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Wild Dogger

9 days in South Luangwa

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Wild Dogger

So it was South Luangwa Valley this year, no Botswana, no Kwando.

The mission was to see more than the one Leopard we used to see per trip.

Maybe no Wild Dogs, but you never know;)

 

The original schedule:

5 – 8. 11. Mfuwe Lodge

8 – 11.11. Bilimungwe

11.- 14.11. Chindeni

 

We left Germany on the 4th Nov., almost missed our flight to Heathrow. From Heathrow direct to Lusaka, which was very nice, no stopover in Joburg.

From Lusaka hurry to get proflight to Mfuwe.

On Mfuwe airport we were greeted by a representative of the Bushcamp Company, who took us and others for a short ride into South Luangwa NP.

In the lodge we were welcomed and taken directly to our small house.

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view from our "chalet"

 

First decision was, that we changed our schedule. One night less in Bilimungwe and th last night again in the lodge as we had an early flight that last day and it would be perhaps a bit hard to reach Mfuwe from Chindeni.

 

Mfuwe Lodge is more a small hotel with the rooms being small houses, which was not that bad, not as intimate as the camps we were used in Botswana, but by far better than the big hotels in Kenyas N.P.s.

At that time of the year elephants walk into the lodge to eat from the wild Mango tree.

 

Before teatime we were introduced to our guide James and the spotter Steve, who would stay with us all 9 days. Steve only joined us on the afternoon/night drives to handle the spot light.

 

Up we went for our first drive. Weather was fine, here we come!

I was surprised about the good number of game in the area, esp.

 

Puku

 

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Impala

 

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and

 

 

Baboon

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in large numbers.

 

 

We didn´t see that concentration of game in Botswana at the same time of the year.

 

 

 

Also many elephants around.

 

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and lots of babys.

 

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Just around the corner we found two lionesses with cubs. No offroading, so we couldn´t get real close.

 

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After sundowner we realized that South Luangwa seems to be an excellent place for night drives.

The nocturnal animals were very much used to the spotlight and not really shy, totally different to Botswana, so bring your flash with „Better Beamer“.

The nightdrive started slowly but then

 

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we saw our first Leopard of that trip. From the far distance James thought it was an hyena, because of the style the animal moved, but then, as the animal approached, we realized it´s a Leopard. From that moment the car density got higher from minute to minute, spot lights all over.

 

Close to the lodge we saw

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our first Large-spotted Genet.

 

That was day one, and it was an encouraging start into our adventure.

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Sangeeta

Crystal-clear photos, wilddogger. Wow.

 

Very interested in reading what's to come...

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Game Warden

You got me interested with So... ;)

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Sverker

Great photos, Wild Dogger! I am eagerly waiting for the next 8 days reports. I am going there in less than two months ...

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twaffle

Great start.

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Super LEEDS

More, more, more :D please

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RedLeopard

More, more, more :D please

 

Echo that, eagerly awaiting more. Loved the pics so far.

 

 

Magnus

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Atravelynn

An excellent place for night drives and for your night drive photography!

 

Nov would be good pricing I bet. I see you stayed at Mfuwe Lodge. I've heard that in Nov, the eles migrate through the lodge. Any word on that.

 

Those puku are such attractive and appealing antelope.

 

Looking forward to the rest of your stay.

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Wild Dogger

Yes, the elephants are walking through the lobby in November to a special wild Mango tree.

We saw that also, but no pics of it, as I didn´t have my camera handy. Never stay at Mfuwe Lodge in November without having your cam ready!

 

The rates we had where excellent and we had good luck with the weather, no rain, only short shower one evening. In other areas of the park a massive storm appeared on the 7th Nov. but not in Mfuwe sector.

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Wild Dogger

A few words about Mfuwe Lodge:

management staff seems to be all british people, no blacks at all. They also have hosts from UK.

For meal times you sit together with your guide and the guys in your car. For us this was a bit boring as we´d booked a PV, which meant we had a table with us 2 and the guide and sometimes one host only. Missed the chat at dinner time we were used to in Bots.

At night 3 buffalos used the lodge area also as there sleeping facility, one morning our guide had to pick us up from our hut with the vehicle as one buffalo was sleeping almost on our doorstep.

From the huts you have nice views over river, with birds, baboons, puku and elephants as guests.

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madaboutcheetah

Sounds a great trip!!! Can hardly wait to read the rest of it...... Thank You!!!

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Atravelynn

Thank you for the Mfuwe information. Sleeping with the buffalo, an added benefit.

 

I'll be waiting for the rest of the story.

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Wild Dogger

06.11.2011

Leave the Lodge at 6 for our first morning drive.

 

 

All our friends are out there:

 

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South Luangwa is Elephant country.

And these guys are relaxed. Good sightings!

 

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Puku Lady

 

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and Puku Man

 

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We watched a flock of Redbilled Quelea.

Fascinating how they manoeuvre in these masses!

They move like waves up and down. It was one of the highlights!

 

We were scanning the area, but can´t find the cubs,

 

 

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but there´s still one lioness around.

 

 

 

 

And her food:

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The Thornycroft Giraffe is endemic in South Luangwa.

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We had good sightings of that iconic animal.

 

 

 

The landscape around the river is fascinating with the oxbow lagoons with Puku, Impala, hippo, crocs and birds like

 

 

 

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Crowned Cranes and

 

 

 

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Spurwinged geese.

 

One of the highlight was the colony of Carmine Bee-Eaters.

 

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I shot almost 300 pics in 25 minutes. You can guess that it is hard to find out which are the best and which to delete.

 

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On our way to the lodge, we see an

 

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African Fish Eagle,

it´s one of my favourite sightings, but I never manage a good shot.

 

I don´t waste my trip report about food and siesta stories. Food (Pizza that day :P) was good, the house was good, the roof was solid, it was clean, what else do you want?

 

 

The afternoon drive started at 15.45. Normally they don´t go out before 16.00, but as we had a PV we could choose our time.

 

We saw mainly the same animals like the day before and in the morning.

 

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The elephants were taking care of their business.

 

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An Albino Baboon was something special.

 

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One big issue at South Luangwa is, that the night comes quickly in November. We had our sundowners already at 18 Hrs. So the afternoon drives with light were pretty short.

Light was already good before 16, but it was extremely hot, so the animals were hiding.

And it should still get hotter!

But the night drives should easily compensate that, although this night was unspectacular,

 

 

 

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some hippo on a bank

 

 

 

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an elephant shrew

 

 

 

 

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and a giant eagle owl.

 

I was still learning, how to work with my flash/beamer combination and more and more got an idea of it.

 

So we called it a day and were looking out what day 3 may bring.

 

Although the day was not spectacular, we still had good sightings and 7 days to go.

 

Dominik, a british guy, working as a host in the lodge, joined us for dinner. He told us, that people, who were in transit to the bush camps, saw African Wild Dogs and it seemed, they were moving towards Mfuwe ....

 

So, guess what? I decided to wear my lucky red safari shirt the next day!

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Sverker

More great pics, thank you, Wild Dogger!

 

But it is a spurwinged goose, not egyptian.

 

And it is a giant eagle owl.

 

First pic of an elephant shrew on ST, is it? Great!

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Wild Dogger

OOPPS, and thank you, Sverker.

How can I edit a post?

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Game Warden
How can I edit a post?

 

By promising to send me on safari, then I'll do it for you...

 

Made the changes. I'll take that trip to South Luangwa next year, thanks ;)

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Wild Dogger

07.11.2011

 

Day 3

 

I think, you all know it, there´s the one special day on Safari, that makes the trip.

When you get home, first you do after uploading your pics, you have a look at theose of this day.

If you talk with friends about your trip, that special day will be in focus.

 

Now, let´s call that

day 3.

 

The day starts slow.

 

First sighting is a Ground Hornbill.

 

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A troop of baboons waking up under a tree.

 

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Some Impala rams testing their strength.

 

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Sometimes, you don´t have to go far:

 

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the Buffalo, that used to sleep on our door step´s now in front of our chalet in the pod.

 

 

It seems to be a usual day on Safari.

 

We head to the banks of the Luangwa river.

The Luangwa river is the natural border of the South Luangwa National Park.

 

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On the other side of the river, fishermen may fish.

We were told that they are allowed to fish until the center of the river, so it´s a floating border, depending on water level.

 

The danger is ever present:

 

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We see some really nice Puku fawns on the bank

 

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and Baboons are taking care of eduacating:

 

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After a while, James asks en passant, if we´d like to see wild dogs, at first I understood warthogs B) .

Silly questions :lol: , so we drove to that very special place.

The canids were lying close to a road under a bush :D .

 

 

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We watched them for a while, but I don´t manage a good shot.

As it was already pretty hot, they did nothing but lying. So we decided to leave them and get back to the lodge.

 

Our plan was, to leave earlier from the lodge in the afternoon, to get back to the dogs in time, to study their wake-up and greeting ceremony, maybe see them hunt. My wife told James, that he might bring a good book, as we were prepared to wait a while.

The area, where the dogs were lying was mainly open space, so chances to watch them move appeared promising.

 

On our way to the lodge, we also saw some sleeping lions, I don´t take any photos of sleeping lions anymore, and

 

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Zebras.

 

In the lodge we told Dominik about our discovery and invited him to join us for the afternoon drive, which he thankfully accepted.

 

From our hut we saw a

 

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Saddle-billed Stork

 

 

but we could not await the afternoon drive.

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Wild Dogger

We were ready to leave at 3, actually left at 3.30.

Batteries loaded, plenty of memory.

Unfortunately it seemed, the weather would not be on our side.

Dramatic dark clouds arising from south. And we had to go south!

 

James asked, if we wanted to go to the lions first, but I insisted to go to the wild dogs directly.

I think, he did not really understand, why.

 

 

Cruising to that very special place.

 

Suddenly we had to stop.

And I realized, that we would have to interrupt our mission:

 

a beautiful Leopardess (does this word exist?), sitting relaxed on the road side:

 

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James called her Ice.

 

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This leopard is used to hunt during the day, as he told us.

After driving a little time behind her, I asked, if we could pass, to get some shots from the front.

As we passed slowly, she first moved into the bushes but directly came back on the road, which is much more comfortable to walk.

And she´s frequently seen on that very road.

 

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We were able to spend a quality 15 minutes with this cat, without any other safari vehicle around.

As the next car came, the cat disappeared in the high grasses.

What a sighting!

 

But we still had a mission.

 

15 minutes later we reached the African Wild Dogs, it was a pack of nine, with two collared dogs and one remaining youngster.

 

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We were right in time, they were awake, but not moving yet.

 

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As there is a 4 car maximum at sightings, James told us we might have to back up if a 5th car came.

Fortunately not all safari goers honor these animals like we do. Many, esp. the beginners just tick it of the list and then move on. They rather enjoy a lion doing his lazy thing, than watch some running wild.

We saw the youngster run around.

 

Then I was lucky enough to capture some very special greeting shots of them.

 

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Still no 5 cars around.

 

After 30 minutes the dogs were going over to their business.

As I suspected, they used the open space to move in the beginning.

 

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The hunt was on.

 

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Some warthogs on the roadside were not really impressed by the hunters. And the dogs seemed to have some previous encounters with that fearless animal too.

After watching the pigs for some time, one dog decided the hunt was on, and they chased the pigs.

 

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It seemed to me, as if it was halfhearted. The pig escaped into a channel under the road. We are not sure, if it survived, as this channel was full of water on the one side, and there was no water on the other side.

Unfortuntely James was a bit slow in following the dogs. We were used different behaviour of guides in Kwando.

 

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We also had to back up, as other cars should get their share.

 

The dogs ran wild from left to right and back and forth closed to the road.

 

At least it took another maybe 5 minutes and they killed a bushbuck.

We couldn´t see that, as it happened in thick bush.

 

And the rain?

 

The rain started as we left the dogs and had our well welcomed sundowner Mosi.

 

This was day 3, but there was still a night to come!

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Atravelynn

The dog action shots are exceptional. (Wild dogs, warthogs, what's the difference?! :P ) What a clever red quelea shot and the spurwing goose on takeoff! The carmine bee eaters were out in force. The baby puku are really adorable. Nice work with the leopardESS.

 

Is there a pattern of albino baboons? Quite a find.

 

Good point on short afternoons and disappearing daylight.

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Sangeeta

Wow, the photos are getting more and more dramatic! Terrific bird photos. You can almost count the spots on that leopardess. (Sounds just as plausible as "lioness" to me.)

 

How hot and humid was it during your stay? And can anyone tell me when the Carmine colonies disperse?

 

A cursory search of SLNP camps seems to imply that most camps close in early November. Not true?

 

Looking forward to reading about the night drive...

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Super LEEDS

Brilliant report, WD. Thank you for sharing.

 

My photography skills are dreadful but your pics are absolutely stunning! Better than watching HD TV through a highly polished glass screen :D crystal

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Wild Dogger

Wow, the photos are getting more and more dramatic! Terrific bird photos. You can almost count the spots on that leopardess. (Sounds just as plausible as "lioness" to me.)

 

How hot and humid was it during your stay? And can anyone tell me when the Carmine colonies disperse?

 

A cursory search of SLNP camps seems to imply that most camps close in early November. Not true?

 

Looking forward to reading about the night drive...

 

It was very hot. High 30s. Humidity was low. But that may change when the rains come.

Yes, most camps close end of october or mid november. The roads are getting inaccessable due to rains.

Mainly the camps in the Mfuwe sector are opened year round.

Edited by Wild Dogger

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egilio

Good call to go for the dogs! Nice you had such a good sighting :)

 

Is there a pattern of albino baboons? Quite a find.

 

It's not an albino baboon. The Luangwa Valley seems to be a transition zone between Yellow baboon Papio cynocephalus (to the north) and Chacma baboon Papio ursinus to the south.

Also, a type, by some considered a different race, the Kinda baboon, P. cynocephalus kindae, occurs directly north of the Luangwa Valley, for example in Kasanka NP. Kinda baboon babies are typically born white, and later turn to their normal baboon color. It's the same as for example happens in some species of gibbons. They're not albino, which you can see by the eyes, they're black, not red. They're just born with a different coat color. In the South Luangwa you sometimes come across white babies. But you only see it sometimes, and babies quite quickly turn to a normal color, so indeed a special find.

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Wild Dogger

Good call to go for the dogs! Nice you had such a good sighting :)

 

Is there a pattern of albino baboons? Quite a find.

 

It's not an albino baboon. The Luangwa Valley seems to be a transition zone between Yellow baboon Papio cynocephalus (to the north) and Chacma baboon Papio ursinus to the south.

Also, a type, by some considered a different race, the Kinda baboon, P. cynocephalus kindae, occurs directly north of the Luangwa Valley, for example in Kasanka NP. Kinda baboon babies are typically born white, and later turn to their normal baboon color. It's the same as for example happens in some species of gibbons. They're not albino, which you can see by the eyes, they're black, not red. They're just born with a different coat color. In the South Luangwa you sometimes come across white babies. But you only see it sometimes, and babies quite quickly turn to a normal color, so indeed a special find.

 

Thanks for clarification.

Don´t know, why the guide did not know that.

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Wild Dogger

The night drive:

 

The rain should quickly stop, we didn´t get really wet.

 

We went of for our night drive with Steve on the spot light.

One thing, that I was concerned about and which we were not used in Botswana:

they shine the spot light also on non-nocturnal animals as the antelopes, etc.

In Botswana they directly lift the spotlight, when they realize it´s that kind of animal, because they say that they blind the animals, which makes sense for me.

I talked with James about my concernes and he said that they would only shine quickly on the animals, which was only partly true compared to Bots. I told him, that for me they must not shine the light on animals, that we also see regularly in daylight.

 

This night drive was just great.

 

First sighting was a chameleon.

I don´t know, how they managed to spot this green animal in between all these green leaves.

 

gallery_5715_552_129768.jpg

 

2 minutes later we passed a nice scrub hare. Absolutely relaxed, no hussle!

 

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And there she was again, on the same road as hours before:

Ice, the star of the show.

 

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Needless to say, that we always checked that road in the remaining time we stayed in the Mfuwe sector.

 

And if this was not enough, we met an African Civet Cat.

 

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As we knew, where the lions had been in the morning, we checked that place again.

And they were still there.

 

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one male and 4 lionesses

 

What a day!

Lions, Wild Dogs, 2 sightings of a leopard, chameleon and a civet, not counted all the „regular“ sightings.

 

The next day we were scheduled to leave Mfuwe for Bilimungwe Bush Camp.

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