Places: South Luangwa, October 2022

31 October 2022

By: Tendai Bushe

The magic of safari is not easily put into words, but I will give it my best shot! I was out and about in South Luangwa mid-October and we (2 agents and I) focused our trip on the northern and southern parts of the park but we stopped in the central area on our way in and out of South Luangwa.  On arrival at Mfuwe Airport we stepped into the small arrivals hall where we were greeted by numerous smiling guides waiting for their guests. I quickly spotted our Time + Tide guide Andrew and we exchanged pleasantries. Once we collected our luggage and settled into our jeep-we were off! We drove through town waving at the little kids along the way and enjoying the strong wind blowing in our faces. There was a decent amount of wind over the 5 days we were in South Luangwa and that helped cool us down in the October heat.

Our first stop was at Mulberry Mongoose to have a look around their shop, visit their new workshop and of course try our hand at snare coiling and metal flattening. One thing is for sure, I was not a jewelry maker in my past life nor will I be one in the future- my coils were atrocious! It was fun to try out and I highly recommend this visit to all our clients! We are big supporters of Mulberry Mongoose; we love their products and their ethos.

After our short stint as jewelers, we headed to Chinzombo for a site inspection. We were warmly greeted and ushered to the main area lounge where we got a quick orientation of the camp and sipped on a refreshing welcome drink. We saw the gorgeous rooms, spacious and fully equipped with all the amenities to give guests a luxurious experience. We said our goodbyes and continued our journey to the North. En route to camp we saw a pride of very satisfied lions having a siesta with full bellies on display.  This was followed by a pack of more than 30 Wild Dogs lying under some trees enjoying the shade. We watched them for a little while and although they were napping it was fascinating to see so many lying on top of each other. It was hard for us to get an exact count as despite each coat being as unique as a fingerprint, they all blended so well with one another. We arrived into Nsolo camp early afternoon, had a quick bite to eat, showered and then headed off on an epic experience. We arrived at the dry Luwi river bed where our sleepout nets were set up for the night. I can see why this is a bucket list experience and an absolute must for those with an adventurous spirit. There is nothing quite like sitting around the fire enjoying pre-dinner drinks under the open sky, star gazing, listening to the various sounds of animals in the distance. The nets are very basic with a sleeping mat and bag. There is a shared bush loo and hot water is provided in the evenings and morning to freshen up. The food was simple but delicious. We had a traditional dinner of barbecue and nshima and then in the morning our chef pulled off a full hot breakfast with bacon and eggs – all in a makeshift bush kitchen. It was an incredible experience, truly a memory that will last for a lifetime.

We then headed to Lion Camp for our next night, an easy favorite of many visitors as the camp merges luxury and classic safari styles seamlessly. The highlight of my stay here was our guide; Donald navigated his way through the bush incredibly well and was a very sociable person. He was keen to engage and teach us something new. After years of going on Safari it is always impressive when guides go deeper than the basic facts and try hard to give you in-depth knowledge on certain species or add in their own personal experiences and share sightings they have seen previously. Before we headed out on our activity, he asked us for a wish list, one of our agents wanted to see a python and the other wanted to see a porcupine. Well wishes do come true! We saw a python, unfortunately it was dead, but it was quite a unique sighting as it had been decapitated indicating that whatever killed the snake must have fed on the head and then been chased off. And not only did we see a porcupine, but we saw a porcupine being chased by a lion! We had a delicious dinner paired with a lovely wine before we headed off to bed. The next morning, we had a short game drive where we spotted 3 lions feasting on a hippo. The game during our first 48 hours in the Valley was truly impeccable, the bush was showing off her magic.

Next up we went to owner run Tafika Camp, I was there last year in September and my thoughts remain the same. It is an ideal option for those who want a rustic and intimate camp. The open chalets allow you to easily watch the resident elephants walk through camp. I stood on my verandah and watched a majestic beauty chomp on some leaves and then walk right past my room. I never get tired of seeing elephants, they are my favorite animal and seeing them up close and at ease is always a treat! We had a pleasant lunch with John and Carol Coppinger, founders of Remote Safaris and then had a quick siesta. We met for high tea before heading out to see the Carmine Bee Eater hide en route to the village for a community visit. We were met by smiling faces and a very friendly head teacher. The school children performed traditional dances and urged us to join them, we obliged and had a bit of fun with the girls. We also listened to some poetry and the children shared their aspirations and goals. One of our agents had kindly brought a big bag of donations for the school children which she handed over and the kids gleamed with joy! After our visit we had an enjoyable sundowner and headed back to camp after a night drive. We came across a gorgeous leopard - I just love seeing their coats and don’t think that any picture or print replica can ever do them justice. She was a quite sneaky one, she used our car to disguise her movements and move closer to some antelope she had her eye on. Every time we switched on the engine, she prowled closer! She didn’t make a kill whilst we were there, and we decided to leave her in peace. The next day we did a short walk to Big Lagoon Camp, a historical site that is now under the care and management of Remote Africa and used as one of their Chikoko Trails walking camps. It is in a beautiful location, with a stunning lagoon that is surely an attraction for a wide variety of species.

We were then transferred to Mfuwe Airport for our light aircraft flight to Sungani. The flight is quite scenic and beats a 3–4-hour road transfer to Kalamu. I love Sungani and Kulandila, I expressed my initial thoughts in a blog post last year, please click here to read. As much as I thought the camp was stunning then it is even more so now, the completed décor and finishing touches have tied together beautifully. It is a luxurious camp with high standards in every way- the staff are exceptionally warm and always eager to serve, the food is not only delectable, but it is presented so beautifully, the guides are extremely knowledgeable, and the owners are burning with passion for the area and for their family run operation. The 2 properties are in the remote southern part of South Luangwa and the game is not as prolific. But it is a hidden gem and the area has so much potential and we could clearly see the effort being put into the area. I for one am very interested to see where things go in the near future! We spent a lot of our time with Brian, a very knowledgeable mature guide who has worked in the Valley for many years. He was with Norman Carr at the start of their journey and he is eager to make a difference in the Kalamu Area with Sungani as well. My favorite moment with him was when he saw Zebras, he explained that it may seem like a small sighting to others but in that area, they do not see them often and when they do, they are usually shy. There was a foal in the group which made Brian’s smile shine even brighter. We saw some Roan antelope as well which is always special as they are not an antelope one sees every day. The following day we flew across the southern sector to Kapamba airstrip where we were met by Suzyo, our guide for the next 24 hours.

We were shown around all the Bushcamp Company camps - they are all different styles of camps with unique locations and it is was good to see them again and refresh my memory. We had a fun and delicious bush pizza experience, making our own pizzas and enjoying them under a shady tree. Our afternoon game drive was leisurely, we had seen a leopard after lunch relaxing under a shady tree and a bit further, we saw a leopard kill hanging in a tree but no sight of the leopard. However there was an eager hyena waiting under the tree to do what opportunists do best and seize the moment should it arrive! That evening we were spoilt with the signature Kapamba sundowner, our feet wading in the shallow water looking at a spectacular sunset and enjoying the warm hospitality of the Bushcamp Company team. We stayed at Kapamba Camp, enjoyed a communal dinner with two guides and one other guest exchanging stories and enjoying the company of one another. It is always a privilege to be out in the bush, it centers me and reawakens my passion for the job. We do more than sell trips, we create lifelong memories for clients and it is always a treat to get a piece of that pie once in a while!

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