Sundowners, Spots and Scat: our marketing maestro digs her way through the South Luangwa!

Having guided at the start of my career in South Africa and travelled a wealth of African countries, Zambia has always been high on my list – I had a brief visit a few months ago but I was excited to be back to experience all the bush had to offer. The reputation of the South Luangwa is one of the main reasons it was high on my bucket list, from friends who guided to the major photographers it seemed #SouthLuangwaNP was a common feature on my Instagram feed. With a wealth of lodges to suit every budget, it seemed a great start to my journey with Malawian Style to go check it out. The team headed out along with our good friend Michaela Guzy and her mum-a formidable team from first timers to seasoned veterans we embarked on a week of cats, scat and photo shoots. We started off with lunch at Croc Valley a simple yet perfectly placed camp for those more budget conscious, almost immediately we were greeted by the African wildlife as a very relaxed bull elephant came in to ruin the gardener’s hard work and eat the contents of the flower beds. Shaking the trees next to our minibus we swiftly moved on before there was an elephant shaped dent in our vehicle!

sunset south luangwa

We were dropped off in wildlife camp just in time for sundowners overlooking the river. There is nothing quite like an African sunset, it all happens so fast yet is strikingly beautiful it’s hard not to end up with endless pictures of an orange sky promising you won’t take another.

Natures alarm clock eases you out of a deep slumber in time for a quick breakfast before heading out on a drive. The first drive didn’t disappoint almost as soon as we got on the road a female leopard gently walked in front of the vehicle, a great start and an indication of what was to come. After the excitement of a cat sighting, we took a short drinks stop. For those that don’t know me or haven’t had the pleasure of being on safari with me, I should probably let you know I have a fascination with poop and insects. On par with a zoom lens is my beloved macro lens, which allows me to take pictures of my beloved beetles to my heart’s content, sometimes much to the disgust of my fellow safari-ers. However, this elephant dung rifle proved fruitful unearthing two large scorpions.

leopard in a tree, south luangwa

After lunch we continued on to Kafunta River Lodge, having visited a few months ago I was keen to come back and use the pontoon a unique and quite exciting way to enter the park, two men row you across the river (their core strength is quite incredible as discovered by our American friends the Guzy girls who gave it a valiant effort). Floating along pods of hippos we disembarked on the sandy bay opposite and started our drive. At Kafunta we had some really special sightings; giraffes, elephants and even 3 leopards on a kill (although we were told there were 5 in the vicinity). It is a great introduction and starting point to see the game in the park, you could easily spend a few quiet afternoons on the viewing deck overlooking the flood plains watching a herd of elephant, hippos, giraffe, warthog, antelope and hundreds of birds pass through.

We headed into the park to stay at Nkonzi Camp with Gavin Opie, a rustic camp set in the heart of the park it takes you back to the comfortable camping style of a bygone era.  The camp is extremely comfortable but is simple, rid of any rainfall showers and interior designers it gets back to basics with excellent guiding from Gavin good food and a comfy bed! Here you can take part on all day game drives or relax in the riverbed the camp is set on. Open seasonally we embarked on a series of game drives, bush breakfasts, braais in the riverbed and a fashion shoot. Our American friend Michaela Guzy brought with her a stunning #safarichic dress which of course needed to be showcased! With sets ups, props and obliging camp staff we had a hilarious afternoon snapping the gorgeous Michaela in a variety of poses as the team found any excuse to jump in.

hippos, south luangwa

Finally, we headed towards the Kaingo area of the park to see Shenton Safaris – renowned for their guiding skills and photography expertise it is hands down one of the best places to get ‘that shot. With a wealth of hides, walks and prolific wildlife it was here I took the majority of my 2000 photos from a 9-day tour… We arrived at lunch only to hear the walking group had found 4 honey badgers in the morning a curse that seems to follow me, however, our incredible guide Patrick did his magic and we saw one that afternoon in daylight! Not only that he found us 5 separate leopards including a tussle between 2 adult female leopards, a tussle with a hyena and then a take over of one mother by her daughter! Lions, plains game, buffalo, elephant and hippo all up close. Words don’t come close to describing what we saw so check out both our Instagram accounts @malawianstyle and @southluangwasafaris for more images of the trip! With excellent food (how the staff don’t roll around is beyond me) and incredible rooms – with open air baths at Kaingo and showers at Mwamba – it is a real luxury in the bush experience. Not only are the drives fantastic but the walks between and around camps are brilliant with expert guides who can quite literally talk to animals (ask for Sly if you fancy a Dr Dolittle experience), or if you fancy just relaxing, jump into one of the many hides for an afternoon of up close and personal experiences-bonus points for the Mwamba team who have a 3 leveled hide next to camp so you don’t even have to forgo your afternoon beer to catch up on the bush news.

lions, south luangwa

It was with a happy smile, full camera and sunburnt nose we left the bush with promises of returning soon. Whilst the South Luangwa may not have the big 5 (rhino have sadly been poached out this park over 30 years ago although the North Luangwa do have some and plans are in place for a long term re-introduction) it is certainly at the top of my list for places to see a wealth of wildlife, it seems much to my delight that there are indeed cats on every corner of the park all you have to do is have a little time to see them. With everything from birds galore to leaping leopards, busy beetles to towering giraffe the wildlife is prolific you just need to find the right person to take you…

 

For details on how to get to South Luangwa or to start planning your adventure please contact me at chloe@malawianstyle.com I promise it wont all be dung beetles.

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