“Actually we just had clients all the time – but we spotted here in Camp the first zebra and 2 wild dogs… so no need to go in the park. Rain is missing terribly for 10 days!”
Imagine yourself sitting in Johannesburg traffic and reading this e-mail from Dora back in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley. That is what happened to me during February and March, and it made me miss home like never before. But now I am back in camp and ready to tell you all about what Wildlife Camp has been up to over the last two months and what we are planning to do in April.
Last year, a baboon managed to sneak into one of the en-suite tents. He did not do much damage but did escape with some snacks, toothpaste and medication. Naturally, we apologised to the guests concerned and offered to replace everything that was missing. That was when one man called me aside, with a slightly embarrassed grin on his face, and told me that his special “man medication” was missing. I will leave it up to your imagination as to what exactly the special “man medication” was, but I can tell you that he described them as blue.
After that incident we decided to give the en-suite tents facelifts. They are now slightly higher with proper doors in the front and the back. The bathrooms also got new floors and paint. It looks great and they all should be ready for the Easter-weekend! So, if you still want a room with a view over Easter, or have some clients who are interested in having the times of their lives, contact us.
As for the baboon – every time I see baby baboons I can’t help but think about our friendly guest and his blue “man medication.”
As always, Wildlife Camp will be at this year’s Indaba, Africa’s largest travel trade show. If you are in the business of sending people on amazing Safaris, please make sure to contact Herman soon to make an appointment to see him. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org, or alternatively contact Retha on email@example.com.
We are looking forward to meeting old and new faces at Indaba!
The annual guiding exams are a highlight here in the Luangwa Valley. Students study for years before they feel ready to sit this gruelling exam, and this year is no different, with the exams set for the end of April.
The guiding system in the Luangwa Valley is divided between two grades. A grade 2 qualification allows a guide to conduct driving safaris into South Luangwa National Park. In order to achieve this level the student must have a valid first aid certificate. With this in mind, Wildlife Camp enrolled 4 of our guides and prospective guides into a first aid course earlier this month. All four passed with flying colours.
Students must also show a keen knowledge of mechanics. It has become tradition here in the Luangwa Valley that Herman (Wildlife Camp’s Director), right here in Wildlife Camp’s workshop, puts the students through their paces with questions on everything from fuel-lift-pumps to alternators and how to change flat tyres. This workshop-exam will be held at the end of April, with a theory paper awaiting those who overcome this hurdle.
In the theory paper students are expected to know everything from local, botanical and common names and uses of trees, shrubs and grasses. They have to identify bird-calls, and must be able to showcase a wealth of knowledge on other bush-related and local topics. Some of the easier questions would be:
1 What does ‘polyandrous’ mean, and name two birds commonly found in South Luangwa National Park that are polyandrous.
2. Provide the local and scientific name of the Thornicroft’s giraffe. Also indicate
· Its gestation period.
· The amount of teats.
· How long before calves are weaned.
· Whether or not they display any sexual dimorphism, and if yes, how?
· Their longevity
· Which trees (botanical & common names) they prefer to browse on.
· And why older male giraffe often have large lumps on their heads.
The pass-mark for this paper is 70% but do not think that the students who attain this mark are qualified guides. No, the last yet biggest hurdle awaits: A practical exam! Now, the ones who passed the theory paper take the old and experienced guides in the Luangwa Valley on safari to showcase their skill and knowledge. And the old men (Herman counts as one of them!) will grind the youngsters with difficult questions until they are sure that the student knows enough to become a guide.
Once this hurdle is overcome, all the new guide has to do is an apprenticeship of 10 drives with an experienced guide before he is issued his licence to guide in South Luangwa National Park. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is only to become a grade 2 guide.
A Grade 1 qualification is a much sought after piece of paper here in the Luangwa Valley and will allow the guide to take guests on walking safaris. The same exam procedures are followed, but off course the questions are much harder, and the practical exam includes fire-arm use.
Wildlife Camp has three guides aiming for their level 1 qualification this year. Sue, Joseph and Billy are all studying hard! Our head-barman, Joel, is studying to become a grade 2 guide.
In his capacity as one of the ‘old-men’ in the valley, Herman has been helping them a lot. The guys also go on field-trips to exchange facts. Here Joel is busy identifying grasses. We whish them all the best for the upcoming exams!
Moment of the month.
Once again Mother Nature is feeding me huge spoonfuls of humble pie! You might recall that in the December edition of Wildlife Camp’s Newsletter I was going on about one of our local male lions named Shaka and how he can do absolutely nothing wrong.
My words were:
“Since then he has grown both physically and in stature and today demands a lot of respect not only from his fellow animals but also from all the homo-sapiens that had the privilege in 2011 to watch him at work. He is a beast but also a sheep in wolves’ clothing.” I ended my praise to this giant with the words “Shaka, take a bow.”
So, he took his bow and has left the building…
Well, sort of. During February and March a coalition of three young males (one of them seen here close the Luafwa lagoon) ousted Shaka and took over his territory, pride and all. The new boys on the block can be seen these days mating with the females from this rich-in-prey area. We are not sure what happened to Shaka’s cubs. Male lions will usually kill cubs from a different male when they take over a pride or territory in order to ensure that it is their own genes that continue to thrive and not that of a stranger.
And now, to finish off, here is a difficult exam question for all of you: How long will it take for these three lions to produce cubs from this pride? If you know the answer, or want to know the answer, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hint – you can not only Google the gestation period of lions (which is roughly 3-and-a-half-months)… It will take a while longer than that, and with good reason!
We’ll keep a keen eye on the developments on the lion-front and keep you updated!
And that is all from of us here at Wildlife Camp. Dora is off on holiday to her beloved Switzerland, and we hope that she has a wonderful time with family and friends.