Due to a very busy September here at Wildlife Camp, this newsletter will make its way into your Inbox a little late. But better late than no news at all!
A newsletter this time of the year would be incomplete without a report on the weather. As I sit here in the office the temperatures are touching 40°C and the sun is sucking most of the water off the valley floor.
With the exception of two or three lagoons scattered among the big Zambian trees, the Luangwa River is the only source of water for the animals of the Luangwa Valley. Large herds of elephants and buffalo coming down to drink is not an uncommon site – even here from camp – and hippos gather in large numbers in an attempt to survive October; the hottest and driest month of the year.
Our rains usually start at the beginning of November but we do have a feeling that it might arrive little early this year. The white-browed coucals, also known as the rain birds, are already singing in the early mornings and a couple of dark clouds have also shown their faces above camp – one even let slip a couple of drops… but one swallow does not a summer make.
But, whatever mother-nature throws at us, October is traditionally an amazing month for animal sightings and we are really looking forward to it!
Many of you would have spent time in the bush with David Malambika before. David was Wildlife Camp’s scout (an escort-scout is a person carrying a rifle while out on walking-safaris to ensure the safety of guests) for our walking safaris and he (sadly for us) retired at the end of August. David had been a scout for 22 years and his camp-fire stories about walking among Africa’s giants always entertained guests at our bushcamp. Many of you would remember his quiet and relaxed manner – characteristics that never failed him, even when he was confronted by dangerous situations like elephant charges or buffalo stampedes.
David – seen here leading a walking safari – was a great servant to the Zambian Wildlife Authority and to Wildlife Camp. His services will be missed and we wish him all the best in the future.
Abeud Sakala was appointed as Wildlife Camp’s new scout in September and it was as if the animals decided to test him out – seeing as he was a new face in our area! But he handled all the tricky situations brilliantly!
Walking safaris are about the small things in the bush and lion sighting are very rare while out on foot. On only his second walk with Wildlife Camp, Abeud had to navigate the walk around a pride of lions. On one of the first overnight walking safaris that he did here with us two lionesses strolled through the bushcamp while our guests were going through their morning bathroom routine. Everybody just about got their breaths back when a baby hippo burst through he thick bushes with one of the lionesses on his back. The hippo eventually made is safely back to the river and our new scout kept all of our guests safe and secure. When the guests returned back to main camp I asked whether they took any photos: “No” they said. “We were busy brushing our teeth!”
Moment of the month.
The best moment of September does not involve any lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, hippos, giraffe, zebra or any other of the big mammals of the Luangwa Valley. In fact, it does not even involve mammals. So, if you are looking for some action, you can skip the next couple of paragraphs of this newsletter. But, if you are a birder, read on, as this month’s best moment was delivered by a sleeping bird – but what a sighting it was!
The Pel’s fishing owl is one of the largest owls in the world, measuring 60 cm in hight. It spans around 150 cm across the wings and weighs 2–2.35 kg. Not only are they big, but they are also extremely elusive! They have often been called the ‘Phantoms of Africa’ and birders spend many years with binoculars fixed to their eyes before they get to see one of them.
In a recent study near Pafuri in the Kruger National Park (an area famous for its Pel’s sightings) only four birds were found during the three-day survey, which saw seven people hunting for the birds from just after dawn to just before dusk.
So, there we were, driving around in South Luangwa National Park one morning with four South African birders who had been to various other countries looking for Pel’s fishing owls – every time in vain. While watching some zebra on their way to the water we spotted a strange object sitting on the road. It was a Pel’s! The owl was sitting on the road, in bright sunshine, having a nap! I shall not repeat the words our guests used to describe their surprise, because I know our newsletters are also read by children.
We sat with the owl for a good 15 minutes and I believe during that time got some of the best photos that anybody has ever taken of these birds – not because we are great photographers, but because the situation was so unique!
That is it for Wildlife Camp September 2012 newsletter.
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Kind Regards from all of us!