Hello From South Luangwa!

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Sep 12th, 2005, 04:16 AM
  #1
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Hello From South Luangwa!

Well, I am between morning and afternoon game drives at Puku Ridge and I am writing from Chichele Presidential Lodge's office.

So far, this has been a brilliant trip. Each place has been fantastic so far.

Kasaka was wonderful and surprisingly Chongwe River Camp was superb. They have a superstar staff there this season and there were numerous elephants walking right through camp each day. I was, at times, able to get within 5 yards of the jumbos and that was quite a rush.

Luangwa River Lodge was a wonderful way to start out in South Luangwa. Lodging, food and hosting were perfect in every way. Barry & Tara are the best hosts and Victor was a superb guide. Although this is his first season guiding, he does have 15 years of experience with ZAWA (Zambian Wildlife Authority) under his belt. He is one cool cat and is very well respected in South Luangwa.

Puku Ridge has been perfectly situated within the park and we have seen lions daily right from camp, as well as having a leopard sneaking through the camp.

I have taken nearly 3,000 photos already with the highlights being getting within 5 yards of a 16 foot long Nile crocodile while lying flat on my stomach on Kasaka's fishing boat, photographing a Cookson's Wildebeest while on a 12+ hour all day drive while at Luangwa River Lodge and also getting some brilliant photos of each leopards and lions while at Puku Ridge.

The gameviewing highlight, without question, was witnessing a leopard kill a small puku. This happened not more than 30 minutes into my first game drive at Luangwa River Lodge. Since Alexsandra did not feel up to a night game drive after a very bumpy 2 hour flight from LZNP to South Luangwa, Barry accompanied me and we watched patiently as a leopard stalked the puku. We were not even aware of the puku's presence until we heard one scream and then it was all over for the puku. Not more than 30 seconds passed before the hyena's started closing in and the leopard was lucky enough to get the puku up a tree very quickly.

I was able to get photos of the leopard up in the tree, but not until the next morning as it was a bit far off the road. I did have to supersize my 80-400mm lens with the 1.4x teleconvertor which got me up to an effective 896mm (by the time you count the conversion factor).

Well, that is all for now. I will be in Cape Town tomorrow night and I am looking forward to the cooler weather!
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Sep 12th, 2005, 05:33 AM
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Hi Rocco! I haven't read your post yet, just wanted to say hello - hope all is going well...looking forward to a full report!
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Sep 12th, 2005, 06:11 AM
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OK Now, I've read it. Sounds like you've had some fabulous sightings!Good for you! Looking forward to hearing more....hope you're ready to help me plan my trip when you get back.
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Sep 12th, 2005, 06:12 AM
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Wow, a kill, and right off the bat. Can't wait to see photos. Sounds like great trip.

Michael

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Sep 12th, 2005, 08:41 AM
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Glad you are having such a wonderful time! 5 more weeks and I will be doing some of the same...glad to hear Luangwa River Lodge was great!!
Dennis
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Sep 12th, 2005, 09:02 AM
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Hello from San Francisco.

Enjoy the rest of your trip. Glad to hear it's been brilliant.

Have a safe journey home. Can't wait to see the photos.
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Sep 12th, 2005, 09:19 AM
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Roccco,
Now if we only could see a picture of you taking a picture of the croc!

Eagerly awaiting the next installment....
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Sep 12th, 2005, 09:23 AM
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Looking forward to hearing (and seeing) more! Glad you're having a great time.
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Sep 12th, 2005, 03:12 PM
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Hello Rocco,

Glad to hear you've had such great sightings! Out of curiosity, I've heard that there is a new road running through the park near Puku Ridge -- is this the case?

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 12th, 2005, 03:20 PM
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bwanamitch
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Julian,

"Each place has been fantastic so far."
There can't be a new road. ;-)

Mitch
 
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Sep 12th, 2005, 10:51 PM
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Either that or it doesn't see much traffic yet...

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 13th, 2005, 12:39 PM
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Hello from Lusaka Inter-Continental Hotel!

This is NOT where I wanted to be but things got really screwed up in Lusaka and my flight was 4 hours delayed. Although I don't know the full story, it appears that Airwaves, in an attempt to save a few bucks, handed off my flight to Star Of Africa Air Charters and about six of us ended up missing our 2:40PM connection to Joburg, and I, in turn, missed my 7PM connection to Cape Town.

Now, after travelling all day today, I will get to do the same tomorrow. I will start out with a 5:30AM transfer to the Lusaka International Airport, followed by a 7:50AM flight to Joburg, followed by a Noon flight to Cape Town, arriving at 2PM.

The sad thing is that Airwaves is giving me hell right now, telling the hotel that they did not authorize my room stay. Well, they can piss off...I don't have the energy to e-mail my agent and I will fight the battle at 5AM tomorrow morning. We are talking about a $131 charge that Airwaves must pay for this room while I have sacrificed a $600 per night room at the Twelve Apostles.

The only good thing to come of this is that I was referred to an excellent jeweler in Lusaka and I was able to get the deal of a lifetime on an Emerald & Diamond ring for Alexsandra. I was referred by a couple different managers at lodges (Kasaka & Chongwe) to this jeweler and Alexsandra assures me that the same ring would be triple the price back home.

www.gemstonesafrica.com

We just had a very nice dinner at a restaurant recommended to us by our jeweler called Marlin's. It was so interesting to be out on the town in Lusaka unexpectedly. Wow, what a diverse crowd. American & European expats, local Zambians of Indian descent, local Zambians of African descent, etc.

Very nice steaks, fries, salads and a great bottle of Shiraz from Stellenbosch. Mmmmmm.

And wouldn't you know it...when one of the restaurant employees whom had just got off work saw us waiting for a cab outside the restaurant, he volunteered to give us a ride back to the Intercontinental, which we gladly accepted.

Anyway to address a few of your comments...

Not only did I have the privilege of seeing the leopard kill, but I also was present shortly after a lion kill. This happened at Chongwe River Camp.

One of the guides, Jody, had been canoeing with other guests when he heard what he thought was a lion kill of a buffalo. He quickly found a spot to land his canoe and by foot, armed only with his oar, he tracked down the lions inland. He radioed back to camp and quickly my vehicle was alerted of the location and Alexsandra and I sat fascinated with a pride of four lions (three adult females and a 2 year old male) as they crunched away on a large impala, occasionally taking turns at the dinner table.

As far as getting a picture of me lying on my stomach, I believe Alexsandra did take a photo of me doing this! One of the benefits of having two cameras along!

I did end up riding a bicycle from Mfuwe Airport about 10 miles into Mfuwe before calling it quits at a roadside store named "Game Over." The mid 90 degree heat and my lack of conditioning and more than anything else, the hard bicycle seat, prevented me from getting all the way to the Luangwa River Lodge.

These bikes were then donated to the South Luangwa Conservation Program, hopefully for use in anti-poaching operations.

I don't want to say too much more before I write a trip report but I will say for anyone considering upgrading to a Canon 20d DSLR camera that I would strongly recommend the 80-400mm OS lens, the Canon 17-85mm IS lens and a 1.4x teleconvertor.

I have not used my 70-200mm lens much and without it I would have been able to get away with a much smaller bag than the Tamrac 777.

Well, I have a few things to sort out with Airwaves and if I am unable to get them sorted on my own then I am just thankful that I paid with the good ol' American Express for this trip. Don't leave home without it!
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Sep 13th, 2005, 12:51 PM
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bwanamitch
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Rocco,

What was the problem with Star of Africa Air Charters? You stayed at a Star of Africa camp - didn't those people confirm your international flights?

Mitch
 
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Sep 13th, 2005, 12:57 PM
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Mitch,

My flight to Lusaka was supposed to be on Airwaves, but in order to save a few bucks they put me on a much later Star Of Africa flight. The Star Of Africa flight was delayed a couple hours but even had it been on time, it was still scheduled to arrive 90 minutes after my original flight on Airwaves. Airwaves screwed this up, not SOA or myself.
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Sep 13th, 2005, 01:09 PM
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Sounds like the forced overnight in Lusaka ended up being pretty interesting. I was involuntarily bumped from my KLM flight out of NBO in August 2003, and I ended up having a fun time wandering around Nairobi the next day. The cities offer a much different perspective than the safaris, and I now try to spend a day in a city on each trip, and have now been to Nairobi, Johannesburg, Harare (only for a few hours) and Windhoek, and those visit really added to my experience.

Looking forward to Volume I of the trip report.
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Sep 13th, 2005, 01:16 PM
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I'm glad there is a photo of you taking a photo of the croc! I wondered if you had nixed the biking, glad to see you did it. Ten miles in 90 degrees is a good ride. Maybe more of us will do some biking. I'm considering it.
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Sep 13th, 2005, 02:01 PM
  #17
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Rocco:
Thanks for the tasty preview. Enjoy your time in Capetown and I am looking forward to the full report.
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Sep 14th, 2005, 10:58 AM
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Glad to hear you had a great time at the camps. Sorry to hear about your delay but I'm happy to hear you're seeing something of Zamibia outside the parks.

Hope you have a wonderful time in the Cape.
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