Tag Archives: South Luangwa

Lions Everywhere (Nkwali part 3)

In terms of sightings, we were extremely lucky – or as Nyambe pointed out, had excellent guiding. Our first night we came across two male lions who had just killed an impala as a snack. We watched as the two tried to politely share, but the bigger one (not the one who actually killed the impala, mind you) got fed up with sharing and took the impala and ran. The two snarled and argued and roared a bit but came to an agreement and manage to finish it off.

Brothers fighting over a meal.

Using his whole body to roar.

The next night we heard roaring throughout the game drive. We managed to find the source, a massive male lion resting in the middle of a field. Nyambe took us close and the lion looked over at the vehicle. Apparently, the lions see the vehicle and all the people in it as one massive object and so they leave them alone. We were cautioned not to stand up, as then the lion will realize the vehicle has individuals inside that might be delicious. As we watched the lion started to roar – it takes his whole body to produce the noise, and while it is not loud, the noise vibrates through you and carries far into the distance. We later heard the lion as we are enjoying dinner on our deck, amazed that the sound carried so far.
Our third lion sighting was during the day. Five lions, two females and three males were sacked out in some shade. As they hunt at night, they usually spend their days conserving energy. Before long, one of the females got up and seems to be feeling, um … randy. She went to one male lion who made it clear that he was not interested. She rolled over on her back and did a little seductive wiggle but he closed his eyes. She tried her luck with the other, more alert male lion. He had been staring at our vehicle, his yellow eyes were a color like I’ve never seen and gave me goose bumps. The lady lion sauntered over to him and tried again, rubbing her head and nuzzling his neck. He stood up and made it very clear that he also is not interested and swatted his massive paw at her face. Growling and roaring ensued in a brief standoff, but she finally gave up, flopped down and went back to sleep.

Relaxing in the shade.

Female in the back trying to win some attention.

He is more Interested in the vehicle.

Lions snoozing.

While we didn’t see leopards this trip, the lions more than made up for it. Besides, we saw so much else and saw them doing so many interesting things that we couldn’t be happier.

Tea break under a tree.

One morning we decided to go on a walking safari. Nyambe led us, along with an armed National Park guard, around a large area where he points out everything we missed on our game drive. He identified colorful birds in trees, found their feathers on the ground, explained termites mounds, told of spiders, ants, and other small creatures. According to Robin Pope himself, game drives are like watching a movie while walking safaris are like reading a book.

A better view of the small things.

A great place for a morning walk.

and a little learning too..

Our scout, making sure the elephants are not TOO close..

The staff at Nkwali Lodge had one more surprise for us. As the sun began to set on our evening game drive, we started heading for the river bank for our sundowners. As we reached the bank, we found a beautiful table on the edge, a bottle of champagne on ice, and some delicious looking hor d’oeuvres . We enjoyed the champagne and hot artichoke spring rolls by the river as the sun set, watching elephants on the far bank and listening to the hippos and their old man chuckles.

Champagne and hors dóeuvres!

What a surprise!

A final sunset over the river.

The trip was perfect – the accommodation was perfect, the food was perfect, the staff were perfect, the location was perfect, and the sightings were perfect. It was the perfect way to start to say goodbye to Africa. As we packed up and got ready to face that terrible road to Chipata, we were already planning our next trip back to South Luangwa.


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Buffalo, Zebra Butts, and Giraffe Ballets (part 2)

The Hyenas have found the feast

We visit the site where a buffalo was killed by lions and is now being fed on by vultures and eight hyenas.  The sound of the hyenas crunching the bones with their jaws raises the hairs on the back of my neck, but I am also glad that every bit of this animal will be consumed.  Sandy is fascinated by the hyenas – they scavenge for food alone during the night, but when they come across a carcass or a fresh kill, they call for their friends to come join them.   They are strange looking creatures with short back legs, long tails, splotchy coats, long necks, and a face that looks like a bear cub.

Hyenas will eat anything

Zebras – Always showing their backside

We continue our drive and see zebra, such beautiful animals but who always turn their backs right as you snap the photo.  I have so many photos of zebra butts that Sandy thinks anyone looking through them would think I have some sort of problem.  The zebra here don’t have the shadow stripe of brown so the starkness between black and white is more pronounced.  Apparently a baby zebra only needs six hours with its mother to imprint her stripe pattern and she will then always be able to identify her mother in a massive herd.

Baby Stripes

Finally..a front shot.

A lone male buffalo

We come across a massive male buffalo, sitting idly under a shady tree in a riverbed.  He refuses to acknowledge our presence.  We see elephants nearby and stop to watch as a small breeding herd stalks across the plain.  The matriarch leads the way while younger elephants follow behind with the youngest baby in the middle.  They also take no notice of us.  Remembering the chaos of the night before, I am amazed at how graceful and silent they are as they move.

Elephants crossing the river in the distance

We really hope to see giraffes.  South Luangwa is home to a specific breed called Thornicroft giraffes.  They are tall, graceful, and serene.  Our guide, Nyambe, manages to find a herd and we stop to watch their antics.  One female has the attention of three males and they follow her around like puppy dogs.  An older male stoops down to get a drink of water – balletic considering they can’t bend their knees.  A baby giraffe, less than three months old, and his mother share a tender moment.  Three are curious about our vehicle and approach – they lumber on, curiosity sated, after we sit staring up at them in their shadow.

Chasing tale..

Bending down to drink.

This one was not shy..


Robin Pope makes every guest feel special and they go out of their way to make each experience memorable.  On this game drive, as we are expecting to head back to the lodge for a shower and lunch, Nyambe takes us to a large grassy plain where there are safari camp chairs set up and they are cooking brunch for us over the campfire.  The surprise bush breakfast took lots of planning and effort, but means so much.  We enjoy our corn fritters, eggs, toast, bacon, and screwdrivers while watching elephants slowly move across the plain, puku and impala graze, and giraffes huddle around discussing who we are and what we’re doing in their field.

Sandy is ready for breakfast.

Cooking in the bush

A great way to spend the morning!

With elephants nearby.

And so we settled into the safari routine – up at 5:15, breakfast by the fire, game drive in the morning, stop for tea and baked goods half way through, back to the lodge for shower and a rest, lunch, the afternoon to nap or watch the crocodiles sunbathing on the island in the river, a swim in the pool that overlooks the lagoon, tea and more baked goods at 3:00 (the best were the carrot cupcakes), load up for the evening game drive, sundown drinks and snacks by the river while watching elephants cross in the sunset, riding in the cool evening under the stars while our spotter waves his powerful lamp across the landscape, finding genets, nightjars, and lions.  Then back to camp, add a few layers of clothing as it gets cooler, drinks at the bar sharing stories with fellow guests and guides, and then dinner at our romantic little table by the river.  A nightcap by the campfire before an early bedtime, and occasionally some nocturnal disturbances by hippos that particularly love  the grass right around our cottage.


So happy!


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Trumpeting Elephants and Zambian Sunrises (Part 1)

It’s the middle of the night and we’re both sound asleep.  We’ve been hearing roaring from the lions who are competing for territory right across the river.  Our cottage is right on the banks of the Luangwa with wide open green grass and a lagoon behind.  The bathroom in the back of the cottage is open, covered only by a canopy of sausage tree branches.

We are suddenly startled awake by the sound of very large animals right outside the cottage.  Elephants, who can be so astoundingly silent for their size, are shifting about noisily, nervous about something.

Something spooks them and they start stampeding and trumpeting.  They are so close, I’m pretty sure one stops in our bathroom for a quick look in the mirror.  You can almost feel the ground trembling as they rush past.  I swear I then hear a leopard screeching out either a warning, a threat, or a ‘please don’t step on me!’ call.

The whole thing lasts only a few seconds but we are wide awake.  After some time we’re able to drift back to sleep, only to be awakened by the drums that act as our alarm at 5:15 am.

Our cottage by the river

Our open air shower

We are at Nkwali Camp, a Robin Pope Safari lodge in South Luangwa, Zambia.  This is our last big trip during our time here in Africa and we thought it appropriate to spend it here, in ‘the real Africa,’ as Zambia is known.  The drive here was relatively uneventful – they have paved half of that miserable road from Chipata to Mfuwe, but the rest of it still looks like a rocky river bed.

The lodge is beautiful.  In keeping with the Robin Pope aesthetic, the decor is minimal but classic and luxurious.  The cottages are comfortable and open air, allowing you to gaze up at the stars (or the monkeys munching on sausage fruit in the tree) above while showering.  We are here for four nights, long enough to unpack and call our little cottage home.

Our chalet looking over the river

The staff, from the guys who met us at our car with cold rolled washcloths, to the manager, see to our every need – and then some.  In traditional safari camp style, the guests all eat meals together, but they sensed that we need some romantic time so they have set up a table for two on the deck overlooking the river.  The food is amazing – three courses with fresh ingredients and innovative techniques.  We have already had a chocolate pear pie that I will dream about!

The view from the lounge

Our romantic dinner spot on the river

Lodge sitting area

Our private safari vehicle

The lodge is situated just on the other side of the river from the actual national park.  In the morning, after our drum wake up call, we have porridge and toast cooked over the camp fire, warm milky sweet tea, and fresh fruit while we watch the sun rise and the mist clear off the water.  They load us into a boat for the short trip across the river and bundle us into our safari vehicles for the morning drive.

It is still cool and fresh this early in the morning and Sandy uses his colorful kikoi to keep warm.  The scenery itself is worth a trip to South Luangwa, with its wide flood plains, mopane woodlands, dry riverbeds, and thick savannah grasses.  We don’t see another vehicle during the whole drive.  It’s as if Robin Pope has its own enormous concession just for us.

Sandy and his colorful cover

Poor impala

Baby in the middle

More elephants!

Sandy and Nyambe


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