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  1. 39 likes
    After two great weeks in Zambia´s Kafue National Park (see report in progress here) @AndMic, our guide @Doug Macdonald and me moved on from Lusaka to Zimbabwe. We had five nights on the flood plains and two more at Kanga Camp to look forward to, and our anticipation was high indeed. Our 2015 trip had been our most exciting safari ever. Walking into close distance of animals like Elephants and Lions had really changed our perceptions of what a safari can be. But it was not only anticipation we felt, also concern. They say you cannot home again, and could a second trip really live up to what we had experienced two years ago? Or would we always compare and think, yes, very nice, but last time ...? Well, come with us, and I let you be the judge of that. We left Lusaka (which is actually closer to the park than Harare) late morning. The border post at Chirundu has a bit of a bad reputation but for us it was a pleasant enough experience. The room is climatized, all officers were friendly and professional (like everywhere in Zimbabwe so for for us), and the whole procedure didn´t last much longer than half an hour. Granted, we didn´t have to check through a car (of course Doug took care of that) but we were pleasantly surprised. Zambia had already been very, very hot but nothing like here. As we approached the park the airstream from the car felt more like a hairdryer, and we knew we were in for some hot times in Mana Pools. The temperature was somewhere between 45° and 50 ° Celsius (as it would be in the coming days). It was actually a relief to drive up the mountain a bit to get our permits. It was almost 15:00 when we finally entered the park, and still had the long gravel road ahead of us. I wanted to use the facilites at the second gate, but quickly retreated when my planned entrance provoked a lot of shrieking and unfriendly hissing - a troop of baboons had made the toilet their home. And shockingly, they did not even adhere to the most basic rules in there - Lady, can´t you read? We arrived at the Flood Plains at about 16:45 and were happy to leave the dusty bonedry hinterland behind us. Here in the vicinity of the mighty Zambezi life abunded, lots of Impalas, Baboons, Elephants everywhere. We did not take pictures since we would have plenty of opportunities for the regulars later but just had to stop for this majestic Kudu: Doug took care of the paperworks at headquarters, while we were happy enough watching our favourites, the Carmines dashing across the sky. A staff member also pointed out a Hyena hiding in a distant bush to us. We moved on to get to camp, it had been a long day, we were hungry, sweaty and tired. Still, we had to do a quick stop at Chisasiko, one of the "mana" permanent pools of the park. Surely some nice birds are there. But - wait, what is that over there? No, not you, grumpy old daggy boy, nicely decorated as you are by Egrets. A big fine male Leopard was playing welcome present for us! We were thrilled! Leopard sightings are not exactly a Mana Pools staple, and this guy was even pretty relaxed. Doug felt that the number of Baboons has been decreasing a bit (maybe because they are on the Dogs´ menu now) and speculated that might prompt the Spotted Cats to become a bit bolder. Did not matter to us why, he was here, all ours (an unshared sighting) and we were grins all over! Big Boy gave us a good ten minutes until he retreated. We celebrated at the river banks. I had so looked forward to stand by the Zambezi again, I think it´s one of the most beautiful places in the world. Everything there is good and peaceful and as it should be. At least it felt that way. It dawned, and the sinking sun was becoming less and less visible through the strong haze. Well, we were overdue in camp anyway, and just took a last look at the Elephants congregating. But never a quiet moment in Mana Pools. "Quick, quick, spill down your beers, Gentlemen, get in, get in, no time to lose!" Why the rush? Yeah, Doug had spotted the Dogs, Mana´s main stars. We were thrilled again to see them! While pretty likely to find them in dry season (Doug says six out of eight visits) they are not a given, and last time we only found them at noon, doing the Lion thing - nothing. This time, even if the light was gone, they were active, probably on their way to hunt. And they had their pups with them. We could not watch them for long, they soon left the road, and it was already way too late to try to follow them, so we finally, finally proceeded to camp. They had actually already started to worry about us there, being so late, but we had no complaints - First 90 minutes of Flood Plains Excitement had not been half-bad. And we thought "Wow, cool, last time we did not even see a Leopard! And only saw the Dogs lying around." Of course, it was a day to be celebrated with Gin Tonic(s).
  2. 36 likes
    Kafue is wild. Kafue is beautiful. Kafue is diverse. Kafue is a birder´s paradise. And Kafue is harsh. Difficult. Uncomfortable. And unwilling to easily reveal its many treasures. We had discussed Kafue with @Doug Macdonald on our last trip to Mana Pools, and his enthusiasm for this rarely visited, huge national park convinced us that we had to see it, and that we wanted to see it "properly". @Atravelynn had had similar talks with Doug and had come to the same conclusion, and so it was a logical thing that we would team up for this again. To our delight @Kitsafari also decided to join up, and so we were a very Safaritalky ensemble since we decided to have Doug along as well as a private guide. This was our itinerary, from Oct 3d/4th to Oct 16th: 1 nt Pioneer Camp, Lusaka (2 nts for Kit) 3 nts Konkamoya Lodge, at the Southern shore of Lake Itezhi Tezhi (about 7 hours from Pioneer) 3 nts Musekese Camp, Northern sector (about five hours from Konkamoya) 3 nts Ntemwa-Busanga Camp (Musekese mobile), Busanga Plains (about four hours from Musekese) 1 nt Musekese Camp, Northern sector 1 nt Pioneer Camp (only Michael and @AndMic) ( @wilddog I hope it´s ok to include this map? If not here´s the link: https://www.expertafrica.com/zambia/kafue-national-park/reference-map)) So let´s gonna find out how it was for us. Not always easy, I will admit that. But in the end, so much worth it.
  3. 35 likes
    Like so many other Safaritalkers before us we spent our first night after arrival at Pioneer Camp. @AndMic and me would also stay there at the end of this trip since we´d move on to Zimbabwe afterwards. https://www.pioneercampzambia.com/ It´s a very good alternative to staying in a hotel in Lusaka. Only about 30 minutes to the international airport (and it would be even quicker if not for that terrible access road), really nice gardens and very reasonable rates (from USD 44,-- pp for the tents up to USD 94,-- for the Chalets). If I only would judge accommodation from our first night I´d say pretty much perfect. Clean, airy, spacious, showers with good water pressure - all super. The experience on our second night was not equally convincing. This stony Chalet was very dark inside, looked like a vault, and what was worse it was not clean at all. There was batshit in the bathroom which in all fairness could have been fresh, but in general it felt like nobody had been inside here for quite a while. I´m not very picky but actually considered requesting a change but then decided against it because we were just too lazy to pack again and move, and it was only one night after all. Food was alright to pretty good, and staff friendly and welcoming. And as mentioned the gardens are really, really lovely. I was quite surprised when I looked up during lunch and saw these (Epauletted?) Fruit Bats staring down on us. I spent a bit of time in the morning to do some birding, and was very happy with what I found. Some of my clicks: Spectacled Weaver Scarlet-Chested Sunbird African Yellow White-Eye Chinspot Batis Village Weaver Blue Waxbill Variable Sunbird Grey-Headed Bushshrike Schalow´s Turaco - I was particularly pleased to find this one. It was great to see Lynn and Doug again, and a real pleasure to meet Kit. She even came to the airport with Doug to be part of the welcome committee, such a nice thing to do. I knew from the get-go that we would get along splendidly, and was right of course. You simply cannot ask for better travel mates than Lynn and Kit, and we are thankful they put up with us. Immigration into Zambia was a fairly smooth process. Actually much quicker than we or Doug had anticipated, and so we were outside the airport 10 minutes before he got there! We had actually wanted to get the "Kaza" visa which grants access to Zimbabwe and Zambia for almost the same price. But we were unable to get them, "no Kaza sorry", we were told, and the officer avoided giving a clear answer to why not. Understandable, since the reason is quite embarrassing - they ran out of stickers and were unable to produce new ones in time. It´s a good thing we knew that in advance, so it did not bother us too much - no point in getting worked up about stuff you cannot change. But had I not known in advance and would have been explained right there I´m sure the poor officer would have received some pretty incredulous What-do-you-mean-no-stickers comments from me.
  4. 30 likes
    And what did we have at Musekese, almost in camp? Yes - Lion! You may have heard about the dead hippo here already in @gatoratlarge´s report - he was Satan incarnate! Well, at least that´s what they called him. He was the victor of a bloody, brutal, no holds-barred fight for dominance. Even after his opponent had died he could not stop hacking and biting at him. But victor only for a little while. After a little more than a week Satan succumbed to his many wounds - so the big battle only knew losers after all (as battles often do). Now of course, Satan was a huge chunk of meat to cherish (for those with a robust nose) and two male Lions were making sure nobody would rob them just a parcel of their breakfastlunchdinner. It made walking in camp quite interesting, this was maybe 100 m or so from Kit´s tent. (And while I went over to watch a bit I was quite happy to have my tent on the other side of camp - the odeur was not exactly Eau de Cologne.) For our afternoon activity we took a closer look - and did our best to hold our noses! The stink really was breathtaking - and not in a good way. "Satan" did look quite ghoulish now - fitting. The two Boys (the second would join in later) were pretty new to Musekese, had only arrived on the scene a few weeks ago. The dead hippo was very fortunate therefore because no matter what they would not leave that carcass, and that was a good opportunity to get them used to cars. They had been reacting very nervously before. Sorry, vulture, there´s not enough dead hippo for both of us. It was clear they already had fought some battles. Here´s Big Brother, obviously looking forward to more rotten Hippo delicacy! Doug suggested I could get out of the car to get some eyelevel shots, and as a good soldier always doing what I´m told I happily jumped off while the lion looked the other way and then I crouched down next to the vehicle. We had chosen a different angle by now (because of the stench) and had a little waterarm (not broader than a metre) between us and the lion. Doug said he would feel more secure that way, and in a way I appreciated that "barrier" as well. For quite a while the lion only presented his back to us and did not bother to check what was going on behind him. He finally did - and he did not like this at all. He might have gotten used to cars pretty quickly but obiously did not know what to make of me sitting there. But he decided he did not like this at all and got very agitated. I was just a bit agitated as well now and quickly got back in the car. The lions were a constant presence in camp, we always heard them roaring in the night, sometimes so loud that I was sure they must have been right outside the tent. We´d see them again twice at night but not at daylight.
  5. 30 likes
    On our second full day we left the lake for our morning drive and explored the area South of Konkamoya. It was much drier here of course, but not as barren as one could expect that late in the season (Zambia had good rain this year), and the wildflowers sparkled up the landscape. Game was much sparser (TseTses were not) but it was a very nice and tranquil morning. Spot the Jackal. Warthogs were quite common but did not appreciate our presence too much - we mostly saw their tails. By a small creek we found a colony of White-Fronted Bee-Eaters. All of this area should be perfect terrain for Kudu but we did not see too many of them. It´s pretty obvious this area is nowhere near its carrying capacity yet. If I understood correctly (probably not) this plant is kind of living upside down. What we see is just a tiny part of it and 90 % of it grows and expands subterraneanly. Many Impala females were already very pregnant, they were just waiting for the rain to drop their young ones. We did see one baby (probably one of the very first of the season). Here with some Reedbuck in the background. Watching this Gymnogene was very cool - it actually changed colour from red to yellow! I knew they can do that but had no idea that fast. What kind of Baboon is this? Actually a rather complicated question. The general thinking was it´s Yellow Baboons to be found all over Zambia but most authorities now consider the so-called "Kinda Baboon" a full species in its own right. Kindas are apparently a bit smaller and have shorter faces than their yellow cousins. According to IUCN there are only Kindas in Zambia but it appears to be quite a confusing matter - some people apparently are of the opinion both species are present in Kafue, and to make it more complicated, are even hybridising a lot. Zambia, as Doug said, is blessed with water. I was thrilled to finally get a photo of a Giant Kingfisher - a bird I´ve been hoping to see for many trips now. A large flock of Great White Pelicans was soaring above us and then coming down, always something special to see.
  6. 30 likes
    I enjoyed the night drives at Konkamoya very much. I remember we saw lots of Bushbabies (jumping frantically around), Genets, a Civet and of course these guys: Hare taxonomy is way over my head, but apparently what used to be Scrub Hare (Lepus saxatilis) all over Africa is now only Scrub Hare anymore in South Africa and Namibia and "African Savanna Hare" (Lepus microtis) anywhere else. We did a very long, very late night drive on our second evening from around 21:00 to 01:00 in the morning, hoping to find Aardvark pretty far South of camp. The area we went to looked suitable enough, and we did see plenty of holes, but not even the tip of a long snout was seen. Oh well, we´ll never see an Aardvark without trying hard (or going to Tswalu), and we did see other nice stuff on the way, including lots of Springhares. We also thought we had found four(!) Cheetahs but they turned out to be Oribis. We did see a Serval, which kept his distance. We had a great sighting of a Porcupine, actually pretty close but it moved amazingly quickly, the car did as well, and so apologies for this very poor picture - but this one was actually one of my favourite sightings. White-Tailed Mongoose was seen quite regularly. As were Genets - I do know Lynn has a better photo than this. This was a small highlight for me, an Elephant Shrew! Such tiny and fantastically cool-looking creatures. I´d guess it´s a Four-Toed Elephant Shrew but not completely certain. And this was very cool as well - a Sharpe´s Grysbok, not an antelope you see every day. "Grys" is Afrikaans for "Old Man" and refers to the fact that their fur is densely interspersed with white hairs.
  7. 28 likes
    Let´s take a minute to celebrate Puku. They are everywhere in Kafue, an enormously successful antelope here, even outcompeting Impala (by far). But this is only the case in Zambia and (still) the Kilombero Valley in Tanzania, everywhere else they are declining. So their IUCN status is "vulnerable". Two Puku doing their best to counteract the declining trend: And the eventual outcome - little Puke are very cute: We did find some nice birds along the lake: I won´t tell you the name of this one. Collared Pratincole Glossy Ibis Yellow-Billed Stork Two fishermen hard at work. One of my top "Must sees" for this trip - a Rosy-Throated Longclaw, a Kafue specialty. The team.
  8. 27 likes
    Since we´ve been discussing camp let´s just cover the next one - Musekese Camp! And happy to report no negativism at all here - this is pretty close to perfection, definitely one of the coolest camps I´ve been so far. It is located in the Northern sector of the park, in a remote area where the Kafue River does a long U-Turn. Prior visitors might be scratching their heads now about this picture and think "Huh, I do not recognize this". That´s because they have relocated. Camp used to be closer to the river, but since last year they moved to a permanent lagoon they call "Eden" - and rightly so, it´s paradise. Musekese has four tents, all very private, and with a wonderful view over the lagoon. The rooms are basic but comfortable, spacious and airy - for my personal taste they got this exactly right, not too luxurios, you still feel (a bit at least) like being in a tent in the middle of the bush, but everything you need is there. If there´s one improvement they could make that´s definitely light though - they only use some small solar lamps, so finding stuff in the evenings and mornings can be a bit tricky. Last season the tents used to completely open to the front (as several camps in Zambia are). Some guests loved this but most were a bit uncomfortable so they closed this side too for 2017. I have to admit it does add some security - only in the mind, but still. The bathroom - note the Pangolin. And say Hello to Charlie, our stalwart tent guardian. He was very fond of AndMic´s jacket, otherwise he liked to hang around the shower. When we moved North to Busanga we could leave some of our stuff in the tent since we would have it after our return for our final night here. Charlie promised us he would take very good care of everything, and of course he kept true to his word. The view from the tents - abundant Puku all the time and of course lots of birds. Also Warthogs, Waterbuck, Bushbuck now and then, and always worth checking out for something special. Just prior to our visit they had a Sitatunga for a few days! One afternoon a herd of Elephants was visiting the lagoon (on the opposite side though). We sat on our deck and watched them for almost 30 minutes - safari bliss! The lunch/dining deck What a fantastic place to sit, chat, drink and enjoy food! And speaking about food this was just fantastic (and yes, plenty ). Lunches were hearty and more home-style while they are going for finer cuisine for dinner - very successfully so. It was all "mmh ... MMMH ... oh this is good .... mmmh" in the evenings. Also good choice for breakfast, toast, jam, honey, porridge, cereals. I developed a liking for that black marmite staff - apparently the first non-guide guest to do so. The lobby. The most important aspect of the charm of Musekese is not tents or foods however - it´s the atmosphere. I liked the energetic manager Kola a lot but credit primarily goes to the young owners who also act as guides. Phil Jeffreys and Tyrone McKeith are so passionate about their patch of Kafue it´s just a joy to talk to them. Their eyes begin to glow when they tell you about their long-term plans, they beam with excitement when they discuss the many completely unexplored areas waiting for them in Kafue, they smile when they mention how much effect their "no burnings " rule already has had, they are proud when talking about wildlife becoming more and more relaxed - in short, they love love love what they are doing here, and that spirit is infectious - you can´t help love being here as well. So Musekese is a camp where I felt very much "at home", very welcome, it feels a bit like visiting buddies who have come up with that super awesome place in the middle of the bush and invited you to check it out. So compliments to you, Gentlemen, you are doing everything right, and I hope you continue to be successful with it - you very much deserve it. Some of camplife: A Bushbuck family has chosen the safety of camp as their home. They were still very shy around people though. Vervets are still trying to figure out how to assess all these human intruders and have not yet learned to steal stuff. This is Timothy, the local Monitor. Or Tabitha possibly, if there´s a way to sex big Lizards I don´t know it. Francolins often choose camps as their homeground - Red-Necked in this case. There were some cool critters around at night (mobile pic). If you want to see me in good cartoon mode, jumping up and down, screaming "Ouch-ah-OUCH" and trying to get my shoes off, just have me step into a line of ants - it works like a charm, promise. I was very, very happy to find this one in camp, one of my Top 3 targets for this trip - a Böhm´s Bee-Eater. From a photographic point of view these little guys were the showstealers - Red-Throated Twinspot, tiny masterpieces of Nature. Well, it seems Lynn liked Musekese, too.
  9. 27 likes
    A short while later we thought we had found an old friend - Boswell, the iconic handstanding tusker of Mana Pools. Of course we had to walk over to say Hello, just to be polite. Doug soon realized this was not patient old Boswell. This guy here is called ASBO, an acronym for "Anti-Social-Behaviour-Ogre" (probably not Ogre I´ll admit, I forgot what the O stands for). As a matter of fact we were unable to find Boswell to find during our trip. It´s always a bit worrying when he´s not around because he likes to leave for the adjacent hunting areas from time to time and he would be of course the perfect trophy. But he´s fine we were told, others saw him during and after our stay. Back to ASBO: He definitely wanted to check us out, but unlike Boswell he was not so relaxed and good-natured. Doug resorted to his friendly Elephant-slang "Hello my Boy" chatting mode which somehow seemed to calm him down a bit - and it did also have a reassuring effect on AndMic and me. Still, ASBO made it quite clear we should make way for him. And came very close. You really only appreciate just how big an Elephant is when you are on foot, feeling like a mouse looking up to a giant. But he was simply interested in the juicy trees right above where we were standing. An angle you only get in Mana Pools. Not quite a handstander yet so he has to use other tricks. (Maybe that´s why he´s antisocial - he must feel inferior to the other big bulls who have mastered it. ) When the whole family joined in it was time for us to retreat. The youngster there was quite cheeky - he even climbed the tree, obviously wanting to impress us.
  10. 27 likes
    Kurrichane Thrush at Pioneer Inn Lake Itezhi Tezhi - Konkamoya Arnott's Chat This was the first sighting of the Rosy-throated Longclaw, we were told. We tried to make lemonade from lemons and take photographic advantage of the overcast, murky conditions. The 3 shots of Puku and Lake Itezi Tezi were taken on the Konkamoya grounds. Lesser spotted Genet The Elephant Shrew was a first for all four of us. @Kitsafari had specifically requested one!
  11. 27 likes
    We spent the bulk of or game drives in Konkamoya close to the lake. As is to be expected this is - by far - the most game-rich area around Konkamoya, and the number of Puku alone should be sufficient to nourish several prides of Lions. Apparently they are snacks on legs since they are neither very fast nor very bright. As mentioned before we were not too lucky with the weather. Only a very few times (like in the picture above) the sun valiantly tried to fight its way through the thick clouds and haze but most of the time it was more like shown below, and we´d also have very strong wind and some drizzle (which turned into proper rain in the night) the third day. Which did give the area a pretty cool mystical ambience but of course it was not exactly perfect for photography. Still, we tried to make the most of what little light we were given. Waterbucks were regulary seen. African Wattled Lapwing Banded Mongoose - the only "predators" we´d encounter. This is not exactly Big Cat central here though all of them are a possibility, Dogs as well. We did see a Leopard in the afternoon, but it was deep in the thickish and I´m afraid I was the only one of the four of us who could see it - for seconds only. I´m not quite sure but seem to remember that we saw Lion tracks as well. As mentioned the prey base is more than sufficient so there definitely should be more of them around. Why there are not - well let´s just say there are a lot of humans here, we saw many fishermen on the lake, i.e. inside the park, and who knows what else they are "fishing". It was also remarkable that this place should be full of Hippos, it´s just perfect for them, but we actually saw quite few. Again, Hippo meat is very tasty according to the locals here. Kafue is on its way up, definitely, but that does not mean its problems are a thing of the past. A mixed flock of White-Faced & Egyptian Geese and Knob-Billed Ducks An obliging Bateleur. We didn´t see big Buffalo herds but enountered small Daggaboy groups now and then. Tawny Eagle
  12. 27 likes
    We left Pioneer only about 08:30 since Doug wanted to go after the worst of rush hour, we still had Lusaka to cross through after all. And indeed, it takes some time to get through it. It´s a sprawling, pretty modern city and often called one of the fastest-developing cities in Africa. It was almost 10:00 when we finally left the city behind us and had open country before us. I asked Doug if there was wildlife around in Zambia since we were told most human settlements are found along the main roads. The answer was quite sobering, no, there´s not much left outside the National Parks and Game Management (=hunting) areas. It´s not too far from Lusaka to Kafue, we were at Nalusanga Check Point, at the Easternmost end of the park, after a bit more than two hours. But given the sheer size of the park (22,400 km²!) getting to the border only means you´re halfway there - at best! Just see the map in post #1 to get an idea of scale, at a guess I´day we still had more than 150 kms to go. We soon left the park and used a road through a GMA going South to Lake Itezhi Tezhi. We didn´t see anything on our way through the GMA except for a few Baboons which was a bit worrying. But once we re-entered the park a bit South of the dam we rejoiced - we saw a good number of general game. I made a fool of myself trying to get a photo of the first distant Puku we saw. Obviously we would see hundreds, no thousands, during this trip. The light was awful (and would unfortunately stay that way for most of our time in Konkamoya), so we did not take many photos. We had to stop, of course, for an Elephant family enjoying the lush feeding grounds by the lake. A good thing we did, since this was actually the closest we managed to get to them in Konkamoya. Which is absolutely not reflective of their numbers here. We´d see many, many hundreds of them, huge herds by the lake - but through our binocs. They´re terrified of humans here, and each and any of our attempts to get close to them failed, they always went into hiding when we approached. Only on our night drives we would manage to get close to the herds. It´s a widely known fact that Kafue was nearly poached out by the 90ies, Elephant numbers down to 4,000 from more than 30,000 three decades earlier. And Elephants don´t forget, at least not here down South, where the park borders, the hunting areas and many villages are close. (They would be much less on edge farther North in Musekese.) This one had a nasty wound on his foot: My obligatory birding pic - a Wood Sandpiper. The stretch between the park gate and the turnoff to the lodge was the only area where we would see Zebra in this area. We finally arrived at Konkamoya at about 16:00. After some refreshing welcome drinks and some really good snacks we hopped back into the car to have a sundowner by the lake. It was almost dark even at 17:00 (because of the clouds) but it was great being back - Gin Tonic in hand, Elephants for a view, this is Africa!
  13. 26 likes
    Night Drives at Musekese were a lot of fun and produced some very interesting sightings. We did find the Lions twice at night but (partly due to the red light filter) no pictures worth posting of that. Also some Grysbok but not as accommodating as the one in Konkamoya. Of course lots and lots and lots of: Spotted Thickknee, classic night drive bird. I should really pick up my reptile game I still don´t have much of a clue about them. So I can only say it´s not a Leopard Tortoise but what is it? I won´t even try with Toads. We saw a lot of Nightjars - one more ID nightmare for my Big Year thread. I was delighted about this one. We had plenty of Bushbaby sightings but mostly we just saw their eyes or they would hop around quickly. This one liked to pose (damn that twig!) And this was the highlight - two African Wild Cat Kittens!
  14. 26 likes
    One last batch and then it´s over, promise. Once in a while a Zebra or even a very brave Impala would come down to drink at the pan. Bloodthirsty people that we are we were hoping for some action but the Dogs were in no mood for sports. I often wonder why we like them so much - many people don´t. I´m sure most of you will have gotten the same reaction. When I show holiday pics to friends and family and they see the Dogs they say "Oh, that´s a Hyena, yes?" or a "They are not very pretty, are they?". Yet for many of us a good Dog sighting often is the highlight of a safari. I´d guess it´s their social nature, that they take care of each other, have very strong bonds, and that´something that resonates with us. Or we respect their efficiency, that they are so successful as predators. Or it´s because their pups are so cute. I don´t know. But I do know that sitting with them for this morning made me very, very happy.
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    We spent not too much of our time at Musekese with classic safari game driving - simply because we liked being on the river so much that we opted to go for the boat for three of our afternoon activities. So, besides the time spent at the hippo carcass, we spent only 1 1/2 mornings that way. The Musekese cars - I like these completely open vehicles (good for birds especially) but of course it does get quite hot. Elephants were regularly seen, they are so much more comfortable around humans than in Konkamoya. Still, however, not relaxed enough to hang around the cars. They don´t flee as such but avoid to be close to humans for too long - at least that was my impression. The weather was a mixture of pretty much everything - dark, gloomy, cloudy but also a few hours of pure and proper African sunshine which came very welcome. Puku are of course also the dominant grazers here. We´d also see Impala, Waterbuck, a couple of Kudu, a herd of Zebra and Duikers. Away from the lagoons activity was not very high. It had rained heavily the night before we had arrived, as a matter of fact the road to Musekese was often more puddle than road, and so a lot of the animals had probably dispersed away from the riverine zone. Some of the rams were already becoming "silly" as Doug put it. Peek-A-Boo! It was in this area we were hoping to see some of the more special antelopes Kafue is famous for. We had seen one Roan on the drive in but of course wanted more! Bateleur going over. The probably most cloudless hour of our trip. And we did find one of our specials - Lichtenstein´s Hartebeest! This subspecies (sometimes considered a full species in its own right) is mainly found in the miombo woodlands of Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia. Another new one for me. The Hoopoe, my good old friend. Shepherd´s Tree White-Fronted Bee-Eaters We saw this Leopard in the morning. Doug and James (our Musekese guide for the bulk of our time there and on the Busanga plains) concluded that one had to be around given how nervous all the grazers acted. Finally we saw him running through the high grass but he was very nervous and avoided us, I was lucky to get in a shot. We did find a fresh Leopard kill the next day. Our guides were sure he had to be around and we waited at some distance. A lot of Vultures whooshed in but the Cat did not dare to come out. We did not want to rob him of his hard-deserved prey and left. When we saw all the Vultures going up throught the trees a minute later we knew it had returned. Yellow - or Kinda - Baboons. How Doug and James found this Lioness is totally beyond me, she was lying in deep grass and was totally invisible. I could have walked past her one metre away and would have overlooked her. Reedbucks. The team (with guide James on the left, Doug, Kit, Lynn and AndMic). There was one more special sighting in Musekese at the very end of this trip but I´m leaving that for later.
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    I´m sorry I cannot offer much information about this pack. There are three around AFAIK and they all have very complicated names, Nyamamatusi, Chiruwe, Nagasomething, and I´ve become far too lazy to do notes on trips these days. @Atravelynn, another very good reason why you should come with us for every trip. What I can say is that they were very cool and splendid Dogs to spend a morning with. The interesting thing while watching Dogs is you barely seem to register for them, most of the time they completely ignore you. It´s as if we´re on two different planes of existence (yes, sorry, I´m one of these SciFi nerds). Sharp teeth indeed. Dogs are fearsome, super-effective predators, but I do not worry at all in their vicinity. I have a huge respect for Big Cats and would never be as comfortable in their presence as with Dogs on foot. Why is that? It would be so easy for them to gang up on one human lying there next to them, presenting his well-nourished meaty form, and just rip you apart. But they never do, I do not think there have been any reliable recordings of Dogs attacking man. So maybe it´s that knowledge why us safaristas don´t fear them? Or just because they look so much like our family dogs? An Egret just to get a bit more White into this post. Wikipedia tells me there are five subspecies of Dogs. Here in Southern Africa it´s the Cape Wild Dog (Subspecies picturs), the other four are East African (darker), West African, Chadian and Somali (smaller). The pack numbered 15 I seem to remember, seven pups among them - and of course these are just adorable to watch. The elders much more aloof.
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    My thoughts on Konkamoya (which means follow the wind) are the same as Michael’s and Kit’s: loved the location, but was disappointed in the approach. I was even the one who suggested this camp after seeing their website that advertised their focus on aardvarks and their impressive success rate. We even had Doug check out the Konkamoya's claims and they confirmed the aardvark sightings before we booked. In fact, when we arrived at Musekese, and Phil and Tyrone learned we had come from Konkamoya, they immediately asked if we had seen aardvark. When we responded we had not they indicated it was a shame because 90% of the guests see them. Well not anymore because searching for aardvark is a thing of the past. Resting up and elevating my foot, while waiting for the delayed lunch. Aug 6 I had broken my foot, two months before the trip. In looking at Konkamoya on Facebook before leaving, I had seen shots of a troop of banded mongoose and was hoping to see some because it appeared they were camp regulars. With moments to go before departing we saw some mongoose scoot across the back of the camp. When we asked, we were told they came by every morning and every afternoon around 3-4 pm to get treat. No one had ever told us! We were all sitting around camp about 3 pm and missed the mongoose. I labeled this mongoose omission an “unconscionable” breach. But I learned something. It always pays to ask and I should have asked early on about the mongoose. I think I figured they had gone the way of the aardvark. We had some active and enjoyable 10 minutes with the mongoose from our prone positions. The banded mongoose were Konkamoya highlight, along with the mating puku, and the night views of the elephant shrew and the Sharpe's Grysbock (which I believe WAS a first for all of us). About 6:18- 6:28 am at Konkamoya, at the back of camp. Lone puku under gray skies in front of Lake Itezi Tezi, formed in 1977.
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    It took them a while but finally the Lions did come out - without the cubs, though, and only one of the ladies actually chose the waterhole close to us. The two brothers soon followed, all in all they were seven. They spread out and obviously were hungry. We saw two (failed) hunting attempts by one of the females and then a lot of Zebras, Impala and Waterbuck running. Surely they would make prey tonight. But it was getting dark - and high time for us to get back to the car. The mother with her cubs was waiting there, her cubs in the very same bush where she had been this morning. Tomorrow - an absolutely Cat-free day (which actually can be a good thing).
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    and those glorious, breathtaking sunsets......I just have to add to Andreas' brilliant collection... .skip this if you are tired of looking at the skies....
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    But to end on a more conciliatory note, we did have a very nice farewell from the lodge - we found out Banded Mongoose are coming to the kitchen for scraps every morning, and we had great fun watching them before leaving! Two videos:
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    Wild China Wild Sichuan This will be a trip report in almost the same way as I did with my Mongolia trip report: http://safaritalk.net/topic/16850-wild-mongolia-journey-into-the-unknown/ Where I am going to list some animals and where/when you can see them rather than doing a day by day report. Okey, let´s go. I started and ended this trip in Chengdu in the Sichuan province of China. I started my trip 4th October and was out in the field for 10 nights + 2 nights in Chengdu before and after the tour. My original plan was to spend all the time in 3 locations in Sichuan but I ended up in Shaanxi province as well. What to do when the animals don´t cooperate More about that later. This is my 3 locations for this trip and my target species: * Zoige grassland At the very edge of the Tibetan plateau towards Qinghai province. This is quite high altitude with elevation between 3000-3500 meters. My targets here is two rarely seen cats, Pallas cat and Chinese mountain cat. I have seen Pallas cat before in Mongolia but this time I was looking for better pictures of this elusive cat. Also Tibetan gazelle, Tibetan fox and Tibetan Wolf was at the very top of my wish-list. * Tangijiahe This is a protected reserve and it is in a much lower altitude. A forest mountain area where you can look for animals along the roads who follow the valleys and gorges. My target here is Golden Takin and Golden Snub nosed monkey. This endemic beautiful colored monkey can be a hard one here but we will try. I also very much hoped for Asiatic black bear who is seen very irregular but there is a chance. * Labahe A private protected area who have been closed for some time for construction work but now reopened. Same habitat as in Tangijiahe with forest mountains and valleys. This is the place to see Red panda. At least that was my goal... My guide for this trip is Roland Zeidler. Originally a birder but nowdays doing alot of mammalwatching trips as well. He is from Germany but lives outside Chengdu since long time ago and he speaks fluent chinese which is a huge benefit in this country where people still can´t say "hello" in English... So... we start with... Zoige grasslands I stayed 3 nights in the dusty Zoige town which is the place to stay if you want to explore these grasslands. The main area where we spent most of our time was 1-1½ hour drive from the town. So it´s a quite long drive there and back. Therefore we spent all of our time on the grassland, from early morning until almost midnight. All time out in the field or spotlighting from the car. Breakfast we had in the car and lunch/early dinner in local restaurant on the grassland. The first thing you will see when you enter this plateau is unfortunateley wolf skins... This is Zoige grassland, this is how it looks like. Some areas are a bit more mountainous than others. This is the area where we searched for the Chinese mountain cat. Me, looking for... I don´t know. The sunset maybe Time to jump to the exciting part, what is lurking around in these grasslands. What did I see during my time here. 1. Plateau Pika (or black-lipped Pika) is by far the most common mammal you see here. Probably also the first and last you will see. These guys are the heart of the grassland. This is the reason why this area has so much biodiversity. They are eaten by almost everyone and everything from mammals to birds and without them this area would be almost like a desert. Their numbers are incredible and they running around everywhere. Not that easy to come close though. They probably know that they are on everyone´s meny 2. Pallas cat Already on our first morning here we went to a quarry where my guide used to see this elusive cat. HUGE disappointment when we found out that they just started a railroad construction work!! straight thru the grassland and of course straight over this quarry... no more quarry and of course no more Pallas cat. He did knew another quarry, which is a good place to look for Pallas cat as they can hide among the rocks but still hunt very easy on the grassland. We made some distance to the quarry and set up our scope and start to scan the quarry. The top of the stones. The Pallas cat use to come out in the morning sun to warm up. It didn´t take long for Roland to find one! No... he found two actually! A mother and a almost fully grown kitten. Can you see him? So what to do to come closer? Hmm... rememeber this is a very elusive cat and if it´s run away into the rocks it will be gone for a couple of hours at least. My plan was to sneak closer and use the rocks as shelter and hiding behind. Just like the Pallas cat, I tried to become one A little closer... the cat is still unaware about me. I knew that the cat could be gone in any second but I still wasn´t very pleased with the distance and tried to sneak even closer... Oh shit... I have been discovered. The cat was now very aware of me and stared at me. But still not moving. This is the almost fully grown kitten and maybe he/she was a little curious about me as well. I took a chance and more or less crawled behind some rocks and I could only keep my fingers crossed that the cat would still be there when I peeked up with my camera. YES! The Pallas cat was still there and I got the shots i wanted! Such a cool looking cat with flat ears for more easy sneaking on Pikas. The next second it was gone. Obviously I have intruded to it´s comfort territory We returned to this quarry two more times and we saw the small family everytime. Couldn´t get this close anymore but amazing to watch them thru binoculars as well. Here is the mother from another angle another day. Tried to sneak on them from behind but a pair of Pallas cat eyes dedecting everything If you look really close you can also see the head from the kitten just above the mother. The huge dissapointment with the railroad work and the first quarry who were gone... turned into a big success. Very pleased with this sighting from one of my main targets of this trip. This grasslands are a really stronghold for them. The question is for how long? Until next post...
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    And my personal highlight - the Skimmer colony! A fantastic bird I´ve never before seen that close. They are near-threatened since they need undisturbed river banks or islands - and those places are becoming fewer and fewer. Now they are classified "Near Threatened". While widespread across Africa they are not very common, their total population is estimated at about 15,000 to 25,000 individuals. Good fun trying to get them in flight. Getting them do their thing was more difficult - they only skim when the water is very calm, and there were few moments like that. When they did it was a bit far or already pretty dark but finally they thankfully decided to perform. And that concludes my part for Musekese.
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    "We saw a lot of Nightjars - one more ID nightmare for my Big Year thread." Trying to get you every additional bird, @michael-ibk, I believe Doug stated this second night jar of the night-drive was the Square Tail. Your photos of the scrumptious meals bring back fond memories and make me hungry. No photo shoots of the marmite, though. @Kitsafari, what an artistic eye you have with the baobabs, the tattered butterfly on the red flowers, and the orphanage extreme closeups of various ele body parts! That lion and dead hippo sighting at Musekese could be experienced up close and personal at ground level, next to the vehicle, or from the deck of the tent. I had the middle tent to the right of the main lounge. Kit's tent was even closer. Viewed and photographed from the deck of my tent in the afternoon. This lion and his brother were new to the area and until recently were fearful of vehicles. This hippo carcass (and the carcass of the sparring partner) played a role in building up trust between the lions and the Musekese vehicles. The carcasses attracted the lions and kept them in the vicinity of the vehicles. Over time, the lions realized the vehicles were no threat. There were many good photo ops right at camp. If the dead hippo had not attracted the pair of male lions, which chased off some of the prey species, there would have been even more to observe in the wetlands that extended from the main viewing/dining deck. Phil told me that a great way to spend the day is to just sit right in camp and look out and see what transpires throughout the day. Though we had little time to lounge in camp, we did get to meet and photograph some of the wild neighbors that frequented Musekese: They need to trim the twigs and branches for unobstructed views of the resident Musekese wildlife. Or instruct them on some basics on posing for the guests. The red-throated twinspots liked the shade but were around most afternoons at Musekese. Having practiced the prone position at Konkamoya with the mongoose, I was all set to put belly to the ground to photograph this Musekese Monitor. About 200 shots to get the forked tongue. They named him Timothy, which of course I remember because that is my husband's name. There was another monitor they called Tabitha, but this looks like a Timothy to me. Bushbuck seen at camp or next to it Our first morning out with Tyrone at the wheel, we encountered a small herd of elephants. Tyrone was beaming and stated, “this is five years in the making.” When they first opened the camp, the elephant fled from the vehicles in fear. Now they are more tolerant. It was a triumph that added to the sighting. All of the eles in that herd had temporal gland secretions. Because it had rained the night before we were hoping it was excitement for the new rain. It could also be due to stress from the prolonged lack of rain, as we headed to the end of the dry season. Musekese Eles "We did one walk at Musekese. The weather was pretty subpar again but we did find something very special - Bushpigs!" @michael-ibk These bushpigs were a first for the four of us and our only sighting of the trip. Except for a couple of minutes when we initially spied them from the vehicle, we enjoyed the bushpigs on foot, slowly approaching ever closer in crouched position. I was pleased they did not run off, but they did meander in the direction away from us, and eventually entered the bush. Bushpig Medley Bushpig Tranquility, which we were a part of The Funeral March of a Marionette should be the background music for these two Lapid Face Vultures Wattled Crane shared the field with the bushpigs Young Whilte headed vulture spreading his wings Putting my best foot (not) forward. Doug said that a safari would be the best medicine for my healing ankle and he was right! Doug said the Wildcat kittens were his top sighting of the trip. Two shots of the same kitten. Very special! Phil and Tyrone explained that the area around there camp had not been burned for the five years they had been there, which allowed species such as these wildcats to establish a home.
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    And indeed, Doug soon found tracks, and we were heading away from the flood plains, still hoping to find our canine friends. We stopped at Shumba Pan - and struck gold! The pack was there, lying in the shadows at the other side. I wouldn´t even have noticed them and that is why probably nobody else was around - they were all ours! So we took our gear, walked over and enjoyed 90 private minutes sitting with the Dogs. They liked to decorate themselves. As it was still early (07:30) they were still active, were playing, running around, interacting - wonderful to watch for us!
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    We spent the rest of the morning walking. This is what makes Mana really special - I love this, walking between the ancient trees, being surrounded by animals and animals all over. Paradise. An extremely hazy paradise this time I admit - the oncoming rains and some burnings around the park did contribute to that. One of the ubiquitous Tree Squirrels Waterbucks were particularly numerous this season, they must have had a good year. Impala, of course, are everywhere. A Lilian´s Lovebird - I had forgotten how common they are (but not easy to get close to). Red-Billed Quelea are always an entertaining spectacle with their huge flocks, and I had some fun trying to get pictures of them. We spent some time by the banks of the Zambezi at a White-Fronted Bee-Eater colony but they were shy and remained high up in the trees while we were there so we soon retreated to let them go take care of their offspring again. In the sizzling heat it would have been very tempting to go down the banks and stick your toes into the cooling water. But some water ripples always tell why that would be an inredibly dumb thing to do - down there, we are prey to them: Doug always was careful about Elephants, and it always is exciting, but also a bit unnerving, when one of them emerges somewhere like he had never been around. Obviously, this guy could care less about us. These two will give me an ID headache for my Big Year thread - some of these WhydahWidowbird things which all look the same. Back at the car we enjoyed a late (excellent) breakfast pack from camp, I still remember those cold Quiche Lorraine very fondly. It was time to get back to camp, it was getting really hot now. The little one here did not seem to mind: Meve´s Starling - they are everywhere in Mana Pools. Poor photos coming up but it was an interesting thing to watch. This Ayre´s Hawk-Eagle (a good tick for me, not a bird you see every day) was just minding his business sitting in a tree when a Wahlberg´s Eagle decided out of all the three trillion branches in Mana Pools he needed to have just that one and attacked: The lions were still around where we had seen them this morning. They looked hungry and quite interested in a herd of Buffaloes not too far away so we waited to see what would happen. At one point we even asked camp if it would be possible to have lunch brought out to us (sure, no problem) but when they all became flat cats again we reconsidered (the heat might have had something to do with that) and got back from our first drive/walk at around 12:30.
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    Given the poaching activities in the park, it is a good thing that the elephant orphanage was set up. although its not as organised or as widely known as David Sheldrick's orphanage. The Kafue orphanage has taken in elephants from in and outside the park. at the end, i felt sad leaving Lukas after talking to him for quite a while and looking into his eyes - he looked forlorn as if longing for company or physical interaction. I regretted I didn't reach out to touch him but wasn't sure if that would have been the right thing to do.
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    I enjoyed the drive to the south. we saw quite a few birds, and there some scenic spots. just to supplement Michael and Atravelynn's photos: The sun valliantly trying to emerge a pair of attractive side-striped jackals the gathering of the pelicans and marabou storks - it felt as if we were spying at their secret meeting. i was fascinated by this beautiful butterfly - despite a tattered wing, it still looked lovely. and it was busy having a meal.
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    and all the other species and landscapes that can only mean....AFRICA.... James on a mound: the curiosity of a wildebeest and two.. with a cute baby when feathers fly a mother zebra and foal when another tried to chase the mum away but eventually they joined the group unassailed. and then one of my personal highlights - the completely unexpected sighting of the sables in Musekese. they were in turn magnificent, stunning, beautiful and regal. and what lovely and enchanting female sables they were - the milky chocolate coats were so unique. My favourite antelope and they came to give us a grand sendoff.
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    when we landed on the banks of Lufupa River to swap the boat for the vehicle that would take us to Busanga, there were beautiful lotus flowers and amazing butterflies. The plains might have tried to hide the sables and lions from us, but other species were out to astound us, including the rare cheetah that @michael-ibk had described. I suppose nature is like that - it may hide things we so desperately wanted to see, but it rewards us when we least expect it. and when we see it, it is deeply satisfying.
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    The best moments of safari come when you don´t expect them. Very true for us this time. We had said our good byes to the wonderful people at Musekese and were in Doug´s car again, on our way to Lusaka to get Kit´s flight. We were only prepared to battle intruding Tsetses at best and did not anticipate to see anything of note anymore . At least I have learned enough on my trips to know you should never ever pack away your camera, not until the very last minute. And all of a sudden, there they were, a breeding herd of Sable, the sighting we had worked so long and hard for in Busanga! Doug was right, these Kafue Sables looked absolutely magnificent. And with these pictures of the best-looking Sable anywhere I conclude my narrative on this report. I will be back with some closing remarks on Kafue, but now over to you, Kit and Lynn!
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    One of the traditional fish traps in Busanga. Doug explained to us that they were becoming a problem for the ecology of the park - simply too many young men were doing this now. Their number are making this ancient tradition a problem. We soon discovered the Cheetah´s prey (not possible to tell what it was). The Vultures had also just found it and were starting to coming in big time. It was quite a spectacle seeing them whooshing in one after another, and it made for some cool shots. White-Headed Vulture This Yellow-Billed Kite may be the smallest of them all but that did not stop him from competing with the big guys. Here going after a Lappet-Faced! Four Vultures in one picture: Lappet-Faced, White-Backed, Hooded and White-Headed. Lappet-Faced, the most powerful of them. White-Backed closing in. This was certainly our best game drive on the plains, and we returned to camp very contently.
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    We spent three of our afternoons in this: Boating the Kafue River was very enjoyable - it was peaceful, the temperature was pleasant, we saw lots of interesting stuff and it is simply beautiful - and almost insect-free! Don´t swim in the Kafue - it´s full of Crocs! A Reed Cormorant Giant Kingfisher taking off - none of them liked to pose for us. Pied Kingfisher, abundant of course. The Guineafowl here in the Kafue look a bit different with their golden crowns - and therefore a bit more attractive. This was quite special - a Barn Owl nest with two chicks inside. African Fish Eagle The weather was very changeable. We had dark menacing skies, beautiful golden afternoon light, fantastic sunsets - everything! Now is a good time to adress an inexcusable omission - of course, as usual, a lot of the pictures in this report, often (but by no means exclusively) landscape photos, were taken by @AndMic - and I haven´t given him credit so far. Very sorry about that!
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    When the Dogs mostly went to sleep we left them. Doug suggested to try for Nyala while we were out here, and of course we were more than ready to try. He knew about a pan in the woodlands, only accessible by foot. I believe Doug said this is called "Nyala Pan" - and it shows that 2017 has been a very good year rain-wise. Very often pans like this are completely dry at the end of the dry season. Bushbuck Warthog Kudu It was not easy sitting still and be patient - a nest of Mopane Bees was obviously close by. Anybody who has ever suffered from these little bastards knows how irritating they are. They don´t sting or bite but crawl into anything - ears, nose, mouth, eyes, they are just disgusting. But we managed to hold out, and were rewarded: A nice Nyala family with a very young baby! Weeks old at best. Last time we had only seen a male, this time the females - good symmetry!
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    We did one walk at Musekese. The weather was pretty subpar again but we did find something very special - Bushpigs! Another new one for (I think) all of us. They were pretty shy and disappeared as soon as we tried to get close. So apologies for the quality, these are all heavy crops. The area was teeming with Puku and birdlife but since the light was quite rubbish and we could not get close to most things interesting it was not ideal for photos. But a very nice area to walk around. Wattled Cranes Back on solid ground we did what one mostly does on (non Mana Pool) walking activites - concentrate on small things, like these Dung Beetles. Or this Three-Pointed Red Beetle. Structures: A popular tree with Cats: I have no idea what these two were up to, it was pretty intense in any case - so fighting or mating, take your pick. I was very proud to discover this African Barred Owlet. We had planned to walk until camp but because we hadn´t really gotten far from our starting point with our pace, looking at everything we decided to rather return and getting picked up by the car. And look - for the first time for our Kafue trip we saw a blue sky!
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    Of course dead Satan was a huge attraction for Vultures - all four species found in the area were present. (Most of these photos are from next afternoon when the Lions had finally let go of the carcass.) White-Backed Vulture, the most common one. But their numbers seen in the park are deceiving - like all Vultures their population is declining, they are Critically Endangered. Hooded Vulture White-Headed Vulture, the rarest one. Zambia seems to be a (relatively) good place for them. I´m not sure I have ever seen them before but they were not an uncommon sighting in Kafue. Also something I´ve never seen before - a juvenile Saddle-Billed Stork. A distant picture but also something new to me - mating Vultures! The King landing - Lappet-Faced Vulture. These two were quite fond of each other.
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    So, our first full day on the flood plains - what did we see? Because of the heat we started very early and got on our way before 06:00. We had barely left camp when Doug saw some lion tracks on the road. He went out to investigate, walked a bit down the road, quickly came back to the car and laughed. "They´re right around the bend." Indeed they were. There were four females, and one of them was with extremely young cubs! She was taking good care of them and kept them hidden deep inside a bush on a termite mount most of the time, but we could snatch a few good looks on them. This position looked quite awkward but the little one seemed to really like it. Soon they retreated even further inside the thickish and we decided to move on.
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    We also visited the Kafue Elephant Orphanage in the park, or, to be more preciese, the Release Facility. Rescued Elephant orphans are brought into the rehabilitation centre in Lusaka. After a while, if their health permits it, they are transferred to Kafue to be prepared to return to the wild. So it´s similar to what Sheldrick´s is doing in Kenya. The operation started in 2008, and we actually met the guy who helped set up the release centre - he was a guest at Konkamoya. The Elephants here are not kept in their enclosure but venture out daily into the wild, accompanied by their human guardians as I understood. There are obviously strong bonds between the Elephants and their human "family members" and it was nice to see that. Sad that operations like these are needed but it´s such a good thing they are there. Just to be clear, this is not like in Nairobi - no interactions are allowed, no close contact, as a visitor you always stay behind the fence. One Elephant named Lukas was very curious about us, he seemed to enjoy any human contact, and came very close to us, like to say Hello.
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    The Dogs came back, content to have shown their enemies who´s boss. But the Hyenas apparently were unwilling to learn and came closer again! These Zebras, interestingly enough, who had shown up at some point, were behaving like Switzerland! They were standing around, enjoying the show, seeimingly unfazed by 25 predators with big sharp teeth and seemed to think "We´re non-combatants, people." And of course, new challenge, new fight - in a matter of minutes the Dogs were going after the Hyenas again. The only time the Zebras showed some nerve, but the Dogs did not even seem to notice them. The Hyena were running in terror - I found it interesting that they did not put up any resistance and the Dogs had such a clear and definite upper hand. Doug said that all of this could have gone quite differently if the matriarch had been with the clan. "She would not put up with this nonsense." This was the last straw, after the Dogs maltreated two Hyenas again, they finally had learnt their lesson and retreated. The Dogs had spent a lot of energy, and needed to drink now - but they were not the only ones to return to the pool By this point, we had returned to the car, and had decided to have a sundowner, just enjoy the setting. And again it was like watching a nature documentary, only much better - live, for real, on the spot and with a G&T in hands. The Buffaloes really wanted to drink and came down, looking quite menacing. But the Dogs again did not seem to mind them, some of the were just lying there, not caring at all about the deadly hornes and hooves around them, and in fact none of the Buffs did as much as touch them. And after a short time the Dogs decided to have fun again! The hippo was not amused. "Please people - ENOUGH! Can you just leave me and my pan in peace? PLEASE!" We did him the favour and took our leave from one of the most action-packed afternoons I´ve ever had the privilege to experience.
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    All of this excitement did not go unnoticed - the local Hyenas were showing up to check if the Doggies would have prepared some tasty dinner for them. Sniffing, sniffing, Doggies, where are you? Boy, they would so regret coming here! Soon the Dogs returned from their Buffalo hunt, and they did not care about their guests one bit and immediately went after them. This Hyena was in a pitiful battle - he would always turn around and around to avoid being bitten but it looked like the Dogs tore come good chunks of meat out of his backside. The Hyena ultimately saved himself into Shumba Pan and stood his ground in the water. Classic Mexican standoff! (Which we unfortunately could not really see behind the shrubbery.) After a while the Dogs seemed to lose interest, and a very bedraggled Hyena finally dared to leave the water again. Poor guy was really miserable and looked to us as if to say "Look what these mean mean mean Dogs have done to me! They are such bullies!" But the world of hurt was not over for the Hyena - the Dogs were still adamant that this was their pan, and they would not tolerate one single Hyena here. Run for your lives, Hyena - the Dogs are coming! One of the Vundu guests had decided not to walk out here with the others but rather stayed by the car - he later told us the Dogs were running right there, and all of a sudden he found himself standing in the middle of a fierce battle of teeth and claws! A bit more excitement than he had asked for. (But neither Dogs nor Hyena took notice of him, and he was fine.)
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    But what about predators? We must have been among the most unlucky Busanga Plains visitors ever because we did not manage to see the lions. Well, granted, we did not really make them a priority, and Doug also told us life has not been too gentle on them - there used to be three prides, now they are down to one. Still, normally I guess with three Busanga nights one can expect to see them but it simply was not to be. We were told about a Lioness with cubs but the directions we were getting (drive up a few kilometres, and you know, that little mount a few hundred metres to the left) were not all that helpful - there are a lot of mounts! But we did have one sighting the second day which made up for the lack of lions: Hard to recognize but yes, that´s Cheetah! We had found tracks the day before so we had kind of hoped for them. Problem was, he was way off, and how to get there? Fear not, where there´s a will there is a way! And so - sucess, after a little while we closed in on him: This was definitely the fattest Cheetah I´ve ever seen: He must have gorged himself on a whole herd of Oribis (his preferred prey here), his belly was almost hanging to the ground! His extremely full belly was probably the reason why he did not run from us. He did not really seem to be happy with our presence. So when he chose a shady spot to rest we let him be because it was quite apparent he would try to get away would we come too close - definitely not a Mara Cheetah. When he was resting there, even though we knew exactly where he was, he became almost invisible to us. Easy to see why it´s so easy to miss cats on a game drive, they might be straight before your eyes but still impossible to spot!
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    On our way back the weather cleared up even more ,and we enjoyed some nice light. Busanga is not only a great place for Wattled but also Grey Crowned Cranes - this is the first time I saw them with young ones. Both species actually. To me, the Crowned Crane is one of the most iconic African animals, I´ve always loved them. This green area looked lovely with lots of Wildebeest and the Cranes functioning as colour specks. I crouched down behind the car to get an eyelevel shot of this cute little young one. This one did not feel very much at ease with our presence and seeked Mommy´s comfort. Red-Capped Lark - one of the few distinguished ones of this race. No ID trouble about this one - a Rosy-Throated Longclaw again, and it loved to pose for us. We searched for Sable again but to no avail - they remained invisible. Very late afternoon we´d see a very distant one by the edge of the woodlands but there was no way to get there. Southern Reedbuck. And so, our two quests pretty much failed, we returned to camp. One distant Roan in diminishing light - surely we can do better than this? Baby Hare.
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    I will always remember Musekese for the incredibly warm welcome Ty andPhil threw me at my tent the afternoon we arrived. as I arrived at my tent, I threw everything on the bed, grabbed my camera and there he was - the possessive King of beasts lording over Satan the deceased hippo....at one point, he suddenly saw us (Doug and I) and stared intently at us. apologies for the swaying! each time i take my eyes away, the camera moves. and apologies for the chatter! As Michael said, the lion was about 100m away from my tent, so I, for one, was very glad for the mesh that was put up to seal the gap between the half wall and ceiling. Sure, if that big cat decided to swipe it, the mesh was no barrier to it, but pyschologically, it provided me reason enough for some sound sleep! especially when the lions went quiet and I wondered, were they hanging around my tent, trying to hunt that female bushbuck and her baby residing in the grove behind my tent? but the lion was only intent on guarding his prize. Later, when we were parked opposite the lion and his hippo, we took turns to come down from the vehicle for a better eye-level of the cat. it was an interesting perspective for me, since it was the first time I was on the ground looking at the big cat , even if it was the view of his bum! it made my heart beat faster, adding to a bit of thrill and edginess that if it chose to rush to us, I would be scrambling up to the vehicle. This getting down and dirty in front of a predator can only be done with a guide as experienced and knowleageable as Doug. So Lynn and I were back in the vehicle when the lion turned and suddenly noticed Michael. He snarled, made a small mock charge, retreated, and yelled for his partner, who was lying flat on a fat tummy close to the treeline. The brother raised his head, then fell back into his slumber. You are on your own, partner! I wasn't surprised the two lions had adopted musekese - after all they probably thought Ty and Phil were giving them free food - first, the dead hippo behind the camp, and then after they had returned from killing a baby elephant, the second deceased hippo was just lying there to feed their appetites. as far they were concerned, they had found their haven. And, so did we at the Eden lagoon of Musekese.
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    We had a mission the next day - find the Dogs, come what may! It was again very hazy and cloudy - here at Chisasiko. A Buffalo herd interrupted our hunt. One of my photographic missions - find a Buffalo whose face says "Oh, I´m so happy and this is such a great day." It´s a difficult quest but I haven´t given up hope yet. More obstacles coming up - an Elephant herd was enjoing their breakfast tree on the road. It was a nice sigthing and we watched this family for quite some time. See Buffaloes, this is how it´s done - life is good. But we had to move forward, time was ticking away, and soon the Dogs would go rest and sleep, we had to hurry. - Hey Starling, have you seen the Dogs? Yes, just follow the Kudu guys, she will lead you there. We´ll see.
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    Getting down low in front of the vehicle offered some good perspectives, whether antelope or birds. Wildebeest in Busanga Plains Yellow billed kites harass a Marabou Stork in Busanga Plains Crowned Crane medley on Busanga Plains It is the sable, roan, and hartebeest that get most of the attention in Kafue. But this wildebeest is nice placed with the classic terrain. Both Doug and James put that roan sighting as #1 or near #1 on their list of roan viewing. It was certainly #1 for the four of us. Busanga Plains roan herd of 22 In contrast to these cooperative roan, the sable were elusive. James and Doug both described sable viewing in Busanga Plains as a “slam dunk.” But it seemed we could not even find the basketball court despite valiant and prolonged efforts. Two factors that might have contributed to the disappearing sable were (1) There had been a fire not long before our arrival that might have scared them away. But the guide in one vehicle we encountered told us the fire had frightened the sable into the area surrounding our camp. And we did indeed see two sable bound into the bush within 5 minutes of our camp. (2) Water. The rainy season had been more than adequate so puddles abounded all over, allowing the sable to avoid the river. It had rained in Busanga Plains before we arrived adding to the water. Sable teaser #1 in Busanga Plains Sable teaser #2 - young and mature male in Busanga Plains It was Musekese that delivered the best sable viewing from us, as we heading out from camp back to civilization. Herd of 22 Sable in Musekese The nicely lit, relaxed sable herd was a wonderful sendoff for our group before it was time to fly off (or in the case of Michael and Andreas) drive to Mana Pools. We felt lucky with the last-minute sable and lucky to have such a congenial and fun group, guided by the one and only, Doug Macdonald.
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    We are pretty stubborn, and refused to give up our Sable quest. So again, it was into the TseTse hell of the woodlands both for our last afternoon and last morning - no surrender, no retreat was the motto! We saw many Great White Pelicans in Busanga - they are quite noisy when flying over close like that. A very patient Little Bee-Eater But again - where.are.the.Sable? We did see two females far off, and a bull out in the open. Well, at least we knew they were around now. We tried to approach the bull but he would have none of it and ran. Our lovely Sundowner place, only 10 minutes from camp. I regret that we were not able to spend some time there during the day, it was birder´s paradise. This was the only time we would see Elephants in Busanga, they were coming out of the woodlands to drink here. I guess because of the early rains they were no longer as present on the plains as they normally are in dry season. Ground Hornbill We drove up until Shumba in our Sable quest. Doug does not like to be beaten, and so he tried everything to find them. Last Wattled Cranes and Lechwes. It was only logical that after all this driving around, basically covering most of the plains the last morning, that we found two bulls no more than five minutes from camp! Not the herd we had been hoping for but we were very happy to see these two at least. Mission accomplished, and that always feels much better than failed quests. It was time to go back to Musekese, and the trip had all but come to an end. One more night at main camp, and we´ve already covered what we saw there.
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    And yes, we could do much better Roan-wise! Next morning we experienced one of my personal trip highlights. We found this nice herd in good light. See the small alley there? Doug suggested we could get out and try to approach them the crawling way, see if they would tolerate this. And so we tried. And yes, since we were moving very, very slowly, they did not flee but became more and more curious about us. And so we were lying there on the ground and looking up to these huge, gorgeous antelopes - it was absolutely wonderful! Roan overdose coming up:
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    That African finfoot is an extraordinary bird - and I was amazed that Michael's sharp eyes would just pick them out from a distance. we thought it was a rare bird but wow did they come out for us! I didn't get great shots but @Atravelynn was quick on the draw and captured some splendid pictures of the finfoot (even the name is super!). I can't wait to see hers. Musekese's lagoon is fed by the Kafue River when the rains come. Sometimes I could hear the hippos along the lagoon in the night, and I recall that Phil or was it Ty that said some hippos were still in the pools in the lagoon as well. I did not expect the river to be so wide and so full of life. the richness of the river feeds the abundant birdlife and provided us some spectacular sunsets as well.
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    The banded mongoose were a bundle of fun! thanks to Michael and Lynn who pursued the mongoose and then came back to fetch @AndMic and I. we threw ourselves on the floor to take the photos and the staff were bemused that the mongoose could arouse so much excitement among us. if only they knew they could use them as an attraction, perhaps more people would book with them, as long as they feed them properly and fully, and no samosas every lunch-time. (i share Michael's sentiment about the lodge) Some mongoose pics from me:
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    There´s no denying that Kafue in general does not pack the same game density some other parks have. It´s absolutely possible to drive around for quite some time and see nothing. (In our case the early rains will have added to that.) And nothing does not mean nothing except some antelopes in the background, it literally means nothing. Predatorwise especially we´ve had more sightings elsewhere. And the Tsetses really are a nuisance in some (not all) areas. And yet. And yet. Kafue has a way of creeping into your soul. All the different landscapes, wide open grassy plains, open woodland, all dotted with beautiful wildflowers. The beauty that is Kafue river, peace- and powerful at the same time. Whenever the driving around without seeing too much can get a bit frustrating something totally cool and unexpected is bound to pop up, rare animals like Bushpigs or stunning versions of familiar animals like Sable. Nightdrives are incredibly productive. Diversity is king, you can expect to rack up a very impressive mammal count here. Birdlife is just fantastic - I was really happy to get beauties like the Rosy-Throated Longclaw, The Red-Throated Twinspot or the Böhm´s Bee-Eater. And the most important aspect: Kafue is a vast, unpolished wilderness - and it is your private wilderness! We saw one other car at Konkamoya and had Musekese all to ourselves - the sheer distance to the next camps makes this as intimate as, maybe even more so than, Botswana´s concessions. Even on the Busanga plains we would see very few others, and none at all in "our" corner down at Ntemwa camp. I absolutely loved that feeling of being in "wild and remote" Africa. Taking photos of Skimmers on the river, looking up to Roan in the golden morning light, finding a breeding herd of Sable when no longer expected, a Porcupine running from us, two African Wild Cat Kittens in the night, a Cheetah popping up to raise our predator count, the gorgeous setting and the wonderful hospitality of Musekese Camp - these are all perfect memories from this trip, and already the memories of the more frustrating elements are fading completely. A big part of the enjoyment from this safari stems from the excellent company - thank you, Lynn and Kit for being the perfect travelmates, and thank you Doug for being the extraordingary guide - and funny guy - you are. And one more big thank you to @Game Warden! Matt, without you and Safaritalk I would never have even known about Kafue and its camp, about Doug, and never would have met Kit or Lynn. My life really would be poorer without what you have accomplished with this site, and I am very grateful about that. Yes, I certainly had safaris where I "saw more". But I don´t have a strong urge to return to some of those. But Kafue, I´m sure, will definitely see me again - and sooner rather than later, I hope.
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    @michael-ibk I love that photo of the elephant in the waters curling his trunk against his face! great shot! For Michael, the skimmers were a highlight on the river, but for me it was the crossings that was special. It was quite an experience to first watching the big four males walk across the river, and then swimming in the deep water. there were moments when I felt we were so exposed and so vulnerable, especially when the jumbos were almost close to boat, and loomed over us puny humans. but their calmness and our quietness made the entire atmosphere almost hynoptic. Now that is what I would call an elephant crossing. the first crossing: Second crossing:

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