Office Africa September 2013
September is here, and almost gone. The heat is intense already. The water level is very low, probably as low as back in the early nineties, according to some of our oldest staff members.
The local staff predicts early rains. I have some mixed feelings about that. We certainly don’t want rains that would affect the roads as they did last year, on November 1st! But maybe a tiny bit… just to cool things off a little. Hmm… that would be nice.
Jules has the opposite theory based on recent lion behaviour. She tells a story of how both our prides became avid tree climbers in Aug, September and October of 2006.The rains that followed caused unprecedented floods, Kaingo completely flooded and the entire area was under water. There were hippos surfing on Lion Plain. The lions would have needed to spend much time in the trees during that wet season. Jules feels the recent lion behaviour of killing and partially eating the cubs may be related to a long dry coming. We shall see…
Oh by the way, the Carmine Bee-Eater hide has been up since the very last days of August, and it is super! It is on the opposite bank of the Luangwa River, near the Ebony Grove. It is a morning activity, as it is ideal to be there around 06h15-06h30, to catch the beautiful sunrise light shining on the bank, and the birds.
Here are the most recent pictures from Marius Coetzee and Geoff Einon.
The water inland is basically gone, other than at our Mwamba hide where we keep an active waterhole. This is the time where the lions reign as Kings indeed. And they are feared by all, especially the buffalos. I’ve lost track now of how many buffalo kills we have witnessed this season. The big pride of the Mwamba-Kaingo are hunting every second or third day, and usually not far from Kaingo Camp.
Actually Lions of all prides are everywhere! It’s lion galore.
I know you have been waiting for news on that last little surviving cub of the Mwamba-Kapanda pride. Well, the last recorded sighting of the little fellow was on August 31st! We have not seen it since, and in fact, the pride itself has not been seen since then. They must be keeping away from the “murderers” of the Mwamba-Kaingo pride.
Here are some of the last pictures taken of that little cub.
But we’ve got plenty of other exciting news about lions, with many sightings.
The Hollywood’s have also been seen on numerous occasions, including a couple of time with new cubs – although I am still lacking pictures of them.
Even the Nsefu lions have been seen on this side of the river! It was on August 29th. The Mwamba-Kaingo pride was yet on another buffalo kill and not far from them, we came across some other lions. Three young males and a couple of females. I was quite confused, but the guides explained that they were lions who have immigrated to the Nsefu sector, across the river from Kaingo.
What were they doing here? Chasing buffalo I guess. We were driving back towards the river when this scene just happened in front of us. I was distracted by the thought of my upcoming sundowner by then, and my camera settings were not ready for dusk light and action! So excuse the blur, maybe you will find it artsy!
After the well deserved sundowner (that evening we saw over 25 different lions!), we backtracked and did find the Nsefu lions (now reaching a total of 8) on a buffalo. Basically these 2 prides were feeding on different buffalo at less than 1km apart.
And then the saga continues. On September 1st, two days later, the Mwamba-Kaingo pride was observed catching a buffalo just next to the river. Thank you Regine for sharing these two photos. The rest are from our own videos.
It was an incredible sighting again, but it did not stopped there. One of the lioness became very curious and kept looking towards the beach.
We saw an Nsfeu male cross the river, coming towards our side! What was he thinking?
The Nsefu male decided to sit on the beach, day-dreaming. It didn’t take long for the Mwamba male lion to react. He walked down the bank, and started stalking the other male, crossing the beach – unnoticed! He literally arrived about one meter behind the other lion before this one realized what was happening.
A fight erupted, followed by a long chase on the beach. The Nsefu lion didn’t ask for more and crossed the river – oblivious to any crocodile possibly lurking in the water!
The photos above were clipped from the videos, but this one below is from Regine Lacroix. Quite a moment!
In the meantime, our guests were still near the pride, on top of the bank. And the entire pride starting calling in unison, to support their male lion. It’s a shame that we cannot add sound to this newsletter! The video is in the editing stage, and we’ll post it to our YouTube page by late November.
Have a look at all these lionesses and youngsters looking intensely at the chase!
But probably the best news of all is the arrival of new cubs in the Mwamba-Kaingo pride. I know we’ve been a bit angry at those lions for the way they killed the cubs of the other pride. But so is the cycle of life in the wilderness.
On September 8th, one of the morning game drive came across a lioness from the Mwamba-Kaingo and discovered 3 little biddy cubs with her! They were about one month old, and very alert.
These pictures have been taken by Anna Bulleid from Perergrine Travel (Australia) who was leading a safari at Kaingo. They are the very first photos of the cubs.
Then they were seen shortly again on a bush walk, by our guide Sylvester.
On September 20th, while one of the game drives was observing the Mwamba-Kaingo pride, the lucky guests saw the mother and three cubs arrive on site, and the cubs were introduced to the rest of the pride (the males were not present). It was a magical moment, with lots of greetings. But that naughty lioness, the one who killed the other cubs, seemed a bit grumpy again, and wacked one of the new cubs. No harm done, but that is certainly a grumpy old lady that one!
They were seen again the next day, while the pride was devouring another buffalo. Let’s cross fingers for these three new cubs!
There’s been a lot of other superb sightings, including large herds of buffalo crossing the river, and also big groups of Cookson’s Wildebeests.
Big thank you to our guest Geoff Einon for sharing so many pictures, while still at Kaingo.
At the Mwamba hide, Patrick and Sylvester saw this little elephant with a shortened trunk. Not sure what happened to him, probably a nasty bite from a croc while crossing the river. Although this little fellow could drink water directly from his mouth, the future looks a bit grim as elephants are highly dependent on their trunk to eat and drink.
I had the opportunity to sit at the hide one morning, while waiting for guests to return from their drive. There was easily 75-80 impalas there, competing to access the water. It’s amazing to watch them, they are so nervous, incredibly nervous, but there is also a lot of dominance from some males towards others. They are all constantly moving, jumping, retreating and coming back. A great opportunity to do a little photographic study of this beautiful, yet often overlooked, antelope.
More recently I also got to capture this small troop of mongooses. Quite a rare opportunity to see them so close, and undisturbed.
Talking about the hides, travel agent Lisa Marsden (XA! Nini African Wildlife Safaris) was with us a few weeks ago, and she wrote an article on the Shenton Photographic hides, titled “The Best Seat in the House“. You can read it HERE.
I particularly liked her Hide Etiquette:
When using hides, ensure that you are comfortable, and the animals do not know that you are there.
• Be quiet – whisper; don’t cough; beware of noisy zips and crunchy packets – animals have an acute sense of hearing!
• Bring enough food and drink and remain hydrated.
• Scan the whole view: foreground, background and sky above.
• Patience is a virtue – allow at least one hour.
•Approach the hide very quietly, so as not to disturb any wildlife.
•Stick your arm, camera or anything else out of the hide window.
•Bang the vehicle door when you arrive or leave.
•Leave immediately if there’s nothing visible when you arrive.
•Worry about missing the action anywhere else.
To continue on the series of Professional Photographers who have visited us so far, I’m delighted to share with you some photographs of Marius Coetzee (mariuscoetzee.com and Oryx Worldwide Photographic Expeditions), as well as Anna Bulleid (Peregrine Travel). Marius was with us early July and early September. Anna was with us in early September. We also had the visit of Bill Ellzey (Bill Ellzey Photographs) who has shared some very nice pictures of some members of staff.
As for travel news, I’m sure many of you already heard about the decision by British Airways to stop their direct flights LONDON HEATHROW-LUSAKA. This came quite unexpectedly, and will most likely affect many of our upcoming visitors – originating from the United Kingdom.
The last operating flight will be the London-Lusaka of October 25th, returning to London on October 26th. Those travelling at a later date, or next year do have to choose an alternative route, either British Airways/South African Airways via Johannesburg, or changing airlines altogether and come with Emirates (flying daily via Dubai), KLM (flying 3 times a week via Amsterdam) or Kenyan Airways from Nairobi.
On a positive note, Proflight has announced a couple of new regional flights: Lusaka-Lilongwe and Lusaka-Dar Al Salaam. Quite exciting for an extension of your safari to the beaches of Lake Malawi (remember that we can also fly Mfuwe-Lillongwe!) or those of Zanzibar.
On a side note we would like to congratulate Judy Scotchford for winning one of the Artists For Conservation Awards for this painting of a lioness. Judy, along with fellow Australian artists Peta Boyce and Lyn Ellison, were with us in 2011. They take photographs of birds, animals and people, and then paint using their photographs as model.
And now is the time to congratulate the winners of the September Picture of the Month competition. The theme was FEATHERS and the winners are:
SEPTEMBER 2013 WINNER
Settings: Nikon D300, 1/1000 sec at f/11. Focal 550mm. ISO 800
SEPTEMBER 2013 RUNNER UP
By Pieter Louw, June 2013
Settings. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 1/600 sec at f/2.8. Focal 400mm. ISO 200.
SEPTEMBER 2013 RUNNER UP
By Peter Chadwick, August 2011
Settings: Nikon D80, 1/1000 sec at f/5.6. Focal 420mm. ISO 400.
Our next themes are Gory (closing Oct 20th), Expression (pictures depicting an emotion or eye contact with the animal – closing Nov 20th) and Night (nighttime photos – closing Dec 20th). Email your pictures (under 500kb please) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that they must have been taken while being a guest at Kaingo or Mwamba.
All right. That is it for me for now. The next newsletter will come as the season reaches its end (hard to believe!) with lots more news and photographs I’m sure.