It was a pleasant winter’s afternoon here in the Luangwa Valley and I was out on a walking safari with a lovely family of four from Scotland. On the walk we saw some of this and some of that. Some elephant plop and even signs that an aardvark has passed by the night before. Jimmy Banda, the armed scout, led us towards the Luangwa River with its high sandy banks and underneath us we found a school of lethargic hippos. It was pretty standard walking safari stuff up to that point but when one of the girls took out her Blueberry-phone-and-camera-all-in-one it turned weird for me and Jimmy. With her back turned towards the water where the hippos were blowing mist into the clear blue Luangwa sky she raised up her right hand at arm’s length with her “device” clutched firmly between her fingers. She corrected her sunglasses so they sit just right on top of her blonde hair, pouted her lips together and pushed a button. Never before had I actually seen a “selfie” being born – it was astonishing how easily she could aim, pout and press all in one move. As if she had done it many times before – Aim, pout and press. When all that was done she declared proudly: “HashtagHippo!”

Animals still have right of way.

It was at that moment when I realized (for the hundredth time) that we live in world so different from that of our guests. I had not realized before that taking selfies with wild animals can add so much value to a safari. Maybe Wildlife Camp will start marketing selfie-safaris soon?

DSC_0004At this stage of the newsletter it’s easy to write lyrically about how the Luangwa Valley is “a place forgotten by time” but that would be an inaccurate description – we even offer free Wi-Fi to our guests here at Wildlife Camp. Time did indeed remember us. But what time does do every now and then, is lie to us. Time did not tell me about selfies, tweeting and downloading apps. Here in the bush, LOL means “lots of lions”, animals still have right of way and we give directions based on trees. “Turn left at the large Wild Mango and go straight until you reach the tamarind on the termite mound….” If I had known mustaches were back in fashion, I would have started growing mine in advance. All I can say is “#Confused.” “#ThisIsAfrica”

But all jokes aside, the purpose of this newsletter is not to tell you why we still write cheques to pay for various products and why we don’t accept bitcoins in exchange for game-drives. The purpose of this newsletter is to tell you what to bring with you (besides your selfie-machine) on your next visit so you’ll take most out of the experience… Because, one day when I visit London or New York, I’ll need somebody to tell me what to pack, otherwise I might arrive there with a compass and my trusty Swiss army knife.

While out on safari.DSC_0046

I assume that most readers of this newsletter know how to use that thing they call google to get weather forecasts for this area. Hence, I am not going to spend time on what clothes to pack. But do bring along some neutral colored clothing, especially for walking safaris. And yes, do pack all the medication your travel doctor prescribed, especially anti-malarials.

While out on safari, either driving or walking, I would recommend a set of binoculars, even before I recommend a good camera. It’s not necessary to break the bank and buy the newest pair of Swarovski binoculars, which can retail for up to about $2000. For between $70 and $120 you can get a descent pair which will really make a difference when out on in the bush.

Of course, it’s nice to have a camera with you to capture the moments, and if possible, invest in extra memory cards and batteries. I’ll say you need at least space for 100 photos per day and even though batteries can be charged here in camp, it can happen that they run out while you are in the bush. If you do have a proper SLR, bring it along and maybe get down to your local camera store and enquire about a good long lens (300mm or more) for hire. But the happy-snappy-camera market is filled with fantastic little digital models which are easy to use and will give you very nearly the same result as some of the bigger, fancier cameras.

A good sun-hat, sunscreen and lip-balm always come in handy while out on safari and I never leave the camp without a bird book. Birding adds a lot of value to any safari and with a Wildlife Camp guide there to help you, you’ll fast enjoy the ancient art of twitching. For the Luangwa Valley I would recommend any of the Southern African bird-guides. Our guides currently use the “Sasol Birds of Southern Africa 4th Edition” and find it quite easy to use with very accurate illustrations. But all in all, there is not much to choose from between the four or five books available on the market today.

Here in camp…

One thing I know our guests enjoy is spending time here in camp relaxing. A good book helps, and did you know that card-games can be played without a computer?

Everybody has their own taste in books, but there are some nature-books which I can recommend, seeing as it’s one interest we all have in common here. I really enjoy Trevor Carnaby’s “Beat About the Bush.” There is an updated version available and it deals with questions that guests often ask of guides like “Do male hyenas help take care of their young?” The bush is better the more you know about it and many guests have raved about “The Elephant Whisperer” by Lawrence Anthony. I read it and really enjoyed it, but if its elephant behavior and the mystique behind them you’re after, try “Elephantoms” by Lyall Watson. For me, it was an eye opener! From eye-openers to wake-up calls, Julian Rademeyer’s “Killing for profit” gives an in-depth look into the massive problem of rhino-poaching. The Luanwga Valley is mentioned once or twice in the book and it provides its readers with a really good understanding of the problems faced by conservationists in Southern and Central Africa.DSC_0105_198

If it’s a bit of drama you’re after, we are selling “A Wake of Vultures” by Mary Earnshaw here in camp. It’s a thrilling story that plays itself out here at Wildlife Camp (called Elephant Camp in the book) and you might even see some of the books’ main characters walking around here in camp.

The call of the white browed robin chats in and around camp can easily replace the music from your I-pod and the river view is better than any animation movie you can watch on your I-pad… So, you are welcome to leave those at home.

“Small space, little effort, big impact”

DSC_0075_492Wildlife Camp recently partnered with “Pack for a Purpose” a South African based non-profit organization and will soon be listed on their website. Their aim is to fill those left-over spaces in your bag with things that will really make a difference in the lives of other people. Let’s be honest – Africa remains one of the poorest places in the world and people here really appreciates any help they can get. For 2,5kg you can bring along 400 pencils to be used in local schools or 5 deflated soccer balls to provide hours of fun to local kids (and adults!).

Pro-flight Zambia recently increased the weight guests can travel with between Lusaka and Mfuwe from 15kg to 23kg, so there might just be some extra space in your bag.

As their slogan says: “Small space, little effort, big impact”

The packing list above is by no means a complete “things to bring” list. I have mentioned things which I think adds value to your time spent, not only here at Wildlife Camp, but on any safari holiday. It’s not the be-all-and-end-all of packing-lists and if you don’t have a pair of binoculars or if you prefer to read a Danielle Steel novel instead, that’s not the end of the world…

And on that note, that is all from us here at Wildlife Camp. The peak-season is now officially under way and we are all looking forward to it. #Excited

Until next time