Another year and another season. We are extremely excited to welcome 2022 which is looking very positive. The pandemic seems to be under control, especially in idyllic Zambia, and travel certainly seems to be getting easier with almost all countries having dropped the PCR requirements for vaccinated travellers.
The start of season is always a bit of a muddy affair attempting to access our base camp, Tafika, on a road (by this time it’s generally reduced to a cycling trail) full of sloshy mud and water. Being more remote our access is more challenging but once we’ve arrived it’s always worth it!
The safari season started a little earlier than normal this year and kicked off with a bang. We began with a bush wedding for Nick and Jen at Tafika. As I (Jen), was born just a few kilometres upriver from Tafika it was quite apt for another big life event to take place in the Luangwa. A host of family and friends were squeezed into what is normally a 14-bed-camp for a special week of celebration.
Welcome to the team
We’re very happy to announce the arrival of Vel, our new front of house manager. Vel has traversed the globe from the US to China but as a born and bred Zambian, her roots always lured her home. She has worked in tourism for several years so it’s not her first rodeo in the bush and we’re very happy to welcome her to our Luangwa paradise.
We’re also happy so share about the return of our 2019 season pilot, Rory Friedman, who takes to the Zambian skies again after a years’ stint on the yachts. Although the crystal waters of the Caribbean captivated Rory’s adventurous spirit, he couldn’t shed the dream of returning to the Luangwa and reuniting with the very many friends he made whilst flying in and out of bush airstrips.
Follow Rory’s story through Zambia’s airspace – and his safari lifestyle – on his new Instagram page @remoteafricapilot.
RASair’s Cessna 210 is now officially registered as 9J-RAS (from its original ADJ registration) and is looking good – and now thoroughly branded – streaking through the skies.
RASair isn’t the only name change this year with Crocodile River Camp shifting location and becoming Big Lagoon Camp. The new developments at the historic Big Lagoon site is very exciting with the chalets, dining area and new lagoon deck enjoying spectacular views over the lagoon. The camp is scheduled to open later this June.
Camp building at the start of season is always a busy time of year. With several camps in far flung wilderness areas, it’s always something of a challenge. Every April we employ at least a hundred local village men and women with the traditional talent and strength to reconstruct our camps with locally sourced natural materials. The result is rustic camps that celebrate the local artisans and natural surrounds whilst ensuring a comfortable stay with all of the necessary luxuries.
Each May the stork colony is a big highlight and this year is no exception. Flocks of Yellow-Billed Storks colonise at the Chipela lagoon and its’ ‘Christmas trees’ come to life with many new chicks and renewed white frosting. With the crocodile river flowing strongly just south of the colony, we rarely see other game viewers in the area over this time.
We even have our own chick closer to home, named Whisper. This poor little guy was confiscated from poachers so we offered to rear it to ensure its survival. It’s doing well and is already flying in and out of the camp for food and protection without restriction. Once it started feeding itself we avoided physical contact and judging by its great progress, we anticipate a successful return to the wild in the near future.
Game viewing is not as intense in the early season due to the lush vegetation and tall grass, but we’re still enjoying some great sightings. The usual game viewing suspects have included elephant, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, leopard and lion all with a lovely green backdrop.
Woodland and Grey-Headed (Chestnut-Bellied) Kingfishers are still abundant, an African Broadbill seems to have taken up residence at Tafika – heard more than seen – and many birds are still showing off their breeding plumage including the Broad-tailed Paradise Whydahs.
We are loving the new game drive loops around Tafika which are getting us up close and personal to the resident waterbucks and leopards.
The famous leopard, Olimba (Pink nose), has been spotted several times as well as her surviving female cub from 2021. The cub, now known as Mutima which means heart, is a very relaxed cat and has a distinguishable heart shaped pattern on her side. They are generally seen apart these days and Mutima has become quite an accomplished hunter having been seen with puku, monitor lizard and yellow billed stork kills so her future looks positive.
It seems to be a cat’s world these days with lion virtually taking over Tafika. Two mating pairs of lion (plus some) have been hanging around for about a week with regular patrols through camp during the day. Needless to say there have been a few unproductive mornings in the workshop!
Shoebill Island Camp opened on the 1st of May and we’ve already had several safaris through the wetlands. Guests have enjoyed several shoebill sightings. The cheetah that were reintroduced last year by African Parks have also been seen regularly and a few weeks ago one put on quite a show taking down a lechwe right in front of the game viewer! Luckily Bryan was there to photograph the event.
The Tafika Fund
Our Fund has had some very generous donations this year for which we are extremely grateful. This has ensured the ongoing support of our 2022 11 school pupils and 9 (+ 2 temporary) skills / university students. We’ve picked up a new pharmaceutical student in lieu of our successful 2021 graduate, Victoria Zulu, who is now a qualified nurse.
We also installed a great solar powered lighting system which was donated to the clinic by Sunny Money, keeping things bright and cheerful.
The funds have ensured that we’re back on track with our full scale Mkasanga stationary packs that include a whopping 5590 books, 810 pens and 150 pencils per term which benefits all pupils and teachers.
Our Football for Wildlife league will start in July so the planning is underway. The league is driven by Jimmy, our skilled tailor and soccer enthusiast. Football is a huge part of village life so we are happy to fuel an existing passion accompanied with an important conservation and wildlife message.
We look forward to seeing you on safari soon – the team is ready to go!