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Kasanka, Bangweulu & Liuwa in Nov-Dec with Robin Pope Safaris

Kasanka Bangweulu Liuwa Robin Pope shoebill Matamanene Wasa bat migration Zambia Rod Tether

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#1 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 04:07 AM

Kasanka, Bangweulu, and Liuwa are phenomenal multi-dimensional nature destinations and definitely off the beaten path.

 

As a solo traveler, the small group trips (6 max) provided by Robin Pope Safaris (RPS) were an ideal way to share fixed costs. The two trips I combined delivered superior quality in every respect.  You can also drive to all these locations on your own or with a guide.  Originally, I contacted esteemed guide, Rod Tether, of the famous and former Kutandala and now of Zambian Expeditions (rod@zambianexpeditions.com) about a private or group trip to a few Zambia locations in November.  The RPS excursions were the logical results of our discussions.

 

 

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...........                                    Kasanka..................................................................................................................................Shoebill Island, Bangweulu......................................................................................................................................Liuwa


Edited by Atravelynn, 18 January 2013 - 04:33 AM.

When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#2 Sangeeta

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 04:21 AM

You are being stalked, so here I am reading avidly even before you get the first post up properly :D


Zindagi na milegi dobara... Chalo Africa
You only live once...Go To Africa

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#3 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 04:31 AM

Bats plus Bangweulu

http://www.robinpope.../bat-itinerary/

The bats arrive Kasanka the end of Oct and depart near Christmastime and t he Pope bat trip always departs right around Thanksgiving. The last week of Nov in Kasanka is ideal timing. As a bonus, our bat trip coincided with the full moon, something that had not occurred to any of us until we looked up and saw the Batman logo looming in front of us.  Capturing that logo by camera required hundreds of continuous shoot frames and luck.  A monopod helped, IMO.  The photojournalist in our group toted major equipment and I’m sure his bat logo is a work of art.

 

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BBC Hide, Morning, Kasanka

 

Sitatunga are seen in late November in Kasanka, mainly right at Wasa Lodge, but also from the Fibwe Sitatunga hide.  We saw a mix of males, females, and a fawn, about half a dozen in all, at distances of about 40 meters or more. June/July are the easiest times to see sitatunga at closer range, especially near water.  May is pretty good for sitatunga too.

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                                                    Sitatunga, all viewed from Wasa Lodge in Kasanka

 

 

The Pope bat trip includes a daytrip by air to Shoebill Island in Banguwelu. In late Nov/early Dec the black lechwe are out in numbers but the majority of the males do not have striking black markings, as it is after the breeding season.  Some dark males could still be seen and the large herds of both males and females were impressive. 

 

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Male Black Lechwe,  Shoebill Island, Bangweulu

 

A few zebra mixed in with the lechwe and we heard about some tsessebe, but saw none.

 

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Shoebill Island, Bangweulu

 

The shoebills, save one, have migrated to a distant and unreachable part of the park this time of year.  The single non-migrator is a known as Kapotwe.  We were told it (other sources referred to it as she/her) had been captured as a chick by poachers, then freed by rangers.  The bird’s early life represented sort of an avian version of “Born Free” and now it likes to hang around in an area often shared with humans.

 

Finding this shoebill with the help of local fishermen is similar to tracking gorillas with scouts, only the terrain is swamp, not jungle. The bird is not fed and it is entirely capable of flying.  We got to see it flapping and flying overhead—a magnificent sight—as we sloshed back to Shoebill Camp after our Kapotwe Shoebill encounter.

 

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Shoebill Island, Bangweulu

 

The shoebills tend to congregate around Shoebill Island, joining their resident pal, Kapotwe, starting in April.  May and June are the best times to see shoebills, usually by boat, I think.  July can be good too as the nesting season begins.  A longshot is to try to see chicks in August.  The BBC came at that time and filmed chicks and I just saw the documentary.  If Kapotwe is indeed a she and if she breeds and raises chicks, that could offer a very rewarding scenario.


Edited by Atravelynn, 18 January 2013 - 04:32 AM.

When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#4 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 04:34 AM

You are being stalked, so here I am reading avidly even before you get the first post up properly :D

Stalk the elusive shoebill!


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#5 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 05:13 AM

Liuwa Plains

http://www.robinpope...lain-itinerary/

There are about three Liuwa Pope trips mid-Nov to early December.  Wildes arrive usually late Oct and accessibility to and within Liuwa diminishes in mid-December.  As the season progresses, so do the odds of inaccessibility.  Driving to Liuwa, as opposed to flying, can pose a real challenge, depending on rains.    The wildebeest migration of around 50,000 animals—the 4th largest mammal migration on the continent—turned out to be more of a sideshow than a main event in Liuwa, which so much to offer that the wildes sort of faded into the sunset, literally.

 

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Liuwa Plains

 

African Migration #s

1.  Straw-colored Fruit Bats in Kasanka (billed as largest mammal migration in the world)

2.  Blue Wildebeest and zebra migration in Kenya/Tanzania

3.  Gazelles and other antelope in Southern Sudan (although it might be bigger than wildes)

4.  Blue Wildebeest in Liuwa

 

Is #5 the minibuses in the Mara?  (Not being snobbish, I’ve been one of them more than once.) Seriously, I wonder what #5 is.

 

In Liuwa, the place itself was a huge attraction.  We could see the landscape come alive day by day as flowering pink lilies (Amachiris) and tiny yellow blooms (Grangea) carpeted the ground in ever increasing numbers, below the commanding backdrop of changing skies.  The wildes presented themselves as fitting secondary subjects on this vast and magnificent set.  Of course, Lady Liuwa was a star, and seemed to take that role seriously. Birds were abundant, especially the elegant crowned cranes.  Wild dogs were active in a sizeable pack of 20+ and how nice that the researchers were eager to share the dogs’ locations Pope guests.  The resident hyenas, known for their size and good health, were our constant companions day and night.  Though they eluded us during our four nights, about eight known cheetah roam the park too.

 

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.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................Lady Liuwa

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Stringing the bat and Liuwa Pope trips together, as I did—and as one Liuwa-repeat couple also did—makes for a well-designed and unusual safari.

 

 

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Blacksmith Plovers in huge flocks in Liuwa Plains

 


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#6 SafariChick

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 05:17 AM

Great stuff so far! The batman logo is way cool, and I love the shoebill!

P.S. your last post was posting as mine was so I hadn't yet seen it - wow, gorgeous scenery too! Would love to see these photos a little bigger ...

Edited by SafariChick, 18 January 2013 - 05:22 AM.


#7 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 05:22 AM

How wet and rainy is it late Nov/early Dec?

Not very during my stay.  Maybe I was lucky.  In Kasanka the skies looked angry several times but we donned our rain gear only once, while driving to the bats one afternoon and the light shower stopped before bat time.  Another evening it drizzled as we walked to our Wasa Lodge rondavels and it continued to sprinkle during the night. Kasanka’s Wasa was BYO Raingear in an open vehicle where Guide Jacob offered camera protection under a tarp.

 

In contrast, Matamanene Camp in Liuwa provided us with stow bag rain ponchos and there were drop flaps on the vehicle. Driving into Liuwa we had a shower that required the ponchos and flaps for about 20 minutes.  A second time the flaps were dropped, again, for about 20 minutes of rain.  We did a good job of avoiding and outmaneuvering the showers that fell all around us in localized storms, which we viewed (and sometimes photographed) along the horizon. 

 

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Liuwa Plains

 

Our last night in Liuwa during dinner, the heavens broke loose directly above us.  Downpour was an understatement.  It was a good test of both the main dining tent and our own individual tents, all of which remained dry.  The next day the landscape was transformed; nearby Kings Pool had turned into a lake and previously dry plains were wetlands.  We all agreed the drenching rains and their aftermath were worth experiencing in Liuwa Plains.

 

The Liuwa visitors prior to us had one full day of solid rain, but they got to spend that gloomy day with Lady Liuwa, who was hunkered down and seeking refuge.

 

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With rain comes rainbows - Liuwa Plains

 

Back in civilization, on the runway in Lusaka, leaving for Joburg, we had a lightning storm, complete with torrents of rain that our pilot fortunately decided to wait out for about 90 minutes.

 

I’m up for another wet season safari—or, as I have been corrected to say—a green season, better yet emerald season safari.  Or how about “verdant and luxuriant season of rebirth, renewal, and vibrant regeneration”?

 

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King's Pool near Matamanene Camp in Liuwa Plains

 


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#8 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 05:23 AM

Great stuff so far! The batman logo is way cool, and I love the shoebill!

P.S. your last post was posting as mine was so I hadn't yet seen it - wow, gorgeous scenery too! Would love to see these photos a little bigger ...

The whole package from bats to birds to scenery on the ground and in the air!  Enough rain at one point that surfing may have been possible.

 

Thanks, Safarichick.


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#9 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 05:38 AM

Mosquitoes/Tse tses

In Kasanaka I recall seeing about two tse tses and very few mosquitoes. Liuwa does not have tse tses and again, mosquitoes were no problem. Some flies buzzed around at times in both places. Wendy, a safarimate, and I noted similar little bites on our faces and elsewhere that we had mysteriously accumulated in both Kasanka and Liuwa.  They were a little itchy, but nothing severe. Whatever invisible insects had feasted upon us, they had bypassed the men.

 

I had wondered if the rains would bring swarms of hungry mosquitoes, but that was not the case. Nov/Dec in Kasanka and Liuwa were not much different than what I recall in Eastern and Southern Africa in the high-season dry months.  My Buzz-off headnet and jacket saw no action, although they were packed and ready to go.

 

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Dragonflies were abundant, as seen here with the crowned crane, but mosquitoes or tse tses were not a problem


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#10 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 05:50 AM

Itinerary

Attached File  itinerary in table form hi qual jpeg.jpg   67.8KB   3 downloads

 

 

The standard RPS South Luangwa & Kasanka itinerary with the daytrip to Shoebill Island, offers a nice variety and allows for some buffer days up front in SL should Nov weather or anything else cause delays.  I chopped off the front end of the trip (the South Luangwa part) to be home for the very important American holiday, Thanksgiving. The result stacked several long travel days together and increased my risk of missing that important charter from Mfuwe to Kasanka by removing any buffer days.  A little risky, but fortunately I encountered no delays or problems.

 

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................................Flying to South Luangwa...................................................................................................................................Flying to Kasanka...........................................................................................................................Flying to Liuwa


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#11 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 06:15 AM

A reasonable first safari?

For bat lovers, the bat trip to Kasanka would be perfect.  For anyone wanting to see the  typical African safari animals plus something COMPLETELY different and off the beaten path (the 2 RPS trips of Kasanka, Bangweulu & Liwua), tacking on some time in South Africa first would provide a well rounded trip and an excellent flow.

 

Even without South Africa, the RPS Kasanka Bat safari itinerary first spends 3 nights in South Luangwa where lion and leopard, along with elephant and buffalo, are commonly seen. But no rhino.  I omitted the South Luangwa part of the Kasanka & Bangweulu trip solely due to the Thanksgiving conflict.

 

I ended my safari with 4 nights at Phinda in South Africa (separate report that will be linked at the end of this report) and even visited egg laying turtles, which is also unusual.  Phinda is a good place to see cheetah, plus rhino, and even lions. 

 

If one started in the Sabi Sands of South Africa (renowned for reliable Big 5 sightings), which is logical because flights are often routed through the Johannesburg hub, that would be an ideal introduction to safari.  Maybe add Phinda too, if time and money permit (especially if cheetah are a fav and if it is far enough into Nov for turtle egg laying) then head to Zambia for the RPS offerings.  Heck, if time and money are highly abundant for such a trip, throw in Cape Town as the very first stop and Vic Falls maybe after RPS.  What a package that would make!

 

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.......................................         ........BBC Hide, morning, Kasanka............................................................................................................................................................. Wildebeest dwarfed by Liuwa's vastness...............................................Blackwing Stilt reflection, Liuwa

 

Sleeping Overnight at JFK Airport

If I wanted to depart home after Thanksgiving on 22 Nov and arrive Mfuwe no later than 25 Nov, I had only one flight plan and it was on South Africa Air from O’Hare to JFK with an overnight layover.  Not wanting to boost my trip cost any higher than it was with a NYC hotel, I opted for an o/nt in JFK.

 

I checked that website “sleeping in airports” and it was ok. http://www.sleepinginairports.net/

 

Terminal 4 is the place to be for an overnight and where my next day’s flight departed from.  The whole terminal was well lit and very safe with hustle, bustle and foot traffic throughout the night, plus lots of friendly (though sometimes noisy) security and maintenance people. 

 

Once the major construction is completed for Terminal 4, there should be even more places to crash and fewer cold drafts.  Even so, there were several rounded cement benches/surfaces that allowed a five-and-a-half foot frame to stretch out comfortably.  These cement structures were not in heavy demand and offered vacancy throughout the night. The sought-after, long, padded benches/seats near a few food vendors were in shorter supply, but I finally scored one of those about 3 am.  Some people pulled those trendy tall pub tables together to make a flat surface to lie on, but one wrong toss or turn and it was a long way down to the hard ground.  Ouch, or worse.

 

I'd do it again, if need be.

 

Other sleeping creatures on the trip besides me in Terminal 4 of JFK:

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Hyena resting with spoonbills -- seen in Liuwa not Terminal 4 of JFK  ...............................................                     One surviving male lion sleeping -- also in Liuwa and not the airport


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#12 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 06:26 AM

The Zambian adapter

Throughout the country the plugs and outlets looked just like this.  It requires a type G adapter, identical to the plug.  The ability to recharge conveniently was possible everywhere I stayed.

 

gallery_108_789_52214.jpg  gallery_108_789_99190.jpg

 

To be continued...


Edited by Atravelynn, 18 January 2013 - 06:28 AM.

When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#13 Paolo

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 07:22 AM

I have not started to read it, but I was really looking forward to this TR!

Thank you for posting it fairly soon after your return.

#14 Anita

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 08:01 AM

I had heard that performance of the Lynn test for an itinerary that involves Liuwa and Kasanka would be the best way to plan my own safari there. Brilliant start, wonderful images and the pictures have already taken Liuwa to another level of 'must go there soon' level.

 

A question I have, and one you might answer later on( if so, dont bother now), is on the wildebeest migration. Between late October and mid December ( or narrowing it further to late October and late November) are there any anecdotal insights from Robin Pope or others on when to see animals enmasse? The reason I ask is that I have read in few places that in reality seeing them in thousands and tens of thousands is actually very very iffy and difficult- the chances are of seeing them much spread out in at best very small groups, like you seem to suggest. The reason could be because once they come into the south part of the park they dont move around for the next few months in very large herds? And that the enmasse really happens maybe once when they are moving in and hence very difficult to time?


Edited by Anita, 18 January 2013 - 08:37 AM.


#15 Paolo

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 08:16 AM

Re Migrations.

I guess that mammal migration #5 now might be the Zebra migration between Boteti, Makgadikgadi and Savuti in Botswana. According to the Jouberts, there were some 45,000 Zebra involved in the early 1980s. They are far less now, but still numerous.

Up to the end of the 1970s, migration #4 must have been the Blue Wildebeest migrating from Central Kalahari to the Boteti and Lake Ngami, as described by Mark and Delia Owens in "Cry of the Kalahari".

As to the South Sudan migration (which also stretches into Gambella in far western Ethiopia), the most prevalent species is the White-eared Kob (800,000+), then Mongalla Gazelle (300,000), Tiang (160,000 - they were more abundant in the past) and - amazingly - Bohor Reedbuck (60,000).

#16 pault

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 09:49 AM

Your trip reports get more esotericically useful every time. Think you thought of everything? Read an Atravelynn report and think again... stand out question that I didn't even know existed so far...

 

What is the perfect first African safari for a bat lover?

 

This looks like a really well thought out trip - by all of you, Robin Pope and Rod Tether.


Waiting again... for the next time again


#17 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 02:44 PM

.Between late October and mid December ( or narrowing it further to late October and late November) are there any anecdotal insights from Robin Pope or others on when to see animals enmasse?

You've just stated your PhD thesis.  So little is known about these wildebeest and it all depends on the rains.  It was raining heavily in parts of Liuwa, but not in other parts. 

 

From what I understand, enmasse is a rarity and not predictable. The role of the zebra in the migration is uncertain also  They are not even sure of the patterns after mid-December because of the inaccessibility of the plains.

About 60 of the wildes were collared to help answer many questions. 

 

Upon arrival in Liuwa, the longtime RPS guide, Jason Alfonso, stated that the wildebeest migration is not one of Liuwa's top prizes.  I was a little surprised to hear that but we all agreed with Jason after just a day or two in Liuwa that other features of the place surpass the wildes scattered about.

 

Re Migrations.

I guess that mammal migration #5 now might be the Zebra migration between Boteti, Makgadikgadi and Savuti in Botswana. According to the Jouberts, there were some 45,000 Zebra involved in the early 1980s. They are far less now, but still numerous.

Up to the end of the 1970s, migration #4 must have been the Blue Wildebeest migrating from Central Kalahari to the Boteti and Lake Ngami, as described by Mark and Delia Owens in "Cry of the Kalahari".

As to the South Sudan migration (which also stretches into Gambella in far western Ethiopia), the most prevalent species is the White-eared Kob (800,000+), then Mongalla Gazelle (300,000), Tiang (160,000 - they were more abundant in the past) and - amazingly - Bohor Reedbuck (60,000).

 

Leave it to Professor Paolo to answer that question!

 

What is the perfect first African safari for a bat lover?

I tried to find the term for a bat lover but only came up with Chiropterologist for someone who studies bats.

 

Thank you all.


Edited by Atravelynn, 18 January 2013 - 02:48 PM.

When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#18 Paolo

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 03:02 PM

>What is the perfect first African safari for a bat lover?

I tried to find the term for a bat lover but only came up with Chiropterologist for someone who studies bats.

 

Thank you all.

 

If we go with the Latin, Chiropterophilus (or in your case Lynn, Chiropterophila) would be someone loving bats...


Edited by Paolo, 18 January 2013 - 03:04 PM.


#19 Sangeeta

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 03:17 PM

Just looking at the flowers and cranes and rainstorms and rainbows and hyenas and LL + dogs ... I think you're so right that the wildies actually seem more background than foreground.

Love the classic bat + moon photos. And Kapotwe! What a cutie. That name sounds straight out of No 1 D Agency, doesn't it?

What fun to read this, Lynn! Thank you.

Zindagi na milegi dobara... Chalo Africa
You only live once...Go To Africa

www.chaloafrica.com


#20 Atravelynn

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 12:04 AM

Thank you again, Professor Paolo.  I'm reading the first No 1 DA again right now for a book club, Sangeeta.


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Kasanka, Bangweulu, Liuwa, Robin Pope, shoebill, Matamanene, Wasa, bat migration, Zambia, Rod Tether


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