Office Africa June 2015
We welcome to Shenton Safaris – Garth and Liz Edwards , our new general managers based at Kaingo and Ruth Thackary as our Executive Chef and Emmanuel as front of house and guest relations. It is great to add to our team this group of highly experienced and trained staff.
Garth and Liz have joined us from the Selous in Tanzania where they spent many years running camps and lodges. Both are exceptional hosts and bring both warmth and professionalism. Ruth – an acclaimed young chef from UK- has already had an immense impact on our food service and has brought to life our changed daily itinerary of bunch and dinner.We’ve already had excellent feedback on these changes from our guests – both new and returns.
Kaingo opened on 25 May and kicked off with some awesome cat and wild dog sightings. Mwamba took its first guests on 01 June with Matt and Charlie (Charlotte) back as managers. It is great to have them back with us. They were even happier to get back to their old camp this year when we offered an adjoining “office” . Charlie of course is our reservationist and now she is able to access the internet right from the middle of the bush – from “Heaven” actually as Mwamba is known locally!
There were some good late rains which helped fill up the inland waterholes and tributaries but the main river is pretty low for this time of year. However I have never seen the park look so beautiful – grassy and bountiful on the plains, verdant and majestic along the Luangwa River. The lion prides are all over the place- often the three prides – Lion pride (15), Mwamba-Kaingo (9 plus 3 young males) and the Nsefu pride right across the river all within 4 km of each other. When they have been hiding the leopards have been stealing the spotlight with kills, cubs and parades. Our camp ele’s (Elenor and her family at Kaingo and Tom and Jerry at Mwamba ) have been through to check up on camp foliage as well.
Our famous hippo hide (its actually shown on Google Earth) is already offering great photo opportunities of these 150 or so noisy giants right in front. Both the Elephant Hide and one of the Mobile Hide’s placed at Wild Dog lagoon have been very active early on. They have been a hit with with professional photographer Darryl Balfour’s groups which have been coming through since the beginning of season.
After the hectic rush to open the camps and get them set up for the season it was such a special time to have Jules and our two little ones – Saphire (7) and Jayabella (4) in camp for a some days in mid-June. My unstoppable mother, Marianne (who turns 80 this year and still takes amazing photos) was also in camp on one of her 3 week visits so we had some great family time together.
We have begun what promises to be a great 2015 and look forward to seeing many of you back in this wild corner of Eden to share with you this show and share with you. And now over to Jules…
The long June school holidays began on the 10th of June, which gave us time to whisk the girls to camp. They hadn’t been in since September last year and were longing to see all their favourite friends, most particularly “Dora”, a lonely female elephant cow we often find eating Mchenja fruits outside the “cage” N.B ‘The cage is a 200sqm structure around our cottage at Kaingo for keeping the children on the inside safe and all the wild animals left to roam free – just as it should be!
Saphire and Jayabella were absolutely thrilled to be back in the bush and celebrated with an impromptu game of ele-dung soccer with their Dad.
Our trip coincided with Daryl Balfour of Wild Photo Safaris 2nd of 3 groups he is bringing in this season, and latterly that of Izak Pretorius and Shem Campion of C4 images. We just missed Dave Rodgers of David Rodgers Photography with his group of guests. It’s so lovely to have all these wonderful photographers in camp. I have to say I am more than slightly jealous of all their uninterrupted shooting time.
Any photographer will tell you there is no worse combination than bouncing children and photography. It’s a recipe for profound irritation! I long ago relinquished my eye at the viewfinder. They say things come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Photography has departed in this season of my life as I spend my time on the vehicles holding on to my smallest, wriggliest child. Jayabella has too much spirit to sit still for more than a minute.
This year I decided it was time for Saphire to pick up the D-SLR in my place and for her to hand the “snap-happy” down to Jayabella.
Malika’s cub complied by pitching up next to the vehicle on our first morning drive. We came around the bend at hippo hospital, the puku were looking spooked, the squirrels were chattering so we stopped to look. Sure enough, she climbed up the bank from her morning drink.
Whilst I was busy enjoying teaching the girls how to use their cameras, Derek was enjoying handing down his bush skills from tracking, to testing the age of elephant poo by sticking your finger inside and then having a taste! It looks like Saphire took that little joke one step too far…
At age 7, Saphire is already an excellent driver; she spends plenty of time on our dirt roads in Lusaka behind the wheel. This was Jayabella’s first series of lessons on Dad’s knee.
No trip to the camps would be complete without a visit to the hippo hide. And just to prove I was there, here is one image of the girls and I stopped at Pelican Lagoon.
In between drives whilst Derek and I were busy workshopping with our wonderful team of managers, the girls kept busy in “the cage” with a spot of bush art creation.
And now over to the team so you can see some proper photos!
We are all looking forward to the new season and to welcoming guests new and old to the camps. June sees the fruiting of the African Ebony in Kaingo, which in turn serves as an invitation into the camp for many animals. The resident Vervet monkeys are an endless source of entertainment to the guests, as they compete for the best spots in the fruiting trees. While foraging through the tree canopies, they test all the fruits, ripe and green then drop them half-eaten to be gratefully received by the other animals who can’t reach the boughs holding these nutritious and tasty fruits. African Ebony fruits are also a favorite among the Elephants, who frequently come into camp in search of them. Guests are delighted to find these grey giants in such proximity and they have thrilled a few groups of guests who have observed them feeding on the fruits, while they themselves are enjoying brunch.
Meanwhile out in the bush life continues at what at first glance appears to be a leisurely pace, but on closer inspection has all the excitement and dramas of a well plotted soap opera! The Mwamba Pride of lions sadly lost one of its territorial males, leaving his brother to hold the territory alone. So far he has done a sterling job and has managed to fend off two nomadic male lions, who tried to claim the area as their own. Other good news for the stability of the lions prides in the area is that the three young males, 3 year-old brothers, have started to establish themselves as they have reached the age where it is time for them to make their own way in the world.
Some guests were lucky enough to witness one of their attempts to bring down a large buffalo bull.
It was an amazing drama with the three lions giving it their all but the buffalo proved too strong for their inexperienced hunting skills and managed to break away from their grasp and disappear into the bush.
However 3 days later a group of Canadian guests came across the same three male lions feasting on the carcass of a buffalo in the company of their father, while in the wings nine Hyena and numerous vultures waited in anticipation. One can only assume the three young lions were not put off by their lack of success with their first attempt and the second time around they learned from their mistakes and achieved success . . . another step in the learning curve. The Hollywood Pride was on the move at the start of the season and was seen as far South West as the Ebony Forest and from there they crossed the Luangwa River just south of Kaingo, only to return a short time later – perhaps the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and we know that there are more lions over there! Leopards have been plentiful since camp opening, with most guests seeing at least one leopard most days (one lucky group managed to see four leopards in one day!)Malaika has made numerous appearances since the season started, showing her hunting prowess and mothering skills as she was joined at her kills by her year old cub. We will be watching closely as her cub matures and for when Malaika decides it is time for her to find her own territory.
As always the Luangwa River at Kaingo is a hive of activity, with Hippos a constant source of entertainment. The crocodiles, not to be overlooked gave the guests a wonderful demonstration of their hunting abilities at afternoon tea one day, when one ambushed an unsuspecting Puku when it came to drink. The resultant co-operative feeding session astounded most guests. Our Elephant Hide is primed and ready for guest sleep-overs, as the Elephants have already begun using the crossing, wading to greener pastures. Family groups with babies as young as 6 months have recently been viewed making the crossing, to the delight of guests perched up in the safety of the hide.
And the best place in the world to view hippos is already producing fantastic opportunities for the professional and amateur photographers that have visited us. Early morning, pre-dawn shots of hippos snorting and yawning, have vied for photographer attention against views of irascible bulls making space for themselves amongst the crowds. Already 150 adult hippos fill the bend in the river, with more waiting in the wings; waiting as the river levels drop and deep water sites become premium, and the locals say that it is going to be a dry year, so expect lots more from the Kaingo hippo hide.
Garth & Liz
We are both delighted to be back at Mwamba where our season has started off with a bang. The Mwamba Kaingo pride females being seen with four new cubs to add to their growing numbers. Unfortunately we found a fifth cub that was not able to avoid the deadly clutches of a leopard.
We have had a steady stream of visitors to the camp as usual, Tom and Gerry (our friendly local elephants) have made it their business to come and check that the camp is up to its usual high standards and a leopard came and joined us at the bar for a pre-dinner drink before heading off on its nightly activities. We also have a new arrival in the Mwamba area with new leopard cub approximately three months of age who we have spotted between Mwamba Bush Camp and Numbu lagoon.
With any luck we will be seeing a lot more of them in the coming months and not to mention fascinating to see how they fair with the daily challenges of raising a youngster in the African bush.
Matt & Charlie
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