deano

Lower Zambezi - a third encounter of the close kind (June 2017)

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Thank you to all who have read, liked, commented etc. I do enjoy writing these trip reports but it is nice to know that they are appreciated.

 

@janzin I was worried that you might get the wrong impression from the hippo pictures. If you can find time, please read last years report (there is a video as well) and also the first trip report I did (just pictures) and there is a section in each about the OM canoe trips and both were incident free and definitely the highlights for us. Also, stay tuned for the Chiawa Canoe trip coming up later in this report - very peaceful and a really nice sighting that we enjoyed a lot. And the folks that were on the trip with us (8 of us total) well 6 of them enjoyed it so much that they went on the same canoe trip the next day! Personal choice I know and your enjoyment and comfort is key but I think you'll be disappointed if you miss the canoe trips! Even if you leave your camera then just take video on your phone or whatever. It is simply amazing.

 

Funny that you mention mokoros and Botswana - we are going there next year and have been told that it is "very dangerous" by people that were there when an incident occurred. I suppose its just about being in the wrong place at the wrong time and we'll weight it up when we get there.

 

Same for your wife @philw - if she watches the Chiawa video she will change her mind. Thanks for following.

 

@Tulips that elephant knew we were there. I am sure of it and we never felt threatened. In today's video clip (to follow) he gets even closer....one of my favorite memories from this trip that was full of good memories!

 

The force is strong with you @cjt3 - I never even thought about Star Wars but Jaws was the first film I ever saw on video and has a special place in my heart plus it is full of classics. Show me the way to go home..........

 

Sounds like your colleagues are a bit like mine @amybatt as I am usually saying something like "wow - that is amazing" when I read other people's trip reports on Safaritalk...and you could do a lot worse that OM and Chiawa if you book Lower Zambezi. I'd fly there and back just for one activity. Heck, I'd fly there and back just to land at Jeki and have a cold drink and then get straight back on the plane again. It is is just magical.

 

Thank you @TonyQ - If you take as many pics on burst mode as I do then one in a thousand will turn out okay. Right place and right time and half an idea of how to use a camera. I'll bet that you and some of the other high level photographers on here would have done better though. 

 

Thank you also @offshorebirder - I have no doubt that you would canoe every day if you were there. It is birding heaven...although a bit tricky when drifting by on a current running at a couple of knots and in a wobbly canoe. Scratch makes an appearance in todays video and trip report - my favourite Scratch moment!

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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Old Mondoro Day 10 (Part 1 of 2):

 

After an exciting canoe trip yesterday we half expected that this morning would be quiet on the drive and it was although still very worthwhile. We were joined by new guests today - a Dutch couple that were self driving around Zambia and it was good to hear about where they had been and since they were staying in the tent next to us (#4) we warned them to be vary cautious around camp through the day and to keep a lookout for Scratch and friends.

 

We went West today in search of the cheetah that we saw drinking yesterday afternoon but saw no signs or tracks. Plenty of baboons as usual and I managed to photograph moving subjects and stationary ones early on before the sun got above the trees.

 

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And a bit later the ever present Waterbuck.

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We had been in Sabi Sands and Timbavati last December and witnessed the sad sight of buffalo suffering as a result of the drought they had there. It did rain just before we left and the land did perk up and offer some hope for the buffalo there but they looked in very poor condition and it was nice to see their Lower Zambezi counterparts looking so fit and strong. A decent herd just before our last OM drink stop (hot chocolate + Jamesons).

 

Attitude?

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Confidence?

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Definitely attitude!

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Our final drink stop at OM

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Two fish eagles keeping an eye on the water

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And a bird party keeping an eye on the fish eagles

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Fish eagle in the water

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LBR and hornbill taken from our drink stop location

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James was driving today and on the way back to camp we couldn't resist a last drive around Jeki with him just to see if our friend the cheetah was anywhere around. Unfortunately there was no sign of him but we did of course see plenty of other animals including two impalas having a bit of a battle. Like the buffalo, these guys looked to be in great condition.

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I did not take any notes this whole trip report and I can't remember if these are false baobabs (African Star Chestnut) or real ones! Judging by the trunk I will go with real ones.

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After reaching the Eastern end of Jeki we dropped back down into the Winter Thorn forest and while we were sad to be leaving we did have 4 days at Chiawa to look forward to. Old Mondoro is tough to beat for us on so many levels and we wondered if Chiawa - its bigger and more established sister camp - would be at least as good. Heck, if it was half as good it would still be fantastic. But before Chiawa we had to collect our gear at OM, have one last lunch and they say goodbye before the boat trip upstream to Chiawa Camp.

 

As was the case yesterday at this time, we should not have been surprised to see Scratch and a few of his friends in the lagoon and close to our tent #3 as we got back to camp. James drove the vehicle straight to tent #4 first and our Dutch friends hopped out and then watched in amazement as we did the by now routine ''bathtub entry" into our tent. We tried to warn them that this was normal around here and maybe now they believe us!

 

But since I reckoned that Scratch had come to see us off (or make sure we were leaving - you decide!) it was only fair to take even more photos and video of him doing his thing and this is some of may favourite footage from this year's trip and not bad for GoPros and iPhone especially as it looked at one point that he was going to walk right out of that lagoon and onto the porch where I was standing. He took a slight detour at the last minute though and ended up feeding from his favourite tree not 3 feet away from me. Amazing.

 

Here they are just entering the lagoon

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Around mid day so a bit contrasty and very bright glare off the plants and water

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Mud bath in the lagoon with The Zambezi in the background

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We finished packing and opened the door to see if the coast was clear and who was there rubbing against his favourite tree but Scratch the superstar. He was so close at one point that I could not fit him into the frame on my iPhone and he just watched us as we watched him while he went about his daily scratch. I was speechless and still can't find the words to describe it. Hopefully, the video does it justice (two for this morning...the second one (an OM compilation) has the best ending in my opinion).

 

He did finally move off towards tent #4 meaning that this time our Dutch friends needed a bush taxi but we were able to walk down to the dining area albeit with a staff escort.

 

Here he is doing his thing right outside the door with his mate loitering in the background

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And if that wasn't enough, Scratch put on a feeding show for us while we had lunch and then came all the way down to the bar just to see how we were doing. Scratch should be appointed as OM concierge if you ask me! The new guests that had just arrived were travel agents on FAM trips....and they loved it and I know why because so did we.

 

Heading down to the dining area and eating along the way

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A couple more weeks and he will have to stand on his back legs to get the food he is after

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A visit to the bar at lunch time

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And keeping an eye on Seb while he eats his lunch. The view from the dining area is excellent whichever direction you look - river of bush.

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Two videos for this installment. First is included in this post as it covers our last morning at OM. And then a second one in the next post as a compilation. Just watch the last few seconds if you can.

 

 

More to come.

 

Kind regards,

 

deano.

 

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Old Mondoro compilation video.

 

I forgot to mention that the song in that last video is now my ring tone!

 

Here is the OM compilation with my favourite Scratch bit at the end! Hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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Two cheetahs may mean more cheetahs, how exciting!  Jameson was even featured in that last video.  I enjoyed the canoe trip "with you" and I felt my heart rate speed up when the hippo charged.  I'd need some Jameson after that.  You had so many close encounters with the elephants.  Fantastic!

 

Your chum quote is either from Bubba on the shrimp boat in Forest Gump or the more menacing Jaws is my guess.

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You coul use your compilation video as an advertisement for the camp!. I like the way you stop the music and we can just hear scratch. Excellent.

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Great compilation video, @deano!

 

Also, I noticed that your next post will be #2000.  Congratulations in advance on your upcoming promotion!

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Still not convinced about the canoe ride :) It looks idyllic...if only it weren't for the hippos! I did watch the video in your post from last year, and there was another menacing hippo! Well, maybe in the area I'm staying there wont' be as many hippos (unlikely.) We'll see how it seems. I suppose the mokoro is just as dangerous but we just didn't see many hippos at all on our mokoro rides.

 

Great videos. One thing that your are convincing me of is to get a GoPro! Wish I'd thought of it in time for this trip...well, there's still time but I wouldn't have time to figure out how to use it. Looks like a lot of fun. Which one are you using?

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Glad you enjoyed the canoe trip @Atravelynn - and I always enjoy Jamesons whatever the occasion. Jaws was indeed the movie I quoted from (I did tell you that Richard Dreyfuss may or may not feature again!). 

 

Thanks @TonyQ but I don't think they need any help from me  - they have a few really good ones already. Glad you liked the "Scratch complete with sound effects" clip. It is definitely a favourite of mine and will likely not get deleted from my phone even though i could use the space for my next trip.

 

@cjt3 I am not sure how I got to 2000 already? That must be some new thing that happened with this new site. I'll take any promotion I can get though - does it come with a pay rise? 

 

Thanks again for all the reads, likes and comments.

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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@janzin - the only hippos that don't look menacing are baby ones! But you should of course wait until you get there and ask about the particular location where they do their canoe trips. I will post the Chiawa canoe trip tomorrow and you can add that into your memory bank when weighing the pros and cons of doing your own.

 

I have a GoPro Hero 4 Silver bought early last year (before the 5 came out). I bought that as it had the built in screen and i find that very useful. For a small camera they are incredibly versatile and good quality but I would buy the Hero 5 now as they have added a few features.

 

The videos posted are a mix of GoPro and iPhone 5 and 6 with good and bad scenarios for each - the iPhone is still wide angle so great for scenery but not quite as wide as the GoPro but with the GoPro that trade off is that a far off animal just does not show upon the GoPro footage as anything other than a pin prick on the screen. My June 2016 GoPro videos were all shot at 1080 and when I tried to zoom/crop a bit in the edit I did notice that the quality suffers. So, in my December 2016 videos (Sabi Sands) I used 4K video but the Hero 4 only has 15fps for 4K and that looks too jumpy especially when moving or panning. 4K does allow you to zoom through and since the Hero 5 now has higher frames rates that is why I would get the 5 over the 4 plus it has better features all round. You can shoot at 4K and if you need to zoom in (crop) then you have plenty of room to do so and the frame rates are still good for regular videos (not sure if it has 4K 60 or 120fps for slow motion). Where they really shine for me is for Time Lapse  - I just set them up on a small tripod and leave them - great for night sky or full days at a river etc. (will need a supplementary power source though).

 

If you do get one then I would recommend a Joby gorilla tripod and if you have the cash get the GoPro remote - there is a free app that you can use to control your camera instead but the remote works over a greater distance - the Hero 5 has voice control but I don't know how far a distance that works over and one of the guides told me that  previous guest and one and it got quite annoying listening to the guest shouting "GoPro ON...GoPro OFF" every few minutes!

 

The iPhones (or whatever smart phone) are really easy to use and good quality but the memory soon fills up. I take lots of short clips and edit them together and the odd long clip whee i edit bits out later - that can soon fill the memory and I had to delete music and some old photos to make room while we were on this trip.

 

One other great feature of the GoPros is that they are waterproof - iPhone is most definitely not.

 

Sorry to rattle on. 

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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No problem @deano with the rattling on as you game me some good info. The thing that attracts me to the GoPro is that its waterproof, hence I was thinking how handy it would be for the canoe ride (IF we do it ;) and also just that its so small you can attach it to something and leave it running while busy doing real photography with the DSLR. Interesting that some of your video is shot on the iPhone, I can always take that route too, I'll have to see how much space I have left on mine. But of course as you note its not waterproof!

 

I do in fact have a GorrillaPod and its already packed to bring with us, as I am also bringing my Nikon 1 J5 (small 1" sensor camera) which actually does 4K video and time-lapse too. I thought I might try to use it for some star photography and I will be using it for wider-angle scenery stuff when the telephoto is on the DSLRs, but hadn't thought much about using it much for video. Of course not waterproof either, but again, IF I do the canoe, I might take that along instead of risking the DSLR.

 

Anyway I'll make do for this trip with what I have....no time to figure out anything new at this point (leaving in five days!)

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5 days - crikey @janzin - i need to get a wiggle on if I am to finish this before you leave!

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Day 10 On to Chiawa Camp (part 2 of 2):

 

Always sad to leave any of the places I visit and even though we had 4 more nights in Lower Zambezi I was still wishing we had a bit more time at OM. Anyhow, we said our goodbyes to the staff and hopped into the Chiawa boat that had come downstream to meet us and enjoyed a very pleasant ride back up stream to Chiawa and our first visit here.

 

I had watched more than my fair share of videos of the place so I could see when we had reached the spot on the river that opened up to Chiawa but it was still breathtakingly beautiful when we saw it in the flesh so to speak. A lovely backdrop of mountains with a dense tree line and of course the Zambezi waterfront to complete the picture.

 

The Chiawa staff gave us a warm welcome from the very substantial dock and after a drink and a brief walk around camp we were shown to our home for the next 4 nights - tent #7 which was at the end of the main pathway and on the edge of a small dried up river bed where it met with the Zambezi. Very luxurious and much larger accommodations than OM which complimented the much more established dining areas and bar etc. Chiawa had a lot to live up to but was off to a good start.

 

We had a bit of time before afternoon tea so we unpacked an freshen up before meeting up with the new guests that arrived just before/after us and played the usual game go "I wonder who we will be with for the next few days"! For our first activity we were paired up with Chris and Sally from the UK and another Chris - who was head guide at Chiawa. 

 

Chris made the usual enquiries about what we had seen and expected/would like to see and we set off to explore our new surroundings. We were immediately struck by the change in scenery - a bit less forest like and more scrub like but with a lot more randomly open areas and some altogether different areas with that black cotton type soil and a lot of palm trees. They also had large open plains and it was one of those that we headed to now. Chris told us about some lions that had been mating for a few days now and would we like to see them? Our motto iis always "it would be rude not to" and so we set off East in search of lions.

 

On the way there our first real sighting was of an elephant and her calf. The light was golden and gorgeous and we stayed a while hoping that the calf might come into view but despite all of us willing it to do so it remained hidden. All the same it was a lovely introduction to our first game drive at Chiawa but Chris was keen to continue the drive to the lions to get us there before the sun set. 

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Chris warned us that we still had a bit of a drive to get to the lions but we could not resist a troop of baboons sat feeding alongside a small lagoon. The light was amazing and when it caught the eyes of the baboons I asked if we could stop and just watch for  a while. 

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This guy looked right at us

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After a bit more driving - stopping along the way to talk about trees, soils, the mountains and all types of tother stuff - we eventually reached the spot where the lions were last seen. Sure enough, they were still there and still mating and as a surprise there were actually two pairs of mating lions plus a third male who was laid down in the area no doubt hoping that he may get to join in at some point. 

 

This is the dominant male - known as Blackie. He and his partner mated quite often but not with much vigour as it t seemed that the female was either getting tired of him or wanted to mate with one of the other males. Every time she tried to relocate Blackie would block her and screen her from walking towards the other mating pair or the third male. Very interesting to watch.

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Blackie blocking the lioness in her attempts to move on

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The look of love

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The other mating pair did not mate as often but when they did they were very vocal and even from a distance I picked up the sound on the GoPro (it can be heard in the video below). I was messing about between manual and manual with auto ISO and I think I shot this one at 1/90th of a second!

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Like I said, much more vocal and you can almost "hear" them in this image. a bit of movement and slow shutter hence the subject blur

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Meanwhile Blackie and his mate looked shattered.

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We have been fortunate to see mating lions once before (Shamwari) and mating leopards twice before (Mala Mala and at Leopard Hills) but two pairs of lions mating was something a bit unusual. Our earlier sightings of the elephants and baboons plus the extra time we spent with the lions meant that our sundowner actually became  a sun gonner but Chris found us a great spot with a view of the mountains and a large lagoon. We were not too far from the lions and there were hippos in the lagoon and to be stood just yards away from them as the African day turned to night was magical. I don't know if i've said this before but I do love Africa!

 

Sally and Chris were very easy going and great company and very well travelled and we got on very well with them. Sally was into photography and we spent some time chatting about our various set ups and equipment and our hit rate with images. Sally agreed with me that it was more about luck than skill at our level of photography. Thats why I take a lot with the iPhone as well as dslr as the "scenery" always tells a story and doesn't really need any skill.

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After sundowners we headed back to camp via our first Chiawa night drive. Imagine our surprise when there first thing we see is a leopard. Doesn't get much better than that.

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And in an open area a bit further along we thought we had found another leopard but it turned out to be a jackal instead. I don't think we've seen a jackal at night before and this one was very obliging and just laid there while we took our photographs.

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We got back to camp and immediately hit the bar and made more new friends with the other guests and chatted about our adventures of today and anything that preceded it. Just before dinner at 8PM we were gathered close to the dining area when all of a sudden we heard the sound of voices singing - it was the Chiawa Camp Choir who appeared out of nowhere and there were few dry eyes in the place once their beautiful songs of welcome filled the night air. 

 

The camp was not full so Chiawa made up one long table for all guests to dine at and the conversation was lively as a result and we talked about anything and everything before moving down to the fire area for a night cap. I'm not sure that more of the same classes as a night cap but I had one anyway. (Moses at Chiawa had been advised that I like Jamesons  - I am not sure who told him that outrageous falsehood but I did not want to offend him so I drunk whatever he put in from to me and I have to say that I drank probably a little bit too much that night but what the heck - I was on holiday).

 

As is the case with all unfenced camps we have stayed at we were escorted back to our tent and after 5 minutes with manager Simon re-programming the safe for us I spent 5 minutes on the porch before retiring for the night. We had a walk planned for tomorrow to burn off some calories and then a canoe trip in the afternoon. We hoped that Chiawa would deliver for us and were already starting to like Chiawa a great deal.

 

Video for this afternoon/evening below andI  have a bit of the choir singing "live" on it at the end.

 

 

And todays movie quote "...it's our motto..." - "...what's a motto..." - "...nothing, what's a motto with you?...".

 

More to follow (before @janzin leaves in a few days).

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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Wow, Blackie seems exceptionally dark-furred.  Had you (or any of us reading along) seen a lion that dark before?  I've seen dark manes but not body fur that dark.  Interesting.  Clearly, that's where his name came from.  I find him keeping his lady from wandering off with someone else fascinating.  Cat dynamics and all that.  Love the choir clips too.  Your videos have been great!

 

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Great trip report @deano , I love the videos, the photos, commentary and the Zambian music!

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15 hours ago, deano said:

And todays movie quote "...it's our motto..." - "...what's a motto..." - "...nothing, what's a motto with you?...".

 

Ah yes, what a wonderful phrase!

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Blackie is definitely on the dark side @amybatt (no  - not todays movie quote). I do think the evening light and maybe the photo edit makes him look a lot blacker than  I remember but then again when you see him next to the more tawny lioness he still looks very black. Glad you like the videos. I can always be found with my dslr, GoPro and iPhone...just to prove that some of us men can multi task! Heck, I could juggle a flask of whiskey as well.

 

Thank you @ZaminOz and yes @cjt3 a wonderful phrase indeed borrowed from The Lion King.

 

Thanks again to all that read, like and comment.

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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Day 11 Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi:

 

Our first morning at Chiawa and we gathered at the river side fire place for bush breakfast - porridge again for me and a muffin and a bit of fruit all washed down with a cup of coffee.

 

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Daniel is the chap at Chiawa (a bigger camp than OM with 8 regular suites plus a new family suite) who has the task of organizing activities for the guests and he is very good at it and having watched him in action I can tell you that there is no hint of trying to talk you out of whatever it is you want to do. They will rotate extra guides and extra vehicles (or boats) to make sure everyone gets to do what they want and yesterday evening we had asked Daniel if we could walk  - we had not done any at OM and were in desperate need of our bush fix.

 

And so it was that today we got to go on a walk. As it turned out, Daniel was to be our guide and we were joined by Peter and Linda from San Diego who we had met briefly over dinner last night. Daniel explained that we would drive to a place close to where we saw the lions last night and there, accompanied by an armed scout, we would walk for a couple of hours. Peter and Linda were another great couple and on their first safari. We told them that they had lucked out with Zambia (we love it - can you tell?) and when they told us that they were moving onto OM next we were jealous. Chiawa was growing on us but OM is still our bestest friend in the whole wide world; however,  since we were only at the start of our relationship with Chiawa maybe that would change over the next few days?

 

After about 30 minutes of stop start safari driving, I recognized the water hole where we had sundowners last night and then Daniel said we would be stopping at the big open area to commence our walk. He got out his binoculars and noticed  some warthog way off in the distance that looked a bit too alert - the lions had moved and were right where we wanted to walk.

 

The "middle" male that was not getting any chance to mate was still there with the other two couples moving in and out of sight.

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You can just see Blackie on the LH side in the grass and behind the other mating pair.

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Our unlucky male just decided to sleep

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We watched them for a while and saw the "noisy" couple from last night mating again.

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Blackie wandering about - another Chiawa vehicle in the background with our German friends on board with guide Boas.

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Shortly before we left we noticed the middle guy get up and smell where the lioness had been laid. He did the flehmen grimace and we wondered if he was getting tired of waiting and wanted to mate for himself.

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Already the sun was high and hot and Daniel moved us off to a safe distance so we could conduct the walk. It was very different bush to the other walks we had done previously and we enjoyed it a lot. Chiawa was really starting to grow on us.

 

This baobab is thought to be over 1000 years old.

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Scenery on the Chiawa walk  - baobab and vehicle for scale

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At the end of the walk we had drinks and nibbles back at the vehicle before the drive back to camp. Daniel had heard over the radio of a another lion sighting that was a bit of a detour and asked if we wanted to see it (we did). It was very hot now and I suspected that any self respecting lion would probably just be laying on the shade which was exactly what these ones were doing - a lioness with 3 large cubs with some hidden in the bush. 

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Warthogs enjoying a mud bath on this hot morning.

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And an impala doing a yoga pose that we need to come up with a name for...?

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Back at camp we were met by host Joshua who very politely advised us that we only had 5 minutes to get ready for lunch and that we would be "going out". Okay, whatever you say and we had no idea what was coming until we were taken to the dock where we could see one of the boats had been made into a dining area complete with table cloth and champagne. We asked what we had done to deserve this and Joshua replied that we were guests at Chiawa and this is something that they do for their guests - did I tell you that this place was growing on us?

 

What followed was an amazing lunch on the Zambezi with a server and boat captain (who is a guide as well) and we had a boat cruise/safari/photosafari/lunch/afternoon drink all rolled into one and it was simply fantastic. I can't think of a better way to do lunch. 

 

I had my cameras with me and took some stills but mostly video - it captures the whole experience better right down to the 'pop' of the champagne cork! I did manage to snap a few hippo though.

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Back to camp

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Our afternoon activity was a canoe trip and we watched the canoes being taken upstream to the launch point just as were ending our lunch cruise.

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We really enjoyed the lunch on the river and had a couple of hours before we were due to meet for the canoe trip. I remember telling everyone that I was going to the viewing platform with my camera for an hour but when the vervet monkeys starting playing around in front of tent 7 I decided to stay and watch them instead. The viewing platform idea was to keep me from falling asleep and sadly, once my head hit the comfy cushion of the day bed on our porch, I nodded off which made us about 5 minutes late for the canoe trip which is something I find very rude in others so I was very apologetic when we arrived back at the dining area.

 

The Chiawa canoe trip was on a shorter channel here and head guide Chirs told us that there were far fewer hippos and elephants here than elsewhere and that the short channel meant that we had more time on the Zambezi itself. There would be 8 guests today in a mixture of 2 seater and 3 seater canoes each with a guide. They have dry bags if you want to keep stuff in them but I travel with dslr and big lens + iPhone for video (GoPro was on time lapse back at Camp) and after a safety briefing we were sorted out into our canoes with we and mrs deano in the last canoe with Costa who had been our lunch time boat captain also.

 

We pushed off onto the river and drifted downstream and into the mouth of the channel and were immediately greeted by an elephant having an afternoon drink.

 

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Elephants have featured a lot in this report so far and today would be no exception.

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But as expected we saw plenty of other animals along the way

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A small herd of elephants arrived for a drink before we carried on drifting down the channel. Not nearly as many hippos as the OM Discovery Channel but still equally as beautiful and we were seeing a lot of elephants.

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As we drifted further down we were greeted by a couple of elephants on the RH bank (in full sun) and another small herd on the LH side (in the shade). We wondered if they were part of the same herd and if one side was going to cross to the other so head guide Chris motioned for all the canoes to come together and we grabbed on to the bank while we sat and watched the sighting. It was one of the best elephant sightings we have ever had and being sat in a canoe looking up at these beautiful animals is not something I will ever forget.

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There were elephants of all sizes

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The main group seemed content to just drink

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These guys looked most likely to cross

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Close up of the group drinking 

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(stray blade of grass is just out of focus enough)

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Just when we had thought that we would not see a crossing some more elephants arrived on the scene and after a short sniff and drink they soon waded in and crossed right in front of us. They were going to be in the shade so I captured it mostly on video which you can watch at the end of this post if you like that sort of thing. I know I do.

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There's always a playful one that doesn't want to get out of the water though and I couldn't resist a picture of this one.

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After that we floated along on our journey and would you believe it but the next animals we saw were yet more elephants. These ones were busy enjoying a dust bath

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And then another herd having a a drink. It was elephant central here this afternoon.

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And we got to see another crossing. A solo this time but still great to watch and also to hear with the water sloshing about against the legs and body of the elephant

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Our canoe handler (or is that guest handler?) with mrs deano doing one of those selfie things (ditch that hat Debs...this is Chiawa not Leopard Hills!)

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Don't forget the other animals on this stretch of water. This croc was enormous and had his eyes on us.

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The business end of an adult crocodile and at eye level too!

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Plenty of bird life also. This fish eagle was half hidden in this shady tree

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And these vervets were getting ready to retire for the evening

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This is our canoe party arriving back at Chiawa Camp - you can see part of the viewing platform (on the extreme LH) that I wanted to use earlier today and main camp is just behind the big trees

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We didn't see a lot of hippos in the channel today but there plenty on the Zambezi itself

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Back at camp after a successful trip

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And time to enjoy early sundowners before a night drive and Old Mondoro now had a serious challenger for our affections.

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Our guide this evening was the wonderfully named Dispencer (Spence for short) and we were his only guests so I asked if he could find us a spot where I could try some more astrophotography. Spence was very obliging and we tried several spots with most of my attempts not working out well due to operator error although in my defence it is tough to focus a manual lens when it is very dark and spotlighting is not exactly easy when you have to lean over the side of a vehicle to reset the camera (on a tripod) every time. We tried unsuccessfully to set up a shot where we could frame a tree against the sky and then drive the vehicle into frame and have Spence use his laser pointer  - a bit ambitious for a second or third try at this type of thing and needs more planning and communication on my part and probably a daylight practice run......and it would help if I remembered to turn the mode dial to to timer so that we have time to drive and reverse into place before the shutter activated.  Duh!!

 

 This one came out okay though and I will be trying more in future and will definitely do more practice when back home.

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As usual, a video of the day with a lot crammed in to this one what with the morning drive, then a walk, then a lunch time boat trip and then that canoe tour. Amazing day at Chiawa!

 

And the quote for today is very appropriate "...I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...".

 

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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ohhh now that canoe ride looks more like it :)  It looks wonderful in fact!

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@deano...Ten years ago we stayed in the same tent!  On our canoe trip down the channel we encountered no elephants.  But, we did have two big males  in camp one evening when we were having dinner next to the river.  First one, then the other eating leaves on the trees right next to the table.  We were told to stay very still and quiet.  I was nervous and ready to jump into the river.  Don't think that was a very good option.  One day we decided to skip the afternoon drive as there was so much activity on the dry river bed.   We sat outside and enjoyed the view, the animals going down  to drink and to bathe in the Zambezi.   They brought us gin and tonics as scheduled, then came to get us for dinner.  It was really nice.  Lots of vervets on the roofs as well....some things have not changed.  Thanks for the great trip report...it's a bit like going down memory lane.

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I am glad that I got to that part of the trip report before you leave @janzin and I do hope that things work out and you get your own canoe trip.

 

I have read similar comments from several Safaritalkers @marg and it seems that OM and the Zambezi are still doing their thing for us all. Thank you for your comments.

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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Day 12 Chiawa Camp Lower Zambezi:

 

I was tempted to start today's installment with the movie quote and maybe it would have been from Brad Pitt in one of my favorite films (but not exactly mainstream) Snatch "...do you like dawgs?...". In his somewhat dodgy Irish accent in the film he is of course asking  - do you like dogs? Well, we do and having not seen them at all on any of our trips to Lower Zambezi imagine our surprise when 5 minutes into the morning drive we get a call on the radio telling us that a pack of 5 has been spotted albeit on the opposite direction to where we are headed.

 

Spence asked what we wanted to do but that was obvious - dogs please and we changed direction and went West to their location.

 

Some lovely light on some other animals along the way.

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And another tree to fool me - false or the real deal?

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Our friends Sally and Chris had been on a walk with head guide Chris and it was actually the three of them that spotted the dogs at literally the end of their safety briefing. Chris heard baboons acting up and when he looked in that direction they saw the dogs and baboons going at it. They had to get back into the vehicle to follow and kindly called in the sighting and it just goes to prove that you really never know what is around every time we head out into the bush. 

 

We were among the first to arrive and the dogs had been trying to hunt impalas in fairly dense bush so it took us a while to find them but Spence stuck at it and we eventually found them resting up in the shade in between hunts. Very dark animals compared to other dogs that we have been lucky enough to find elsewhere like in South Luangwa for example.

 

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I took lots of photos even though they were not too active but this is a wild dog sighting and our first in Lower Zambezi

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After a lot of inactivity the five of them finally got their act together and headed off in the direction of a herd of impala that we could see moving in the distance.

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They finally spot the impala for themselves

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You can see that they look more alert now

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Unfortunately, they settled back down again and showed no signs of moving. It was also getting a bit hot so we though they might rest up for the day so we took the opportunity to move off and that allowed me to 'water the plants'. The vultures were getting active on the thermals by this time as well and this one flew right overhead and was probably watching the dogs like us.

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We got back to the dogs and they had hardly moved

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The Alpha Female was showing the most interest

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Lovely dark markings 

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It seemed that one of the dogs had a nasty wound - maybe baboons although we speculated later that it could be lions and passed on the photo to Conservation LZ just in case. As well as that nasty gash there are puncture wounds on its head.

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Finally, a herd of impala came into view and the Alpha Female tried to round up the troops for a hunt but they were not playing along. So, she took off after the impala on her own.large._DSC7567.jpg.a57e771f1c3ac215494344af321eef12.jpg

 

Unfortunately, her solo approach was a bit too direct and without the support of her mates she was soon spotted and the impala started alarm calling to let her know that she had been rumbled.

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She returned to her pack mates with a look that said  - come on you lazy buggers, we could have had breakfast there!

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I think it was just too hot for them and we left them to their morning and headed off for our drink stop.

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Warthog along the way.

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Big croc

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Pleased with our morning we headed back to camp stopping to watch these baboons along the way

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Back at camp and no surprise lunch river cruise today (it was somebody else's turn) but we had a fabulous meal on the deck overlooking the river and as well as the usual buffet style platters we had a chef cooking sausage, bacon and egg on a grill for us to add to the great atmosphere. Doesn't get any better than that for me as bacon and egg is a regular in my diet. We were joined by manager Simon and our guides and we ate as a group and chatted about the day and enjoyed each other's company and generally enjoyed ourselves before parting for afternoon siesta. I spent a bit of time in the viewing platform close to tent 7 today and although it was quite on the river it was a great place to be and I read a bit in between using the telescope and my binoculars to spy the various animals in the area. 

 

After heading back for a shower we then met up for afternoon tea. Simon greeted me at the bar and pointed out an elephant feeding not 10 feet from me - good job he was there although there was a 5ft high fence between us! The elephant moved off but stayed in camp and we got to watch him while we enjoyed our cold drinks on the deck. The pic below is one of may favourites and is the moment shared between Simon and I when I question his artistic attempts to video the elephant through the hippo skull and we shared a big laugh. I do though really like to see it when the ladies and gentlemen that live and work in the bush still get excited by sighting like these and it just shows how much they love their jobs. 

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We were driving again today and were teamed up with Boas who had been guiding at Chiawa for a while and when he asked what we wanted to do we quickly said - dogs please. There were just the two of us on his vehicle and we have never had the chance to just go and sit in one spot with dogs before so that was what we wanted to do please. So, we set off West again and soon found the dogs resting in the shade of a tree. Boas has asked if we wanted to drive around a bit as it was still very warm and the dogs, in his experience, would not get active until about 5 it but we wanted to stay and sit with them. He was of course right and they did not move until about 5 but we got to sit with them and watch and listen and observe their interactions before they started showing signs of getting active. In addition to the GoPro and iPhone video I also took a bit of dslr video today and all is edited together in the video below.

 

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A bit of activity at last

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Our injured dog still looks a bit unwell

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The one good thing about sitting with them for so long was that they did not care about the vehicle and came very close. I left the roll bar in so you can see how close.

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Finally, the movement from these impala got their attention again

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But these 'other impala' were a bit too big for them!

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They did try to hunt a few times but seemed to be very unorganized and just ran off in all directions and with no co-ordination but it was good fun bouncing about in the bush trying to follow them. Having been here with the dogs since just after 4PM we needed to leave them now as it was getting dark and Boas took us to a nice big open area for our sundowners. I really like that they set up a proper table complete with candle; not that you need to add any more atmosphere to place as wonderful as Lower Zambezi but it does add something to the photos I think.

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I  set up the camera on timer and managed to snap myself in 2 of 3 of these and in those 2 of 3 I am drinking both times! No prizes for guessing what was in the glass.

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We packed up and headed back towards camp and our spotter picked out a leopard very close to a herd of impala. The policy in such circumstances is no light whatsoever so we sat there in near total darkness. Not being able to see meant that we relied on our hearing and I can tell you that it was clear that the leopard had tried a few times and we could hear dozens of impala feet hitting the dusty hard ground as they ran away in fear. Occasionally we would get an alarm call and a rush of bodies through bush and the spotter would briefly shine his light up into the sky so that just a tiny amount of light bounced off the dust to illuminate the bush around us and give us some idea of what was going on.  It was very exciting although our leopard was unsuccessful - at least she was while we were there. 

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Boas advised us that we needed to head back to camp now so that we wouldn't be late for dinner and we left the impala and the leopard. Our next sighting should not perhaps have been much of a surprise but we somehow stumbled across the pack of 5 wild dogs. They were all huddled together in the cold of the night and looked quite vulnerable but that is life in the African bush and part and parcel of their daily lives.

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We have no idea where we are by now although I have a rough idea that we are at least headed back to camp and the river is on our RH side so when Boas said that he had to take a short cut across a dry river bed to make up some time he need not have bothered as we would not know any better. As it turns out, it was just part of a bigger surprise and we rounded a bend to this scene - a surprise bush braii Chiawa style. They had proper tables set up along with a bar (of course) and even a toilet away from proceedings and the lanterns placed on the cliff and perimeter fires just created this amazing place to dine under the stars. 

 

Before dinner Simon gave an extremely informative presentation on the night sky while we enjoyed our drinks and the chefs finished their preparations and then we had a fantastic meal under the stars. I tried to capture it on my camera but it was getting late and I know now that I should have taken 2 or 3 images with different focus and settings and then combined them all later but this is okay to show the general idea - like I said, I will practice more before our next trip. 

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So to today's movie quote - another easy one if you ask me "...life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna' get...".

 

And the usual video to finish off.

 

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

 

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fantastic - so just dogs and cheetah (as well as leopards and charging hippos) then.....hope the animals stick around for another month!

 

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Wow, I had no idea that Wild Dogs were even in Lower Zambezi! How wonderful! And like Philw said, I hope they are still around next week -- although unfortunately looking a the map it seems the area of Chiawa is quite far from where we are staying at Amanzi :(   However...dogs travel, so we'll see!

 

I do hope the injured one makes it :(

 

Like the leopard in the dark!

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yes @philw just dogs and cheetahs etc to look forward to. I wouldn't bother going if I were you! From what I have read in the months following our trips to LZ in the last 3 years, the sightings just get better as the season progresses - bush starts to thin out a bit and the sources of water are more hard to come by....I think you'll have some great sightings but just remember that you are going to one of the most beautiful unspoiled wilderness areas in the world and anything else you see is just gravy.

 

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@janzin - from what I know (which is not a lot!) there are at least 2 packs in the Chiawa area that were described to me and shortly before we arrived we read about another in the Old Mondoro Anabezi end of the park that had a different make up again so maybe even 3 packs and yes, they do move about a lot. I am seeking an update on the injured pup and will post whatever I find out.

 

My Last day coming up........

 

You must be ready to go soon?

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