Friday, September 18, 2009

Lions, we've got lions

Around mid-day on August 18 we said our goodbyes at Kalamu Lagoon Camp and flew 20 minutes to Mfuwe, where we were met by a Robin Pope Safaris representative, for the less than 2 hour drive to Nsefu Camp. Nsefu is the oldest photographic safari camp in the entire South Luangwa National Park, having been established in 1951. The camp is still just like it has always been, on the same superb site with the same buildings (now slightly bigger with bathrooms added in the back). It lies on a huge bend in the Luangwa River, actually quite close (down-river) to Kaingo Camp, which is just on the opposite side of the Luangwa River. Nsefu has a striking location with 8 very comfortable rondavels (round bungalows) all with views of the river. Kathleen and I enjoyed a light lunch at the bar, with camp manager Vanessa. There was plenty to see in the way of wildlife, with baboons all over the place, as well as impala, and later on also three large buffalo quite close by at the camp waterhole which is lit at night. My only criticism would be that the rooms are noticeably close to each other, so there is not a whole lot of privacy. I suppose at the time when the camp was first built this was not much of an issue and of course it would be daft to tamper with something as well-established as Nsefu.

A sign with lots of instructions, at the entrance to the S. Luangwa National Park

A dicey crossing point en route to Nsefu Camp. This road is being rebuilt so by next season this ought to be a breeze. Or maybe not.

Not much later, we drove past this small herd of elephant and got a bit of a 'look' from the matriarch

Who summarily proceeded to charge the vehicle, without any warning. Not a mock charge either

A thatched rondavel at Nsefu Camp

And this is what it looks like on the inside

Part of the library, lounge & bar at Nsefu Camp

Two members of the large troop of baboons in camp on the day of our arrival. They never got into the rooms though.

I caught up on my trip report, we unpacked and then departed on an afternoon game drive. At first it was a bit quiet but we saw some good birds, and of course when you’re stopped looking at birds, you also tend to see other things. As a result we enjoyed some very good sightings of bushbuck and kudu. Just before sunset we had a front row seat with perfect lighting, of a pair of mating lions. I did manage to underexpose the photographs, which was a real pity as an opportunity like this might not ever come around again. Nonetheless, the pics turned out not too bad. After dark, we saw several more lions, so all in all it was a most very productive outing. The area clearly has lots of game, as we had expected.

I'm trying to get some photographs of birds in flight, with limited success thus far

I'll keep working on it

This afternoon the game drive was all about lions

This female looked very alert, ready for action

She started off with a few mighty yawns

And then went and woke up her male lion companion who was dozing nearby

She had some plans

It took a bit of prompting

But eventually the old boy got the idea

Lions mating is a quick 'affair' - it doesn't take much more time than to look at this photographic sequence

I did not get the photograph of the lion lighting a cigarette

The next morning, after an early breakfast, we did a short road transfer (in lieu of a game drive) to Tena Tena Camp, for a site inspection. En route, we saw several
more lions, including one very conspicuous on an anthill. Tena Tena is a lovely little camp, with a very ‘classic' safari feel. We looked at one of the large hybrid tents which had a very good view over a waterhole (or at least a marshy area), where there just happened to be a mother and calf elephant pair feeding. Naturally, we took some photographs. This is definitely a camp that would be worth including in a S. Luangwa itinerary. It has more privacy than Nsefu.

A room at Tena Tena

Interior view of one of the rooms at Tena Tena Camp

A different view

Two elephants on the edge of a dambo in front of Tena Tena Camp

A closer view of the two elephants feeding

The patio of one of the rooms at Tena Tena

Lounge area at Tena Tena

The view from the front of the camp; this is an oxbow lagoon - the Luangwa River is just beyond it

At the time we were there, one of the camp employees was setting up in the dining tent

Somehow it was no surprise to see an elephant walk into the background

This morning we also saw many of the Thornicroft's Giraffes

Some fairly big ones

To this really tiny little one

They are really beautiful animals

Even though the taller bigger animals are very impressive...

I think the young one remained our favorite sighting

The lioness on the anthill

She was calling out to other members of the pride constantly

More giraffes...

This time so close all I could get in the frame was part of the neck and head

From Tena Tena, it was just a 15 minute trip to a Luangwa River crossing point, where we took a short banana boat trip across to the Mfuwe/Central sector, and from there a road transfer of approx. 1 hr 45 pst Mfuwe Lodge and the Main Gate, to Nkwali Camp, outside the reserve. Nkwali is a very pleasant and seemingly well run camp (it also serves as HQ for Robin Pope Safaris, whose offices are adjacent), on the banks of the Luangwa River. The camp has spacious thatched bungalows with outdoor shower/bathroom, mains electricity and wireless internet – at least in a few spots. Over the short time we were there, we met some interesting people from Germany (a fellow opera lover, thanks for the hint about Edita Gruberova!) and the UK, enjoyed a really excellent lunch and dinner, caught up on some work and skipped the afternoon game drive. This would be a very good camp for a first and/or last night stay, when starting or ending a S. Luangwa trip. Camp manager Michelle was most helpful and also gave us some valuable insights into the Walking Mobile safaris. Nkwali is definitely a place we would like to return to at some stage. We were very pleased to meet Jo Pope who spent quite a bit of time with us, and who conducted us on a very thorough and extremely fascinating inspection of the Luangwa House and Robin’s House, both of which are superb accommodation options for families or small groups of friends/associates.

Crossing the Luangwa River

A game scout on hand just in case the hippos cause a disturbance

Halfway across

A couple of guests traveling in the opposite direction

En route to Nkwali we saw quite a lot of game including this puku

And several zebras including this rather feisty one

On the entrance path towards Nkwali, we came across a fairly large group of elephants

They were very relaxed and just continued feeding all around us

They are certainly my favorite animal and I continue to marvel at the texture of their hides

They just have so much character

And big ears

Approaching Luangwa House, near Nkwali

The front entrance to this intriguing castle-like edifice

Part of the living room & lounge area at Luangwa House

Interior of the main bedroom at Luangwa House

The massive copper bathtub in the main bedroom

A different bedroom at Luangwa House

And yet another one

Kathleen on the deck in front of Luangwa House

The pool at Luangwa House

A view of Robin's House

Our bedroom at Nkwali Camp

Another view from the open front side of the room

Out in the bush there is no fire department and you can't dial 911...

We kept finding tiny little tree frogs in odd areas in our rooms

This little fellow was hidden in the folds of a robe

Part of the bathroom with the shower on the right, at Nkwali Camp

His and hers vanities at Nkwali

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