martywilddog

Beautiful South Luangwa - a safari of elephants

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The wild dogs have particularly pretty markings which you've captured well. The Nsefu location certainly did deliver for you.

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very much enjoying your enthusiasm as well as your pictures- @@martywilddog we have looked at Jackelberry camp-do I get the impression this camp was not so much fun?-looking forward to the rest of your report-SNLP is I think our favourite destination as well!

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Thanks all for the very nice comments! It's always nice to hear someone is reading this :)

 

@@deano, after reading your trip reports on Zambia for so long, I'm happy to hear you are following along! Indeed we took the go pro, but sadly not up to your video nor editing skills :) I am trying out your vimeo tip! It did not give me an upload choice though, and it seems to be taking for ever. But if it works I will make sure to post the video's too!

 

@@janzin, I saw your trip planning request. Don't hesitate to ask questions if you'd like! As far as locations go, I think you will love tena tena - I can't judge on the camp obviously, but to be honest I can't imagine to be anything but great!

 

I will try to move this report a long as soon as I can!

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Posted (edited)

Let's give this a try ;-)

 

Edited by martywilddog
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So it seems to work, but might I recommend you turn your volume down so as to avoid the road/wind noise and our mindless chatter :)

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Yes, video is good. I have sound turned off so no chatter - mindless or mindful.

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@@martywilddog - great job with the video and thank you for watching all of mine (and your editing skills are just fine and at least as "good" as mine are). I recognized instantly the Mfuwe road and particularly enjoyed that segment along with the angry elephant. Looking forward to more (please).

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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Thanks for all the kind comments everyone!

 

So our time at Nsefu sector had come to an end (and what an end it was!), and we were beyond sad to leave. But our trip continued!

 

Next up was Nkonzi camp.

 

What I also much appreciated in SLNP is that camps don't charge you for a transfer from camp to camp (or to the airport). It's perhaps a small thing, but when you're planning and budgeting a safari, getting something included "for free" is really great! :)

 

The transfer here didn't really go off without a glitch though. Due to a change in plans/miscommunication (I don't know on whose end), Gavin wasn't really ready yet to take us to camp after Zikomo dropped us off at the meeting spot. He still needed to do some shopping to stock up camp and go by his office. But he then offered to take us to one of the other camps for a lunch on his expense. Works for us! I had done a lot of research for this trip and Croc Valley is a name anyone planning a safari on a budget will know. So I was curious to see it.

 

It's a really laid back place. The best spots are reserved for the campers, they get the river views. The tents and cottages are set further back.

 

It is about the only place left in the valley we were told where you can walk into the bar/restaurant as a non guest and have a drink or some food. The service matched the laid back vibe of the place -_- The food was good though and the mosi's cold! All the guests seemed also very happy and relaxed. It's just that kind of place. Words like "take it easy" come to mind. The guests were also a different demographic than I had expected! I had expected young backpackers, but we saw more two generation families and mature couples.

 

After lunch we took a dip in the pool (strange sloped pool, hard to get in and out off, forget getting in and out with any kind of elegance) and relaxed a bit in their hammocks (though the monkey that kept staring at me while he was playing with something he'd stolen kept me too vigilant to really sleep :) )

 

What struck me when I walked around the grounds is that camps here were very close together. Before I knew it I was already trespassing on a neighbouring property (the lady who manages it was very nice though).

 

I didn't get to look at any of the tents or cottages (the place is mainly very popular with campers), but we did use the facilities and it must have been one of the cleanest and pretty toilets I have ever seen! That always says something about a place I find.

 

So this place in the end was what I had thought flat dogs would be like, this laid back backpackers type place (and apparently FD used to be more like this - more on FD later which we also visited by chance!).

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But before we knew it Gavin was back and we were on our way to Nkonzi.

 

We had been warned that there were a lot of tsetse's on the way into camp by previous guests we had just met at Zikomo. So I took out our RID, Avon skin so soft and Dettol to start nuking them! However, it wasn't all that bad. We did see them, but no one got bitten. (apparently - or so we were told by some guides - Robin Pope used to have a camp on the same location but it didn't work due to too many tsetse flies).

 

Camp is rustic and basic. But it is exactly as presented and we were kind of excited to sleep in a tent on safari! (but like a big tent where you can stand up in!). And it would also be our first bucket shower experience - another thing I was excited about (yes, non safari people didn't get this excitement :rolleyes: ). I never did manage to wash my hair under this one (not enough water/pressure to really rinse and repeat) but nothing beats an open air shower in the middle of the bush and under the starts!

 

Here are some pictures of the camp

 

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Upon our arrival, the other guests were already there. Two other couples: John and Carol from Edinburgh and Jose and François from France. And may I just say these were the nicest people we have ever met on safari! Honestly. Though we were all from different age brackets we just all magically connected so well and we loved hanging out with these guys! Sometimes, your camp or vehicle mates can make or break a place and here, our new found friends definitely made it!

 

The first afternoon activity was not a great success for us. Just a two hour bush walk. And I just don't really find a walk necessarily a good fit for an afternoon activity. It really is still quite warm when you leave at 4. I had high hopes for the walking safari's in Zambia (we didn't really love the poop walks in SA), but it wasn't really meant to be. It was again a single file poop walk and in a not so great area: lots of bushes, dredging through loose sand. We also hadn't brought enough water and that was just dumb of us! So this was the one time where I was ever happy on safari I think to get back to camp (and to run for a bottle of water). I had also sort of expected that after this walk we would still do a night drive (from what I had read of other trip reports), but nope.

 

However, dinner was very nice and we really got to know our new camp mates!

 

 

 

 

 

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The next day we had an all day drive. I was really very excited about this! We were going to drive all the way up to the Lion camp area, with a picnic somewhere in between in the most idyllic spot you could imagine!

 

I'll just let some of the pictures speak:

 

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We also again had an amazing Elephant sighting, where we watched a whole herd cross through a muddy greenish swampy looking pond. They were just having so much fun! They walk up to the water in an organised fashion, but then when they get very close, all caution and elegance goes out the door and they just trumpet and run (this really really was a safari of Elephants!). Such childlike enthusiasm was really food for the soul. We watched them for quite a while (I can never get enough of elephants)

 

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We were getting a bit frustrated though at this point that we still hadn't seen any predators. I know it's not only about predators, but since we were in Hollywood pride territory, we were kind of hoping for some lions :) But we just kept driving around and around and not finding any.

 

Until a friendly guide from Lion Camp told us where to go. Lions!

 

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They were following these guys around:

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But since we were really very far from camp and it was already a bit late, this sighting was really cut short.

 

We did stop for sundowners and though I would have preferred to stay longer with the lions, after this warm day out I was ready for a cold mosi and Tom for a nice G&T on the rocks! However, there was nothing refreshing or cold. It was a choice between lukewarm red table wine or water that was only slightly colder than the air temperature. Hmmm, now the lions would have definitely been my pick.

 

Unfortunately the drive really ended on a low point with "the leopard incident". I won't go into details, but suffice it to say, there was a leopard but we didn't get to see it (we had been on safari for 5 days at this point and this was the first leopard).

 

The dinner that night was something really special though! There was a braai set up in the dry river bed in front of the camp. And my god that was the best BBQ I have ever had in my life! The meat was just soooooo good!

 

And then it was off to bed!

 

 

 

 

 

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The next day was sad, in that our friends would be leaving after the morning activity. By chance, both couples were going to Flat Dogs next.

 

The activity was a bush breakfast. So we started out a tiny bit later and had an extensive breakfast in the bush (eggs and bacon and all). But again I was taken a bit aback that that was it. No added drive, no added walk. We just drove to the breakfast spot, ate and drove back. Hu. The bush breakfast had appealed to me greatly in theory, but in practice it was a bit short. And we were already back at camp at 9.30. Again, hu.

 

Gavin was driving our friends to FD and going shopping again and we were told to just relax around camp. But there really isn't anything to do around camp. There is no resident wild life, you can't nap in the tents because they really do get too hot during the day, you can't really edit pictures because your in a bush camp and so the charging station is not really set up for this, and we would be all alone, no more friends. Hu.

 

So we asked if we could come along to Flat Dogs. It would give us a drive to it and back and we could hang out with our friends some more. This appealed to us more than just sitting around by ourselves. And Gavin is nothing if not very friendly so he said of course. So off we were to Flat Dogs! Gavin wasn't sure whether we'd be allowed to hang out on the grounds as outside guests. FD apparently used to be a bit like Croc Valley, where people working around the valley would meet up for a drink and hang out. But FD had changed quite a bit over the years and Gavin said they didn't encourage this anymore. But the manager was super friendly about it and it was no problem at all (we were there as friends of staying guests after all)!

 

What I remember like it was yesterday is that we sat down at the bar area while our friends were checking in and this pitcher of ice water appeared in front of us - just like that. Ice water! Ice cold water! Now the heat was definitely bearable, but it was warm and we hadn't had a cold drink in 2 full days! We were so happy for this pitcher of icy cold water :wub:

 

While we were sitting there, we were struck that the valley is also a small world after all. Because at the table next to us we could hear a lady from kafunta who was having lunch at FD call Gavin at just that moment to discuss the pick up for "the Martywilddg"-party for the next day :) She of course had no idea that was us.

 

We were then offered a tour, to have a look at Jose and François' tent. They had picked the standard tent but with river view. This is not a tent! Beautiful.

 

FD was turning out to be not at all what I had thought it would be. It was "way more up there" in terms of standard and luxury! It was also rather family friendly with kids splashing around in the pool.

 

We then go to accompany Carol and John as they were shown their luxury tent. Wow! What a gigantic room/tent! Really well done.

 

FD is what I had expected Kafunta to be like at this point. Since FD is what every agent suggests when you mention you are on a budget, I had really expected something else. I would have loved to stay at FD! The only downside I could see was that it is rather big. Lots of people, lots of rooms. But the way it is done is very good, you don't feel it. You don't see other tents or rooms and it feels very spacious. There is just a lot of space. And it's pretty, really pretty!

 

They also got regular other visitors

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Elephants in camp! I got all excited - happens all the time though apparently :)

 

So we hung out for a while longer, but around 2 we had to say goodbye to the others. It might seem silly after only two days of knowing these people, but I was honestly sad that we didn't get to stay with them!

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We were then picked up again by Nkonzi camp and together with the new guests (a nice young couple from England) we were back off to camp, for lunch and then for a drive!

 

We were really happy we were flexible to spend the day this way! It was a very social day and I always like to see other camps as well - especially a place I had heard so much about! And that turned out to really exceed my expectations in terms of facilities! (can't judge about the quality of the drives of course).

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

@martywilddog We also spent four nights recently in Nkonzi. I set up a trail camera in the Mushilashi riverbed, and although it looked dry and lifeless, a lot of things happened there.

 

 

Edited by Rein Kuresoo

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After lunch, we were off on another evening/night drive. We decided to go in the direction of the main gate area.

 

And finally we got to see our first leopard! For a park so famed for it's leopard population, they sure took their time to reveal themselves to us ;-)

 

The pictures really strain the capability of my camera, we were really far away from the leopard so they are rather grainy, but there it was! Our first leopard.

 

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What was beyond cool was what happened next. We were again looking on from a far (nicely staying on the road) and couldn't see as much as the other cars around. But the leopard apparently had enough of just lying around and started to move. Directly towards us! It crossed the road right in front of our vehicle! It was so close, I could touch it, but not take a picture :) I was in awe! Such a beautiful and graceful creature. The moment only lasted about 5 seconds, but it was amazing.

 

We also saw a few other usual suspects of course

 

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I don't know what was the matter with my camera on this drive though. Even more so than at other times all the pictures were rather grainy and out of focus. Don't know what happened there, so sorry guys. But you get the idea :)

 

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Oh wow, you were definitely more lucky with the general game around camp @@Rein Kuresoo! We never saw any elephants near camp, let alone so close. But it's always like that on safari, is it not. Sometimes it's just a matter of luck (or no luck) :)

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Posted (edited)

What I forgot to mention in my last post was the pretty exciting sundowners sighting we had on that night drive! (Some things are becoming hard to remember when I didn't have the chance to take a picture of it - I always start out like a good student with my diary, but as we get into the safari I always start to slack :) )

 

So we were quietly standing there, next to the car, having a drink, when a big lone elephant bull just sort of walked in on us! He was a big fella! And for some reason he really wanted to come and say hello. We didn't really get it why he was always coming closer instead of running away from us, he clearly knew we were there! I had left my camera in the car (dumb, dumb, dumb) and was rooted to the ground, didn't dare to go get it. Since he just kept coming, Gavin decided we just probably get back into the car. So in an orderly fashion, but with a racing heart, we sat back down. And he kept coming. At this point he was just in front of the car and our entire set up for sundowners was still on the hood, so we were thinking he was maybe interested in our popcorn? But no, he sniffed them and walked on, right next to our car. And right up to the fig tree (or that flower tree the animals love so much - now I forget, note to self, keep notes!) a couple of meters behind us, but so close! Really a matter of meters. And he wrapped it's trunk around it and gave it a good shake! And then he started munching :)

 

So it was deemed safe for us to alight again from the car and we watched the elephant eat while we chatted. We were just in his path to the yummy flowers. A very exciting moment that lasted quite long!

 

 

So that left us with one last drive at Nkonzi the next morning, before moving to our last camp, Kafunta.

 

It was a bit of a quiet morning, but we did get to add a new species: Hartebeest. The lone animal was a bit skittish, so my pictures are again not so great, but we did get to admire him for quite some time.

 

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Our new vehicle mate also had eyes like a hawk and spotted some lions on the other side of the river bed from where we were driving. They were so hard to spot, it still took me 10min to find them with my own eyes, even though I knew where they were. Dry beige river bed and beige lions makes for good camouflage. I remember the sighting well (feeling like a blind bat), but they were just too far for a picture.

Edited by martywilddog
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Posted (edited)

So after that morning drive we were off to Kafunta, our last camp. Or not exactly, back to Flat Dogs first! Kafunta had agreed with Gavin they would pick us up from Flat Dogs since they had other new guests who were currently at Flat Dogs. Works for us! The moment we arrive we run back into John, which was a nice surprise! We gave him the doubles of our tsetse nuclear devices since François and Jose were going to Kafue next and we thought they might need it more than us. They mentioned afterwards by the way that the burning of the elephant dung at the back of the car really works! I had read that before (probably here I think :) ) , but when we mentioned it in SLNP the camp owners/guide gave us a funny face :)

 

Anyway, then we were off to the next camp.

 

Wow, kafunta was beautiful! The pictures on the website just don't do it justice! The view from the main deck (where you have dinner and breakfast) and from their gorgeous infinity pool is simply to die for! Amazing floodplains with soooooooo many animals (impala, baboons, warthogs, zebra's, giraffe, elephants, hippo's, hyena's)! I had expected a luxury on the level of what Flat Dogs turned out to be, but it was of an even higher standard! Kafunta was the most upmarket one of all the camps we visited, but it was definitely reflected in the level of service and the whole look and feel of the place (that pool with that view!) It exceeded my expectations by far!

 

We had one of the two suites and these rooms are easily worth the very small extra cost! They are infinitely bigger and more beautiful than the standard rooms (we stayed in the standard room on our last night - availability is an issue with the suites since they only have 2). The bathroom was the size of an average apartment. And the suite had two floors, with a very beautiful look out deck at the top floor with day beds. For some reason we didn't get at that time, they had a mosquito net hanging over them. Well we soon found out what that was for when the very nice manager Izzy asked us if we would like those day beds to be made up for a sleep out. Would we ever! Ok, perhaps a sleep out for wussies since you are right on top of your actual room and nowhere alone, but still, great experience!

 

We highly recommend Kafunta! The lodge is marketed by most agents as midlevel I think, and that does it a grave injustice! It is amazingly good value for money at a very very high level of service! Everyone of the staff is extremely friendly and the manager Izzy is very very on hand to ensure all guests are enjoying their stay.

 

It's a lodge, not a bush camp, but I am woman enough to admit I really enjoyed my pressurised shower after 3 nights bush camp bucket shower :) And when combined with their island bush camp as we did, then you get the best of both!

 

Some pictures taken on arrival

 

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They have a very nice hide under the deck from which you can admire the animals at eye level! And we had a very accommodating elephant on arrival that came almost close enough to touch! What a great start!

 

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While the big guy came from the right, this breeding herd came from the left. This picture was taken from our upstairs deck as we watched them come.

 

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But we had to stop admire him and get ready for our first drive! A drive that would give us our second favourite sighting of the trip!

Edited by martywilddog
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Posted (edited)

I agree, Kafunta is a really nice lodge. Priceworthy! Not overpriced and you get alot for your money!

I had such a great nightdrives over there.

Edited by Antee

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Hi MartyWildDog:

 

Loving your review. We were in SLNP the same time as you, mid September and so it's like reliving my own trip to some extent. But we did not make it to Nsefu...and now I know that's where we will go next year when we return to Zambia. Or at least one of the places. Thanks for encouraging me to write a trip report as it led me to this area of the forum and I'll work on my own report eventually. For now, just enjoying reading about your experiences. We too encountered the dogs, but looking at your pictures, I'm pretty sure we saw two different packs. Which makes sense since we were staying in the more central region along the Luwi river which is completely dry in September.

 

Thanks again for sharing your report. Will keep an eye out for the rest of it.

 

Sharon

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"Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would see them [wild dogs] on our very first drive!" Isn't that the stunning unpredictability of Africa? Good thing the dogs were not as elusive as the zebra. It was another canine-ish creature that impressed me even more, though. That baby hyena at night! Wow!

 

So many eles in the river, a beautiful setting for them. Eles behind wild dogs is not bad either. Glad the dogs were more active for your second sighting. That one dog with more white on it really stands out.

 

Your title is a bit of a misnomer, there was a lot going on in addition to elephants.

 

Congrats on your weddings and honeymoons!

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Thanks all for your nice comments and sorry for not finishing my trip report sooner! Life you know... :)

 

Come to think of it when looking at the pictures here you are absolutely right @@Atravelynn! But it felt like there were elephants everywhere we looked and every turn we took. We did see a great plethora of animals though! (totally off topic and on the side, I just read your first Phinda trip report with the "Hunter" family - my god lady, you displayed serious patience, I salute you! It's my 2017 resolution to get less annoyed at things (and people), but I'd need another 10 years of good resolutions to put up with them folks' ;-) )

 

So let's get back into it and wrap up this trip report!

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@martywilddog@atravelynn@SharonV1 Despite having been to South Luangawa 3 times already, I can't wait to return in 2018. I'm staying at Chamilandu,Kuyenda, and Bilingumwe

in part due to the fact that this is supposed to be the best area to see wild dogs and the scenery is quite different from the Northern part of the park. I'm also happy to stay in three completely new lodges. Phil Berry and his partner Arlette are considered legends in the valley even if Phil is no longer doing his own guiding.

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We set out on our first drive with Martin and from the minute we left the lodge we loved it even more! The area was just gorgeous. The very first animal we saw while driving towards the park was the prettiest bird I have ever seen. I am now a avid admirer of the lilac breasted roller!

 

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Somehow the light made it's beak look almost gold.

 

After my first encounter with the obliging LBR, we continued our way into the park. We had a convenient pontoon or river crossing to get into the park. Especially the river crossing always made me hold my breath for a minute (that's how adventurous I am ;-) ) but it was wonderful! So special to be driving through a river in the pitch black darkness of night.

 

Since we were a bit later getting into the park than the other two kafunta vehicles (having taken a moment with the LBR) we could benefit immediately from their finding as we heard over the radio: leopard!

 

My personal favourite animal to watch on safari, so graceful, so beautiful, so wild :)

 

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Please forgive the poor quality of these photo's since she wasn't in the best position, hiding quite well under some bushes. There were also a couple of elephants around though so we could watch those and the leopard at the same time.

 

However, since she was not in a great spot, this led the other car that had arrived before us to leave the sighting only a couple of minutes after we arrived.

 

Our guide Martin wanted to wait though and see what the moment could bring. He wasn't sure whether the elephants had noticed the cat yet and they were headed in her direction. If they came too close he figured she'd get agitated and would move. And indeed she wasn't too happy that they were disturbing her nap.

 

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So she got up.

 

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And we figured this was it. But to our surprise she didn't leave the area.

 

We hadn't yet noticed that there was also a hyena hanging around (Martin had of course). So he surmised she had stashed a kill. And no more than 5 seconds after he said that she started munching away.

 

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I was staring at the leopard (now in full view) with amazement when we started hearing a ruckus around us. I unfortunately didn't get a good picture of the interaction that followed because it was just too hectic, but oh my was it entertaining for us onlookers. The hyena that had been lurking about the leopards dinner was now spotted by the two elephants that had been leisurely strolling and eating and they liked her about us much as they liked the wild dogs. So they went in hot pursuit! You can probably imagine what an exhilarating moment that was, watching a leopard eat just a couple of meters away to our left and watching two grown elephants run and stomp and trumpet after a hyena to our right. We didn't know where to look first! We could feel the car tremble from the force of the elephants stomping. I had a millisecond worry that we were right in their path but it wasn't necessary.

 

I did feel for the hyena because she couldn't run very fast, being clearly heavily pregnant. No harm came to her though, the elephants soon gave up the chase when she left their immediate area.

 

And before we knew it the sighting was over, all the animals went their separate ways, and we just sat there with this ridiculous huge grin on our faces :) We liked Kafunta! We loved South Luangwa!

 

 

 

 

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After our wonderful leopard-hyena-elephant interaction it was sundowners time. I was amazed at the change of scenery we had being at another lodge but still in the very same park as before.

 

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As our night drive continued we were rewarded with another leopard!

 

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I am sure we saw many more nocturnal animals but this drive was all about the leopards and you don't hear me complaining!

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The next morning we joined a different car and group because our vehicle mates were very set on visiting an area of the park we were not so keen to go. So we requested to join another car which was no problem.

 

Our new guide was the newbie of the team and though he still lacked a little bit the experience of a seasoned guide with 20 years in the bush, his enthusiasm and eagerness made up for all of that with abundance! Effi was my favourite person from the trip, just so incredibly sweet and happy to be doing what he was doing. He also talked a lot more, explaining things to us left and right. I had the feeling he felt he needed to prove he was equally as qualified by sharing his knowledge. But he did it in such an understated and shy way. You couldn't help but love the man. We sure did :)

 

I will let the pictures speak for themselves for this day and the next morning:

 

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Posted (edited)

Right after lunch we were off to the bush camp! The drive there was quite harrowing, this was the kind of bush massage I could do without :) But we passed by some villages and a few animals (very very few - I had expected this to sort of be like a game drive, but we seemed to pass through no mans land). Three hours later we arrived at bush camp, all shaken, not stirred (sorry, I have a horrible sense of humour today).

 

We arrived around 15.45 so we were eager to go out on the afternoon activity to stretch our legs. But the guide had already left without us :-( seeing our clear disappointment the manager couple (Hadley and Jomi) explained to us that generally people don't feel up to the afternoon activity after being in a hot and bumpy car for 3 hours but we would have much preferred to do it. I felt they should offer people the choice whether they are up for it or not. Now I just felt cheated out of an activity.

 

All my whining aside, we were over it rather quickly when they walked us to their "in house" sundowners spot. Surrounded by snorting hippos and a gorgeous view a sort of tranquility descended over us and we forgot all about not being out on a walk

 

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(so if anyone happens to be visiting kafunta and would really really want that walk, just tell the lodge to radio the bush camp that they should wait for you, they will happily do so. The thought they were doing us a favour)

 

So we sat watching the view and listening to the hippos with a cold mosi and a chardonnay and chatted a bit with Hadley and Jomi about safaris. She was originally from the US and he was South African and they both just loved Africa. They were both qualified guides in SA but it was not easy getting the accreditation recognised in Zambia. They talked about their favourite places in SA and that led to our next safari plans: timbavati this coming March. Jomi also told us that he loves the kwazulu natal area so we are taking a look at that as well for another safari!

 

Soon enough the other returned and we all had dinner together: we were introduced to Jeff, our walking guide and our camp mates, two other couples. We were absolutely blown away by the dinner that Godfrey (the chef) put together out there in the middle of nowhere in the bush! It was finger licking good! Especially the desert, a kind of crumble! (often I can't get to desert anymore, but here I happily made an exception!)

 

So very happily we went to bed in our open chalet and honestly, best sleep of the whole safari!

Edited by martywilddog
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