Zambia--Even more amazing than last year!

Oct 22nd, 2007, 12:03 PM
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Zambia--Even more amazing than last year!

Hi all,

Wow!! You've heard and read it before--words--and even pictures--cannot adequately describe our second trip to Africa. I thought last year was about as good as it can get, but it was even better this time around.

I'm seriously jet-lagged and in sleep deficit from returning last evening, but just had to pop in and say hi. Lusaka to London, overnight in London, on to SFO, then renting a car to get back to Sacramento. It took over 20 hours in the air each way, plus hours and nights more in layovers and xfers.

Was it worth it? Well, you all know the answer.

Our time in Zambia was amazing, even better than last year's experience, which as you've read was fantastic.

Just a couple of highlights out of so many: Being chased--and not just for a few steps--by a female elephant who apparently was haviing a bad day and serioiusly wanted to take it out on us. Spending hours with many leopards both in the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa, including one being harassed by baboons until she lost her patience. And, watching another grab a puku by the throat, then having its prize taken away by a lion. Watching two-month old lion cubs for hours on end doing what kittens do: playing, suckling on mom, teasing and being teased by baby baboons. And more, so much more.

But, for us, a big part of the trip was meeting wonderful people, including fellow travelers, local residents, and reuniting with others we are honored to call good friends.

That was especially true for the Cummings family who own Chiawa and share in Old Mondoro with the folks at Sausage Tree. And Helen and Roelof at Old Mondoro. Very special people.

Our experience base for Africa is admittedly still small, but it is growing, and I cannot imagine any camp anywhere in Africa where personal service, easing anxieties, and attention to detail could possibly be any better than provided by the Cummings--to all guests.

Dave, once again met us at the airport and whisked us through customs. Son Grant is on site at Chiawa most of the time, and Jenny, Dave's wife, keeps things running smoothly literally 24/7. She drove us to the airport from our hotel in Lusaka. They made us feel special, but then, they make all guests feel special.

I've gone on many trips to many places, but, once again, I've never stayed so long away from home, yet wanted to stay even longer.

I have thousands, yes thousands, of pictures to sort (first time I've gone all digital) and reduce down to a manageable number, and lots to catch up on here at home, but I'll try to get some posted soon (I'm really anxioius to see them on something larger than the back of a camera).


steeliejim is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2007, 02:52 PM
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Welcome back! I look forward to your pictures and report.
Marija is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2007, 04:33 PM
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Welcome home. Your highlights are indeed amazing.
atravelynn is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2007, 05:50 PM
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Welcome back Jim! Were you able to see Victor? Anxiously awaiting your full trip report and pics!
matnikstym is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2007, 07:35 PM
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The Shentons of Kaingo/Mwamba arranged a surprise for us. Victor met us at the Mfue airport and transported us back to Luangwa River Lodge where Sean greeted us and treated us to lunch.

After lunch, Victor drove us to a rendevous with Derek Shenton who drove us into Kaingo. A really sweet gesture.

Victor is doing fine and seems quite happy. He is engaged to a woman he met in Livingston (his wife died a few years back), and he is building a new house which he pointed out to us as we drove by.
steeliejim is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 05:42 AM
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Hi Jim,

Welcome home! and your trip sounds excellent .... sure you got some terrific pictures.

Did you catch any of the early rains on the safari?

HariS is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 08:16 AM
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Hi Hari,

Thanks for the welcome. A couple of days the clouds built up during the afternoon but slipped away at the night. Except for the very last night. I wanted to take some moon pix (a nice sliver) with my tripod when we got back to camp, but the clouds kept building. Had dinner and chatted around the campfire (this was at Kaingo) for a bit. Went to bed a little after 2200, and was awakened at midnight by staff placing a large tarp over the top of our reed and netting chalet to keep the water from coming in on our heads. Poor guys. Big and heavy, it had to be hoisted high to fit over the top. It was a bit dusty, but a bit of dust was better than getting soaked. The air was crystal clear the next morning. A beautiful day on the drive out, and I swear that that plants and trees looked greener, although I suppose I was imagining things.

BTW, they say Oct. is "suicide month" in Zambia because of the heat. But, we found that while the days were hot, sometimes reaching 40 C (104 F) (no big deal for us as we live in Sacramento), nights cooled nicely, we had breezes most days, and we usually had a sheet or even a blanket over us by morning.

Same story last year. Very dusty though, so it's a must to keep camera gear covered when not in use. Kaingo/Mwamba has a nice touch by providing large squares of tightly woven cloth to be used as camera dust covers.

Dusty conditions are a major reason I held out on getting my first digital slr (Canon 40d) until they came out with in-camera sensor cleaning (the Rebel xti also has it). I'm starting out with just one body, so knew I'd be changing lenses a lot and didn't want to be spending my eves cleaning the sensor. The Canon system really works.

steeliejim is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 08:30 AM
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Oops, the tarp was big and heavy--not the guys putting it up.
steeliejim is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 11:02 AM
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Welcome back Jim. I also just returned a few weeks ago and I agree with you 100% on temperatures. Look forward to your report(including fly-fishing addict version). I did some tiger fly fishing on the Mwaleshi in the N.Luangwa for the first time - one of the thrills of my trip.
GreenDrake is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 11:16 AM
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Hi Green Drake,

Thanks, a bit overwhelmed with all the stuff that needs attention, plus still jetlagged.

But, my, oh my, am I hooked on tigerfishing. I took a flyfishing outfit to Roelof at Old Mondoro Bush Camp, and we had a blast. Hooked some big tigerfish, but never got close to landing them. Did well on 3 to 5 pounders though. Sorry non-fishers if this bores you. But, it was interesting to see how many guests who had never tried fishing of any kind caught the tigerfish fever. And why not? Wonderful vistas from the Zambezi. Ellies, hippos and crocs always in view. Hooking a tigerfish was almost a bonus.

I love my steelhead and salmon, but oh those tigerfish. More later.

steeliejim is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 11:22 AM
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Jim, welcome back. Your "teaser" of the trip highlights sounds wonderful, and I am looking forward to hearing more. Also looking forward to seeing the pictures and hearing your feedback on the Canon 40D, since I am thinking about getting one next year.

Chris_GA_Atl is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 12:39 AM
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Hi Jim,

Did you put your trip together yourself this year or use an agente? Looking forward to the report!
melissaom is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 09:48 AM
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Hi Melissa,

I did book directly this year, because the agent I used last year was no longer, ahem, "available" (long time posters will know what I mean). I got no special rate as the Cummings family, owners of Chiawa want to make sure they do not undercut and thereby sour relationships with TA's. Very understandable.

But, it was nice to have direct contact with the wonderful folks there. They are very responsive to every question and concern, the passion for what they do shows through in so many ways, and they can take care of all travel arrangements within Zambia.

However, if you prefer to book through a travel agent, I expect you would still be able to communicate with Chiawa directly.

Keep us posted on your progress, please. As for my progress on pix, I have now downloaded over 2000, and still have well over 1000 to go. I'll condense the number considerably--promise.

Even though I played with the 40d quite a bit before I left, I can definitely see a great deal of improvement as time passed and I got more comfortable with all the controls--which provide many more opportunities to screw up than with film. When lighting, subject and background changes--esp. when there is sudden action, you have to be able to change settings (eg. ISO, exposure compensatioin, white balance, etc.) quickly--and remember to do so. Being able to review your mistakes after the fact on the LCD, doesn't help when the leopard has already disappeared into the brush.


steeliejim is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 10:10 AM
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Jim, I hear you about screwing up settings! I am in the middle of reviewing our pictures from China now and realized we shot an entire DAY of pictures at -2/3 exposure compensation!
One of the reasons we started shooting everything in RAW was to be able to set white balance and picture style after the fact -- 2 less settings to worry about! Now the most common problem we have is blowing highlights on a subject with white/bright areas (like a white bird, for example).
Anyway, I am looking forward to your pictures, good luck with the processing on them.

Chris_GA_Atl is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 10:11 AM
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Oh yes, I know exactly who you are talking about! I used to lurk here quite alot in 2004 and that was when he just started his Zambia habit. (And coincidentally, so did I).

Have contacted all the camps I mentioned in my post and am now trying to get the flights organized. There is certainly no special pricing going on... but I am not willing to go in June when it is cheaper as I want to fish when they are biting and see as many animals as possible.

Please post your trip report - can't wait to hear about it!
melissaom is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 11:39 AM
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Welcome back! So glad it was a good trip and can't wait to hear more about it.
Kavey is offline  
Oct 26th, 2007, 04:11 AM
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That sounds like a fascinating trip !
If you don't mind me asking, how long did you spend at Chiawa ? And did you find that long enough, or too short a time ?
MacSporran is offline  
Oct 26th, 2007, 09:18 AM
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We spent three nights at Chiawa and five at Old Mondoro.

Last year it was three and three respectively, and we swore that next time we would stay longer.

I'd say the length was better this time around. We would have loved to stay even longer, since there's so much to do, and the people and camps are so great. But,cost was a factor, and we also were going to So. Luangwa for another eight nights, and could not be away from home too long.


steeliejim is offline  

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