martywilddog

Beautiful South Luangwa - a safari of elephants

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As you have gathered probably from my trip report so far, we absolutely loved kafunta. But I have to be honest, the walking safari was rather disappointing. I know that a walking safari is not about the predators and the big game and more about being in touch with nature, being part of it, rather than sitting in a jeep. But after reading the amazing trip reports on Mana pools and reading left and right that South Luangwa is the birth place of the walking safari we had maybe too high hopes for this walking safari. I had expected it to be different than your usual (sorry to use this derogatory term) poop walk, but in the end it was rather the same as what we had done in SA (and shortly in Zimbabwe around victoria falls).

 

Our first morning walk we were 5 people (one lady did a sleep in) plus guide in the front plus a helper taking up the rear. And maybe it was because we were too many people, but we really didn't see much (a very quick sighting of a bird that got one of the guests very excited but left us wanting :) )

 

Both couples left after that morning though so that evening and the next morning we had the camp and guide all to ourselves!

 

On our next two walks we did get to see elephants while on foot and giraffe, and that was pretty amazing! But as everyone knows, the animals don't love people on foot so when you are spotted they skedaddle.

 

First up were the Ellies:

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During another walk we came upon a few giraffe and the two males had clearly been fighting. We would find the "arena" a bit further away where the sand showed clear evidence of a struggle. There was most likely a dispute over the the lady giraffe that was also around :) (there were 3 of them, but I never managed to get all three in one shot)

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I noticed also quite quickly that walking is less about the photography. It's awkward to stop and take a very quick shot and run to catch up. So after a while I just stopped taking pictures and enjoyed the experience.

 

I did get one that gives a very good sense of the scenery and the tranquility of the area. It was really very beautiful.

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When we were back in camp the morning of our departure we were asked if we would like to do a kitchen safari? A whatta now? It was just a cutesy name for taking a tour of the kitchen of course, but wow! After we walked around there we were even more impressed with the food that Godfrey put in front of us for every meal! And he was clearly very proud of his kitchen and our praise on his food literally made his face light up :)

 

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After that we packed up and were taken back to the main lodge. Though the safari was a bit more subtle at the island bush camp (and our expectations for the walking safari perhaps a tad bit high) we left the bush camp feeling rejuvenated and utterly relaxed. It was a wonderful experience, also having the camp to ourselves for one of the two nights was a bonus because of the added feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, just you and the bush.

 

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As a small intermezzo, here is another video clip from our first day! So back in time to Zikomo camp ;)

 

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Unfortunately at this point our safari was drawing to a close :-( We had one more night at Kafunta lodge and the next day we had to go.

 

Our night drive continued with the tranquil pace of the bush camp and gave us the most beautiful sunset colours so far. The picture with the lone fisherman is a personal favourite of this trip. It just describes the look and feel of the park very well to me.

 

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In the evening we were immediately asked if we wanted to have a lie in the next morning and skip the drive. Euh no, most definitely and emphatically no! And if we had missed out on this drive we would have been so disappointed because it was amazing!

 

Since it was our last drive I took the obligatory pontoon pictures to show how we crossed the river

 

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So far we had seen Garlic (one of the two males of the lion coalition around mfuwe gate) a few times, but never his famous brother Ginger. We had heard so many people talking about this sighting of ginger or that one, but so far for us, zilch. Thank god our luck was about to change :) Parent advisory: the pictures are a tad bit gruesome.

 

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Even though they were eating, the brothers were very alert. It turned out that the meal they were currently enjoying was not their kill, but one they had stolen from this very unhappy lady and her pride

 

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Apparently she hadn't gotten the message that it was now lost to her and came too close. So both brothers set out after her chasing her off for a good couple of meters. Even though we only saw it from the side lines, the ferocity in this chase was blood chilling.

 

While the brothers were off chasing, these guys helped themselves to a snack

 

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And as always the trusted hyena can't be far when there is food to scavenge.

 

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After they were done chasing the lady, garlic decided it was time for a lie down and some posing

 

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Ginger on the other hand went back to finish his meal

 

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This was an incredibly thrilling morning drive, moving from the brothers together to the brothers chasing the female and splitting up, to the hyena patiently waiting for his share, to the frenzy of the vultures, to the lion pride whose kill was stolen, and back to the brothers.

 

Ginger made us wait for his appearance, but what an appearance we got in the end!

 

 

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Posted (edited)

A real Leopard frenzy there, and lots of good other sightings. I also like the fisherman photo a lot, very evocative. And Ginger is a seriously good-looking lion.

Edited by michael-ibk

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Thanks for tuning back in after my long hiatus @@michael-ibk! We were very happy with our sightings indeed!

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Posted (edited)

A few final thoughts :)

 

We absolutely loved Zambia, or more precisely, the part we were lucky to visit: South Luangwa. If you are ever in doubt where your next safari might take you, definitely consider this part of the world. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming, the wildlife is prolific and the landscape and views add an extra dimension to the whole experience.

 

Safari in Zambia is by no means cheap, especially not if you are going with one of the well known operators in the area. But there are alternatives out there if you are a bit more adventurous or if you need to be a bit more money conscious. We saw a lot of self drivers as well, much more than we had expected, so if that's how you like to safari, that is certainly an option too! I can wholeheartedly recommend the Zikomo camp site, a gorgeous Nsefu part of the park is at your feet and you can use all the amenities from the lodge. Plus you can book a night drive with the lodge if you want to take advantage of that (since for obvious reasons self drivers need to be out of the park before nightfall).

 

I will be back to Zambia. Lower Zambezi is very high on my bucket list and a return trip to SLNP is hopefully in the stars for us!

 

After this trip I am also very eager to upgrade my camera gear. Though my little bridge camera does a good zoom in, the amount of noise in many pictures is unfortunate. As is the fact that its sensor is just too small for any good shots taking advantage of the "depth of field" - you know, the first lion is focused and the one behind it is blurry? (excuse my amateur photography parlance, I don't know how better to express what I want to say). DH is giving me a bit of push back on this (priorities...), but if anyone has good tips for an introduction DSLR please feel free to shout out ;) (I currently have my eye on the Canon 760 but could be persuaded otherwise).

 

Feel free to send me questions by PM if anyone is planning a similar trip - very happy to share more of our experience.

 

Thanks for reading along folks ;) !

 

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Edited by martywilddog
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Thanks for the great report! We're heading to South Luwanga and Lower Zambezi in Aug/Sept so this got me psyched all over again :) Interesting what you say about the walking safari--its a bit of a concern of mine that it will be like the rather uneventful ones we've done in South Africa, and I too have read so many great things about the walking in Mana Pools...I hope that our experience is more like those and less like what you had!

 

I do hope we get to see the beautiful Ginger, although I have a feeling we will be in the wrong section of the park for that (we are half in the Nsefu sector at Tena Tena and half in the far south at Bilimungwe.)

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I wouldn't worry @@janzin. Our walking safari is just one example and certainly not the only one in SLNP.

 

At the same time we were there, a more senior colleague of my husband was doing a week walking trail with his family with Robin Pope. After our walking safari we assumed they wouldn't have loved it. Au contraire! They had amazing encounters while on foot, including with lions! And they felt "off" afterwards, during the second part of their safari, just sitting in a jeep :)

 

So though I hate to say it, maybe, just maybe, sometimes having a larger budget to spend can help :)

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You had some excellent wildlife viewing at Kafunta. Just like drives are a crap shoot with some outings more exciting than others, so too with walking. You may have had a slow day out when you went. Funny how one interpretation of being helpful (having you skip a drive to rest up) is another person's disappointment.

 

How nice you are considering a return and maybe with a new camera!

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thanks for returning to wrap up the report - and that Ginger is a real blonde looker - tall, big, strong, and handsome. his brother ain't that bad either.

 

I had loved SLNP and hope one day to return (after I exhaust my yet-to-go list)!

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@martywildog What did you see on your night drives if you didn't see any leopards? Are you one of those people who don't like night drives?

They do exist but I'm certainly not one of them.

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I'm not sure I understand your question @@optig? We did see several leopards on night drive! And they are my favorite animal to observe, so often when we saw leopards I tend to forget what else we saw. I am sure we saw many other things as well. I just don't take as many pictures on night drives and I often rely on those as my notes. So yes I love night drives :) I also love day drives. I love safari :)

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I know what you mean @@Kitsafari! There are just so many places I want to visit still :)

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@@martywilddog I'm so happy that you enjoyed your night drives,and saw many leopards. I've seen many civets,genets, owls,nightjars, hippos on land, shrews,

and even honey badgers. I even saw an aardvark, and serval. I've never experienced more productive night drives than in South Luangwa.

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Our nightdrives were generally very good as well @@optig, as you said, lots of genets, tons of hippos on land, many (very fast) shrews. Also a few good porcupines sightings! But some were also a bit quiet, as it always is with a drive.

 

I can only compare with SA but what I noted in SLNP is that it's really a night drive and not just "the drive back to the lodge in the dark after sundowners". I really liked that!

 

I am very jealous that your return trip is already planned ;)

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@@martywilddog I forgot to mention all the awesome sightings of porcupines at night. They are truly phenomenal. I'd love to hear more about your ideas about going on future safaris. Despite having already been on 10 safaris,i'm enjoying going on safari more than ever. I'm going on 3 this year,and 2 next year.

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I wish I could go on 3 safaris a year, I'll have to settle for 2 :) My other half also likes safaris but he has a very stresfull job and unfortunately the day planning of a safari does not include a lot of sleeping. There's that and there's of course the budget.

 

So our next safari will be a return to Kruger upcoming March, more specifically to the Klaserie and Timbavati reserve. This is a very budget friendly safari!

 

And for our fall trip (sept) I had thought of going to Namibia, but what I didn't know is that 9 months in advance, Namibia is already all booked out! It's extremely popular at the moment I am told.

 

So I am now looking at the Kwazulu natal area of SA. This also seems to be a very good value for money destination, though I am not sure of the safari quality. Some of the reserves are small. But I like the thought behind Tembe, I love the tranquil look and feel of Kosi Bay and I'm sure there will be enough to see around Hluluwe-Imfolozi, it's huge. I would also love to add Thanda reserve as the "splurge" part - very close to Phinda, but the latter is out of my price range :)

 

Where are your trips headed @@optig? You have one to SNLP and the 4 others?

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@@martywilddog this year i'm going to Sarara Camp,Ol Malo,and Ol Donyo Lodge which are all in Kenya. Then in August I'm going to Katavi for a week,and Mahale for 4 days. Finally

at the end of September I'll be going for ten days to Tswalu Kalahari. I'm very lucky because I don't have kids, a wife nor a mortgage. It also makes much easier when you live in Nairobi.

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@@optig - what month are you at Ol Donyo?

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Your comment made me laugh @optig :D Indeed, a husband and a mortgage make holiday planning harder! (kids in the future).

 

How are you experiencing living in Nairobi if you don't mind my asking? Kenya is very high on my wish list to visit but DH (and his family :) ) are opposed.

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@martywild dog I love living in Kenya!!! :rolleyes::D It's a very safe safari destination. I have to say if one takes the same reasonable precautions that they would anywhere else it's also quite safe to live here. One is at at far more risk of being the victim of a violent crime in Chicago(where I come from), Detroit, Baltimore, St.Louis,New Orleans or many other cities in the United States. Yes, there is a risk of theft but that exists virtually anywhere. I don't feel like it's all dangerous living here.

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@@madaboutcheetah i'm going to Ol Donyo to celebrate my 56th birthday next month. I'll be there on the first of February. I'm taking advantage of shoulder season rates, as well as the fact that I got a very good deal at Ol Donyo Lodge,Sarara Camp and Ol Malo Camp through Rose Muya of Timeless Tours and Travel. I'm even being transferred by helicopter from Ol Malo to Sarara Camp.

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A helicopter ride over the bush! That should be magical :)

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