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Wild Dogger

9 days in South Luangwa

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egilio

Wonderful day! Would you mind if I use these pictures in our survival databases of lions, dogs and leopards? All the ones pictured are know to us :)

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Game Warden

Safaritalk at work ʌʌʌ :)

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Atravelynn

Thanks for the albino clarification, egilio. Really good night shots.

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Wild Dogger

Day 4

 

We´re leaving Mfuwe to the Bushcamps.

In the morning we were told, that there had been heavy rains and storms the last night in the south, where we were heading to.

So we could not take the road along the river and had to go over the mountains.

The drive over the mountain is much longer and you don´t get actually to see that much, some grysbok in the distances and warthogs.

 

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The best sighting was a small herd of Roan, which crossed the road quickly, just a short glimpse of them, but still nice.

 

After more than 4 hours, we reached our first bush camp: Bilimungwe.

 

It´s really nice there, large spacious chalets with outdoor shower.

A small green snake (forgot the name) moved on the paths and scared my wife.

The chalets overlook 2 waterholes with elephants, warthogs and all sorts of impala as frequent guests.

 

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Outside shower

 

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inside chalet with some gear ;)

 

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view on our chalet

 

There´s just 4 chalets, which make that place really intimate and back to nature. Just how I like it.

 

There were only 2 other guests, so it was a quite place.

 

As usual we leave close to 4 for our afternoon drive.

 

First we stopped on the river banks, watching hippos.

 

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James knew, that there was some lions in the dry river bed. So we drove there.

On our way to that spot, we saw

 

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Impala

 

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and some elephants.

 

The lion we saw was

 

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„Scarface“ and two ladies.

We were told, that scarface got the scars from a fight with a crocodile.

He was collared to monitor his movement.

 

As the lions were doing the same as always, we proceded and reached a nice, small herd of buffalos.

 

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Actually that was it for the day. It was not really spectacular, but we had some good sightings in good light.

 

We had our sundowner Mosi in the river bed, watching some hippos fight

 

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and let the sun go down.

 

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The night drive provided another scrub hare

 

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a banded mongoose and a civet cat. No leopards today!

 

Back in the camp we had a nice evening with some wine.

As it is an intimate place, all guests sit together on one big table, as I was used to in Botswana.

 

Day 5 will follow.

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yeahyeah

Lots of good pictures. I especially like the Carmine flying away from the bank and the zebra.

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Wild Dogger

Day 5, 9.Nov.2011

 

One of these days on safari, where absolutely nothing happens.

The morning is very quite, with the regular plains game around.

 

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We see some sleeping lions (I think you already know, that I am no fan of sleeping lions).

At lunch time we realize that two ladies from Germany came this morning from Zungulila. They are staying 3 nights, so we should meet them again in Chindeni. We have a nice chat with them.

The afternoon drive provides a good sighting of one elephant.

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That´s about it.

It´s really enerving, when you have a perfect light and no animals at all.

 

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But the scenery is still nice. We enjoy the sundowner.

 

We have our only hyena sighting of the whole trip and a nice encounter with Sharpe´s Grysbok.

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For the next morning, we decide to make a game walk into our next camp Chindeni, which will take us about 3 or 4 hours. We don´t expect to see much besides PPP (plants, poo and prints).

 

In the bush camps, we were taken to our chalets by the camp managers. There was a lady camp manager at Bilimungwe that time. One of the staff told her that there was elephant around. It appeared to me, that she was a bit unexperienced in how to handle that situation. Knowing from Botswana, that only certified guides are allowed to take you to your tent, I do have slight safety concerns. Dominik told us later that there had been a couple from scandinavia that came as tourists and they liked it that much, that they decided to come back as camp managers for one year. Thinking about having such inexperienced guys taken me to the tent at night......, well I don´t know.

 

Day 6, 10. Nov. 2011

 

We take a game walk from Bilimungwe to Chindeni and see: nothing.

I am not that much a fan of walking safaris, maybe because we´d never seen anything on such a walk. And I must admit, I also don´t get that special feeling of being closer to nature like some of you do. I like it for the reason, of getting some exercise to compensate all that lazy sitting and eating on Safari.

 

Chindeni is may be the nicest camp, we ever stayed in. Large tents and a fantastic view over a lagoon with masses of egrets, storks, herons, pelicans and crocs.

 

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We get some refreshing drinks. A snake tries to catch a frog on the deck just in front of us.

Soon after that a croc catches a pelican.

 

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The afternoon drive is again very quiet.

But the night drive makes the difference:

 

another civet cat

 

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a large-spotted genet

 

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and our third leopard of the trip. We can watch the leopard as he approachs some Impala, but as there´s a full moon, it was to bright for him to hunt.

 

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In camp the manager tells us, that all the animals seem to have disappeared after the heavy storms 2 days before.

We have our dinner with warm white wine.

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Sangeeta

Why is it that the Mana walks appear to be so much more productive than the SL ones? Does anyone know? I think I would feel quite disappointed if I saw nothing on a walk. Went on a walk in the delta once and saw lots and lots of lechwe, giraffe, eles etc. from a reasonable distance. No predators but lots of birds and plains animals. Is this not the norm for SL and NLNP?

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stokeygirl

I've seen plenty of game on walks in SOuth Luangwa, including lions, leopards, plenty of buffalo and elephants. Although the lions and leopards do tend to run away very quickly if you see them.

 

However, I've said it a number of times before but I don't rate the area in the far south of the park that the Bushcamp Company's camps (with the exception of Kuyenda) are in for game viewing in general- it sounds to me like you weren't seeing much on your drives either, which doesn't surprise me. They have spent a lot of money making the camps over, and personally I think they are trying to make up for the lack of game with the luxury level of the camps.

 

Further north around Kuyenda and the President's Loop area is good, as is the central area (but busy). However, I much prefer the north of the park- either the Nsefu sector or the other side. There's Tafika and the Robin Pope camps in Nsefu, and Norman Carr, Shenton Safaris (Mwamba and Kaingo) and Lion Camp across the river. Tafika has a couple of lovely walking camps in the far north- I've seen plenty of game on walks there, more so at Chikoko than Crocodile.

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Sangeeta

Thanks .... and Stokeygirl. Very helpful info. in my planning!

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Shreyas

Awesome report, WD! Your pictures are a sheer treat. Surely the wild dogs' interaction/behavior is a priced catch.

Look forward to more.

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Lion Fanatic

Absolutely fantastic pics and report...Thank you for sharing that!

 

I'd be dead interested in learning what camera gear and lenses you used, as I'm in the market to replace the old stuff that I have.

 

Thanks again!

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Super LEEDS

Lovely pics, WD.

 

That hyaena looks a bit roughed up: bleeding from the head! Does it look a little thin too or is it just a young one perhaps?

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Wild Dogger

I agree, Stokeygirl. The sightings we had in the southern area of SLNP were all in all poor (besides the night drives). But going in November means, that you dont have that much choices. Most camps (if not all) in the Nsefu sector and northern areas are closed.

 

Another word to our walking safari experiences:

I think we made 3 in Botswana and besides one elephant and some giraffe in the distance didn´t see anything on these walks.

On our second walk in Chindeni we saw one Thornycroft Giraffe, some baboons and Impala running away.

It may be just bad luck or we misbehave that the animals hide from us or you guys are just luckier than us.

When I read the reports of Mana Pools, I have the impression, that you drive until you find tracks and then track the animals on foot, which makes the possibility of encounters more likely.

 

 

Happy New Year everybody.

Thomas

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egilio

November in Luangwa is a bit of a gamble. As long as it hasn't rained it's fantastic. One good rain and all the game disperses instantly. Lots of babies though that time of the year!

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Kavey

Lovely! Some great images to illustrate your report. My favourite is the one of the Redbilled Quelea...

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Wild Dogger

Egilio:

I know it´s a bit of a gamble at that time of the year.

Especially in the southern area the game was sparse. I don´t want to say, that I was disappointed, we really had great sightings esp. in the night.

When we returned to Mfuwe we saw lots of game there again.

 

Day 7, 11. Nov. 2011

 

We do a combined drive/walk in the morning.

I suggest, that we look for that leopard we saw at night first.

We head towards that area and try to find that animal. In the southern parts of the SLNP you are also not allowed to drive offroad but they bend that rule “a bit” in that area.

But we don´t track it like we were used to with Kwando. It was a bit half-hearted. We had a ranger with us, because that´s the rule when you walk, so we could easily have tracked that animal. At least, we could have tried harder.

Okay, we did not find the cat and drove to the river bank, where there was another colony of Carmines.

 

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We drive around the lagoon to the opposite side of the camp.

 

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Pelicans

 

On our way to the destinated walking area we find a couple of Ground Hornbills.

 

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The walk again is a nice change to all the driving and sitting. We see two giraffes, some baboons and impala running away.

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We don´t have much luck with our walks.

 

Way back to camp we encounter a nice Sharpe´s Grysbok.

 

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It seems, there´s not much game around in this part of the South Luangwa at that time of year.

We decide to request, if we can get back to Mfuwe Lodge one day earlier. James also thinks, that it´s the better area right now.

After lunch the manager tells us, that it´s possible to switch to Mfuwe Lodge the next day.

 

Before we leave for the afternoon drive we enjoy some nice views from Chindeni deck.

 

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Saddle-billed Stork

 

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Yellow-billed Storks

 

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Ibisses and stork

 

The afternoon drive once again is quiet.

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Puku

 

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Elephant crossing the Luangwa river

 

There is a young male lion on the other side of the river outside the National Park, but the river is wide.

 

A lonely buffalo bull is grazing in golden light:

gallery_5715_552_243518.jpg

 

and two Thornycroft´s show up:

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We have our sundowner on the river bed watching a little herd of elephants on the other side of the river.

 

Night drive again produces:

a scrubhare covered with blood sucking bugs

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and another leopard

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We enjoy our last night at Chindeni.

One word about the food: the food is really good at the bushcamps.

Just one thing, I don´t understand: if I was a camp manager and I realised the other day, that the guests were drinking white wine, I would cool some for dinner. I don´t know, what the duties of the managers may be in such a small camp, but it should be possible to put one liter of wine into a fridge, which they have.

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Wild Dogger

Day 8, 12. Nov. 2011

 

We watch the pelicans and storks from the deck in the early morning light before we head out back to Mfuwe.

 

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White-Crowned Plover:

 

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Suddenly we stop:

2 Leopards in a tree. A male and a female. I must admit, that I would not have seen them.

 

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It seems these were the two we saw yesterday night and the other night.

 

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I think, we disturbed the beginning of a romance.

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The leopards are not at all amused and quickly climb down the tree and disappear in the bushes, no way to follow. Maybe there´s a new leopard in the making.

 

On our way we see

 

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Puku

 

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Lilac Breasted Roller

 

 

and lots of elephants.

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It was the beginning of the elephant days.

 

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Stupid tourist

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stokeygirl

Eeeww, poor scrub hare!

 

I have also noticed that they don't really track animals in SOuth Luangwa, but then Botswana is sand everywhere. It's perfect tracking conditions. In South Luangwa, there's sand near the river but there's a lot of grass and gravel away from the river. I can't imaging being able to follow an animal for the kind of distances that you can in Botswana.

 

For the off roading- the further you get away from Mfuwe, the more the rules are bent. This applies to the north as well as the south.

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Wild Dogger

I am sorry, that my trip report is more a picture report. I am not that good in words

(and maybe in pictures, too).

 

Back at Mfuwe, where Jonathan Scotts group arrived, we get the same hut as in the beginning.

We were just 4 days away and it´s amazing how the nature changed with just a few rains they had.

Everything´s getting green.

 

In the afternoon we are busy looking for lions, but can´t find any.

 

The plains game is abundant much better than in the south.

 

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Digging in the dirt: Warthog

 

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Zebra Taxi

 

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Puku again

 

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Hippo

 

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Waterbuck posing

 

 

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Lots of small grous of elephants.

 

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Only the predators are hiding. They must be somewhere.

 

We look for a nice place for some sunset photographs.

Lots of waterbuck´s around.

 

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Crowned Crane

 

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And a nice sunset!

 

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The night drive´s again great with night jars flying around, bushbabys eyes in the trees,

lots of hippos outside the river. Funny enough, the next night, we went in the same area

and did not see any hippo.

 

Giant Eagle Owl:

 

gallery_5715_552_112419.jpg

 

African Fisheagle:

 

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Scrub Hare

 

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Large-spotted Genet (little leopard)

 

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and a short encounter with Leopard # 8

 

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The buffalos still around our hut in the lodge.

 

And Wonky Tusk and family was also seen in the lodge.

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ZaminOz

I suggest, that we look for that leopard we saw at night first.

We head towards that area and try to find that animal. In the southern parts of the SLNP you are also not allowed to drive offroad but they bend that rule “a bit” in that area.

But we don´t track it like we were used to with Kwando. It was a bit half-hearted. We had a ranger with us, because that´s the rule when you walk, so we could easily have tracked that animal. At least, we could have tried harder.

 

Wild Dogger,

In my experience and opinion, unless you stumbled across it by fluke, you would have had a very slim chance of being able to find a leopard from the night before (unless it had a known kill stashed in a tree) in day light in that terrain by tracking on foot. The leopard would have spotted your walking party way before you had a chance to spot it and vanished. In daylight usually the best way to detect the presence of leopard is by observing their usual prey, particularly puku, impala and baboons from a vehicle.

Sorry to hear that your experience of the game viewing was bad though. Unfortunately that is the trouble with wildlife (especially once the rains arrive), the animals work to their own schedule and don’t give a damn about ours!

Some days can be very quiet, other days you may have encounters like this:

 

Encounter at Kuyenda (from BCC webpage)

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Super LEEDS

Can't stand to look at that hare, yet also can't take my eyes off of it.

 

Thanks for sharing some awesome pics.

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egilio

It seems, there´s not much game around in this part of the South Luangwa at that time of year.

We decide to request, if we can get back to Mfuwe Lodge one day earlier. James also thinks, that it´s the better area right now.

After lunch the manager tells us, that it´s possible to switch to Mfuwe Lodge the next day.

Kudos for bush camp company that it was possible to switch back to main camp. Walking safaris are not for everyone. The sighting of the grysbok was a GREAT one! The possibility to encounter dangerous animals on foot is exciting, even just the tracks, because you know what's at the end of those tracks. To experience the small things is the majority though. I've now spent 4 seasons in the luangwa, and every time I go out I encounter something exciting. Being it a leopard making a kill in daylight, or an antlion trapping an ant.

 

 

Back at Mfuwe, where Jonathan Scotts group arrived, we get the same hut as in the beginning.

We were just 4 days away and it´s amazing how the nature changed with just a few rains they had.

Everything´s getting green.

 

It's amazing isn't it. One or two showers and life just changes instantly dramatically!

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Atravelynn

With your many, many outstanding photos in both daylight and dark, it is odd we're all talking about that poor hare. I have not seen so many ticks (I think?) on an animal. Was its fate discussed? The night time genets are wonderful, especially keeping in mind how quickly those guys dart around.

 

Those shots show what a colorful place South Luangwa is in every respect.

 

You gambled on November and won!

 

I'm going to have bad dreams after seeing that tick infested hare. Your fault, Wild Dogger.

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Wild Dogger

Day 9

13.11.2011

 

Today´s our last full day. The mission is to get our Leopard sightings into double digits, 2 still missing!

 

But it´s all about elephants! We call it Elephant sunday.

We leave early to watch the elies cross the river, but we are already late.

But there´s elephants all over the area. No big herds, but lots of smalls.

 

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We also see a big flock of Crowned Cranes in the Luangwa.

 

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And a nice Lilac Breasted Roller

 

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At lunch we hear that some guests have seen the female leopard, we saw on day 3, in some kind of action with a baboon.

There is one big elephant in the lodge joining us after lunch.

 

gallery_5715_552_15992.jpg

 

First thing, we do after siesta, was looking for that leopardess, but we can´t find it.

Also no lions to be found.

 

Our last afternoon drive is quiet.

 

There´s a Bushbuck on the banks of the Luangwa and it´s still Elephant Sunday.

 

gallery_5715_552_250307.jpg

 

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Even on the night drive we see:

an Elephant shrew

 

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In the spotlight James discovers a Leopard far away from the road in the field. It appears that he had caught something.

Suddenly James loses the direction back to lodge and we are close to the Leopard ;).

He has caught a Baby Impala and is licking on it´s blood.

 

gallery_5715_552_12716.jpg

 

After a short while the cat is sick of us and carries his prey into the bushes.

 

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We head back to the lodge, this was Leopard no. 9!

 

Day 10

14.11.2011

 

Normally you don´t have a game drive in the last morning, when the flights at 9 or so.

We suggest that we don´t have breakfast and head out for a short game drive and have some food prior we leave.

“Unfortunately” there´s an elephant in the lobby, so we get out a little later. It´s Wonky Tusk!

 

gallery_5715_552_128570.jpg

 

Driving around looking in vain for lions.

 

At least we find again an elephant. They are reliable.

 

gallery_5715_552_279682.jpg

 

Summary:

Compared to Botswana, I would say, that in Bots you see more game after the first rains, but I can only talk for the areas, we´ve been so far. The days are even shorter than in Bots.

The variety of game appeared a bit bigger in Bots. Although we knew, there are no cheetahs, we still missed them. We also missed wildebeest (I know, they are in a different area of the SLNP), jackals, tsessebees, ostriches and secretary birds. On the other hand you get to see Sharpe´s Grysbok, Thornycroft´s Giraffe, Puku, Crowned Cranes and you might see bush pig or Lichtenstein´s Hartebeest. Okay, let´s say, it´s par.

What I definitely like more in Botswana is the atmosphere in camp (as far as I can compare).

Mfuwe Lodge is too big to get the real safari feeling and if you´re on a private vehicle you sit alone at dinner and lunch, while other tables are full with people. You feel a bit like an outsider. For us it´s a part of the fun of traveling to chat with other guests not only the guides.

The bush camps have been quiet, even guest wise.

Especially with Kwando in Botswana we got this special feeling, which you can´t explain. There´s always a good chat at dinner, the people are extremely relaxed, there´s always a good joke around. The staff there really make you feel home.

But:

We would within a minute go back to South Luangwa.

Especially the night drives were spectacular.

We would not go back in the south of the park again, maybe try camps in the northern area.

As they mostly close by the end of october, the choice of camps is limited for our needs (only able to travel from beginning nov. til feb.).

I hope you enjoyed the snapshots and the report.

And: Sorry about my english.

Edited by Wild Dogger

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stokeygirl

See I like the atmosphere in the camps in Zambia more- the places I've been to I have found more friendly and less formal than Botswana. Epecially places like Tafika which is the owner's family home, they have their pets around and you might even get a visit from one of them in your room-

IMG_1522.JPG

 

If you go again, some of the northern camps do stay open a week or 2 into November- I know Tafika does. So if you went early you might be able to squeeze theem in.

 

I have never stayed at a big lodge like Mfuwe, but as you say the options are limited in the green season.

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