Office Africa June 2014
So much has happened since our first newsletter of the season, sent end of May, that I don’t even know where to start!
We’ve been busy, enjoying our guests and hearing about the wonderful sightings they’ve had. Mwamba Bush Camp opened as planned and things couldn’t be better at the moment.
Except for a few overcast days and two or three drops of rain, the weather has been gorgeous, with perfect temperatures and slightly cooler nights. We do expect cold weather to come though, it is winter after all.
Jules, Derek, Saphire and Jayabella are spending the school holidays at their country home in Sweden. After visiting their new home-away-from-home last March, at the peak of the Swedish winter, they are back there in summer at the peak of daylight! Nights are very short there at this time of the year, and that comes as quite a contrast after having our longest night here in the Zambian winter.
The family is looking forward to long walks in the woods, trying to find elks and deer, foxes and rabbits. There are even Eurasian Lynx in their forest. Hopefully we will have a few pictures to share next month.
So in the last newsletter you read about the wonderful news that the little surviving cub of the Mawmba-Kapanda pride had survived the rains. The pride is however remaining very elusive as it has only been seen in the distance once since May 11, that day we saw the cub. Water is still readily available inland (towards Numbu plains and Kapanda Lagoon) and they are probably enjoying that area at the moment, while buffalos remain there as well.
Unlike the Mwamba-Kaingo pride, which has finally reappeared in our area on June 21st! They had been hanging out Southwest of Kaingo Camp, near the Luwi River but for the past week they have kept our guests busy with sightings so I think it safe to say that they have returned in their usual territory for good. Their count has varied over the past few days, seeing sometimes 9 and sometimes up to 18. It is hard to establish the final number yet, as another female has been spotted at a distance, probably with cubs. The two males are with them as well. Unfortunately one of them is showing signs skin disease, as large dark spots are developing on his body. Photos have been sent to the Luangwa Conservation Society and the Zambia Carnivore Program to receive some input on the possible causes. So far they think it may be Ringworm which is not life threatening, but they will be coming soon and try to obtain some tissue sample. One of the females was also found with a very big gash on her right cheek, probably an injury from a buffalo horn. It is mending fine however.
So for most of June, the Hollywood pride had the central stage, and they enjoyed the larger hunting grounds while the Kaingos were elsewhere. We saw them as far South as Acacia Loop which is basically a step away from our Hippo Hide. The pride includes 6 females, 9 cubs and 2 males.
Hollywoods are known for hunting small preys such as pukus and impalas, but they surprised us on May 29th by hunting down a baby hippo. This is quite rare as hippo mothers are well known for fearlessly defending their young ones. But in this case, the lions were quick to notice that the mother was handicapped by lame legs, and would not be able to defend the baby, and this was an opportunity not to be missed. The kill was however not an easy one, as the baby hippo surprisingly resisted for a long time.
I have snapped a few images from Matt’s video, along with a couple from Pat.
It was unlucky days for baby hippo as at a similar time we found a leopard in a tree, with a baby hippo carcass as well. Now that is even more unusual, unfortunately I don’t have pictures to show you yet – hopefully our guests will send them soon. Some reckon that the leopard must have found the baby stillborn, as it is unlikely that it would have hunted down a live baby hippo.
Back to our lions. Just recently, on June 26th, both the Mwamba-Kaingo pride and the Hollywood pride were found on the evening drive, and our guests got to see not one but two kills! The Hollywood had taken down a bull buffalo while the Kaingos chose a baby buffalo. All our guests came back a tad late for dinner but it was well worth it! Needless to say that there was no gap in conversation at the dinner table! And the following morning, they found out that the Kaingos had taken down 2 additional adult buffaloes.
You may remember from our previous newsletter that we had found a young male leopard near Kaingo, and we’d like to think he became a Kaingo resident. Although he usually remains elusive, he has been spotted a few time within camps – including all the way to front steps of Derek’s house at midday, while Derek was standing on the other side of the mesh door! He paused briefly to sniff Derek’s knee through the flyscreen before exiting through the nearby gate and sauntering down the drive.
This is the same leopard that we saw on the first drives of the season, just near Guinea Fowl Plain. He was particularly entertaining when he had a male bushbuck kill in the tree, and he was trying to drag it out, despite the carcass being stuck. This was in bright daylight too, so we have some great pictures to show.
Most recently we’ve had spectacular sightings of a female leopard with two very young cubs! The female is very relaxed, she has been seen at night and also before sunset, suckling and playing with the cubs. We were lucky to find her several days in a row before she moved the cubs to another secret spot.
But game viewing is not limited to cats! Far from that. As you all know, one of the features of Shenton Safaris is our unique network of photographic hides. Over the years, with Derek’s ingenuity, the hides have become a standard for our keen photographers and this season again they are proving matchless for close up observation and photography. The hides offer an added dimension to a safari, a moment where you can enjoy the variety of wildlife and birdlife without having any sort of impact on the course of nature.
At this time of the season, when some lagoons are still filled with water we place one or two Mobile Hides at the edge of the lagoon, where all sorts of birds can be observed as well as hippos, baboons and more. These pictures were taken from one of our Mobile Hides.
Of course, the hippo hide remains very popular, with its higher and lower levels.
I just collected these pictures from Pat’s memory card, on June 27th. While some may find the midday light a bit harsh for photography, it didn’t seem to distract these two male hippos who had a full on fight for over 60 minutes! So remember, when at Kaingo, make sure to take a midday trip to the hide, as we never know what can happen.
We can also include a visit to the hides as part of the morning or evening activity of course. And some may even be used at night! I’m sure many of you heard of our Elephant Hide Sleep Out. For those of you staying at Kaingo Camp, you can book a night out on the Ellie platform, and enjoy the sounds of the African night.
As this is very popular with our Kaingo guests, Derek thought of offering a similar experience for our guests at Mwamba. We now have the Numbu Plains Sleep Out! Imagine a comfortable bed set high on a platform with views of the plain and the distant Muchinga Escarpment. We’ve had a couple of guests trying it out, and they returned delighted.
For the more adventurous we also offer a Fly Camping option for one night. This is an incredible experience, taking you on foot to the Kapanda Lagoon or other untouched wilderness, and sleeping under a simple mosquito net while the scout is keeping watch near the open fire.
If you are booked for a safari with us and feel tempted by the experience, there is still time to book a sleep out option. For more information and rates, you can email me at email@example.com, or inquire with your agent.
Every season we welcome a few professional photographers, either on their own, or leading a wildlife photography workshop. So far we have been visited by Isak Pretorius (C4 Images), John Reed, Nathan Lovas and Andre Joanisse. We will have more later of course. If you are interested in a photography workshop, have a look at the tentative ones we have for 2015:
- 21-27 June 2015 – Judith Gawehn, Afari Magic Africa & C4 Images and Safaris (Germany/South Africa)
- 2-10 July 2015 – Peter Smart, Peter Smart Photography (UK)
- 7-10 September 2015 – Michele Westmorland, Westmorland Images (USA)
- 12-16 September 2015 – David Rogers, David Rogers Photography (South Africa)
- 28-31 October 2015 – Carole Petersen, Nature Encounters Tours & Travel (Australia)
- 1-7 November 2015 – Marius Coetzee, Oryx Worldwide Photographic Expeditions (South Africa)
The number of participants are strictly limited for these workshop, so we recommend booking early. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can direct you to the respective agent for more information. You can also find out more about our regular professional photographers on our Photo Tours webpage.
More travel news concern the recent publication of the South African Immigration Act 2010 which will greatly affect those traveling to or via South Africa, with children under the age of 18. Although it was initially scheduled to take effect on July 1st, 2014, the South African government has postponed the implementation to September 1st, 2014. The Immigration Act implies travelling with birth certificates and parental/court letters. Tourism associations and airline companies have already taken the matter with the representatives of the Immigration Department and further development are still possible.
If you are affected by this matter we recommend that you read the two articles posted on our blog here, and contact your travel agent or the South African embassy in your country.
Let’s conclude this newsletter with some more wildlife moments from May and June 2014.
At the beginning of the season, the Red-billed Queleas where found in unusually high number for this time of year. They were seen in huge flocks taking off and dancing in the sky. These large flocks are now gone, although Queleas are found in smaller group all season. They will gather again in great numbers in late September.
The Luangwa River is still fairly high in some places, in particular near our Elephant Hide. These elephants seemed to have a lot of fun bathing, while Yvonne and I were enjoying our sundowners on the Ellie Hide platform.
Tree squirrels are very common all over the park, but it is a rarer sighting to spot a family of four! Mom, dad and two little ones were playing here in the morning sun.
Our next newsletter will come at the end of July. In the meantime, keep a watch on our blog page as stories and pictures are posted regularly.