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'Stuff doing stuff' - A return to the Kafue.


Zim Girl
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As with so many others this year, this trip was postponed from 2021.

It came about because we had really enjoyed the guiding of Phil Jeffery from Musekese in Kafue NP when we went there as part of our South Luangwa/Kafue safari with @michael-ibkand @AndMicin October 2020. 

After we returned home from that trip, we booked a privately guided safari with Phil for 10 nights across both the Jeffery & McKeith camps, Musekese and Ntemwa.

 

Our itinerary looked liked this.

23/9  -  Overnight flight from Heathrow to Lusaka via Addis with Ethiopian Airlines.

24/9  -  1 night at Pioneer Camp, Lusaka.

25/9  -  Road transfer to Kafue NP.  4 nights at Musekese Camp.

29/9  -  Game drive tfr to Busanga Plains.  3 nights at Ntemwa Camp.

02/10  -  Game drive tfr back to Musekese for 3 nights.

05/10  -  Road tfr back to Lusaka. 1 night at Pioneer Camp

06/10  -  Overnight flight from Lusaka via Addis back to Heathrow.

 

Pioneer camp was much the same as it was in 2020.  A perfectly adequate place to stay with lovely grounds and only around 30 mins from the airport.  I didn’t do so well with the birding here this time but that is probably because I didn’t have ‘super birder’ Michael with me!

 

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The road transfer took 5 and a half hours to camp and we were pleased to find a large group of a dozen Sable and a few Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest on the way in through the Park.

 

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This Sable looks like he is deep in conversation with the Oxpeckers.

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@wilddoghas already posted plenty of pictures of the rooms and boma area of the camp so I won’t repeat them.  See her TR about the Kafue here. https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/22189-musekesentemwa-kafue-a-september-saga-from-5-st-members/page/3/#comment-349865 

 

We requested room 5 (Leadwood) at the far end of camp, which has a lovely open view of the surrounding area.

 

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Also it was a bit of a hotspot for the local wildlife.  We were often being told by camp when we were out, that the lions are by your tent, or an ele is by your tent, etc.  Well we know for a fact that a leopard walked by our tent as we caught him or her on our trail cam one night.

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At afternoon tea we met up with Phil who was delighted to see us again.

Obviously, the big advantage to booking a private vehicle and guide is that it allows you a lot of flexibility with what you can do.  At Musekese this also extends to a private boat.  As everyone who has visited knows, the boat trips on the Kafue river are quite a highlight. 

For the first afternoon we chose to go out on the river. 

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We saw a lot of headless crocodiles!

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The young ones were a bit more co-operative.

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A very relaxing start to the holiday. 

 

The title refers to something Phil would say every time we went out  -  "What we want today, is stuff doing stuff."

 

 

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With regard to the lions in the area, Phil explained what had happened since we were there in 2020.

The original Musekese pride that we saw then, consisted of the 2 Eden Coalition males, Tripod and his brother, 2 adult females (1 collared), a sub-adult male and 6 cubs.  The 2 males were displaced by the 2 Lumbeya males.  Tripod and his brother have not been seen since.  The rest of the pride have semi split into 2 groups, the collared female and 2 cubs along with Mrs Tripod (un-related to Mr), now called SCZ pride as they spend a lot of time around the Special Conservation Zone area, and the other adult female, 3 cubs and the sub adult male.  One cub was lost along the way.

Apparently, the dynamic isn’t ideal at the moment as the 2 groups really need to merge back into one pride.  This isn’t happening because the un-collared adult female needs to push out the sub adult male who is now old enough to be making his own way in the world. This will then allow the whole group to settle down. 

 

After following lion tracks for a while the next morning, we eventually found the Musekese group, being the adult female, sub adult male and 3 female cubs (now around 2 and a half yrs old).

 

They were split up at first and we watched them as they slowly got up and joined together.  Phil's big passion are the lions and we spent quite a while with them as he was explaining what was going on with them.

 

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I have been looking forward to your report.

A great start 

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Later in the morning a call came in for a leopard sighting.  We hurried over and found our first leopards of the trip.  When we arrived, there were 2 leopards under a tree. Phil said they were a female with a 1 yr old male cub and up in the tree was an adult male with a kill.  So 3 leopards!

A piece of the kill fell down and the female found it and settled down to eat.  The cub wasn’t getting a look in so it carefully climbed up the tree to where the rest of the kill was.  The other adult had moved away so the cub was able to go onto the kill.  The adult male came down the tree and disappeared.  Shortly after, the female also climbed up the tree. Her cub moved away and allowed her access to the kill.

 

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The female about to climb the tree.

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Although it was quite tricky to see amongst the dense branches, all of this was very interesting interaction and as Phil said, it was ‘stuff doing stuff’.

We stayed with them for a while and eventually we watched the cub climb down and walk off, a few minutes later the female followed.  We slowly trailed after them at a distance and caught up with them by a gully.  The female was hidden in the bushes but the cub was sat in full view.

 

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Stuff was certainly doing stuff for you Angie and Phil is the man to find them doing it. Looking forward to more

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Tom Kellie

~ @Zim Girl:

 

The photos! The photos! The photos!

 

Looking through your images is deeply inspiring.

 

Thank you so much for posting these.

 

What a terrific trip!

 

      Tom K.

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offshorebirder
14 hours ago, Zim Girl said:

we booked a privately guided safari with Phil for 10 nights across both the Jeffery & McKeith camps, Musekese and Ntemwa.

 

Holy Guacamole!   Jealous does not even begin to cover it for me  :-)

 

I am so looking forward to savoring this TR.

 

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Thank you very much @AfricIan, @Tom Kellieand @offshorebirder.

 

So onto the afternoon, and this time we opted for a drive.

Over the course of this safari we didn't see as quite as many elephants as we thought we might.  However we did run into this small breeding herd hidden in the bushes not far from camp.

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Not long after, we got a call to say the 2 male lions had been found.  Phil was extremely keen to see them as one of the males had been caught in a snare a couple of weeks ago and he wanted to see how the wound was doing. 

When we arrived the male with the wound was just walking up to join the other one, who was sleeping.  You can see the cut from the snare above his front right paw.

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His paw was now out of view, but Phil wanted a closer look and to take pictures, so he carefully drove around the lions for a better angle.

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It was still quite red, but not looking too bad considering.  He was also walking on it ok without limping so Phil was fairly happy with that.

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He looks chilled enough here.

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Then his mate woke up and we got a better look at him too.

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After sundowners we went back to the leopard tree from this morning to see if anything was going on.  Indeed, the female and her cub were in the tree still with the kill.  One of them dropped down while we there and walked away with a bit of leg.  (Pics are a bit ropey as the cat was moving pretty quick).

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Edited by Zim Girl
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One of the things we wanted to do a lot more of this time, was to walk.  We couldn't in 2020 as they didn't have a scout in camp.  In Zambia, all walks have to be accompanied by a scout and camps are only allocated one scout each.  Therefore private walking cannot be guaranteed.  We did know this before we booked but took a chance anyway.

Phil knew we weren't interested in the usual nature walks and went out of his way to organise longer and further walks for us, which we appreciated.

 

This morning we drove out to the beginning of the SCZ (Special Conservation Zone).  He said we would walk beyond the SCZ lagoon as far as we could and then circle back parallel to the lagoon.  Phil said the issues with walking distance in Kafue is because of the black cotton soil, the ground is very uneven and also habitats change quite quickly and really the Park just doesn't lend itself to good walking.  Still, we had a good go at it, although when we got back to the vehicle at only 10am and we were like  'mm, is that it?'  Phil realised he might have to go the extra few miles.  He said people generally throw the towel in at 9am because of the heat at this time of year.

 

But it was nice to be out of the vehicle.  The scenery was pleasant, not much in the way of wildlife, but we had a nice surprise when we stopped for a break.

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There must be some wildlife out there somewhere!

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We stopped for a break here and in the distance, beyond the shadow of the tree, in the darker grass, we saw a family of Bush pigs.

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Finally, some Puku!

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When we got back to the vehicle, we drove out into the lagoon for a proper tea break.  There were a few more Puku kicking around here.

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It was an hour long drive back to camp so we had missed the main group lunch, which we often did over the course of the trip, but they were always more than happy to put out a separate lunch for us.

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I never stay in the tent/room during the afternoon, I much prefer to mooch around camp and see what's about.  Musekese has a resident group of Bushbuck which are always wandering between the tents and down to the lagoon and back.

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The monkeys are entertaining. They sit around the boma area picking through the leaves, sometimes chasing each other but not causing a problem around the bar or food areas.

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Today I was sitting, looking out to the lagoon in front of the boma.  I had been watching a great egret getting closer and closer to the end of the channel and I had the camera up just about to take it's picture, when there was this huge splash and a crocodile came jumping out of the lagoon.  I missed the initial shot because I was zoomed into the egret and wondered what the hell had happened.  But I watched the croc come out onto land, it had obviously tried to get one of the drinking puku, but had missed.  It was really grumpy, swinging it's head round from side to side and hissing loudly.  Then it turned and disappeared back into the channel.  Surprisingly, it didn't take that long for the puku to come back.

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'Do you think it's safe yet?'

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And that's why you shouldn't go back to the tent after lunch, you miss all the action :).

 

Another time, I watched a young bushbuck wander down to the channel.  I kept the camera trained on it the whole time just in case the croc might have better luck.

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Fortunately for the bushbuck, the croc must have been hunting elsewhere!

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Edited by Zim Girl
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Great to see your TR, Angie. And I loved seeing the lion and leopard sightings, 'cos we wuz there too! Mind you, your photos are much better than mine.  So now I'm totally convinced I need to ditch my old camera and get one like yours! Very interested to see you had a leopard pass by Leadwood at night, because we saw a leopard there on the evening of the 17th, about a week before you arrived, so perhaps it's a regular route.

 

Looking forward to reading more. Meanwhile, I've almost edited my photos so, in the interests of not leaving @wilddog's TR hanging in the air, I'll jump in there and add a bit soon - and try not to duplicate or overlap with you too much. 

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Hi @Galago

I think leopards walking through camp is fairly common.  We caught a couple on the trail cam last time we were there as well.

Great to meet you there, I enjoyed our dinner time chats!

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In the afternoon we went out on the river again, but this time in the opposite direction from the other mooring point.

We are quite into our birding now so always on the look out for the Half-collared KIngfisher and the Finfoot.  We found both this time, although the Finfoot dashed off as soon as we saw it.  The hippos were doing their best to hide too!

 

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On the way back to camp we came across the wounded male lion walking along the trail.  He was looking fine, still with no limping, so Phil was very happy.

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Dog Day Part One.

 

I have split this sighting into two posts as there are a lot of pictures and I don't want to bore the pants off you too much!

 

We had been out for less than an hour this morning when a call came over to say wild dogs had been found on the other side of the Eden lagoon.  Phil raced over to the position given.  Two other camp vehicles were already there and just as we pulled up a short distance away, the dogs started running across in front of us.

These were the new ‘pack of five’.  According to Phil they are made up of 3 females and 2 males. They are very excited about them as it brings the total of known wild dog packs up from 5 to 6.  Phil said they are hoping to collar one of them eventually so they can keep track of them and also to see how they interact with the resident ‘Eden’ pack.

 

Initially they were in hunting mode, obviously watching the Puku on the other side of the channels. They were running around and jumping over the smaller stretches of water.  Then one of them made a fast break towards the Puku.  We thought a hunt was on but the dog stopped at the wider channel.  Phil said they are happy to run through the water but it slows them down so much, it’s not worth the effort as the Puku would be long gone.

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This dog suddenly goes racing towards the puku.

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But that stops as quickly as it started.

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They join up for a bit of play rough and tumble.  

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The dog on the far left has a wound behind it's right ear and the dog on the far right has wounds above and below it's left eye.  They can be seen better in later pictures.

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Phil taking loads of pictures for ID purposes.

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We had around half an hour of watching them when they started running away from the lagoon.  We followed them until we lost them, but then stayed around in the general area just in case they came back.

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Dog Day Part Two to follow.

Edited by Zim Girl
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So jealous. A wonderful sighting.

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What a superb sighting 

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Wow! Your photos are totally stunning, and I particularly love the ones of them leaping over water with the reflections. That was the morning we were packing to leave, and Roy turned up at out tent to say dogs could be seen from the deck. I've never made the trip from Fig to Deck so fast! We saw a couple of them by standing on the chairs and peering up the lagoon. We were so chuffed because that was our third sighting of the trip. But, oh my goodness, you really did see them up close and persona, and all five of them too. Just wonderful!

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On 11/4/2022 at 4:06 PM, wilddog said:

So jealous. A wonderful sighting.

 

23 hours ago, TonyQ said:

What a superb sighting 

I know.  We haven't seen Wild Dogs for a few years so we were really pleased with it.  

 

22 hours ago, Galago said:

Wow! Your photos are totally stunning, and I particularly love the ones of them leaping over water with the reflections. That was the morning we were packing to leave, and Roy turned up at out tent to say dogs could be seen from the deck. I've never made the trip from Fig to Deck so fast! We saw a couple of them by standing on the chairs and peering up the lagoon. We were so chuffed because that was our third sighting of the trip. But, oh my goodness, you really did see them up close and persona, and all five of them too. Just wonderful!

Thank you very much.  Glad you did see them.  We asked when we got back into camp if you had managed to see any of the action and they said you had.

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Dog Day Part Two.

 

Just a few minutes later Adrian saw puku running in the distance towards the lagoon.  Phil quickly drove back in that direction and as soon as we reached the clearing we could see the dogs had made a kill. We must have just missed it happening. Already there wasn’t much of it left and the dogs were just squabbling over the bits of carcass.

 

Ok, here we go with lots more dogs!

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Here you can see the wounds around the left eye of the RH dog.  Looks like puncture wounds under the eye.

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After this they all settled down under the shade of a nearby tree.

We were both beaming with excitement and Phil turned round and said, 'well, I think that counts as stuff doing stuff'.  We couldn't agree more!

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Wow! You really got some gruesome shots, especially the gradual demolition of the head/ face of the Puku! They are just stunning, really the best pics of dogs I've ever seen. 

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Thank you very much @Galago.  We were very lucky to have such a good view of them.

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While the dogs were resting, the raptors that had been circling overhead had a chance to come down to the leftovers. A Tawny eagle had a bit of a scrap with a watching Fish eagle before hopping over to the kill.  Also a Yellow-billed Kite was trying to get his share.

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After a short while the dogs all got up and trotted away.  We followed them until they left the path and disappeared into the bush. We tried to follow but it got too dense, so Phil radioed in their last known position to the guys at Musekese Conservation and we drove back to the lagoon.  By now the vultures had got in on the act, so we settled down for a while to watch them.

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During the afternoon there was a bit of a commotion.

First, I had an encounter with an elephant on the path alongside the tents.  It had been browsing in the bush to the left of the path but I hadn’t seen it until I was level with it, and it was then stood just a few metres away to my side.

I know, I know, how do you not notice an elephant??   In my defence, I was probably fiddling with my camera or something :wacko:

I stopped and looked, it was quite calm, just a little bit of ear flapping, so I just slowly carried on walking. It turned away and walked up towards the main vehicle track.   Phew!

 

Diane, the manager, was up at the bar, so I told her what had happened. 

She went back down the path to make sure the elephant had definitely gone.  However, on the way I could see she had stopped and was on the radio.  Then staff and guides started to appear and everyone was looking into the bushes.  Diane came back and told us (2 other guests had also just come up from their room) that Mrs Tripod was in camp.  She had been up and moving but then had settled down in the bushes by the car park.  Diane drove us back down to our tents.  Later we got the message that she had moved closer to the lagoon and it was safe to come down for afternoon tea.

 

Once we started the pm drive, we went out to see her.  It is a struggle for her to get up but she seems to be managing.

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It was generally a fairly quiet drive, but we did see a nice group of Lichtenstein's Hartebeest with a couple of young ones.

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This afternoon we were going to be transferring up to Ntemwa camp at the Busanga Plains. 

But first, Phil has organised another walk for us.  This time we parked only about 10 mins from camp to allow us to walk further and longer.  After an hour, the scout put up his hand and said 'elephant'.  We stopped and watched 3 eles wander through the trees behind us and then round and in front of us.  They gave no indication that they knew we were there.

 

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We enjoyed this walk.  No idea where we actually went but we did eventually turn and come back parallel to the river.  I think we probably nudged around 15km this time.  A member of staff had driven the vehicle round to a different meeting point and we finished with tea and biscuits.

 

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We left Musekese at 2.30pm for the transfer to Ntemwa.  First you cross the river and then the drive up to the southern edge of the Plains.  We arrived in camp at 5.30pm.

When we crossed the river we spotted a leopard lying on a branch overhanging the water.  We floated over to look but he was bit annoyed at being disturbed and clambered off and onto the bank.

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Next up, Busanga Plains.

 

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offshorebirder

Your Leopard encounter on the transfer from Musekese to Ntemwa brings back some fond memories for me @Zim Girl.

 

Thank you very much for this trip report.

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