Zambia-June 2015 South Luangwa

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Posted (edited)

I've been encouraged by another SafariTalk member who is considering a trip to Zambia to write a trip report of my June 2015 to South Luangwa National Park, so here goes:


It was the second half of June, as late as I could go and still get shoulder season rates.  I was 10 nights on safari with one night in Joberg and one night in Lusaka at Pioneer Camp prior to safari.  The camps were 3 nights Nkwali, 3 nights Tafika, 2 nights Tena Tena, and 2 nights Nsefu.  All but Tafika were Robin Pope Camps so I got a 7 night stay discount as well as no single supplement at the Robin Pope Camps.  Tafika was chosen partly because of high  recommendations but primarily for because if offered micro-light flights. 


The flights were uneventful, although LONG.  Arrived Joberg in the early evening and stayed at the airport at the Protea.  I wouldn't normally spend that kind of money on a bed without a view, or even windows, but this was my first solo journey and I was a bit apprehensive.  Ate dinner at Mugg and Bean which was fine and slept well until late the following morning.  The flight to Lusaka was uneventful and since I can't even recall immigration, it must have been OK.  A driver was waiting to take me to Pioneer Camp for the night.  My thought was not to rush to SLNP while jet lagged and pay premium rates just to get there in time for a late drive and bed.


Pioneer camp was a gentle entry into the bush with small cottages and mains electricity.  It was pretty cold that night, so I bundled up to sleep.  There were some friendly people staying there and a self driving couple from SA asked me to join them at their table for dinner, so I avoided a lonely meal. In fact, everyone was quite friendly and the resident dog joined us in the lobby while we were having a drink before dinner.IMG_7657.thumb.JPG.784482908a5f4493afbf6eb1c87484c6.JPG














The next morning I was off to the airport for my flight into Mfuwe where I was picked up by a Robin Pope driver and driven through town and to the park in a completely open safari vehicle.  This was a tad uncomfortable for me because I felt like I was in a parade and everyone was looking at me.  It was a strange feeling that subsided once I got close to camp.  I was treated to the usual towel and drink before being given the camp briefing.  It was all as usual until I was taken to my room which was amazing.  It wasn't fancy but completely open to the river in the front which was a first for me.  I loved it.


Here's my room:IMG_7651.thumb.JPG.364ec6d16670a65dd1464230a43aa3d2.JPG


And the view!



This camp is located just outside of central SLNP which is the more traveled portion of the park.  We had very quick access to the park. We boarded a boat, crossed the river and our jeep was waiting. Since we never used the gate, I didn't notice too many other vehicles-except during the night drives where there were spotlights everywhere.  The night drives weren't a highlight for me, but I never missed one because there were some very good ones.  You just never knew which ones would be productive.  My general impression of the Robin Popes Camps were very favorable.  If anything, the atmosphere was more formal than I was expecting. 


The game drives were all in completely open vehicles, leaving camp for the morning drives at around 6:00.  I can't recall specific drives, but some were just me with Kiki, my driver/guide.  I had one drive with just one other person and one night drive with a full vehicle.  A couple of drives there were 3 or 4 of us.  I really appreciated that they didn't cram the vehicle full.  Following are some of the sightings seen from this first camp.


The first drive:












So after seeing the usual suspects, Kiki is hearing alarm calls and then we come across these nervous impala



Then this!








My first really good wild dog sighting ever!




Edited by Pamshelton3932
delete w rong pictures
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I need some advice on how I keep managing to upload pictures I don't want in the report.  I don't see them while I'm writing or reviewing-they turn up when I submit.  Then I can't get rid of them.....

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Yay!  I can't wait to read more, thank you for this.  (Sorry I can't help you with the photos, I haven't done a TR in the new format yet, maybe someone else can chime in?)

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Can't help about the photos either but I've enjoyed the start and look forward to following this TR which will no doubt also trigger memories of past trips I've made to South Luangwa and Robin Pope camps.


This report should be in the Zambian section otherwise it may get a bit lost for most viewers. Perhaps one of the moderators could organise that for you.

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Thanks for the encouragement @amybatt and @Caracal


Is is there a moderator out there who,will move this to the correct place for me?

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What followed this sighting happened so quickly I really can't remember the details.  The impala were nervous, the wild dogs came running right by our jeep and we tried following as quickly as possible.  By the time we caught up with them again, they had made a kill and hyenas had already stolen it and hauled it  into the brush.  This all happened in less than five minutes.  My pictures aren't the greatest but give a general idea of the mayhem the hyenas caused.














While i couldn't see the hyenas devouring their stolen kill, I could hear them in the bush loudly chomping away and skirmishing with one another for their portion.  The poor dogs were frantically packing around the outside.  The dogs and hyenas sparred with each other for a while and eventually the dogs settled down to rest.






Nkwali really delivered for me.  Advise from one rather dull night drive, each outing provided some real thrills for me.  


The next highlight was was during my last evening drive.  









I was so thrilled to finally have a great leopard sighting and had no idea that I would see leopards almost every day.


There were many great sightings in Nkwali aside from the thrillers.


















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Really love your painted dogs pictures, in these lovely red grasses.

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What a wonderful start to your safari.


Great sightings all round and especially that wild dog hyena interaction. Interesting about the hyenas - the ones I've seen in SLNP have all been nocturnal and solitary.



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@Pamshelton3932 was this one of the packages Robin Pope offers in their website, or did you just book lodges with them separately?

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@Tulips I did get some quotes from Robin Popes directly, but in the end used Expert Africa because the prices were equal and the correspondence time and amount of useful information was way better with Expert Africa.  Somewhere along the way I learned about the 7 night discount when using Robin Pope Camps and I added Tafika based on recommendations and my overall feeling that I'd like something a little different and didn't have the budget to add Lower Zambezi.  It worked well for me.



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@jeremie painted dogs were a trip highlight for me.  I loved the red grass also.


@Caracal I gathered from Kiki that the hyenas stealing the dogs kill wasn't unusual.  They dogs were definitely at a disadvantage.

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