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Guest John Milbank

Mwamba and Kaingo

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Guest John Milbank

In the early hours of this morning, I heard a distant roaring. I wasn't dreaming that I was still in Africa. It was just some hoon revving the guts out of a car engine while doing burnouts in one of our otherwise quiet suburban roads. Back to reality.

We got back from our trip yesterday. The major part of it was our stay at Shenton Safaris' Mwamba and Kaingo camps in South Luangwa NP, Zambia, and that's what I'll concentrate on. I won't go into great detail because that would be a waste of words, as we all know the basics of going on safari. I'll try to answer any questions though.

 

I propose to get my films developed at random and pick shots here and there to link to in this thread in no particular order (if they're good enough).. That's how I prefer my wildlife viewing…the less managed it is, the better. I don't want to know what's around the next corner and to see the big glamorous critters behind every bush. That's not what it was like for Livingstone.

 

It'll be a couple of days before I have any images ready. I exposed only 27 rolls of film, including four medium format. I think Yvonne brought back about 70 gigabytes of images, so there was no lack of opportunities.

 

We saw three leopards: one on a kill at night, and one beautiful, relaxed young female who walked towards us along a track in late afternoon, stopped close to the vehicle, then cut across our front and walked off into the grass. She was hunting. We wouldn't have seen her except that we had stopped briefly and our guide heard a vervet's alarm chatter nearby and we saw pukus and impala all staring in the same direction. We found the leopards generally (and the lions) to be very elusive.

 

There were three lion sightings: the Hollywood pride sleeping off a meal of buffalo (you'll know what I mean when I say the young males were all belly and balls), followed by one of the lionesses chasing and whacking a hyena on the rump; four females of the Mwamba pride starting an abortive hunt among a big buffalo herd (one of the lionesses made a false move, and that was that); and about 15 members of the Mwamba pride seen during a walk by some of our group.

 

Subsequently, we drove many kilometres looking for the lions again, but they disappeared into thin air. That's how it goes.

 

There were plenty of other sightings, from tiny scops owls through spotted thickknees and the bigger birds, to civets and genets and the magnificent Thornicroft giraffes and the ever present hippos and crocs. We saw two big giraffes fighting. That's a brutal affair.

 

 

Most of our drives were on-track but we were able to go off-track when an opportunity presented itself. Off-track was very slow going, however, as the now hard ground is churned up by the passage of elephants, buffalo and hippos before it dries up after the rainy season.

 

 

We tried three of the camps' hides. The best for action was Kaingo's hippo hide, where we went twice…once at midday and once before dawn. The elephant hide has a great view of the Luangwa River but no elephants when we were there.

 

 

While we had some quiet drives while searching far and wide for lions and leopards, I can safely say we weren't disappointed by Mwamba and Kaingo camps and their wildlife. I can understand why the former is one of nyama's favourites. We loved its reed and thatch chalets with their insect-screened skylights, earthen floors with mats, and open-to-the-sky ensuite bathroom (bucket showers) and toilet. The six of us filled the camp, so of course we had it to ourselves for five nights. I'd rank it with the old tented Zibalianja as the best safari camp I've been in.

 

 

Mwamba's setting is magical. It's on a bank of the Mwamba River, a trib of the Luangwa. The trib is mostly dry now, but Mwamba camp has to be dismantled for the rainy season and rebuilt every May. It has its resident bushbucks, baboons and elephants who entertained us constantly.

 

 

One night, the matriarch elephant forced us away from our campfire because she was gradually putting us between her and the young in her small family group as she browsed the camp's trees. It was prudent to retreat. We stood in the open-air dining area as she started to browse a small tree on which a kero (paraffin) lamp was hanging to light the path between dining table and campfire. We were just 10 metres from her, and there was some concern as the lamp started swinging wildly that it might fall into the dry grass, start a fire and put a frightened ellie into a destructive rage. However, her trunk caught a whiff of kero fumes and she retreated in disgust.

 

 

Sorry, no photos of that brief episode. We'd left our cameras in our huts for dinner, and the moment passed before it was considered safe to go and get them.

 

 

The main camp, Kaingo, overlooking the Luangwa, is much more substantial and twice as big. It's built of more or less permanent materials, but it still has to be closed in the rainy season. I enjoyed it. We shared the camp with an American group for a couple of nights but we really only encountered them at meals and on our last night when the camp staff put on surprise sundowners for us (with bubbly) at Fish Eagle Lagoon.

 

 

Those going to Kaingo and Mwamba in the next few months, remember the names Meyam (Zambian) and Retief (South African), and Gideon and Enoch (Zambian). Meyam and Retief were our guides, and the latter were the armed scouts who accompanied any walks and held the spotlights during night drives. Some of our group walked the transfer between Mwamba and Kaingo , and that was when the third lion sighting occurred.

 

 

Oh, and if you're a beer drinker, go for the Mosi. It's bloody wonderful. It helps that these two camps keep their drinks very cold. They actually store them in freezers rather than fridges, and have to open the freezer doors a bit to stop the bottles bursting. Oh, the food's good, too :)

I'll add to this if there are any questions, and when I have some pics to offer.

 

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Guest nyama

Better don't post any pictures, John. I guess I'll get homesick then... :)

 

 

(not meant seriously)

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Alex The Lion

Glad you had a fantastic trip. It is completely different to Botswana, so I think that a contrast is unfair.

 

I love SNLP, and I have been to most camps/areas at some point. Kaingo along with Tafika, are my two favourite camps in Africa. My 8 days at Tafika were the most memorable after 5 months on safari last year!

 

John, please refrain from letting the fruitcake place know what a great place SLNP is!

 

Whilst you may have scanning excuses, Yvonne has no such excuse, lets get these photos rolling.....................

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Guest John Milbank
John, please refrain from letting the fruitcake place know what a great place SLNP is!

 

Have no fear, Russell. But I think it already has a few supporters there.

 

 

Whilst you may have scanning excuses, Yvonne has no such excuse, lets get these photos rolling.....................

 

She's starting to look through them now, post jet-lag. The only bad part of these trips is the getting there and coming home. We had 10 separate flights because of the way we structured this jaunt, and we encountered several of the usual airport hassles (delayed flights etc)...but missed no flights and lost no luggage. The most interesting hiccup was at Mfuwe when our chartered Islander-- coming to pick us up-- locked a brake on touch-down and shredded a tyre. So it wasn't safe to carry passengers and Proflight had to send another plane at no extra cost to us. It happened to be a Jetstream, twice as fast as the Islander, so we didn't lose much time and made our SAA connection in Lusaka.

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madaboutcheetah

Hi John,

 

Wonderful report!!! Very well written (But, that was expected). You had some lovely sightings and those Lion prides sound large at the moment.

 

Glad you enjoyed your trip and even more happy that you thought the camp was comparable to your memories of the old Zibalianja.

 

As Russell has mentioned, can't wait to see the photos ........

 

Cheers

Hari

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madaboutcheetah

Oops forgot to ask - You drive past that LRL?

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Atravelynn

Welcome back. The hippo hide at Kaingo is very intriguing. If some of your photos are from there, please let us know. That must have been a little unnerving when you realized the elephant could indirectly start a brush fire. I'm already awaiting the belly and balls photos. It looks like you had a most successful trip. Thanks for the info.

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Guest John Milbank
Oops forgot to ask - You drive past that LRL?

 

Sorry Hari, I didn't see this question until now....

 

We must have, but I didn't see it. On our return transfer, in daylight, we saw Mfuwe Lodge...imposing but atrocious-looking place on the bank of a lagoon right next to the main road.

 

I'm already awaiting the belly and balls photos.

 

We'll post one of Yvonne's photos later today. I'm not sure I bothered, but she did...wonder why? :lol:

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Bugs

Great stuff John. Welcome back.

 

I recon you should use the first picture as your profile pic!!

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Guest John Milbank
I recon you should use the first picture as your profile pic!!

 

The mind boggles! The equivalent photo of me would be far uglier ;)

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Bugs

I think it would be a bit testy for the warden.

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks, John ....... Loved the Hippo!!!

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Game Warden

Those images are full of atmosphere, lighting on the elephants is perfect.

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Guest nyama

John, you're guilty!!! It was this page that caused my bookings for the next trip...

 

Arrrgh, I feel so homesick when looking at this landscape... :)

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Atravelynn

Beautiful pictures! There are many worthy ones to choose from for your profile pic that would not make the warden "testy." :)

 

Your creek jumping picture looks just like one I have, only yours is in better focus.

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madaboutcheetah

Hi John,

 

More lovely ones - Can you please post a Puku close up, if you have any? I don't believe I have seen one in person .......

 

Thanks.

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Guest nyama

"The youngster just couldn't get enough" is great. Fantastic colours.

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Guest John Milbank
Fantastic colours.

 

Provia 400X. I've hardly had to do any colour tweaking at all. Some of the shots in indifferent light, yes, but otherwise nothing more than levels and contrast adjustments. The colours have been so good that I've even forgotten to eliminate slight magenta casts a couple of times.

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks, John. Very elegant antelope - the Puku.

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Nyamera

Beautiful pictures. It looks and sounds like you had a great trip. Nice to see bushbucks out and about.

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Guest John Milbank
Nice to see bushbucks out and about.

 

Very common there. Saw them at both camps. One afternoon, Y walked straight past a male bushbuck without seeing it when we were walking back to our chalet. I saw it a second later, as it dashed across my path from the shrubbery next to a chalet.

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Game Warden

Wow, the hippo shot is fantastic: the detail and texture is really vivid.

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Alex The Lion

Great photos John..........keeping my spirits up whilst at work!

 

Rock on the Luangwa................

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ZaminOz

John,

 

Beautiful photos! Welcome back. I had a hunch you might enjoy Mwamba and Kaingo!

 

Cheers

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