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ZaminOz

Zambia: August 2010 Safari holiday

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ZaminOz

Itinerary:

Flight – Perth WA -> Johannesburg - > Livingstone

3 Nights: Natural Mystic Lodge (Livingstone)

Flight – Livingstone -> Mfuwe (via Lusaka)

4 nights: Mchenja Bush Camp (Norman Carr Safaris)

3 Nights: Chindeni Bush Camp (The Bushcamp Company)

3 Nights: Kapamba Bush Camp (The Bushcamp Company)

Flight – Mfuwe -> Livingstone (via Lusaka)

1 Night: Taita Falcon Lodge (Livingstone)

Flight – Livingstone -> Johannesburg -> Perth WA.

 

Our travelling party was a group of 9; ZaminOz, Mrs ZaminOz, Mast. ZaminOz (aged 4) and 3 other couples all good friends, none of whom (bar me & Mrs ZaminOz) had ever been to Africa before and who pretty much relied on me to book and sort out everything – thus allowing me to tailor the safari to my (or Mast. ZaminOz’ – to be precise) needs. The bush camps that I wanted to stay in (in South Luangwa) were reluctant to have a 4 year old in camp unless the whole camp was booked out by our party – hence the need to find small camps and recruit some friends to fill the camps (each of which had 4 tents or chalets).

 

LIVINGSTONE

 

Natural Mystic

 

Arrival & Day 1:

First stop was Livingstone (via Johannesburg). After an 11 hour (overnight) flight from Perth to Joburg, a 5 hour wait at OR Tembo airport and a 2 hour flight to Livingstone (all on SAA) we arrived in Zambia surprisingly refreshed and raring to go. We were met at Livingstone by a representative of Voyagers Zambia with whom we had arranged to finalise some of our payments for various activities that we had booked through them. A driver with minivan from Natural Mystic then whisked us away on the 45 minute drive up river to the lodge, getting us there mid afternoon in time to settle in to our chalets before our first activity.

 

Natural Mystic is a relatively inexpensive but very pleasant low key lodge on the banks of the Zambezi with 10 comfortable brick and thatch chalets each with enough from for two mozzie netted double beds, some cupboards and a separate ensuite bathroom. The main lodge building is an open sided brick, pole and thatch structure housing the restaurant /dining area and bar, leading onto a deck that stands out over the river.

Anyway – our first “activity” of the safari was an drive down to the plush Royal Livingstone hotel close the falls to partake of their High Tea while watching the sun set over the mist and spray of Mosi-O-Tunya (pith helmets optional).

 

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I gotta say, after +/- 20 hours of travel high tea watching a beautiful African sunset over the spray from Vic Falls is a great way to settle in to a safari holiday! Now the Royal Livingstone is not exactly the wilds of Africa, but the environment is pleasant enough especially if the only damage to your hip pocket is an afternoon visit for delicious scones with cream, cucumber sandwiches and a host of other nicely presented and very flavoursome calories all washed down with select cocktails and a Mosi or two - in a very relaxed setting.

 

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ZaminOz

Day2

Next morning was an early and chilly start. After an early breakfast we did a River Safari (ie a tin game viewing speed boat with canopy roof cruised us up and down the banks of the Zambezi above the falls). This was mostly about crocs hippos and birdlife though we did see some elephants too, grazing on a couple of islands.

 

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After the River safari we paid a visit to Victoria Falls and spent the rest of the morning there. The river level was fairly high for that time of year and the falls still had a fair amount of water cascading over the edge. Accordingly we all got the obligatory drenching, but everyone was blown away by the spectacle of Mosi-o-Tunya.

 

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After lunch, we saw some of the sights of Livingstone town & did some shopping for supplies that we couldn’t bring in on the plane (such as cordial for Mast. ZaminOz). Then we took a leisurely drive back to Natural Mystic lodge through Mosi-o-Tunya National Park. I was surprised at how much game there actually was in this little park. I didn’t take many photos as I was saving card space for Luangwa, but we saw a lot of impala, puku, zebra, buffalo, waterbuck, baboons, vervets, some giraffe, elephants, hippo and also got to see one of the white Rhino grazing just before sunset (its armed ZAWA bodyguard trailing through the bush not far behind). Then we got back to the lodge for a nice dinner and drinks listening to the African night.

 

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Edited by ZaminOz

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ZaminOz

Day 3 began with breakfast on the Natural Mystic boat meandering up the Zambezi, again a lot of bird life and croc were to be seen, along with a particularly aggressive bull hippo who tried to torpedo the boat (but our boat driver took evasive counter measures) and then followed us a good 600m up river!

 

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The rest of the day Mrs ZaminOz, Mast. ZaminOz and I relaxed and just enjoyed being back in Zambia while some of the others in our party did white water rafting and other activities.

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ZaminOz

SOUTH LUANGWA N.P.

 

We left Natural Mystic early in the morning and spent most of that day in airports and on light aircraft getting from Livingstone to Lusaka and then on to Mfuwe airport outside South Luangwa National park, arriving at Mfuwe mid-afternoon.

 

Mchenja

 

Day 1

We were picked up from Mfuwe airport in an open land cruiser by Lawrence, one of the Norman Carr Safari (NCS )guides, who was to be one of our two guides at Mchenja bush camp. From the airport is an approximate 40 minute drive along a mostly bitumen topped road though rural villages to the main gate and bridge over the Luangwa River.

 

Once across the bridge and into the national park it was about 4:00 in the afternoon, and from there we took a slow game drive up river towards Mchenja. Primates, impala, puku, waterbuck, zebra, elephants and hippos (in the river) were in abundance.

 

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At a point in the river where a pod of hippo was sleeping in on a sand bar before their after dark grazing expedition, we stopped for sun-downers and a behind the tree pit stop.

 

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After sun-downers we were back on the drive. On the track we passed a vehicle from Kakuli camp (also Norman Carr safaris) who told us that lions had killed a buffalo on another nearby track. By the time we got there light was fading fast and the pride had moved away; all but two. Lawrence told us that the two young males had most likely been left behind to guard the kill while the rest of the pride went down to the river for a drink. We occasionally spotted hyenas lurking about in the darkening thickets nearby but there were evidently not keen to test out the guards at the kill.

 

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We left them alone after it got dark and continued on to camp as it had been a very long, but still very enjoyable day.

 

At Mchenja we were greeted by the camp staff and hostess with cold drinks, warm wet towels and an escort to our tents. After dinner those of us that were not yet ready to crash… mostly the guys… sat around the camp fire to listen to the night sounds, drink in hand.

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ZaminOz

Day2

 

The wake up “knock knock” on the tent door was at 5.30 am. Breakfast was cereal, or porridge, toast grilled on the campfire, tea, coffee and juice, all eaten standing around the fire under a tree on the river bank or sitting in one of the camp chairs. By 6.15 we were in the two land cruisers and off guided by Lawrence and another NCS guide, Simon. ZAWA scouts Kamisa and Mishek armed with .375 rifles accompanied us. Family ZaminOz and another couple found themselves in the land cruiser with Lawrence and Kamisa.

 

A short distance from camp we came across a small family of elephants and from there onwards it was a steady stream of game. Sightings mixed amongst the ever present impala, puku, waterbuck, kudu, bushbuck, zebra, hippo, crocs and baboons included: a hyena chewing on a large piece of hippo hide (a hippo had died in a dry creek bed a couple of weeks before), a hippo out on land, giraffe, numerous small family groups of elephants, vultures at a freshly picked skeleton of a buffalo (Kamisa was of the opinion that the lions had probably only abandoned that kill about a day before).

 

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Under Lawrence’s tutelage Mast ZaminOz was rapidly becoming a little expert on the various types of tracks and poo to be seen in the bush … but poo was his major, and at almost every drink stop from then on he would amaze all with his dissertations on the various poo to be seen…

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ZaminOz

Day3

 

Our second morning drive began with barking baboons immediately outside the camp. It was clear that they had spotted a predator in the thickets on the river bank, we were soon able to identify the particular clump of thickets that was getting the baboons worked up and guessing that there was a leopard in tem somewhere; Lawrence then began a game of land cruiser chess as he maneuverer to get us into the best position to get what would be a fleeting photo op when the baboon outed leopard eventually broke cover. The leopard too was up for the game and we got fleeting glimpses of its mottled coat or tail as it tried to out maneuverer Lawrence (and the watchful baboon sentries) by slinking low in gullies and behind fallen trees to get from one thicket to another. Never enough to photograph.

Finally all went quiet and it seemed that the leopard had disappeared. But then just as cameras were lowered and we began to drive away, the beautiful cat made a darting run across the open, straight towards the trees topped with barking baboons – maybe to frighten the bejayzus out of them! The only photo I managed was an out of focus blur.

 

We drove on, seeing (amongst others) saddle billed stork, spoon bills and yellow bills, a troop of baboons in a tree who thought it would be a good idea to pee on us from up high (a quick reverse got us out of harm’s way, but the vehicle’s bonnet copped it good), a large herd of buffalo, obligatory lilac breasted rollers, our first genuine mock charge complete with angry head shake and ear flap (there were to be more to follow).

 

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ZaminOz

On the way back to camp for lunch we spotted some wildebeest moving through the trees to our left, and then to our right (also watching the wildebeest) two lionesses. They were not in a hurry to hunt as the sun was getting high in the sky, so after a while we left them to their shade.

 

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The afternoon drive took us eventually back to the area that we had seen the lionesses and wildebeest, sure enough the pride had made a kill deep in the thickets and it took some careful driving to get us into position to observe them at their kill. Another vehicle from Kaingo (or Mwamba?) was there as well as our two vehicles from Mchenja, but that was the only vehicle that we shared a sighting with the entire time we were at Mchenja (apart from on our transfer out to our next camp).

 

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ZaminOz

Day4

 

Early the next morning we again came upon lions, this time the Mwamba pride, who had found themselves a nice scenic bend overlooking the now dry Mwamba river course.

 

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We left the lions after a while and saw all the usual game again, including a fairly large black necked spitting cobra crossing the road moments before the zebra in the photo below. By the time the dust settled and I was game to get the camera out of its dust protector bag the snake had gone. Such is life...

 

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On the way back to camp before lunch we then came across three cubs playing by the side of the road with not an adult in sight anywhere. We watched them for a while (although they were more subdued by our presence), until the bigger of the three led the other two skulking almost guiltily back into some thickets in long grass.

 

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The afternoon game drive (our last day at Mchenja) was as productive as the other days, including the Mwamba pride still doing what lions do best, some photogenic baby puku and some big crocs. We also came across the same three lion cubs in the same place at dusk; again playing out in the open without a care in the world. Lawrence was of the view that the cubs were old enough to sense danger in time to hide (bar land cruisers it seems).

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Edited by ZaminOz

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ZaminOz

The night drive heralded a leopard hunting, a croc a long way from the river and a giant eagle owl (amongst others).

 

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Edited by ZaminOz

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The following morning after an early breakfast around the fire we bid farewell to Mchenja, as Simon and Mishek drove us all on our game drive / transfer to Bushcamp Company’s (BCC) Mfuwe Lodge, where we were to have brunch before being driven to BCC’s Chindeni camp in the southern sector of the national park.

 

Some thoughts on Mchenja:

 

Beautiful camp, fantastic location, very well hosted, great food and very good guides. The whole camp atmosphere is very much laid back homely comfort... a place one could easily feel at home. They also, for a small camp have a good guide/vehicle: guest ratio - i.e. 2 guides/vehicles for usually only 8 guests (although with Mast. ZaminOz we were a party of 9). And with 2 armed ZAWA game scouts and 2 guides in camp the guests have maximum flexibility to game drive or walk as they please. The game viewing at Mchenja was great and varied but our luck seemed to be in lions at this camp.

 

Some views of Mchenja (inexplicably I forgot to take any pics inside the tent... most likely coz I took the camp photos when Mrs ZaminOz was deep in siesta mode and I would have got a shoe thrown at me for my troubles. Also my young camera assistant thought that photos of the bathroom were "boring"):

 

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ZaminOz

Chindeni

 

Day 1

 

The transfer game drive from Mchenja to Mfuwe with Simon and Mishek was one of the most intense of them all.

It started with vicious running brawl between two baboons in the dry Lewi riverbed, watched impassively by some puku...

 

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... then some lionesses on a buffalo that they had killed right on the river’s edge. I am not sure which pride this was… Simon may have said but I don’t recall… anyway one of them was wearing a GPS collar, so maybe egilio will know? They were across a lot of soft river sand so we didn’t drive up to them.

 

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... merely minutes later as we were driving over an area of flood plain close to the river embankment a small herd of elephants came trumpeting over the lip and straight towards our land cruiser scattering puku in their wake like the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava! They had obviously been spooked by something down at the river but when they saw the land cruiser in their path they split off either side of us and thundered past, trumpeting as they went... a good adrenaline surge was had by all!

 

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... Moments later; another parade of elephants, this one far more orderly and composed, in single file down the road towards us, before veering off to the right. I didn’t get many photos as I was trying to video this procession on my DSLR. I think this photo is of the tail end of the column.

 

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Sverker

Thank you, ZaminOz, for the first days. great report and photos.

 

No giraffes?

 

I want to see the Taita Falcon. Maybe you saw it at Taita Falcon Lodge? Well, I understand that you didn´t go hard birding with your group, but how big chance to see it when searching?

 

Eagerly waiting for the next report ...

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ZaminOz

... We drove on for a while seeing the usual, zebra, waterbuck, puku, impala, bushbuck and birdlife, before we came across another vehicle at a pride of lions making short work of the remains of a buffalo under a tree by the side of the road. When we arrived it was mostly young immature males and some females feeding, while older females were scattered around in the grass sleeping and a mature male watched from close distance. Some other lions had moved away about 80 meters downriver and gone down the bank to drink. I third vehicle had stopped about 80m from us to watch these lions.

 

Suddenly the mature male got up and with a deep growl sent the immature males and females on their way. These young lions, numbering about 6 or 7 then filed (within 1 meter proximity) past our land cruiser, each eyeballing us as they passed and headed down river towards where the other lions had gone down to drink. But before they got there they noticed that the third vehicle (about 80 meters away) was conveniently creating some nice inviting shade, so much to the horror of the occupants of that vehicle, they availed themselves of said shade.

Eventually the mature male and most of the mature females moved off from the kill and took a shorter route down to the river. At that point we left the first vehicle with a couple of lionesses at the kill and drove over to where vehicle 3 was still besieged by immature lions and, admittedly, had a chuckle at their expense. I suspect one of the males was trying to sever a brake line, but I can’t be sure, I was half expecting to see him try to open the door with a wire coat hanger...

 

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Edited by ZaminOz

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ZaminOz

After brunch at Mfuwe Lodge, we were taken on the drive down to Chindeni by one of the BCC guides, Onacious. Onacious was to stay with us for our entire time at both Chindeni and Kapamba. BCC normally only have one vehicle and guide at their bushcamps, but as we had a child in our party we requested an extra vehicle and guide, which was provided to us at a reasonable fee shared by all in our party, thus giving us the same flexibility that we had at Mchenja. The drive down to Chindeni was fairly uneventful, being at mid-day and taking the inland main road past Chichele hills and mostly through mopane forest.

 

When we arrived at Chindeni we were warmly met by the manager and staff and Manda Chisanga, who was guiding at Chindeni that season (as Bilimungwe – the camp that he normally guides from – was closed in 2010 for refurbishment).

 

Chindeni:

 

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ZaminOz

After settling in we were off on our first afternoon game drive. Though someone forgot to tell the Twaffles to wake up before the tourists arrived!

 

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After a stop for sundowners, we were on to the night drive.

 

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We had seen leopard during the interludes from lions up at Mchenja, but the area around Chindeni is truly good leopard country. What we really wanted though was a good leopard sighting in daylight, as bar a lightning charge at a tree full of baboons just outside Mchenja camp, all our leopard sightings had thus far been at night.

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ZaminOz

After an early coffee and toast we were off the again the next morning seeing a lot of game in a very scenic part of the park with the N’Chindeni Hills as a constant backdrop.

 

Sometime into the morning drive Onacious heard the alarm call of impala, and upon observing some impala staring into some long grass we moved in closer to see if it was a leopard. Sure enough it was. And in daylight to boot. The leopard was stalking through the grass towards some thickets closer to the impala (who had resumed grazing) but to get to the thickets he was going to have to cross some open ground.

 

Onacious positioned us so that we would have a good chance of a photo as he crossed the clearing... cameras ready we waited in silence... the grass was moving almost imperceptibly as the leopard stalked to its edge... we tensed, the light was right, lens focussed on the spot and the leopard glided quickly out ...

 

At this point in time Mast. ZaminOz was peering over the side of the Land Rover. Just as ZaminOz Snr was starting to depress the shutter button, he is jolted by an excited shove in the shoulder "Look daddy! Impala poo AND waterbuck poo!"

...

Result: my second blurred daylight photo of a leopard’s backside disappearing into thickets.

 

I did manage to get in one as he disappeared into the grass, but alas nothing in open ground.

 

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ZaminOz

The rest of the day heralded no more daylight leopards but the game viewing and night drive were all good.

 

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The ZAWA game scout at Chindeni was Godrich, who had been a wildlife officer for about 25 years, he had done everything as a wildlife officer from elephant control to tsetse control, tsetse research assistant, anti-poaching, community liaison to walking safari escort. He had a lot of fascinating stories. I liked him.

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ZaminOz

More photos from around Chindeni:

 

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Some thoughts on Chindeni: Best tents that I have ever been in. I could live in them. Fantastic friendly service and great food. The guides were excelent, management were professional and all were great company around the table. We were lucky to have the opportunity to meet and be guided by Manda as well as Onacious.

The area is a really scenic part of South Luangwa and the game very good. We saw no lions at all but saw their sign and heard them often, on the other hand we saw a lot of leopard activity at night (unfortunately for the leopards it was a full moon at the time so their hunting efforts that we witnessed were a little half-hearted and really seemed to be going through the motions in the hope of striking lucky – pretty good for our visibility though!). There were lots of giraffe, buffalo and elephants here too. No big elephant herds, but many family groups, almost every group with very young calves, which is a good sign.

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ZaminOz

Kapamba

 

After leaving Chindeni, Onacious drove us further south on a game drive to our next destination; Kapamba.

 

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ZaminOz

We spent the following 3 nights at Kapamba. Here the resident guide was Fannuel, another good guide with a great personality and a very humorous disposition. Also a keen eye for spotting game! On arrival at Kapamba as Onacious was introducing him to us on the chitenje deck, Fannuel spotted a leopard in the trees on the other side of the Kapamba river... sure enough a leopard sauntered out for a quick drink. Our third daylight sighting of a leopard... and did anyone have a camera ready??

 

Game drives at Kapamba were mainly on the other side of the shallow Kapamba river, which included a 4 times a day river crossing. This thrilled Mast. ZaminOz no end and quickly surpassed poo spotting as a favourite event on game drives.

 

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Edited by ZaminOz

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The general numbers of game around Kapamba was not quite as plentiful as Chindeni and Mchenja had been, but it was still good. Again we saw no lions here despite hearing them at night.

 

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ZaminOz

A lot of game used the Kapamba river as a watering spot rather than the nearby Luangwa, due mainly I suspect to the absence of crocodiles in its shallow waters (as did we – no need for plunge pools here).

 

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Last sunset in the bush:

 

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ZaminOz

LIVINSTONE (again)

 

Taita Falcon Lodge

 

Very early the next morning we made the day long journey away from Kapamba comprising of one long drive out of the South Luangwa park, and two flights to get back to Livingstone, where we spent the night and breakfast the next morning at Taita Falcon Lodge. Can’t really tell you much about Taita Falcon Lodge, because we really were not there long enough, but it was a nice lodge and a nice location, quite a rough drive outside of Livingstone overlooking the gorges below Victoria Falls. Anyway the sleep was good and the food too.

Here are a few pictures:

 

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The flight back to Australia was the only disappointment in the whole holiday, compared to everyone in Zambia, the airport staff in OR Tambo Airport at Johannesburg were noticeably rude, unhelpful and inanely bureaucratic (which made us almost miss our connecting flight to Perth), and if that wasn’t enough for them, their colleagues in baggage handling failed to get our bags onto the plane... when the bags finally made it to Perth, the thieving louts had broken into them and stolen my portable hard drive with all my photos on it (fortunately it was only back up of what was on the Netbook and SD cards, so no photos lost). But despite the bad taste left by OR Tambo staff, it was fantastic safari!

 

Dzikomo to all in Zambia who made it possible!

:)

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Thank you, ZaminOz, for the first days. great report and photos.

 

No giraffes?

 

I want to see the Taita Falcon. Maybe you saw it at Taita Falcon Lodge? Well, I understand that you didn´t go hard birding with your group, but how big chance to see it when searching?

 

Eagerly waiting for the next report ...

Hi sverker,

We saw lots of giraffe, I just didn't take many decent pictures of them it seems? :) We saw a lot more further south around Chindeni and Kapamba though.

 

As for Taita Falcons - no didn't see any. We were only at Taita Falcon Lodge overnight so no time to look for any.

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