It’s that time of year again when there’s quite a bit of moving and shaking. May is always an exciting month as it marks the beginning of a new season and everyone is rearing to go after a long break. Even the monkeys are happy to see all the activity, although they’re keeping a different pace to us!
Behind the scenes
Being a seasonal operation, we are accustomed to the annual camp building process which starts way before our first camp, Tafika, actually opens on the 1st of May. The camp building approach is determined by our eco-friendly and community minded ethos of building with natural materials and local skills.
Sourcing, collecting and transporting materials to camp is a monumental task let alone organising and instructing the building team. This is largely undertaken by our foreman, Mr Chisoni, who manages the whole process from start to finish.
We had amazing rains this emerald season with over 1100mm recorded (our highest record so far!). This resulted in a few unwelcome changes in geography at Tafika Camp as we lost many metres of bank in certain areas. The most notable change let us to rebuild two of our chalets, the family chalet and chalet four. We also upgraded the seating areas on the chalet verandahs so that spending time enjoying the river view is more comfortable.
Another curveball in our usual pre-season preparations was hosting a bush wedding. Although we’re not the conventional wedding venue and not really in the habit of hosting weddings, we are in the habit of keeping things in the family and since it was the wedding of John and Carol’s daughter, Christine, we couldn’t say no!
Thanks to much hard work from the Remote Africa team coupled with the ingenuity and creative skills of our local artisans, Tafika camp was built in time to welcome our first guests and to host a wedding of 65 people in our little 14 bedded camp. We were indeed bulging at the seams but it was a very happy occasion and a great team effort seeing all members of staff banding together from our different bush camps to pull off a week of delicious feasting on the idyllic banks of the Luangwa.
Christine and Bruce tied the knot under the massive fig tree just 10min from Tafika, an iconic tree suitable for the occasion.
Following faded footsteps
Not long after this accomplishment the team shifted focus to the bush camps and went onward to building the Chikoko Trails camps. This entails a far harder task of crossing the Luangwa river with piles of katundu (luggage) and accessing the camp sites which can only be done on foot.
These beautiful camps are tucked away in remote sites of the park, where no vehicles can travel.
Every item is carried in by porters, a feat possible with the strength and resilience of our local Mukasanga residents. We have just welcomed our first guests into these camps, following the same trails on foot.
During his trek through the Luangwa Valley in 1866, David Livingstone crossed the Luangwa river just upstream of our river crossing point and trekked through the bush on foot, in much the same way as we do today.
We’ve been loving our Microlight May offering and John has had lovely flights to kick off many great safaris this month. We will be offering microlight flights to guests spending a minimum of four nights again next May, so keep this in mind if you’re planning to visit the Luangwa in 2020.
Game viewing diaries
The bush at the beginning of the season is always quite dense but we’ve still had great game viewing nonetheless. The yellow-billed stork colony is a hive of activity as per usual this time of year and always makes for a great morning out – and we have had it all to ourselves. We have seen huge numbers of giraffes, elephant and hyena and have had some great sightings of lion – some of lions fighting over a kill with excitable hyena and crocodile scrambling for tit bits.
Our resident leopards haven’t disappointed and every group this month has enjoyed great leopard sightings.
Following on from 2018, the wild dogs have also made an appearance with a pregnant female showing off her full belly so we look forward to seeing some pups in the next few months. Buffalo have been present in impressive numbers and great condition, fat and happy after months of plenty. Guests have also been fortunate enough to see Pel’s fishing owl, Verraux’s Eagle Owl and numerous martial eagles in May.