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And yes, November is almost over. The peak of the safari season is well behind us, although Kafunta River Lodge is still buzzing with guests as I type this newsletter.
Just before closing the bush camps, a short video of Three Rivers Camp was put together to serve as a teaser for those of you still hesitating to come and visit. While we are waiting for a new video portraying our three properties, you can have a look at Three Rivers’ video by clicking on the photo to the left. We’ve had a wonderful season down there and we are very proud of the result. We sure look forward to next year!
So now we are ready for the rains, which have started early this year, and are in fact very much welcome. It will be good to see the bush turn green again!
Prestigious recognition for South Luangwa NP
Are you familiar with the name UNWTO? It stands for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, it is the UN agency responsible for the promotion of responsible and sustainable tourism.
2017 is the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, a further step in achieving the "Sustainable Development Goals" set by the agency in order to reduce poverty and fostering viable development worldwide. One of those goals is to promote tourism policies and practices which make optimal use of environmental resources, respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities and provide socio-economic benefits for all.
On November 16th, Mfuwe received the visit of UNWTO Secretary General Mr. Taleb Rifai, who declared South Luangwa National Park as the firstSustainable Park for Tourism Developmentin the world. Accompanied by numerous Zambian and foreign dignitaries, including the Minister of Tourism & Arts, Mr Charles Banda, the Secretary General unveiled a commemorative plaque at the entrance of the park, for all future visitors to see.
This is a wonderful opportunity to thank all stakeholders involved – safari lodges, community and conservation focused NGOs such as Project Luangwa and Conservation South Luangwa , local park authorities and governemental institutions, and of course local, regional and international tourists – in ensuring tourism in South Luangwa provides socio-economic benefits for all.
We are celebrating this honour which also brings confidence that our National Park will remain a natural wildlife sanctuary and a prime destination for safari goers for decades to come.
This ceremony was held in connection to the International Conference on Promoting Sustainable Tourism, a Tool for Inclusive Growth & Community Engagement in Africa, which was held in Lusaka. We want to thank Karen & Fwilane of Project Luangwa for their exceptional stand showcasing lodge initiatives which led to the park’s new accolade, such as providing employment to local people, using sustainable local materials, use of solar power, purchase of local produce and more.
Kafunta staff brings you Giraffes!
Giraffes are true icons of African wildlife, and we love our endemic species (the Thornicroft Giraffe) very much!
It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been in the Valley, we never grow tired of watching them.
While working at the lodge we often have the chance to see them right here on the plains (sometimes over 20 individuals at a time!), and of course when we go on game drives, it is rare not see them around. I’ve sorted those pictures handed to me by various staff over the past months, and thought we could have a look at them together!
The Great(er) Kudu
Another iconic animal in Africa is the superb Kudu. In Zambia we find the Greater Kudu. If you wonder, there is indeed a Lesser Kudu species, which is found in Eastern Africa (Kenya and Tanzania, but also in Ethiopia and Uganda). The lesser kudu is smaller in body size, and the male’s horns will average 60-70cm, while the greater kudu’s horns will reach an average of 120cm!
The greater kudu is one of the largest antelopes and his horns are at their highest when they reach two and a half twists; by then the kudu is around 6 years old, and tends to live up to 8 years only. See this picture here, where white tips also indicate an older male.
One beautiful detail of the kudu is its white chevron, or small line, set between the eyes. I only found out recently that females and young ones are lacking this chevron, as you can see on the left photo.
Kudus are so beautiful, but very shy and tend to avoid open plains. So when they are out and about it’s always a pleasure to observe and photograph them! Although rarely heard, males can be quite vocal and their alarm call is extremely loud, carrying as far as 1.5 to 2 kilometers!
Males can be seen in small batchelor groups
The African Buffalo is another sought after animal here in South Luangwa, where it can be find in large herds, sometimes of up to a thousand individuals.
Did you know that the horns of the male tend to merge together, forming a continuous bone shield called a "boss"?
Sometimes we confuse them with cows… but the African Buffalo, also known as Cape Buffalo, is not even a close relative of other bovines. Too unpredictable and dangerous, it was never domesticated, as opposed to the Asian Water Buffalo.
At the peak of the dry season, they tend to become the lion’s favorite prey. Buffalos need water daily, and will sometimes get stuck in the mud surrounding shrinking waterholes, making them easy targets.
There is something mesmerizing about watching large herds of buffalos moving around a game drive vehicle. Or that hipnotic stare an old bull will give you, as if you owed him money or something!
Old buffalos, often called "daggaboys" tend to leave the herds, either because they don’t have the stamina anymore to follow the group or because they can no longer compete with the younger bulls. In any case they are best avoided when on a bush walk, as they are notoriously agressive.
Be our guest! Julie Green
Every month we choose a guest or a group of guests whom we think may play the game of an informal interview about the reasons behind choosing South Luangwa, and Kafunta Safaris, and how the trip turned out to be! It’s a totally informal feature, just a wait to connect with our guests, and sharing their experience.
For November’s Guest of the Month feature I picked Julie Green, a young lady visiting us from Australia. She stayed with us for 9 nights, late October, experiencing all of our properties.
What triggered the wish to come to Africa? I was looking at booking a trip to Europe again, but I actually wanted something different. A new culture and an experience I hadn’t had before and of course a chance to see Robert (Note from Kafunta: Julie is a friend of our Operations Manager, Rob Beadel).
Was this your first trip to Africa? Yes, this was my first trip to Africa and it certainly will not be my last. My heart and eyes have been opened. If I could come back today I would. I have already started looking at how and when I can get back, asap.
How was your experience?
I went to Africa with no expectations or must see items. I was simply extremely happy to be going on holiday, visiting a new continent and seeing Robert.
I leave profoundly affected by Africa. Words that come to mind to describe my experience are amazing, wonderful, fun, relaxing, educational, eye opening, soul reaching but still these don’t seem enough.
When I am asked about my trip I describe the wonderful wildlife and the amazing people, but I can’t tell them exactly what it is that captures your heart and soul so profoundly.
In your August 2016 newsletter you reference to the Travel Africa magazine which I think articulates my experience in South Luangwa and specifically Kafunta Safaris much better than I can.
newsletter extract: “What’s so special about safari?”
“I bet you remember how difficult it was to translate what you were experiencing into words, to express the feeling of being in the African bush, to tell your friends back home what it was all about. Travel Africa magazine describes why the wilderness is good for the soul as, being in the moment, slowing down, being outside, engaging our senses, gaining perspective” (read more here)
You went to all our 3 camps, do you have a favorite?
I loved all 3 camps because each was a different experience but Kafunta was my favourite.
Bush camp was an immediate introduction to the bush, wildlife and switching off. This is probably why Rob sent me there straight away! No power, the camp entirely outside, a frog in the toilet and hippos as neighbours. I learnt the most here on the game drive and walking safari. We saw lots of wildlife and our guide Jabes was amazing. His wildlife knowledge, tracking skills, professionalism, hospitality and humour made the experience. Bush camp was an overload of the senses in the best way possible.
Three Rivers accommodation was beautiful. Sleeping under the stars was magical and the tent accommodation was stunning. Sverre and Anna were the perfect hosts and made me feel a part of the Kafunta family! We had some rain on this trip which made this an entirely different experience to the other camps and very funny. Memorable to say the least. Once again Jabes wildlife skills showed and this time his driving skills also… With rain there are less animals to see but that doesn’t mean there are none. Jabes finds a gorgeous chameleon on a tree (how, I don’t know) and stops the vehicle when he sees a skull to give us a lesson how to identify what animal it is (zebra) and if it is male or female and of course we were always on the lookout for Jabes favourite bird the purple crested turaco.
Kafunta lodge was my favourite. I felt like part of the furniture and did not want to leave. The wildlife was amazing. We saw leopards with their kill, lions mating, 30 dead hippos, vultures, crocodiles, giraffe, zebras, hyena, warthog, carmine bee eaters and my new favourite the buffalo. My happy place was relaxing by the pool watching the wildlife in what still amazes me is Robert’s backyard! My favourite moment was sunbaking, reading my book with an elephant right below.
The guides specifically Jabes, the camp staff and hosts made a solo traveller feel extremely welcome and at ease. I also must mention the outstanding chefs!
What was your greatest wildlife sighting?
There are too many but those that stand out are the herd of elephants on the drive to Kafunta which took my breath away (above), the elephants on my door step at Kafunta lodge, the gorgeous carmine bee eater which I now know exists, the beauty and piercing eyes of the leopard and my new favourite animal, the hilarious looking buffalo.
Was there anything that made you nervous in the African bush?
I was nervous initially at bush camp sleeping alone and it being completely open. I thought any animal or person could simply wonder up the stairs however, my nerves were quickly squashed by the guides and staff and I was very comfortable.
Do you think you will travel again in Southern Africa after this? If so, where?
Yes, absolutely. I have so many places I would like to visit and the more I look the more I want to see. So far I am considering, Cape town, Tanzania, Malawi, Zanzibar and more of Zimbabwe. I will of course visit Robert and all the staff again.
And anything else you would like to add?
Congratulations to the owners, Robert and all the staff for providing such a wonderful lodge and experience.
Thank you, Robert and staff, for allowing me to switch off, be present, slow down, gain perspective and have such a wonderful time.
Pack of MANY dogs
I literally just received these photos from our guest Mike Galtry who was with us earlier in the month, and I haven’t had a chance to go through them in details.
But these few pictures got my attention right away, due to the large number of dogs in the pack! I had heard that a pack of 24 dogs had been seen, as well as pups – and these photos are proof enough that the population of wild dogs in South Luangwa is growing with each season. Which is fantastic news!
Rosettes up a tree
And of course, it wouldn’t be right to go a month without mentioning the most iconic creature of South Luangwa – the leopard. Dagmar’s photos (at the top of the newsletter, and here to the right) are splendid.
One of the most recent guest feedbacks I received emphasized that the group had 21 encounters with leopards within the 9 days they were on safari with us. How wonderful is that?!
On my last game drive of the season (I left the valley about a month ago), I was lucky to again see one of the two leopard cubs who have been so entertaining this year.
The cub was with mom up in a tree, sharing a meal. The sighting wasn’t exceptional at all, in terms of visibility or light, but it was just as great to be able to stay with the two of them for a long time.
The other cub must have been hiding in the thicket, as it is of a more shy nature.
Wow, this turned out to be a lengthy newsletter! But I have more to share next month, don’t worry! In the meantime I leave you with these cute little piglets which definitely mark the arrival of the rains in our part of Africa.