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Zambia, June 2022: Enchanting South Luangwa.


Biko
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After reading so many inspiring trip reports on SafariTalk about South Luangwa NP I decided to go and look for myself. And the valley surely delivered.

 

My schedule was as follows:

3 nights in Luangwa River Camp

5 nights in Nsefu Camp

6 nights in Mwamba Bushcamp

 

In Lusaka I stayed in Pioneer Camp; my impression was that the good old days are over since the camp was sold recently. The atmosphere was not very welcoming, although the staff members were very friendly. The chalet was cold, the food mediocre. It was very nice to meet @ElaineAust here, who was on her way to the Kafue.

 

Luckily the camps in the South Luangwa valley were totally different.

 

 

LUANGWA RIVER CAMP.

This is a modern camp with very spacious comfortable rooms. The bathroom is huge, with a rather silly big bath.

The main area is beautifully designed. I had the privilege to be the only guest during my stay. The food was splendid, the conversations with Kim, the hostess, and John, my guide, were very interesting.

 

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NSEFU CAMP.

This is the oldest safari camp in Zambia, it was built in 1952 by Norman Carr. Nowadays it is run by Robin Pope Safaris, and they do an excellent job. I liked the rondavel style accommodation. The food was very good. I appreciated the excellent guiding by Willie, the camp manager. For most of the time I had a private car. During the nights bats were sometimes flying around the mosquito net, no problem at all, just funny companions.

 

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MWAMBA BUSHCAMP.

I loved this very natural, intimate and remote camp. The accommodation is made of natural materials, with a very nice eye for details. The open air bathroom area was just  great, it was built around a big tree. Food was delicious; the guiding by Elias was very good. During half of my stay I was the only guest. I had a private car during my stay. (Now that I tend to book longer stays in camps, it is my impression that I get a private car more often. Or maybe this is just a privilege when travelling low season).

 

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Edited by Biko
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Looking at your pictures I miss the South Luangwa Valley even more @Biko

We also stayed in the Luangwa River Camp which we liked it a lot. You are right about the bathtub, I thought the same. Our guide was Chris - did you see him?

Looking forward to your report:)

 

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3 hours ago, Biko said:

travelling low season


@Biko great description and photos! I am very impressed!!

What time/season did you travel?

When you stayed in Luangwa River Camp how did you get to the park? With the boat ro through the bridge? Ypu definitely saw leopards, right? You will write about them :-) Did you see also a lion pride in the main park?

And what did you se around the Nsefu? in 2020 we were passing by (the camp was closed) and I noticed a very beautiful landscapes around this camp: nice trees and green corners and a very beautiful lagoon  (perhaps, it was Wakawaka lagoon) with  yellow-billed storks. Have you been there? here must be also a lion pride in that area but we didn't find them. Did you?

 

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48 minutes ago, Athene said:

Our guide was Chris - did you see him?

Looking forward to your report

when I was there, John was the only guide around, Daudi was on leave and I guess the others were on leave too.

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52 minutes ago, ElenaH said:


@Biko great description and photos! I am very impressed!!

What time/season did you travel?

When you stayed in Luangwa River Camp how did you get to the park? With the boat ro through the bridge? Ypu definitely saw leopards, right? You will write about them :-) Did you see also a lion pride in the main park?

And what did you se around the Nsefu? in 2020 we were passing by (the camp was closed) and I noticed a very beautiful landscapes around this camp: nice trees and green corners and a very beautiful lagoon  (perhaps, it was Wakawaka lagoon) with  yellow-billed storks. Have you been there? here must be also a lion pride in that area but we didn't find them. Did you?

 

Elena, please bear with me, all your questions will be answered in the TR.

I travelled between 8-25 June 2022.

Edited by Biko
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It is very hard not to fall in love with the landscape of the Luangwa valley. I was really impressed by the diversity of landscapes. Obviously, everything was still quite green and lush so shortly after the rains, that continued long this year, had stopped.

 

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8 hours ago, Biko said:

In Lusaka I stayed in Pioneer Camp; my impression was that the good old days are over since the camp was sold recently. The atmosphere was not very welcoming, although the staff members were very friendly. The chalet was cold, the food mediocre.

Oh dear. That is not good news. Pioneer has always been my go to place in Lusaka for a night to get over my flight. I will see for myself next month when I visit.

 

Glad to see Nsefu is still looking as good as ever. The other two camps also look very good. I have to agree about the 'rather silly bath'. I am yet to see why you need such a thing in the bush!

 

Fantastic photos in your last post. Looking forward to the rest of your trip report.

Edited by CaroleE
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1 hour ago, CaroleE said:

Oh dear. That is not good news. Pioneer has always been my go to place in Lusaka for a night to get over my flight. I will see for myself next month when I visit.

 

Make sure to reconfirm your flight details a couple of days before you arrive.

Due to some misunderstandings they did not send a car to pick me up from the airport. And I can assure you that I was not amused when I arrived at 01.30 AM in the middle of the night, and found myself completely alone after an hour. Airport feels very safe though. Luckily I could reach ExpertAfrica's New Zealand office and Maruska called in a car from Lusaka.

On the positive side I can tell you that the departure hall of the brand new international airport is nice and warm, and I found interesting conversation company in the friendly person of Shylock, a young porter who was also stuck at the airport because there were no more buses running at that hour. 

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South Luwangwa is beautiful at that time of year, much greener than when we went in August/September 

Your photos are great!

Edited by TonyQ
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@Biko

Beautiful, evocative images of South Luwangwa park. The picture of the sunlight through the old tree trunks along with that of the impala framed with a golden glow sky with an elephant in the foreground  are stunning.
Thanks for starting your trip report that I’m sure will be a treat for us!

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Biko, my wife and I stayed with friends at Mwamba bush camp in July, 2008 (our last safari).  The six of us had the camp to ourselves for a week, which was the plan... and the experience was as good as we had hoped. Your photos are special. I'm a wildlife lover, but am rapt with landscapes as well, so I enjoy combining both elements in a picture if the opportunity arises. In your images, I think I recognise the ebony grove, and it looks like you made a trip north of Mwamba to the baobabs.  A lovely report.

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Towlersonsafari

yes lovely photo's @Bikowe have also stayed at Mwamba camp and found it a wonderful place- we even saw lions whilst resting on our bed- us that is not the lions!

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@CaroleE, @TonyQ, @AKR1, @Towlersonsafarithank you for your kind words.

@John M.I have read that you have lost your wife Yvonne early this year, my sincere condoleances with your loss. I agree with you that combining landscape and wildlife is a nice challenge and very rewarding if it works. You are right in recognising the ebony grove, that place is pure magic, isn't it? I hope that one day you will find the strength and the opportunity to go back to Africa, I am sure you will not be disappointed however emotional it may be.

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Luangwa River Camp lies on the eastern shore of the river and you cross the river four times a day to the National Park where the cars are parked. In front of the camp is a very large sandy bank, we would drive to the river edge by car and then get into a small boat. Lifejackets on, it all felt very safe. In the steep bank on the park side the staff had cut out a nice stairs. So all in all, very easy access to the national park.

 

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Predators were very scarce in this part of the park while I was there; in June the wildlife is dispersed more inland than in the dry season. But nothing to complain about, I had three hyena sightings, plenty of plains game, some elephants and giraffes. And on my last day a very large 200+ breeding herd of buffalo.

And John, my guide, made sure that he taught me enough new things. Like the fact that impala look darker in the early hours of the morning, because they raise their hair as a layer of insulation. Funny, after all these safaris and after seeing countless impala, no guide ever told me this... And I didn't notice the colour difference, until now.

 

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The Burchell's zebra has evenly spaced dark and light stripes as compared to the Plains zebra found in East Africa having broad light stripes with faint shadow stripes between the dark lines.

 

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Puku, another new discovery for me. The male puku is territorial, the female herds roam around. The female puku has a very reliable alarm call, a high whistling sound. The territorial call by the male will usually sound only three times, whereas the female's alarm calls continue.

 

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One species helps the other to get access to food

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Waterbuck

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Elephants would pass through Luangwa River Camp twice a day. After crossing the river in the evening they went to raid the fields of the poor villagers, who hardly knew how to protect themselves from our beloved pachyderms.

In the morning they came back running at a slightly higher speed, and crossed the river again while making a lot of noise.

 

During our night drives we would see lots of elephant shrews, unfortunately they were too shy to pose for a nice picture. Plenty of genets too.

 

On my last day in Luangwa Rivers Camp we came across a 200+ breeding herd of buffalo.

 

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And then it was time for the river crossing to Nsefu Camp.

 

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To be continued

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Wow, spectacular sightings!  I would love to see the elephants running back to cross the river - LOL.  Although I sympathize with the villagers.

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@Biko, so glad you finally made it!! Beautiful photos and makes me wish I were there again!

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On the morning of my departure towards Nsefu Camp we followed the Luangwa river in northern direction until we reached the Tena Tena and Nsefu Camp crossing point. Another safe crossing, this time without an engine, just man power.

 

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Thirty minutes on our way to Nsefu Camp, and I spot my first leopard! I can assure you, it will not be the last one I see (although it's the only one I spotted myself). A beautiful big leopardess, she quickly hides behind a bush.

 

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On the first evening game drive we come across the wild dogs. An excellent opportunity to follow them during their hunt. First they walk in one line, and when they get to the area where the impala's are the dogs disperse and try to isolate one of them. Unfortunately we did not hear or see the kill. After a while we drove to their den, arriving just in time to see the pack come back. I will never forget the scene that unfolds in the dark. The alpha female comes out of the den,  she screams loudly and aggressively for food from the returning dogs; they regurgitate and she quickly eats it and goes back into the den. And then we hear the yelping of the newborn puppies. Born in the last 24 hours, and the alpha female stops eating three days before giving birth, according to Willie, the guide.

 

The next day the roads to the den are closed to give the alpha female and the litter their rest. Around mid August they will be showing to the public.

 

In the next days we come across the dogs three times. The Nsefu area makes it rather easy to find them, the den is in the southern part, and the hunting takes place in the central plaines.

At all these sightings we were the only car. This I found really a big advantage of the Nsefu area, there are very few camps.

 

 

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madaboutcheetah

@Biko- Lovely!!! I wonder if it's the same pack I saw in September last year.  They call It the "milyoti" pack ..... 

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Beautiful shots of the leopard AND the dogs.  How did you get down so low for the dogs???

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@madaboutcheetahI must confess I have not asked for the name of the pack, I guess I was too much focussed on observing their behaviour.

 

@TravelMoreI took all the pictures from the safari vehicle with my Sony RX10 mark IV, the lens is a 24-600 mm which I used on 400-500 zoom. So the longer distance from the dogs combined with the zoom may have given the impression of a low point.

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Every morning elephants would cross the river in front of Nsefu Camp. It was an interesting ritual to watch. First the herd gathers on the shore, then the matriarch makes her judgement if the water is safe (crocs were at a distance of 50 m on the shore); the group enters the water and stands still so each one of them can drink as much as they want, the small ones standing well protected in the middle of the herd. After ten minutes the group crosses the river in a steady pace, and most of them leave the water immediately when arriving on the other shore. Only the adolescents stay behind in the water playing and frolicking.

 

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Another morning ritual at Nsefu Camp - How would you like your eggs done?

 

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Towlersonsafari

i do like the photo's of the elephants in the river with the wonderful sky and the sunlight shining on the elephant reaching up @Bikoand wonderful wild dog sightings!

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Beautiful landscape shots of one of our most favourite parks! it's a lot greener than we saw in September and beautiful light as well. 

Is the Mwamba camp part of the Shenton Safaris' camps? it was our favourite camp in SLNP, so much happening. But i see a concrete floor n the bedroom now. when we were there, i had the vague recollection that the chalet was built on top of the soil but it didn't matter. 

we liked the NSefu park as well - i think the park across the river gets more visitors but Nsefu has as many leopards and lions and dogs as the park opposite does too. 

 

Looking forward to more!

 

 

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3 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

Is the Mwamba camp part of the Shenton Safaris' camps? it was our favourite camp in SLNP, so much happening. But i see a concrete floor n the bedroom now. when we were there, i had the vague recollection that the chalet was built on top of the soil but it didn't matter. 

we liked the NSefu park as well - i think the park across the river gets more visitors but Nsefu has as many leopards and lions and dogs as the park opposite does too. 

Yes, Mwamba bushcamp is one of the two Shenton camps, the other being Kaingo camp. The bedroom in Mwamba was built on a concrete floor. It was also my favorite camp of this trip.

 

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