.da62601cdaceb8453cc168b489438a50.jpg

 

Even mirrorless camera goes beyond its abilities:

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and is able to get bee-eaters in flight:

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"Look at this! So many colourful birds, it is a dream!!" I heard Hans saying. It is indeed.

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On the banks of this river we found lions when we were with Simon. It took quite a while but Simon strategy was excellent. Some of the lions had a sunbath on the beach just like the holidays must be:

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Some were having a steak and a soup in the restaurant with a beautiful view:

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The boss was up on the river bank watching if everybody behaves well:

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for example, like those youngsters:

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"Hey, look at the camera!! Over there is a camera. The bird will fly out!"

"You, dude! Better if a buffalo flies out! Look at the boss!"

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Nice models! But here are our Africa's Top Models!

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They are ready to be shoot in each circumstances! Also in the water! What a beauties!! :D

 

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Well... Boss is coming!

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And I can admire his beautiful face from a close distance... Scars... Females? Or fight?

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Was there also a fight between those two hyenas or was it just a small talk?

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The lions of course, were visited by vultures which flew sometimes very close:

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too much close...

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Hippos were nervous:

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but other animals were patiently waiting for the rests:_D5H4950-Bearbeitet.jpg.45e013ba3e99f99b50b71acaec524364.jpg

 

And this day full of action was going to the end.

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In the evening we checked the lions again. Later we met the other hyena and a female leopard by the Mfuwe lodge.

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Edited by ElenaH
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