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Trip report and pictures Zambia

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Hi all,

We got back from Zambia on the 1st of June.
Just wanted to share our pictures with you and give you a quick trip report.

I'll post the pictures first and start working on the trip report later.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=4lqhg36k.6z39ywpo&x=0&y=-yzl2b6

Stefanie

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    Stephanie,

    Fantastic pics!!! Thanks for sharing....loved the lions/leopard/sunsets/antelope...everything, really.

    What were the impalas running away from? Nice pic.

    Hari

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    Hari,

    I'd like to say the impalas were running away from something spectacular like lions or a leopard, but unfortunately they were just skittish and were running for no particular reason. I really like the puku in there, maskerading as an impala ;-)

    Esmeralda

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    Thanks for sharing. I love the variety of wildlife you photographed--praying mantis, butterflies, lizards, it's fantastic! Also, great job with the falls--rushing water photos are still Dh's and my downfall!

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    Ok, here it is, the trip report part 1.

    Trip Report Zambia
    Stefanie & Brian
    May 16th - June 1st 2006

    Livingstone, Nyala Lodge (3 days)
    South Luangwa, Kapamba (3 days)
    South Luangwa, Kafunta (3 days)
    Lower Zambezi, canoe trail, Gwabi to Chongwe, camping on islands (4 days)
    Lower Zambezi, Chiawa (3 days)

    We left Amsterdam on the 15th of May and flew to Livingstone via London and Lusaka (British Airways and Zambian Airways)
    We stayed at Nyala Lodge in Livingstone. It's a very small and quiet lodge out of town (not extremely luxurious, but the chalets were nice and clean and the staff was very friendly and helpful)
    The first day we just unpacked and rested.
    On the second day we visited the Victoria Falls.
    We went there in the morning and it really surprised us that there were not that many people around. We were stupid enough to rent a poncho, which off course didn't help at all. We were completely soaked after a few minutes!

    The next day we went horse-riding, which was really nice and relaxing.
    In the afternoon we were going on a the sunset cruise on the African Queen. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the ship had already sailed (so to speak)
    The people at the office of the African Queen were very helpful and brought us to the ship and on board with a speedboat (kind of embarrassing, but at least we were on board) The staff on the African Queen was extremely friendly as well and as you can see in the pictures, the sunset was stunning!

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    part 2

    Then it was time for our flight to Mfuwe Airport, again with Zambian Airways.
    We were then brought to Mfuwe Lodge, where we had some time to relax before we were transferred to Kapamba, since it is a 3 hours drive.
    The guy that was driving (can't remember his name) was driving like it was a highway instead of some dirtroad full of potholes, so it was quite a bumpy ride.
    After about 1,5 hours it was getting dark and we had to duck for flying birds, which kept us awake (after a while it gets quite boring driving in the dark)
    Unfortunately we got a flat tire and the jack didn't function properly, so we got a bit worried after 20 minutes of trying to get the flat tire of this truck.
    Luckely after a few more tries the tire did get changed and we arrived in Kapamba shortly after that.
    We were welcomed with warm cloths and brought to our tent. It was really nice (especially the bathroom) and spacious.
    The food at Kapamba was excellent, especially the desserts!
    In the evening we (all the guests who stayed at Kapamba) decided what we were going to do the next morning, a drive or a walk.
    We only did a walk once, because I am quite lazy (to be honest) and it was quite hot.
    Our guide during our stay was Gilbert. Thanks to him we got to follow the pride of lions for a couple of days.
    Gilbert surprised us all by driving away from the pride on one of the drives, saying they were going to hunt in another location later.
    We didn't really believe him, but sure enough when it got dark we could hear them getting ready to hunt close by (we were having our sundowner)
    So we got in the truck and waited. Every now and then the spotlight was turned on and we could see the lionesses stalking the impalas (that were pretty close to the spot where Gilbert had parked the truck)
    All of a sudden we heard the impala go down close by and the lions roaring. The spotlight was turned on again and we could see the lionesses fighting over the impala. Off course the male came in and took the biggest chunk of meat. Shortly after, the cubs joined in for the feast. The cubs were quite curious and came to check out the headlights of the truck. It was amazing!
    The amount of game in that area was a bit disappointing, but we really liked the fact that the camp is so remote. We didn't see another vehicle once during our stay.

    Highlights:
    - great desserts/food
    - the lion kill
    - remoteness
    - that beautifull bathroom!!

    Negative:
    - just one guide, so you have to agree with the other guests on a walk/drive
    - not a lot of game in the area

    After Kapamba we went to Kafunta, which is just outside South Luangwa National Park.
    The setting is amazing, from the restaurant/bar/swimming pool and the chalets you have an amazing view over the floodplains.
    When it gets dark, they turn on a light, so you get to see the hippos and the pukus grazing while you have dinner.
    We got to see a lot of animals while we were there (pictures were posted earlier)
    Our guide during our stay was Josephat.
    The chalets were very nice, if you don't mind squirrels breaking and entering at night ;-)
    They were chewing on some liquirish I brought with me. It took me a while to figure out why there were teeth-marks in them.......

    One night we were brought to our chalet by a staff member. When we got inside we heard quite a some noise which sounded like it was coming from somewhere in the chalet. I off course suspected the squirrels straight away..... ;-)
    Turns out there was an ellie in front of our veranda, munching on a tree. We looked out of our windows, and there we elephants everywhere around the chalet. We hadn't noticed earlier (neither did the guy that took us to the chalet) that we had walked straight through a breeding herd of elephants.....
    On one of the drives we found a couple of lionesses hiding in the tall grass. When it got dark they started stalking some impalas.
    Unfortunately they were quite clumsy and didn't succeed in catching anything.
    But it was nice to see them try!

    Highlights of Kafunta:
    - the view!!!
    - ellies in camp

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    part 3:

    After Kafunta we flew back to Lusaka. From there we had a road transfer to Gwabi lodge, the starting point of our 4 day canoe-trail.
    I would not recommend a road tranfer by the way, it was scarier than the whole canoe-trip......
    (we saw quite a few accidents when we were driving there)

    We arrived at Gwabi around 14.30 hours and we had about 15 kilometers to canoe that day.
    There were no other people on the trip, so it was just us and our guide, Martin.
    Unfortunately it was quite windy that day and we didn't have any previous canoe-experience, so we were about to find out that it was going to be quite a challenge for us.
    We were fighting and swearing for most of the 15 kilometers, because we were blaming each other for not going the right way. Looking back now it was quite funny.....
    Martin kept us motivated and told us it would get easier and a lot more fun once the wind was gone.
    We arrived on an island on the Zambezi just before it got dark. Martin was making us dinner, while we were struggling to put up our dome-tent (no camping experience either) After that, we actually started to enjoy this canoe-trip. Being out there on an island, looking at the stars and listening to the sounds of the bush. At night you could hear the hippos everywhere and just the idea that animals could be just outside your flimsy tent was really breathtaking!

    Day 2: about 30 kilometers of canoeing
    The second day it was still windy, but we had a little bit more time to get to the place we were going to camp, so there was a lot less fighting in the canoe that day ;-)
    In the afternoon we were picked up for a game drive through the game management area. There were lots of helicopters and planes going by over both sides of the Zambezi, so we asked what they were for. We found out that a few days earlier a plane had disappeared and the helicopters were looking for it. We drove on and passed a landing strip where the family of the people that were on the plane were standing. It was such a reality check..... I really felt sorry for those people.

    The third day, the wind was completely gone and I finally understood what Martin was talking about on the first day. Canoeing could actually be a lot of fun.
    We finally had some time to just sit in the canoe and enjoy the scenery, the birds, the elephants drinking and all the hippos that were everywhere.
    That night we stayed at a place where we could finally wash ourselves properly in the river (there was a large shallow part so we wouldn't get surprised by crocs)
    I can tell you, I have never felt so clean in my whole life......
    The fourth day was very relaxing as well, just a little bit of canoeing and lots of resting.

    Highlights of the canoe trip
    - the back to basic feeling (it takes a while to get used to it, but after a while I started to enjoy most of it)
    - the beautifull and remote areas where we camped
    - the night skies
    - the sounds at night around the tent
    - watching ellies drinking up close without disturbing them
    - bathing in the Zambezi, it doesn't get any better then that

    Negative
    - the back to basic feeling (I am a girl, I like basic things like a shower and a toilet ;-)
    - the wind

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    part 4:

    After that we were transferred from one of the islands by motorboat by James from Chiawa Camp.
    (James is the boat-guide for Chiawa and also accompanies the night-drives as a spotter. If you go to Chiawa, be sure to ask for James as your spotter.....
    His eyesight is just unbelievable)

    When we arrived at Chiawa we were offered to go for a short drive (the morning-drives had left by then)
    We decided to go for it (after taking the first real shower in 4 days, which of course made us VERY happy)
    We drove around for about an hour and we were chatting with Daniel as he stepped on the brakes. There was a leopard, right next to the dirt road (first leopard pictures)
    She just looked at us for a while. Daniel called the other game-vehicle but before it could arrive, the leopard got up, walked right past the car (we were told to sit absolutely still) and went into the bushes.
    That was not a bad game drive!
    At lunch we met the other fodorites (Star & Richard, Sharon & Richard and Sharon), which was really great. Such a small world, isn't it?
    It should be quite funny to see Sharon aka Cooncats pictures, since we were both in Chiawa, with the same camera and the same lens............
    So some pictures will probably look kinda familiar ;-)

    The next day we walked from our chalet to the restaurant for tea and the game drive. We remembered to keep our eyes peeled for any animals that might be walking through camp.At the last chalet before the restaurant we saw this big elephant (OK, elephants are always big, but if it's just you walking without an armed guide, they are extra big)
    Since I kind of have an elephant trauma since I was once charged by one in South Africa (ok, I was in a car then, but it was still pretty scary) I wanted to slowly back off and go back to our chalet. After discussing the risk at the chalet for a while we decided to go back and see if the elephant had moved off by then.
    It had moved a bit further away from the path so we made it to the restaurant. There we watched it from a safe distance. Apparantly the elephant regularly visits Chiawa. After a while it moved right next to the restaurant again and wanted to have Sharons snack (we thought)
    It was so cool to watch this ellie looking at us and sniffing the floor of the restaurant.
    (off course I made sure I was standing way in the back, just in case ;-)

    The last day at Chiawa we were in terrible doubt what to do, a canoe trail or a game drive.
    We were driving Craig and Barbara (management Chiawa) crazy, by deciding at the last minute that we wanted to do a drive (they were just carrying a canoe to the water for us)
    That's the thing with safari and or more then one game vehicle/option, you are always afraid you are not going to be that lucky person that gets to see those wild dogs, that lion kill or that beautifull leopard.......
    (we unfortunately didn't get to see any wild dogs this holiday, which I was really hoping for, so I will have a good excuse to plan a new holiday soon ;-)
    James was our spotter this last drive on our holiday and since I knew how good he was, I was convinced that if there was anything to see, he would spot it.
    Some of fodorites were on a boat-cruise and were going to join us on the drive later. We were just on our way to pick them up somewhere, when James told Dispenser (our guide on the drive) to stop. There was this beautifull male leopard just lying there, waiting for us.
    We just watched him for a couple of minutes and went back to pick up the others. We raced back to the spot where we left the leopard so everyone could see it, unfortunately it was gone by the time we got there.

    Highlights Chiawa
    - the two excellent leopard sightings
    - ellie in camp
    - the hide from which we saw some buffalo, a breeding herd of elephants, hippos
    - the surprises they have for you (I won't spoil the surprise, for those who are going to Chiawa)
    - the nice group (other fodorites)

    Negative at Chiawa
    I don't know how to put this nicely, but sometimes I found the management a bit patronizing. Of course this is just my opinion.
    When we arrived at Chiawa we asked Craig and Barbara (management) if they had heard anything about the plane that was missing. They still had not found it by then.
    Craig and Barbara then told us that the other guests were not told about the missing plane, and that they would appreciate it if we didn't say anything about it, because it
    would scare or upset the guests (although we felt this was a bit insulting, we decided not to talk about it anymore)
    We asked if we could have a private table for dinner (it had been Brians birthday the day before and we wanted to have a romantic dinner to celebrate, besides that, since you never have any time alone on a holiday like this, we felt like having dinner for two for a change)
    This was apparantly not possible.
    Furthermore, the way the staff had to sing for the guests did not fill me with joy. I just imagined how it would make me feel if I had to sing in front of people at my job.....

    All in all we had a lovely holiday. The best time was definately the canoe-trip!!

    Stefanie

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    I'm having a hard time keeping up with all the fantastic trip reports and photos lately!

    Thanks for sharing yours, esmeralda. The canoeing trip sounds interesting. I think I might like doing something like that...for maybe a half a day. :)

    Great shots in your gallery. Love many, but the Falls are so impressive.

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    Hi Stefanie

    Your pictures are truly fantastic. I love the impala leaping, god knows I have tried to do that for a long time. How many photos did you take to get that wonderful selection?

    Kind regards,
    Kaye

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    Hi Kaye,

    Thanks for the compliment!!
    I must say I lucked out with those impalas. I saw them started to run and I took about 10 pictures of them, only 5 of them turned out ok. My boyfriend and myself both brought a camera with us on the holiday, and I think we took about 700 pictures in total, most of them got deleted straight away......
    I just love digital cameras :-)

    Esmeralda

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    Great trip report and stunning photos Stephenie - Thanks for sharing.
    As others have stated, I also loved the Impala race. I also thought that their was some kind of impending doom at the end of the series. I like your ending better.
    Just another day out frolicing in the bush - perfect.
    Sherry

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    Though you claim to be lazy, you sure were not lazy with your wonderful trip report. You really were able to enjoy some of Zambia's highlights in depth.

    When you were speedboating to catch the African Queen, did you feel a bit like James Bond?

    I love the variety of names that staff and guides have in Africa. Dispenser has to be one of the most unique.

    How brave of you to do the canoeing and camping with no experience. Now you are pros. Too bad you did not know that canoeing would be a highlight of the trip on those first blustering days when you were cussing and fighting the wind. All is well that ends well.

    On to your magnificent photos. You have a very good eye. I especially liked the squirrels. They are all over, especially around camps, but so hard to photograph. The butterflies were lovely. The puku herd was beautifully posed and, as many have commented, the running and leaping impalas were superb. Those skittish monkeys and baboons are hard to even get on film and yours were so sharp and clear. Elephants and leopard were great too.

    When we read the other Fodorite reports, we'll have to look for the overlap of activities that you shared.

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    Stephania, I came inside for a break from preparing our wooden deck for restaining when I chanced upon your report and pictures. I could just about feel the spray from the falls as I opened your album. By far some of the best pictures I have seen from a fellow Fodorite. Thanks for sharing! Dick

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    Hi Stefanie-

    Thanks for your trip report. Can you give me some more details about your canoe trip. Who was it booked with?
    Did they arrange the transfer from Lusaka to the starting point?

    Thanks
    Cruisinred

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    Hi Cruisinred

    The company we booked with was River Horse Safaris/Safari Par Excellence (http://www.safpar.com)
    They arranged the transfer from Lusaka to the starting point.
    Their HQ is in Zimbabwe, so you can choose whether you want to canoe from the Zim side or the Zambian side I think. Everthing was taken care of. We even got to do some other activities during our canoe-trail, like nightdrives or normal game-drives. If you are considering doing a canoetrip, I would advice you to start a bit closer to Lower Zambezi NP then we did (our trip ended at the border of the National Park)
    If you need any additional info, feel free to ask.

    Stefanie

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    Hi Steph and Brian! - Well, your photos are absolutley wonderful. Star's are, as well. Looks like you got some fab lion interaction at Kapamba, and the leopard shots! Really great. Are you finding it hard to be back in the other world? It was really great meeting you.
    Take care,
    ((@))

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    Hi Sharon,

    Good to hear from you!
    I can't wait to read your trip report and to see your pictures!

    I read your post about coming home.
    I know how you feel. I always cry when I leave Africa (especially when the plane takes off, I hate that feeling)
    Coming home was definately a big shock.
    Everyone is rushing, no bush-sounds at night etc :-(
    We're already thinking about planning our next holiday, because I'm getting withdrawal symptoms . Maybe a budget-trip to South Africa in december/januari...

    Stefanie

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    hi stefanie! remember us? have just been reading your excellent trip report......mine pales in comparison, but at the rate i type i´d better leave it as it is if i want to get it posted this century. really agree with you on the mad dash transfers to kapamba......they really need to slow those guys down. so plsd that all went well on your trip. haven´t had a chance to take a look at your photo´s yet, but from all accounts are wonderful. not very good at this computer thing so not sure whether i´ll be successful post reply on fodors....we´ll see! all the very best, it was great meeting you - l+a

    hi all fodorites....my report is a bit bare bones next to stefanie´s, but hope it is of use you some of you. we had a great trip as a whole and the south luangwa park is an absolute dream. the scenery is stunning and the birdlife and vegetation in may fabulous. wildlife viewing very good too, but at that time of the year a good and ENTHUSIASTIC guide is essential. we didn´t get in as much walking as we´d hoped, but again later in the season all should be different. in direct comparison to our trip with kwando in november i´d rate it a bit tame. but then as as i say we are very keen. certainly the camps didn´t have the true safari atmophere that we experience there, but that isn´the topic under discussion. read on, ...take your time cos it´s a long one....if i manage to get it posted that is....



    trip report part 1 - south luangwa, zambia 12may-1june 2006



    the basics:

    british airways flight (online booking)düsseldorf-heathrow-lusaka and return. quick check-in. excellent service and catering on board. good inflight entertainment - thanx

    i booked flatdogs and wildlife camp directly. both very efficient with excellent communication. both VERY helpful. i´ll sing their praises in more detail later........

    flatdogs organised our tourist visa waiver which worked out perfectly. this couldn´t be said of other more upmarket organisations.......we witnessed lots of bone fide tourists paying for visa before continuing to their prepaid safaris. we also met plenty of clients along the way (particularly those travelling with bushcamp co) who´d had same problem. to be fair visa waiver is never guaranteed.

    nkwali, nsefu, tena tena (robin pope safaris) and kapamba (bush camp co) were booked thru expert africa (ex sunvil UK). we had a few hiccups at the outset thru poor communication, but they more than redeemed themselves. they passed along excellent rates.....even carrying the costs themselves where a mistake had to be rectified. can recommend this well known UK agency (owner manager is the author of bradt guides zambia, botswana, namibia). special thanx to anna!!!
    http://www.expertafrica.com/
    www.sunvil.co.uk/africa

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    part 2 - trip report south luangwa, zambia 12may-1june 2006

    flatdogs 13 - 16 may

    i´ll surprise (or maybe not!!) you all and say the outset that in hindsight we wish that we had stayed here far longer. the experience taken as a whole was the best of the complete trip. we took their new treehouse with complete package of meals and activities. we peeked at the other accommodation while we there too. chalets looked fine and we thought that the new safari tents directly on the river looked particularly attractive.

    very warm welcome here from jess + adrian. we were made to feel a part of things at all times, rather than being tolerated as paying clients. nice to be at a bar with a bit of reality. expect the staff from other camps simply feel friendlier when they´re not forced into your presence - and who can blame them?

    camp and facilites are immaculate. housekeeping excellent.

    food yummy, of good standard and well presented. thank goodness you can still get a huge english breakfast here (this might just be the BEST breakfast in the south luangwa). much preferable after a game drive to the later lunches served at most of the other camps. we much prefered chowing down immediately on return and then having the whole afternoon free for and in privacy .... we were served two romantic dinners on our private and lovely deck.


    ALL staff very friendly and efficient at all times....remember exactly how you take your tea or eggs etc. very nice to see local FEMALE members of staff sadly missed at other camps with the exception of wildlife.

    setting is gorgeous......local wildlife must think so too!! we had some superb sightings in and around camp. ele´s crossing river at dawn etc, but more of this under "treehouse"

    game viewing activities superb and flexible. our guide joseph was exceptional. very knowledeable - had just taken and attained grade 1 giude level. good and careful driver. experienced in positioning vehicle for those special photographic moments. cheerful, attentive and very conscious of our particular interests. we ´re very keen and i think he enjoyed showing us those little things that make a safari come alive. he went to great effort to make each drive a true "event"....there wasn´t a boring moment with him and we would have been happy to have spent weeks rather than days in his company. only equalled by nyambe at wildlife (more later).........we saw predators on virtually every drive, a couple of kills at night, incredible birding and flowers. absolute highlights include mating hippos and hyena cubs in the morning, lionesses stalking and killing an impala at night, giraffes necking and fascinating giraffe courtship behaviour (flehmen!), nest raiding gymnogene , monitor lizard stalking and lunging at woodland kingfisher out on a branch - oh don´t í wish i had all of these on camera, a giraffe herd approaching us (!) at a tea break to a distance of ca 10 meters, a lovely male leopard AND a long look at a serval in the afternoon light.....i could go on and on. the tea and sundowner spots were invariably scenic and quiet. thanks too to our spotter mr benson. we feel that game viewing activities take priority here rather than something to do between meals.


    our accommodation at the treehouse was just delightful. take a look at http://www.flatdogscamp.com/press.htm for more details. we were simply over the moon (AND it was full during our stay) with this romantic and very private spot. the sightings across "our" dambo in the afternoon included a breeding herd of ele´s just in front of us and one young bull at a distance of ca 2 meters, vervet monkeys, baboons, hippo´s, puku, impala, zebra, giraffes (feeding in foliage above our bed!), frogs, geckos, butterflies,.....a multitude of birds - virtually all those that we saw within the park AND bishop birds in breeding plumage which we didn´t see! this was every afternoon ALL afternoon and hard to tear yourself away from. night noises lying in bed under just the mozzie net (hyenas, leopard,ele´s hippos, skops owls, fruit bats.........WONDERFUL!!

    really could have cried when we had to leave here......can´t wait to get back. many thanx to all at flatdogs!!!

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    kapamba (bushcamp co) 16 - 20 may http://www.bushcampcompany.com/camp-kapamba.htm

    we had a truly lovely and relaxing stay here at this beautiful and luxurious camp way to the south of the mfuwe area. very special thanks to temporary manager sean (from luangwa river lodge) for being such a charming and entertaining host. he was very generous with his time and advice. simply a very nice guy to be around. will look forward to meeting him again at his own lodge of which we´ve heard good things.

    catering and hospitality at kapamba simply outstanding - best of the whole trip. all staff very well trained and efficient AND truly friendly. each meal was imaginative, delicious and always presented beautifully. fantastic table decorations too. even the snack at sundown were more than an event!! we had a very special champagne sundowner in the river near here....... in honour of two lovely honeymoon guests (christina + john from madrid), thanx for letting us join in - it remained a true highlight of the trip! in fact the very special atmosphere of the camp itself and the truly amazing hospitality team gave us some of our favourite memories. thankyou sean, mr david, mr stanley, mr benson and all the team!!

    beautiful chalet. huge and very well appointed. very stylish bathroom with enormous bath (pool?) and camp layout allows plenty of privacy for wallowing. bit of a pity that the polished concrete bedstands didn´t allow twins in our chalet to be moved together. my better-half was a long way away!!! must remember to book a double in future! linens etc lovely - pity not from zambia, but they are from neighbouring malawi where main business is based. excellent housekeeping.
    .

    the area around kapamba is really beautiful. riverfront position lovely. game viewing here was however very challenging. grass was still very (shoulder) high and foliage very dense after late and heavy rains. game also very shy after long summer closure. it must have been very hard work indeed for our guide gilbert particularly at night. but as i´ve said we´re very keen. we enjoy the small things too and didn´t expect to have things as easy as around mfuwe area. the vegetation + birding was simply stunning so no complaints about that. we enjoyed having no other vehicles (other than the dreaded grader!!!!)or walking parties around. we had come to the area primarily for walking and we did have some very pleasant, gentle paced walks. we did feel some of the activities were rather short and sometimes not quite as enthusiastic as we would have hoped. but high grass did mean that we were limited to where we could walk in relative safety and we are maybe too (?) keen. safety standards here were very good. we did do some walking in shoulder high grass, but our very tall scout and tea bearer could see over it even if we couldn´t! the walking and enthusiasm of guide was certainly better than later in the trip at nsefu tho it didn´t reach the heights of the walking we´d experienced on a previous trips to botswana (in particular "footsteps across the delta). i would expect however that later in the season walks could be spectacular. on a very positive note it was fascinating to listen to guide in the evenings talk about his own childhood in and near the park. yet another example of the wonderful atmosphere we shared at this camp. we were made to feel as if we "belonged".

    we did have a few game viewing highlights too including one wonderful morning walking (very cautiously)in long grass close to a herd of buffalo, walking into the sunset near the confluence of kapamba and luangwa rivers, leopard stalking a scrub-hare in camp about 50m from deck where were having our after dinner drink- certainly surprised sean who´d been escorting our hoeymooners back to an early night in their chalet.........birding was stunning all and every day!


    vehicles were a bit uncomfortable here, but i believe that they were due a refit and bushcamp co is afterall mainly a walking experience. one comment however regarding the transfers between mfuwe and kapamba.....only longer route via hills was open and we did think it a pity that drivers felt they needed to try to break the land-speed record along this lovely track. we had to slow them way down in both directions...... there´s a safety consideration here too of course. i did checked that there was no urgent need for the haste!!

    AND a quick mention of tsetse flies....no big problem walking, but we did pick up a LOT of bites in the vehicles. there are a lot of traps, but there are still plenty of the beasties around. good insect repellent, as louise warned us, is essential (i´d recommend "bushman" if you can get your hands on this excellent australian product) i´d picked up about 50 bites before i noticed them (reaction can be delayed up to 24 hours) - VERY itchy indeed.....and that for over a week!!!

    we´d enjoy returning to this area later in the season in combination with walking from other bushcamp co camps....if they´ll have us of course!!

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    trip report part 4

    wildlife camp 22-24 may http://www.wildlifecamp-zambia.com/generalinformation.htm

    patsy and herman are running a wonderful, friendly and relaxed camp here and we experienced a very warm welcome from the whole team. special thanks to new managers miriam and oscar for their unstinting hospitality..... way beyond the call of duty! all staff very friendly at all times. we felt very much at home. we had our very best and most exciting here game viewing experience here of the trip ...more later. recommend taking the excellent value complete package here. would have loved to stay longer which is hardly surprising with the standard of guiding we experienced here in addition to the great atmosphere. can´t wait to return to enjoy the walking camps etc.

    gorgeous setting along the river (virtually next door to nkwali)

    chalets attractive and simple, but more than adequate and very good value!! set in pleasant garden with river views. good standards of housekeeping. new ensuite tents in the seperate camping area a few hundred meters along the river looked lovely....maybe next time?

    delicious and quite extensive menu in the restaurant and what a relief to be able to choose what + when we ate again! in particular great breakfasts! thanx.....

    excellent pool with glorious sunset bar (nicest setting of the trip!!!)......quiet on our visit and no doubt loads of fun when the campers and overlanders roll in

    very good briefing re safety issues and with the luxury of being able to stroll around this huge camp during daylight hours....heaven!

    activites are a real priority here and were just superb. thank goodness meals etc planned around them rather than the reverse. nyambe our guide was equal to joseph at flatdogs (all south luangwa guides are trained to the same standards. one wonders whether the guides at more upmarket camps are not resting rather too much on their laurels???) we had some wonderful game viewing and particular care was taken to accommodate our special interests. real attention to detail and very interesting cultural background information in particular on the use of herbs and plants. vehicles were new and comfortable, standard of driving and safety excellent. great care taken to position vehicle for best photo light. the vehicles can accommodate quite large parties, but we had a private vehicle + guide (lucky us!!) for most of our visit.

    don´t even know where to start with the highlights.......maybe best to just stick one....

    .....on what turned out to be the best night drive of our lives we had been having our sundowner watching four lionesses in the failing light....they were at quite a distance and there were several other vehicles nearer to them. as darkness fell we saw them melt away into the long grass . ......the other vehicles drove on in convoy and started combing the trees for leopards......we could see the spot lights in a row along the track. guide nyambe grinned and asked if we wanted to watch the lions hunting. what else....sure! that smart guy took a long loop out and around the back of where the lions had headed. no one followed. to cut a long story short.....we arrived just in time to hear the frenzied warning calls of a herd of puku.....in our headlights we could see the four lionesses stalking, 2 left, 2 right...scissor action....headlights out, infrared on .......bated breath.....an explosion power, a blur of honeyed lightening as the snarling lionesses take down a puku a few meters in front of us. the puku screams its last and it´s a fast clean kill. we see light in the puku´s eyes fade as they began to feed - voraciously as always...... the show isn´t over..... out of the shadows we see a hyena begin to circle... yelping excitedly...she´s joined by a second and a third. they gain confidence as they´re joined by 4 more of their kind....they ´re ambitious enough now to try to steal the kill.....can´t begin the describe the noise of th screams, snarls, roars and howls as the eight hyenas and four lionesses war over the remains of the kill...shivers down the spine,every hair stands on end....both sides are wounded, the lionesses win the day....but still it isn´t over. from the lagoon we see a huge crocodile approach - surely not?? yupp.....we´d now got three predators on one kill! talk about an attenborough moment!! we´d been watching this for about twenty minutes by now when finally a second vehicle showed up.....we laughed to see that it was our friend joseph from flatdogs - obviously about great minds think alike......i suspect that if i live to be a hundred i´ll never experience anything quite so amazing ever again. incredibly on the way back to camp we spotted two young male lions stalking impala on the side of the track. we sat for a few minutes but we were running behind time and had to admit that it was more than time to leave to park and the animals for their few hours of peace. we did have lots more great sightings - necking giraffes, young ele bulls testing their strength and our nerves, a huge python crossing the track, some excellent sightings of shy bushbuck...so close that we were able to get a few photo´s....and as always those wonderful birds.


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    trip report part 5....RPS, Nkwali, tena tena, nsefu


    and so to robin pope safaris 20 - 22 may (and 24 - 31 may) nkwali, tena tena and nsefu....now before i launch into this i do want to point out that most of the people we met were thoroughly enjoying their trip with RPS. they are a no doubt a very professional and slick operation. safety standards are very high. their game viewing vehicles are the best equipped (rests and bean bags for photographers etc) and most comfortable we have ever been in. all the accommodation is very nice indeed. if they didn´t have the reputation as being one of, if not indeed THE best, operator in africa we would possibly have been less disappointed. as it stands we weren´t too thrilled. we have had some fantastic guides in the past and are generally, because of a deep interest in all things "wild", perhaps more discerning than many guests. that being said we don´t demand constant predator sightings and are perfectly happy spending hours viewing impala or ele behaviour (love it!!), birding, looking at plants or insects. we are fascinated by termites for instance....and an enthusiastic guide will find us very easy to please. we were particularly disappointed at RPS with the guiding. with the exception of obi at nkwali (usually looks after guests staying at robin´s house) who was wonderful and a couple of very pleasant drives with rocky from tena tena we had some mediocre and very lacklustre guiding......we had a lot of different guides here - also unfortunate. activities in general seemed to be planned around transfers (not necessarily your own), meals and other "pressing" logistics considerations rather than the opposite way round. this can be understandable should not be the norm. to be fair we were there early season and this was most noticably a transitionary period. tena tena and nsefu were just opening. first fly camping trips of the season starting and preparations for early season mobiles underway too. rates are lower at this time too - so maybe we should have expected this....who knows.

    oddly and very annoyingly smoking is tolerated in game viewing vehicles. for two days (!!)we had a gentleman in our vehicle who smoked a pipe constantly. we had objected strongly...we go to africa to enjoy the scents of the bush not to inhale somebody elses poison! the same gentleman was asked to sit at the very rear of the vehicle but this didn´t improve matters hugely since he then couldn´t hear the guide and bellowed questions (very nice chap but LOUD believe me!!) at the worst possible moments. imagine having two honey badgers right next to your vehicle (!!!) just a split second.....a roar from the rear...and they´re gone. yupp - i know i can´t blame RPS for that, but the man was really a plague...

    anybody who receives the RPS monday newsletter would expect that the atmosphere to be warm, almost chummy......not really i´m afraid. i often got the feeling that we were tolerated rather than truly welcomed. all very professional and courteous of course. there were a few issues which i´ve also addressed here that we´d spoken our minds about - admittedly i can be blunt - and i do realise this probably didn´t help, but all the same.......

    they have an odd camp host system here (maybe it´s the same at other upmarket camps in the valley?) of employing attractive, young and very charming ladies known as "caterers". this year´s influx arrived on the same plane as we did from heathrow and some had had no previous personal experience of africa at all. they do work and try very hard but on a day to day basis i would personally prefer to address any comments regarding our stay to a weather beaten old africa hand.....to, at the very least, someone who knows the difference between a leopard and cheetah.....but then this isn´t their fault is it?

    would have loved to have met resident dog researcher kelly mentioned so often in the monday dispatches, or at least heard how the studies progress. we do have more than a passing interest (to say the least!) but no doubt she´s glad of her privacy. and there wasn´t anybody else around with time to tell us more. sorry to anybody who might have hoped we had more to report.


    nkwali (two stays here 20-22 may and 24-26 may)

    http://www.robinpopesafaris.net/experience/nkwali.php

    setting here is stunning. there are some truly gorgeous old ebony trees and the chalets are strung out along the river bank. they´re completely open-fronted airy structures and should be great for enjoying the view . they´re comfortable and very well fitted with much thought having gone into providing little extras like bathrobes and sarongs (which is a good thing since altho privacy shouldn´t be a problem if guests kept to paths BEHIND the rooms as was no doubt originally planned, we unfortunately had a constant stream of people walking back and to across the front of both of our our chalets on both of our stays here during siestas. there are curtains but who wants to shut out the view? we did point this out to staff. but gave up after we spotted a VERY senior member of the team escorting clients this way. disappointing, unnecessary and most annoying) bathrooms are lovely and fortunately very private. unless that is you object to a bird, gecko or an odd frog or two observing your ablutions! we thought they were great - especially the little "loo hut"......

    lovely deck, open lounge and bar with enchanting river views

    there´s a large and very nice pool. no view unfortunately (it had originally been the pope´s private facility and is consequently well hidden) but good changing facilities etc. you need to find a member of staff to escort you the 3 minute stroll here.......let them know how long you want to stay and and you´ll be picked up on the dot and trotted back safely to your hut. i really meant it when i said they take safety seriously here!

    professional and informative welcome

    "camp" and facilties immaculate

    catering fair (did hear one amusing comment from a guest who found them very reminiscent of school)

    hospitality team efficient and polite and rarely seen

    safari factory nkwali....only six chalets you may think - is the hub of the RPS empire. you feel just how much is going on behind the scenes. the prevailing atmosphere is "busy busy" and doesn´t make for an intimate experience. robin´s house, luangwa house, visiting promotors and journalists, travel agents.....you never really know who or indeed how many "guests" might show up in the camp. an example.........we were rushed back to camp one evening shortening our evening drive to find the riverside deck beautifully set out for dinner.... oh how lovely!!! wrong......this wasn´t for the guests but for visiting journalists and promotors. we were allowed to have drinks with these illustruous visitors and then politely herded to the rear of the camp where we were served our dinner. tactless and a bit tacky i would say! this was also the only time during our 9 day stay with RPS when we caught a glimpse of either of the pope family.

    activities and guiding see general comments re RPS above..........from nkwali park can be accessed from camp by boat, pontoon or drive via main gate which should be an advantage. theoretically you can choose between walks, drives and full day trips into the park which sounds marvellous. this often works well but is of course dependent on the number of guides and vehicles to numbers of guests (see note above on visitors) we sadly didn´t get the opportunity to do anything but game drives.....but then we had been encouraged to believe that we´d have lots of chances during our 5 days in the nsefu area.....so we didn´t worry unduly
    our drives from nkwali using the area accessed from pontoon or by boat were often rather short and generally quite disappointing. there was really very little game around find. other guests on the same days taken to the busier (and at this time of the year more game rich) central mfuwe area via main gate were more fortunate with their sightings. yes - we did request a change in area, no this didn´t happen until i had a burst of temper back at camp. sorry kim! things did improve a little then, tho there were still strange incidents including a guide "missing" a 200 strong buffalo herd. i´d assumed that he was just trying find a better spot stop. we had afterall been looking for (? give me the wheel!!) these animals for over an hour....we continued and were then told it was too late to go back before lunch. you guessed....at camp we waited over an hour for another vehicle bringing visitors in just for lunch...
    obi, a great guide, saved RPS honour here by taking us on a few longer and very interesting drives indeed. these were unfortunately marred by puffing billy and his pipe who i mentioned previously. one truly interesting sighting does spring to mind......we saw (with obi) a baboon chase down, kill and feed on a vervet monkey! shame the honey badgers were frightened off.....

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    trip report part 6...the final one folks!!

    26 -31 may nsefu area....a general observations.......lovely area, but game rather sparser than we might have expected even taking the time of year into consideration. night drives in particular were rather disappointing and i imagine very hard and frustrating work for the guides (......unless trying for world record in elephant shrew spotting which was fun!) our drives at tena tena were always fun even when not hugely "productive". not so at nsefu. with the exception of one night sighting of a leopard at nsefu and a few hyenas at tena tena we saw no predators. neither did we see many lion prints. we did hear lions roaring across the river. we also regularly heard gunfire from hunting camps in the area....not pleasant! see comment on hyena behaviour below....one guide (who shall remain unnamed) told us that we couldn´t expect to see many predators in the area and that he hadn´t seen and wasn´t personally aware of one single older pride male lion in the whole of the park between kapamba and nsefu! the young pride males that we had seen so often in the central area were 4-5 years old and had yet to grow full manes.....he also felt that animal numbers were down in the nsefu area and getting worse.one wonders how badly the hunting concessions/poaching are affecting populations??? we saw several animals with horrible snare wounds in the park.....buffalo, elephant, antelope........

    tena tena 26 -28 may http://www.robinpopesafaris.net/experience/tena.php

    special thanks here to caterer jo for offering genuine hospitality, to rocky our friendly and enthusiastic guide and thanks too to chris for ensuring that our further drives were smoke free!

    tena tena is a truly lovely camp. our favourite by far of the three RPS camps we visited. setting, atmosphere and tents all wonderful. had some privacy here and a wonderful view onto a dambo. bathroom equally gorgeous with the same view. has a real safari camp feel.....the only one we visited in the south luangwa by the way where we did feel this.......

    very good catering here, best of the three RPS camps and excellent, very hospitable staff

    housekeeping and grounds immaculate

    enjoyable guiding and we had some good sightings......particularly wonderful a "matinee performance" of two puku in an amazing display of male dominance behaviour. the rutting went on and on......they were really serious AND we were able to watch the whole thing from the comfort of our tent during siesta!! visit a hyena den at sunset.....hyena cubs shyly peeking over to us.....we heard gunshot in the distance and an adult hyena immediately left in that directio, obviously conditioned to where scraps can be found - how sad! the scenery around here was particularly lovely. would have enjoyed a walk or full day out, but advised to wait until nsefu. we did also have to consider transfers for other guests and the price for smoke-free game viewing was that our vehicle was involved in these......

    nsefu 28 - 31 may http://www.robinpopesafaris.net/experience/nsefu.php

    wonderful spot along the river...sweeping views. this is a lovely camp......

    chalets are very smart and have been modernised very nicely indeed. very well fitted and comfortable. bathroom excellent. unfortunately access path runs across the front of the chalets so they´re either not very private or you lose the fabulous view when you draw the curtains at siesta time.........nice little veranda at the front too

    bar and lounge area very inviting and comfortable

    very efficient staff and courteous hospitality staff our special thanks here to them.

    housekeeping and grounds immaculate

    catering variable.....a couple of excellent meals

    guiding and activites....all a bit of an uphill struggle here i´m afraid. we had to really had to get pushy here to finally get a walk ( it wasn´t really even a nature ramble in the end....), we never did get our full day out.....on four out of six activities we were taken to the same stork colony......still fascinating, but our time was limited. we drove straight past some wonderful things in a rush to get who know where! we had specifically asked to watch ele´s which crossed the river each morning at approx 10:30.....only a kilometer or so from the camp. this did not happen. on our last full day i could have cried with frustration sitting kicking our heels in camp when they were soooo close! the vehicle (with no guide to be seen of course ) was just standing there unused - sad. on another occasion we heard puku alarm calls very close to camp seconds after we´d arrived back. no....it was too far to go back and see. in general activites were too short and noticably lacking in enthusiasm, flexibilty etc....we were NOT being taken that extra mile here! we had requested several times to drive out to the hot spring and open plain for which nsefu is famed. herman had enthused about recent visit of his while we were at wildlife camp....at nsefu we were told - it was too far, ....or there was nothing to see there.....or you should have said earlier....or we have to get back...... on our final morning i blew a fuse and lo and behold all was suddenly possible. we did see eland here - our first, we saw giraffe preparing to mate (we didn´t have time to stay for more...) , buffalo and some lovely herds. how very sad that we couldn´t have spent more time earlier here....again other guests with other guides did.....

    so to close.... the valley is stunningly beautiful, particularly so in the early dry. so lush, so green a true joy to behold. the game viewing can be and was at times wonderful, but you do need to be with an operator AND a guide willing to go that extra mile and share your enthusiasm.

    we´d return to both flatdogs and wildlife tomorrow (also in the green) and combine with some self driving in other areas of zambia (in the dry).

    bushcamp co we´d love to visit again but later in the season to combine with their other walking camps.

    we won´t be returning to RPS unless to join a true walking safari. tho i expect our experience was unusual and unfortunate. i could imagine that their mobiles are excellent. would hope so anyway!!! they would appear to keep their best guides for these and the fly camping........

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    hi stephanie!!have just rewarded myself for finishing my own trip report with 30 minutes looking at your phtot´s. tremendous...will be in touch directly in a day or two. thanx for sharing. L

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